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Thinking back on my second-to-second introspection as we bumped along on the golf-cart, I wonder now why I always assume that they don’t want to be friends with me? I’m a great friend!! I’m funny, nice, full of ideas, and always bring great food to a party!

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Is it too late to say “Happy New Year”?

Podcast & Newsletter

Is it too late to say “Happy New Year”?

Well, even if saying so in the middle of February might be a faux pas,

Happy New Year!!

I know, I didn’t get to say it to you all last month, but as you might have guessed, I took a few months off from newsletter writing, podcasting, and even content creation so I could focus on finishing up the manuscript for Cookbook 2. I’m pleased to report that the manuscript is currently with a proofreader, who is making sure that the draft looks pristine when it finally goes to my editor.

As was the case for Cookbook 1, I took all the photographs for this book. There are currently 116 recipes and the overwhelming majority of them will have a photograph (there are two that presently do not have photographs, but I might get around to taking photos later this year…!). I have edited every single one of them and here are just few of my favorites:

How it started…

As I was wrapping up the last of the edits to the photos, I paused for a moment to reflect on how far I’ve come as a photographer. Like many people, I struggle with giving myself permission to be proud of anything. But as I scrolled through all the photos I’d spent the last year working on, I was enormously proud of myself. I’m not a professional photographer and I know that most of my peers hire people to photograph their books. Not only is it a ton of back-breaking work, it’s hard to create photos that are both engaging and informative. I was thus very pleased that I could honestly say, “I took every single photo in my book.”

I wrote a short post about it on Instagram, reminiscing about those early days of my photography journey, when I wandered around with my laptop to take pictures with my webcam. That’s right–I didn’t even have a proper camera!!

Some of my earlier “work” à la webcam.

If you’ve read through some of my earlier newsletters on my evolution from lawyer to cookbook author, then you already know that I started taking photographs in the age of Facebook–when profile pictures became the cause of great anxiety to slightly overweight, probably depressed, and certainly unhappy 20-something-year-old women like myself. All of a sudden, our 2-dimensional representations served as a portal to the rest of our so-called lives. As someone who struggled with a decidedly poor self-image but possessed a great aptitude for problem solving (!), I soon became obsessed with perfecting my selfie, even if that meant buying really expensive cameras, lenses, and software (and undergoing painful plastic surgeries…)!

Me, figuring out how to take “selfies” with a my very first DSLR.

When I started The Korean Vegan in 2016, I already knew how to use a camera, but I knew virtually nothing about storytelling through photographs–at least not vis-à-vis food. My first few forays into food photography are embarrassingly bad, but like any cringeworthy “before” photos, provide a useful benchmark for me now.

One of my first food photographs back in 2016 when I started The Korean Vegan.

I learned everything I know from watching YouTube videos, reading blogs, asking friends, but mostly, through trial and error. Below is an actual “before” and “after” of kkwabaeggi or Twisty Korean Donuts–one of the first recipes I learned to veganize. The photo on the left is one that I took back in 2016. The photo on the right is one that I took for my cookbook in 2020.

The Delta.

No, I’m not talking about a landform shaped like a triangle. I’m talking about the greek letter ∆, which, in math, represents the “difference” or “increment” created by two functions on a graph (among other things). But let’s put this in non-math terms: every month, I like to compare my spend against the budget I prepared for myself the month before. I might come under budget or end up exceeding my budget (I never hit it right on the nose). The difference between the projected spend and the actual spend, whether below or above, represents the “delta.”

Sometimes, the delta is small. Other times, it’s significant. Over time, the hope is that the deltas below budget outnumber the deltas above budget, to signify that my expenses are consistently below budget.

Why are we talking about math?

I often like to visualize my growth as an artist, a woman, and even a human being as a graph. Year over year, if I map out where I am and layer those lines on top of one another, my hope is that the delta between “Y-1” and the present continues to get larger.

Here’s the thing about your delta: you may think that because no one else sees the delta, it mustn’t be very important, it’s not something to be proud of. But growth doesn’t have to “go viral” or make you a millionaire or sell 10,000 copies of a book in order to deserve your respect.

Also, looking at that delta can be an excellent catalyst for more. For me, I don’t mean “more photography,” but more things. In what other areas of my life can I create discernible and incremental growth? Can I replicate this kind of delta as a businesswoman? As a marathon runner? As a YouTuber? As an activist?

What’s your delta? Have you taken a minute to pause and congratulate yourself for it yet? And, if so…

What’s next?

This Week’s Recipe Inspo.

This past December, my family visited to help me finish off a few recipes for the book. During that time, we also made kimchi the traditional way. You can find a recipe for traditional Napa cabbage kimchi in my cookbook. But I also wanted to show what making kimchi is like for many Korean families, even today. You can watch and follow along as my entire family makes kimchi in my Kimchi video!

Next Live Cooking Class: Rainbow Jeon

Our next live, interactive cooking class will feature Rainbow Jeon!! The class will take place on Sunday, February 25 at 10:00 am PST. For members of The Kollective, join the class here and be sure to shop for your ingredients in advance so you can cook along with me!

For non-members, sign up for The Kollective below. You’ll get instant access to my Rainbow Jeon recipe, thousands of others, nutritional information for each one, access to food coaches, and, obviously, the live cooking class! See you there!

Yesterday, I got to spend the day at the Genesis Invitational, one of the PGA’s signature events. As a brand ambassador for Genesis (I drive the GV60, an all-electric SUV because I like to tell people “it’s a Korean vegan car”!!), I was one of their invited guests. I’m not a golf person and I’m an introvert, so I was a little anxious leading up to this event. But the person in charge put together a rather fantastical day–a tour of the “The Riv” (The Riviera Country Club), a delicious vegan meal from the Skybox overlooking the 18th hole, and a front row seat to the tournament winning putt by Hideki Matsuyama.

But the most invaluable part of my day was meeting two of the other guests. Joz, the woman who so carefully curated our visit, grouped Anthony and me with a Korean American chef and his cousin. They were a little older than me, but still firmly entrenched in Gen X and although they grew up in the Los Angeles area (whereas I grew up in Chicago), so much of them reminded me of home: the way they dressed, the way they talked, the accent endemic to Korean Americans that only someone who grew up with it could even detect, and their simultaneous reverence for and disruption of a game that for so much of its history was largely monochromatic and off limits to those below an unofficial socioeconomic threshold.

As we laughed and cheered from the most luxurious golf cart I’d ever seen, I wanted to turn to them and blurt out “Can we just be friends forever?” to these guys, even as I knew that a 44-year-old woman saying something like that would most certainly be labeled as “cringe.” I found myself pressing back this urge throughout the day, and it occurred to me that such a natural expression of esteem and a genuine desire to remain connected was very rare for me. It also dawned on me that since college, my social circle has remained largely non-Korean–that I don’t regularly see or hang out with people with whom I can break out into Konglish and still be understood. And that this was a thing that after all these years… I still wanted.

But the “adult” in me repeated a rather painful lesson we all learned on the playground: just because you want to be friends with someone doesn’t mean they want to be friends with you. The chef is rather famous and seemed guarded about his private life, though he was friendly and kind throughout our playdate. Maybe he didn’t need new friends, I concluded. As a result, we parted ways with a hug and goodbyes, nothing more. Thinking back on my second-to-second introspection as we bumped along on the golf-cart, I wonder now why I always assume that they don’t want to be friends with me? I’m a great friend!! I’m funny, nice, full of ideas, and always bring great food to a party! Asking “What would Joanne 2.0 do?“, at the very least, I should have turned around and said, “Hey, here’s my number. Let’s stay in touch.”

But I didn’t. And who knows when an opportunity like this will come around again?

What would you have done in that situation? What have you done in that situation? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Wishing you all the best,
– Joanne

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