The deep, dark emotions of a self-effacing food blogger.

This doodle was a result of Friday morning boredom. All my friends were asleep and I had no one to go with for Friday brunch. So I ended up eating my weekday cereal instead of the stack of blueberry pancakes I had dreamt of the night before. Yes, it’s all quite pathetic. Don’t hesitate to feel sorry for me. That was the intention.

On a less pathetic note, talented blogger Dima Sharif nominated the frying pan as one of her five bloggers for a cyber storytelling award.  My clinically obese ego swelled to even chubbier proportions at the news that someone was actually attempting to read my whimsical food mumbles…and had gone so far as to think I’d created stories out of them. In fact, said ego over-inflated and exploded out of sheer incoherent joy. Refer to extreme bottom right illustration on comic strip for an accurate pictorial representation of my state of mind.

The shock, stars, and ensuing identity crisis were because I don’t, by any stretch of imagination, consider myself a storyteller. Or at least not a storyteller worthy of any nominations. In a rare moment of introspective modesty, I’ll have you know that I’m a run-of-the-mill blogger. In cases of extreme inspiration, I even do odd bits of journalistic food reporting. But good storytelling is to food blogging, as foie gras is to geese. And I’m just one of them old geese.

In the world of food blogging, while each of us do have our occasional posts of star storytelling quality, there are very, very, VERY, few food bloggers who are consistent storytellers. Very few TGWAEs, David Lebovitzes, Robyn Eckhardts and Nouf Al-Qasimis (whose writing I just discovered this week, and have fallen hopelessly in love with. If a woman can keep me focused on a story whose premise is my gag-inducing nemesis: licorice, there’s GOT to be something magical about her prose.)

There are very few bloggers who don’t just give a mouthful-by-mouthful account of a dinner menu. Who can weave a riveting narrative out of the banalities of life without feeling compelled to stick to chronology. Who have a nuanced understanding of what intriguing details hook in a reader, and what don’t. Who don’t need mouth-watering photographs to carry their writing through. Who make you crave their every word, make you relive each experience with them, however delicious or vile. Who have a distinctive storytelling voice that tugs you right through the mute computer screen.

Dearest Dima, while I really do appreciate the nomination, I think I’m MILES away from being the storyteller I’d aspire to be. Regardless, I’m glad I got nominated, less so because I deserve it, but more so because it made me reflect on the blogs I read and dissect why some keep me engaged and others less so. It reminded me of why I relish the words served up by these five bloggers from my local (UAE) blogosphere, who are far closer to the storytelling goalpost than I’d ever be:

  1. The Food Soldier
  2. Cheesecakeism [Meris, why aren’t you churning out those midnight cheesecakeapades any longer?! Come back!
  3. Devour
  4. Eaternal Zest
  5. The Hedonista

Check them out if you haven’t already, and you’ll know that I’m not smoking crack when I talk of a distinct storytelling voice. O Ye Storytelling Award judges, aforesaid five fabulous bloggers are my worthy and extremely eloquent nominees for the storytelling award.

One random fact about me—not because I’ve reached my narcissistic zenith and presume that any of you care, but because the storytelling award contest rules require me to—

I despise oily food. I’ve definitely indulged in my fair share of greasy food, but oily and greasy, while closely related, are really not the same thing. Even if says they are, I’d challenge the dictionaries and thesauri-that-be that they are not. Chicken shawarma slivers with melted fat drippings may be greasy. Deep-fried flatbread that stains its wrapping paper with translucent splodges is necessarily greasy. Thick fried slices of eggplant slapped onto a veggie burger could be guilty of the same greasy crime. But not all grease is bad, and in some cases, the lack of grease could deprive you of the decadence, the naughty indulgence, the chin-dripping juiciness (thanks Salem Pasha for that brilliant adjective. HAD to use it.) of it all. But oily is rarely, or in fact, oily is never good in my books. Oily in those same, very self-serving books, refers to those repulsive situations when your spoon hits a viscous layer of stagnant oil floating in any part of a dish, meandering over a bowl of curry, or lurking stealthily under a leg of marinated chicken. All it takes is a gentle stir to disturb the glistening gloop, and cause it to dissolve into rude oily bubbles that splatter themselves unappetizingly over the entire face of the dish. The litmus test is that if you can spoon away multiple tablespoons of close-to-pure oil from a dish, it’s most likely oily. And if the litmus test is positive, then keep that oil slick of a curry far away from me.

But that’s not the random fact at all. The random fact is that…I’ve never eaten at Ravi’s. Yes, the Ravi in Satwa. Actually, all restaurants with the name Ravi in Dubai. If you haven’t fallen of your chair yet in disbelief, and are hoping that I’ve pulled an April fool’s on you […in May?], no, honest, it’s true. I’ve never pulled up a chair at one of Dubai’s favorite Pakistani haunts because of an unfounded fear of having my taste buds clogged with oil.

And now, having opened up a can of oily worms with that simple question, we all know never to ask me for a random fact again.

But back to the storytelling award, Dearest Judges:  if you read this post, you’ll get a fairly good idea of how I am anything but a storyteller. A teller of random disconnected thoughts with a solid peppering of goofiness in chapters here and there, that I may be. But the foie gras of food blogging is still a delicacy that I rarely have the honour of serving to my readers.

That said, do check out my five nominees. A storyteller I may not be, but I know a good story when I read one.

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

44 thoughts on “The deep, dark emotions of a self-effacing food blogger.

  1. Sarah D says:

    Thanks so much for this Arva! But come on… you are such a storyteller. In fact you’re a Storyteller. It’s time to own it ;)

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @4fe1015a720c7dcc7f05b9615cac454a:disqus – Aww hun, thank you…I need to add a new 9th square of the comic where I’m levitating in Lala land out of happiness… ;)

  2. MyCustardPie says:

     I agree with Sarah D – my brain has been completely frazzled by the internet and I have turned into one of those multi-platform scanners with the attention span of a gnat.  Speed-reading first paragraphs and jumping to the end is my default setting. Your articles (I prefer this description a la Dianne J for crafted pieces of high calibre) suck me in and have me lingering over every word…..captivated by the story-telling.  This is more awesome given the subject matter (taking a shot of your dinner on fire rather than grabbing the fire exstinguisher, floofy buns etc). Keep up the wonderful narrative my talented friend.

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @writebyte:disqus – Whoa. You used a Dianne J expression. This is so huge, thank you my sweet custardpie! And congratulations to you as well on being nominated. Judges, I didn’t nominate her cause Dima already did, but she should win <<<< :D

  3. Drina C | Eaternal Zest says:

    Oh you’re just being modest.. if anyone I had to think of one awesome story teller at the top of my head, i would splurge out your name. Your writing, doodling and quirks are what we heart. Like Sarah says.. time to own it!

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @aad5a49a3c88ff225e1527b6a4b03748:disqus – *hides under shell*
      …*shyt. shell is too small. stupid shell.*

  4. Sarah Walton - the hedonista says:

    You might be miles away from being the storyteller that YOU want to be – but that does not mean you don’t deserve a lovely pat on the back like this. You are exactly the storyteller that I want you to be – you can be better? Well, I would like to see that too! Bowing out with gratitude for my own pat on the back, and the lovely gift of not continuing posts on your own blog, but the others you mention above…

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @011874c6f57df8c01ab3128b3d199556:disqus – Thanks Sarah, it means a LOT to hear this from an awesome (and also nominated to win) food & travel storyteller like yourself. Thank you!

  5. Neelu says:

    Oh come ONNN!!! You are being very modest. :P You are an awesome storyteller and I love lingering on your blog and digging up one post after another. Take some credit, will you??

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @13241eff07d52a6fac372019030b434d:disqus – thanks for the vote of confidence! You guys have totally transformed my insecure day into a day of utter gloating. Thank you! ;)

  6. The Food Soldier says:

    if you ever doubt your story telling abilities … here’s an anecdote. a colleague of mine once forwarded me an ’awesomely written, super duper article’ that ’i musttt read since im a food blogger’. Turns out it was one of your reviews :). So, flattered as i am to be on your list, you’re right up there too

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @9669e524e48591697cf3932f0860ace8:disqus – My tum did a slow happy somersault when I read this…thanks for sharing that, it’s the best thing to come home and read at night [after a day of stuffing my face to write another blog post. SUCH hard work ;)…]

      And congratulations, you’re one heck of a writer and that nomination was well deserved!

  7. nadia says:

    You’re being very hard on yourself! You are a very good story teller, and you must give yourself some credit. I don’t skip any sentence when I read your posts, that’s how captivating your writing style is. 

    And the five bloggers are mentioned are my favorites! They are all very, very talented.

    Love the doodle! It’s so funny yet true :D

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @med0194:disqus – Thank you! It’s the best thing in the world to know that there are talented writers out there like yourself who actually take the time out to read an entire post. It means a lot to me, thank you.

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @FoodStoriesBlog:disqus – Wow, coming from mastermind behind the Food Stories award, this totally adds the icing over my already over-iced cake of a day! Thanks for taking the time to host something on your blog that’s probably making the day of many a talented food blogger out there.

  8. Heidi Younggrasshopper says:

    what a great post <3 I’m thinking I’m a new follower!

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @google-15c0658ae7a762da80569cb7b1969fa1:disqus – Hello there Heidi! Thanks for stopping by, I would be flattered if you returned to read more posts in the future :)

  9. Didi says:

    You are just being too modest Arva :) You have your own wonderful brand of storytelling! 

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @didipaterno:disqus – Must you always leave me such sweet comments and then make me wish I could trek over to your part of town to give you…I dunno…a slice of creamy kunafa? Yes, you must, that’s you. And thank you for being you, and always stopping by my blog to make my day.

    2. Didi says:

      Well, you know how much I LOVE your part of town :) So we can meet for kunafa or a Filipino meal soon :) I still owe you a meal!

  10. Kim says:

    What’s a story but a series of disconnected thoughts? Storytelling is just stringing them together.

    Congratulations on your nomination!

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @twitter-477106629:disqus – True that. And the stringing is an art.
      There are so many competitions out there for food photography, so it’s really refreshing that we’ve got a group of people focused on the writing. More than being eager to know who wins, I would love to know the process you as judges take to arrive at the winner – it could be a fab lesson in writing food stories for all of us. Thanks for the wishes, and for stopping by to check out my blog!

  11. Anita Menon says:

    Arva, HOw I love reading your posts. You are a mindblowing story teller. Congrats on the award. SO well deserved !! 

  12. IshitaUnblogged says:

    Arva – maybe I should just copy my comment on your previous post and paste it here! I have commented on how you do this every time – humorous ad deliciously crunchy stories… No body likes an arrogant story-teller so it’s better that you don’t consider yourself as a great story-teller and let us keep on hearing your great stories every-time you think that you are being goofy or random and not telling a story!

    Love your life in a frying pan – absolutely and completely – with oil, without oil, greasy or non-greasy:)

  13. Dima Sharif says:

    I totally did not intend to stir up all this confusion lol 
    I enjoy reading your light-hearted, funny and at times whimsical reviews, and do find that they tell a story about a girl who is eating up the city and learning about people and herself in the process. It’s all in the bigger picture of things and the way we see them.. :)
    I would go with the rest here, own it! 

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @openid-77086:disqus – thank you my muffin lady! Coming from a writer of a book, this makes me…*jiggy jiggy* :)
      @5e8c32b20f4724711dd3c80c2633f364:disqus  – awwwww. You’re so thoughtful and supportive and everything that makes a foodie like myself gush with the collective power of all my emotional sprinklers. Thank you!

      @twitter-93116814:disqus – Ah I love how you’ve described this blog, thank you. You did stir things up – in a very good way…and every pan needs a bit of stirring action before things get scorched and nasty and stuck to the bottom [I really need to stop these corny analogies. One day it will stop. Waitlisting it for 2014 new years resolutions.]

  14. chirag says:

    The irony, ofcourse, is that you’ve weaved an awesome story about how you don’t consider yourself an awesome storyteller :)

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @twitter-18575450:disqus – ….dontchya think? ;)

      @twitter-30433280:disqus – awww I have just been coronated by a blue kitty starlette, thank you darling!

  15. Bonniebanters says:

    Congratulations upon winning the award Arva…you’re definitely a great and unique storyteller!

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @c558640711dcd14a39aab83a860743c1:disqus – thank you!! I’m so thrilled [actually shocked first, thrilled later] that no pudgy smiley on the comic even begins to express what I’m feeling! Guess it’s back to the pudgy smiley drawing board… ;)

      Thanks for checking out my blog!

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @didipaterno:disqus – thanks hun, and congrats on being nominated yourself!! :D

  16. Food says:

    Great blog, Arva, and thanks for the kind words. I looked up your blog after reading your ode to knafeh bil jibneh in kaak from Al Samadi Sweets (I wrote about my lifelong obsession with the same thing in May 2011, only my experience with Al Samadi Sweets has always been restricted to the Abu Dhabi location in Khalidiya). I feel so much less alone in the world now. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @d603b985e026e407dd340e7cac63efb7:disqus – oh that’s awesome, can you share the link to your article if it’s online? would love to read! You’re never alone when it comes to food in the UAE…massive foodie community here supporting ya ;) Have you ever eaten with the couch surfers in Abu Dhabi?

    2. Food says:

      I will try to dig it up. At LAX now and trying to wrap up my column about hypoglycemia, which will hopefully be more exciting than it sounds. Tell me about the couch surfers?

    3. inafryingpan says:

      Eeep. If you can make hypoglycemia sound exciting, I need to learn how to write from you! 

      Here’s the link with all the fun info about Abu Dhabi’s couchsurfers! I need to weasle my way into one of their dinner outings, even if it means having to crash on someone’s couch first ;)

    4. Food says:

       Darn. I posted that before I saw that I screwed up the second link. You’ll need to delete the ’And’ that got stuck at the end in order to make it work. Sorry.

    5. inafryingpan says:

      I’m such an ignoramus – I only realized who you were after I caught you on twitter! I sat puzzling over your initial comment ’kind words’ at the time, but it’s sunk in now! Totally bowled over that you’ve visited my blog :) 

      I read the articles and it’s uncanny, I have hopped onto your trail without knowing it! You’re ingenious with words. I have to read up more of your work – brilliant, incredible well-researched and articulate writing. 

    6. Food says:

      Wow, you really know how to make someone’s Sunday! I would have introduced myself but I thought that you’d have ID’d me from my email address, since i had to enter it to leave the comment. You’re too kind. Now I’m going to spend the rest of the day beating my frescoed ego back into submission.

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