The End (Part II) & The Beginning?: Leiths Diploma, Term 2, Weeks 9 & 10


It’s been hard for me to write this post. I’ve sat staring at my screen for a couple of days now, the page just waiting for me to start typing. I could say it’s because I’ve been busy – I have, after all. We’re on Easter break now and I’ve filled my time with working like a mad woman, from a charity dinner for 50 I organised and executed with 3 friends for my mother’s homeless shelter, to turning out 200 scones every day for 3 days for the pastry section at Hix Mayfair in Brown’s Hotel. But no, that’s just an excuse. The truth is that I’ve really been taking a break from writing to contemplate my future and to spend a little more time in the present.

Blogging does not come without its traps. On the plus side, it’s an outlet, a way for me to document what I make, photograph (though being full time in school does not make for much time for that any more, sadly, hence all the Instagram photos) and eat, a way to chart my progress through culinary school, and it’s a fantastic way to connect with people and I have met some really fabulous people over the past – nearly 3! – years. It’s also a way for people who know me to catch up with what’s going on in my life, the trials and tribulations, the joy and the successes.

However, on the down side, when you have a public outlet, you also have public scrutiny. I’ve heard the whispers, the not so nice things that are said – sometimes not even behind closed doors – and more than anything it just saddened me to the point where I didn’t want to keep writing, didn’t want to put myself out there for those critics to nitpick at. I never started this blog because I wanted to show off or pretend to be anything more than I am, I started it for the pure joy of writing and cooking, I started it for distraction from my final year of university and amazingly my tiny piece of the web became something more, it made me a part of a community. When I started at Leiths back in October this blog became my way of reminding myself what it was I was doing, of trying to figure out where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do – something that became very difficult a few weeks into the middle of the second term – but it was very much about me because, well, that’s what this blog has always been about: me. It may sound very self-involved but I have never pretended that this was anything more than it is.

The point is that when you put yourself out there and you try to be honest and faithful to who you are, it is very likely that you will receive criticism. Fact. The difference, I suppose, is how you choose to deal with it. And so this is how I’m dealing with it: I will not change who I am, what I write or how I write; I will stay true to myself, to my voice and to my style because there will always be critics, there will always be nasty things said and comments made but, as a good friend once told me, “haters gonna hate but haters never hate on losers”. And so, with that said, let’s get on with it because I have some exciting news!


The Inevitable Existential Crisis: Leiths Diploma, Term 2, Week 4


Sooner or later it was bound to happen: the existential crisis. This week was mine.

I find myself spending much of my time in a perpetual state of wonder and anxiety. The days go by in a bit of a blur (are we really already heading into week 5 of the 2nd term?!): this is the wonder portion of my life. Whether I’m learning how best to prepare livers, or trying to detect the varying complexities in six different varieties of red wine, it’s wonderful, it’s new, it’s amazing… and it’s hard work, it’s confusing and, yes, at times, dull. But the dull parts are few and far between, usually it’s just my brain trying to absorb as much of it all as possible, eager to learn more, my eyes drinking in every slice, dice and fraiser.

In the kitchen I try to work faster, more efficiently (I often fail at both of these things); I work by the book, doing my best to recall the techniques we were taught that week or in previous sessions; I wash up so much that my hands peel and crack, so much that even rubbing in hand lotion stings and nothing can rid me of these hands that, in only a few months, now resemble the paws of an old crone. In the kitchen nothing else matters – only service. My plates are cleaned and warmed, my food is prepared to the best quality I possibly can, my table wiped down, cutlery at hand; and at the end of the session, all my food marked, all feedback given, I let out a heavy sigh and drag my tired feet down to the changing room. But even though I’m tired and have been on my feet for a good 3 hours, I still mentally pinch myself, asking, “is this really your life, now? You get to do this every day?”

Then I go home and the anxiety portion of the day hits.


New News Is Good News


Sometimes, being at culinary school, though it is completely exactly what I want to be doing at this moment in my life, can feel like a total drag. I haven’t had routine in my life for so long that now that I suddenly have this incredibly rigid structure (get to school by 9.30am, leave school by 5pm, do homework, eat some quick dinner, pass out around 10pm) it sometimes feels a little restrictive. Gone are the days when I would go out to dinner with friends willy-nilly, purely to discover new restaurants around town as and when I pleased; gone are the days of dozing in bed until late morning, raising myself to sit in front of my laptop with a mug of hot lemon and honey (still wearing PJs until the late evening by which time what was the point in even changing?) to plonk out a piece about a food event I’d attended the night before, or edit a new batch of photos.

But then when I look back on those days I see what a lack of focus I had, how lazy I was becoming. On the one hand I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted; on the other I was bored, feeling stupider and fatter by the day, and was desperately poor with no idea whether this was what I even wanted any more. These days I’m still poor but my brain feels as if it’s overloading with new and exciting information. My need to experiment has come back in full force – the other week I bought an ox tongue just for the fun of it and I’ve been making enquiries into how to get hold of a whole pig’s head to make headcheese – but the result of this is that I’ve become quieter, less social, more reclusive and a much harder worker. So maybe that’s why I’ve decided to change things up a little.


The Taste of My Childhood: Nig Nags


When I was a little girl, around 4 or 5 years old, my family moved from our little end-terrace house to a beautiful big house with a huge garden in a very posh area of West London. The new house was everything a young family could’ve wanted – the garden had a pond (!) which over the years we filled with all sorts of creatures (goldfish which were gradually eaten one-by-one by the heron who lived in the park next door; at one point koi who were too big for the pond; and terrapins who killed all the goldfish the heron didn’t eat until one escaped and my father and I “released” the other into the park, whoops – we may be responsible for the family of terrapins who now live there), my brother and I had our own bedrooms which were much bigger than those in the old house, a huge kitchen where my mother dreamed of starting Chinese cookery lessons and two guest bedrooms, one of which became our live-in-nanny’s room then a TV room when she eventually left us, and the other which was later turned into a study for my parents.

About a fifteen minute walk away there was a huge church in the middle of the green by the High Street which my parents decided we should start attending, especially as it was so close by. Both my brother and I were baptised and confirmed there and for the next 13 years or so we spent almost every Sunday there. This church is also where I met my oldest friend Cathy and whilst I have my own issues with religion now, I will forever be thankful that it brought her into my life.


Dear Me: Happy Blog-O-Versary


Chocolate chip cookie recipe courtesy of Deb at Smitten Kitchen.

So I only went and did it again and totally forgot to celebrate my blog-o-versary (I should really put the date in my diary) and I Am A Feeder is now 2-years-old! It’s weird to think that I’ve been cultivating my little inch of the web for just over 2 years – when I started it I don’t think I ever expected to be doing the things that I’m doing in my life right now or, even, still blogging. So a huge thank you to all of my friends, family and readers who have stuck with me over these 2 years, for all of the lovely messages, comments and emails, and particularly to the new friends I’ve made all over the world. You guys were an unexpected bonus when all I wanted to do was write down my recipes and vent at the world (as I do so often) – am massively appreciative to all of you!

And I suppose a 2-year mark is the perfect time for me to make a couple of little announcements. Well. Maybe not so little. Remember how I talked about change in my last post? Well the first change is that the offer we made on our dream house was accepted and so I’ll be moving to a completely different part of London next month, but the biggest change of all is that this October I’m going to be starting culinary school.


On Change: Katsu-Don


As a child I didn’t like change. A fairly serious, determined young thing, I was very black and white in my thinking – sometimes literally. I remember being given an elephant to colour in at nursery school and whilst the other children coloured their elephants pink, red, yellow, blue or a combination of the four (shock, horror), I took a lead pencil and very carefully shaded in my elephant grey (all within the lines, of course). When asked if I wanted another colour I remember telling my teacher rather firmly and with some derision – she should’ve known this for herself, after all – “no. Elephants are grey.”

When I was due to start a new school year, every year without fail, I would start to feel an overwhelming nausea as I approached the school gates with my mother. There was nothing wrong with me but nerves would take their toll every time – fear about who would be my new classmates, about who would be my new teacher, whether or not they’d like me, where my classroom would be, why it had to be different every year, why it had to change. Of course, as soon as I entered the building and had read my name on the list of classes whilst clutching my mother’s hand tightly, I’d merrily skip off to class, all anxieties forgotten and ready to start anew, barely even remembering to wave goodbye to my bemused parent.

I’m somewhat more relaxed now (though if you give me a picture of an elephant I’ll still colour it in grey) and I’ve realised – somewhat reluctantly – that change is inevitable. Don’t fight it, just embrace it – it’ll make your life a whole lot easier.


On Simplifying Life: PB&J Brownies


I don’t think of myself as a particularly dramatic person and yet drama seems to follow me unnecessarily. Over the past couple of years I’ve faced more difficulties in my life than it seems any one person should have on their plate at any given time. From my health which took a sudden downward turn last summer to the stresses of being a freelance writer, it’s not been a particularly easy path to tread, certainly not helped along by a significant amount of sadness which has dragged on for over a year and a half.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve felt exhausted by it all, to the point where I’ve considered giving up on, well, everything. This blog – which has always been my escape, my refuge – has lately seemed a chore. Writing, which is for me an extremely cathartic process, has not helped me begin to unravel the tangled mess in my mind as it normally would and I’ve even started to consider a career away from food, away from the things that I love and away from my dreams. A hard thing for a person as proud as I am to admit, but at one point I hadn’t been able to afford groceries for two months and so had been living off frozen vegetables and lentils and literally lying awake until the wee hours of the morning, mentally calculating how much money I’d need to save up before I could pay off all of my debts. Needless to say, it’s been a tough start to the year.

But amongst all of the drama, all of the stresses, worries and difficulties, there have been small glimmers of hope and success, from the catering job I recently completed for 150 people, to the wonderfully supportive friends, family and particularly special person who entered my life a few months ago; and they’ve made me realise that all I really need is to drop the drama and simplify: rid my life of the things that make me unhappy and focus only on the ones that put a smile on my face. It’s so easy – I don’t know why I haven’t realised it before this point.


The C Word


(c)Toby Kennedy, 2012.

It’s very easy to hide who you really are online. All that people know about you is what you choose to share, especially in a format like a blog. I’m generally a pretty open book – when I’m happy you know that I’m happy, when I’m sad you know why and when I started feeling that way; I’m a sharer, what can I say. But there is plenty that I don’t talk about because, well, it’s personal, and I like to try and keep my personal life as offline as possible. I’m not saying it’s how everybody should be, it’s just how I choose to be, because I like to protect those who are close to me.

Today I’m going to break that rule because today I’d like to talk about something which has nothing to do with food, is entirely personal and is still a taboo in society. Today I’d like to talk about cancer.


Jackie’s Spicy Pickled Cucumbers: Who Wants A Nibble?


Every now and then we all need a break: from work, from friends, from life. When those moments occur I like to take a step back, take stock and figure out what’s really important to me and every time, without fail, my health and happiness come first.

I kept saying that 2012 was going to be my year and despite a bit of a rocky start, the past two weeks have me thinking that maybe my bold statement will hold true, maybe this is the year that the pieces will start to come together. Health and happiness are both ticking along nicely and with those things under my belt I feel like I can tackle the world – I’m even beginning to ease myself back into work very slowly and have plans for a mini get-away later this month to Morocco (very exciting, I’ve never ventured into that part of the world before).

So if you find yourself backed into a corner maybe you should do what I do and figure out what’s really important to you… then you should make my spicy pickled cucumbers and treat yourself because they’re freaking delicious.


Holla! I’m 25!


Photo courtesy of Toby Kennedy, 2012.

Hey, how’s it going? Remember me? I’m the girl who disappeared on you for a month. Yeah… sorry about that. Also you may have noticed that my website still doesn’t look quite right – that’s because I’m an idiot and accidentally deleted a vital bit of code a little while ago. Whoops. We’re working on it and it should be back up and running properly soon (hopefully), so in the meantime just ignore the, er, ugly broken design.

So what’s going on in my life since I was last here? Well, lots of cooking and eating, lots of Instagramming, I went to Hong Kong for a short holiday (post to come soon) and then I came back and oh look at that! I turned 25! Holla!


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