Food. You dream about it, you look forward to it, you make something better out of it, you savour it.
But maybe there’s a bit more to it than that. 😊
A different angle
I first wrote about Sarah Huang Benjamin in 2016 for a travel and lifestyle magazine, and got her to share her most memorable food and travel experiences.
In case it’s your first time to meet Sarah, she’s a Singapore-based cook, food expert, TV presenter and traveller. She’s also the brains behind the site Kitchen Hoarder, where readers can get her favourite recipes and top travel and style tips.
Plus she’s hosted shows like Cooking For Love, Simply Special With Sarah Benjamin, Yummy Desserts, Must Try Asia, GR848, Fresh Off Japan! and Best Of Portugal, all of which have taken her to exciting places around the world.
I’m mentioning Sarah because I’ve always loved her refreshing approach to life and food. (You can also catch up with her on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.) I’ve heard people say that food is their passion, and through Sarah’s fun shows, videos and posts, she can help us understand how that could come to be, and why that is.
I thought it’d be cool to get in touch with her again and ask her how she’s doing, especially now that I’ve started being more mindful of what I eat every day. (I’m trying to be more selective of my purchases, reduce waste, relish each bite, and consume less meat.) I know I can learn a lot from her.
Sarah presents two sides to her ongoing story. 😊
The first is: “Food is never just about filling up and getting on with your day,” she reveals.
“When you travel and engage with the culinary world in each place, you can understand so much about the culture and history of that country or territory. For example, travelling around Thailand, you realise that the flavours change so much from area to area, and that reflects the history of different kingdoms.
“When you really want to learn about a country, you cannot possibly leave out its food.”
And the second? “On the flip side, I’ve also learnt that food is something not to be taken too seriously! When you travel and engage with the food cultures of different places, you learn that there are so many ways to prepare food,” she relates.
“No one way is ‘correct’. Therefore, I really believe that the idea of ‘authenticity’ or the ‘right’ way to prepare an ingredient or a dish shouldn’t guide our cooking too much. Experimentation, and most importantly having fun, are key in the kitchen.”
It’ll lead you somewhere
And somewhere good. 😊 Food is a need and a pleasant activity, but it can also make a difference in people’s lives, change things, and be used to connect all of us in ways we never thought possible.
I asked for Sarah’s five favourite experiences to show us this is so. 😊
#1 It’s about celebrating your family, and your family’s history
“I come from a family of mixed cultural backgrounds,” she says.
“My dad, who is British, moved to Singapore in his twenties and married my mum, a Singaporean Chinese. My grandmother, who was born in China, also lives with my parents. Although everyone has different tastes, coming together over a meal really brings us all together. Growing up that way really showed me the power of food.”
#2 You help to uphold a legacy
“Aside from my work in the TV industry, I also work on cultural heritage research,” she continues.
“In this line of work, I’ve gotten to produce documentaries on Singapore’s cultural heritage, especially in the field of food. Interacting with multi-generation heritage food stall owners, it’s moving to see the younger generations eager to pick up what can often be a back-breaking trade, just to preserve the heritage of their food and their family.”
#3 You remember the small things that make it all worthwhile
“This sounds silly, but I think that enjoying my first spicy dish as a child was a life-changing moment. I LOVE spicy food, and it’s almost like a secret club when you meet other chilli lovers! That’s a thing I love about food – when you meet someone who’s passionately into the same thing as you, you feel an instant bond.”
#4 You gain new and unique perspectives
“I feel so lucky to be from Singapore, possibly one of the most food-crazy countries on Earth,” Sarah admits.
“I sometimes meet people from countries outside Asia who treat food as sustenance, and not something to spend time thinking about – and I realise how much our cultural backgrounds affect the way we think of food, and our attitude towards it. I think that if people learnt to really love food, and really care about it, the relationship humans would have with our food, how it’s grown and how it’s made would improve.”
#5 We all share a responsibility
“As much as food is a fun thing to talk about, learning about the ecological impact of industrial agriculture and farming in the last few years has had a huge impact on me and the way I shop for ingredients,” she explains.
“In the end, I try to conceptualise recipes and menus with an environmentally-friendly philosophy in mind. Less meat, but if you’re eating meat, make it sustainably-farmed where possible. More vegetables, preferably organic or grown on smaller farms, and a diverse selection of them. And definitely avoid plastic!”
I agree. So what are your five favourite takeaways from your best food experiences? Let me know, because I want to learn from them too. 😊 (In the meantime, I’ll follow Sarah.)