Where’s the name Cardamom and Tea from?
Growing up, my grandparents’ house always smelled like cardamom and tea, and that’s where I learned to love cooking and eating.
Who does your photography?
I take all the photos for my website (unless otherwise noted). Most of the photos on my website were taken with a Canon 6D and prime lens (occasionally I use a macro lens when I want a tighter composition).
How can I improve my food photography?
If you’re thinking about getting more into food photography, remember that having a nice camera doesn’t matter as much as learning good composition and lighting (whether natural or artificial, it’s important to learn how to manipulate it). The good news is that learning about lighting and composition is 100% free if you spend some time experimenting and take advantage of all the helpful info out there online. Many of my favorite bloggers and instagrammers do 100% of their shooting from their phone, so don’t feel like you’re any less legit for sticking with that.
If you’re ever trying to decide whether you need to buy a DSLR (or another piece of equipment), ask yourself one important question: What specific abilities will this new piece of equipment unlock for me? E.g., if you take photos with your iphone, but really want to be able to more finely control the background blur, or if you do a lot of in-motion shots and want to be able to control the amount of blur from motion (either more blur or less blur!), you might look into buying a DSLR and learning how to use it in manual mode to control these things.
On the other hand, if you don’t really have a specific reason other than that everyone is telling you to get one, I’d recommend waiting until you feel personally inspired to invest in one. The bottom line: don’t ever let anyone make you feel like less of photographer because of the equipment you’re working with! Having a fancy camera does not make you a photographer, and not having a fancy camera does not make you any less of a photographer.
What kind of lighting do you use?
I use natural light, but not all natural lighting looks the same. There are lots of good guides available online, or you can figure out your own style by experimenting. Take a plate of food and walk around to different spots in your apartment. Do you like the way the food looks near the windows? Toward the center of the room? Do you like the lighting better in a room with surrounding windows, or windows on just one wall? How does the lighting change when the food is placed next to a white wall? How does it change when it’s away from the walls? Take 2 or 3 photos and compare them, if you’re having trouble noticing differences. If you’re not happy with the results, try at a different time of day when the lighting is totally different.
I want to create a food blog—how do I start?
There are so many wonderful guides available online—it’s a good idea to google around and see what you can glean. My only major practical advice is to always have at least one month of posts ready to go, and to decide how many times you want to post per week or per month. I post once each week, so I try to always have at least 4 posts photographed and kitchen-tested (in reality, that means that I sometimes have 20, and other times have 2, but that’s the beauty of a stockpile).
This allows me to experiment and scrap any ideas that I don’t absolutely love, because I never feel pressured to come up with something just for the sake of posting it. It also minimizes the effect of kitchen disasters, which (while never fun) are much less stressful when you don’t have the added pressure of having to produce amazing content right this second. Feel free to read more about my thoughts on recipe developing and learning from kitchen failures.
But really, the most important thing is to blog about something you believe in, rather than something you think people will want to read about.
What platform do you use?
I recently switched to WordPress from Squarespace. Squarespace templates are absolutely beautiful, and I like how simple they are to set up, but Squarespace (as of the day I’m writing this update, 4/13/21) does not have a recipe card feature, which means that search engines have a difficult time understanding that your posts are recipes and not articles. This makes it harder for people to discover and search for your posts, so I strongly encourage anyone wanting to start a food blog to see if you can find a way to make WordPress work. It takes a bit more effort to set up and requires a lot more customization to get looking just right, but you’ll have much more control over your search engine optimization. That’s not to say that you should stay away from Squarespace in general—they work great for lots of other types of websites and blogs.
Are you married?
My husband is a philosophy professor who works from home with me just about every day, does all our travel planning, occasionally cooks a humongous pot of vegetarian chili, and eats all the food I make for the blog (even when I’m testing the same soup recipe for the sixth time in a week—he’s a trooper). We’ve been together since high school, and married since 2011.
Do you have kids?
Where did you go to school?
I have an MA in English from Rutgers University (I studied medieval poetry), and a BA in English from Indiana University.
Where are you from?
I’ve been living in Melbourne since 2019, and before that I lived in Hong Kong for 2 years. I also spend a lot of time visiting family in Chicago, where I grew up. Other cities close to my heart are Bloomington, IN where I went to school (also near where my dad’s family is from), New Haven, CT, where I lived and worked right after graduating, and northern NJ where I went to grad school.
No, but where are you really from?
My mom was born in Baghdad and immigrated to the US when she was a kid. Her dad’s family is from Iraq, and her mom’s family is from Syria and Lebanon. My grandmother grew up in Beirut and North Eastern Syria, and moved to Baghdad when she married my grandfather. My family is Assyrian, which is an ethnic and religious minority in the Middle East (and all around the world). “Assyrian” and “Syrian” aren’t exactly the same thing, but as you can see, there is some overlap since many Assyrians live in (or are from) Syria. But it’s also totally possible to be Assyrian and not Syrian. They’re neither mutually exclusive, nor the same thing.