Help Me Collect Recipes From All Of China

My heart is pounding. But here goes:

In December of 2015, I will be backpacking to China to try to collect recipes from all 34 sections (provinces, autonomous regions, administrative regions). I need your help. I’m trying to raise $20,000 to support me and a local Chinese photographer for the first leg of the journey. All the recipes will be published on my blog.

My campaign here.

A Letter To My Christian Past On Gay Marriage


Dear Clarissa:

It is 2010 and you have posted an ignorant and ridiculous message on your Facebook wall about how you are sorely disappointed that Prop 8 in California was overturned.

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You’re disappointed at how the sanctity of what you define as love and marriage has been defiled. You feel like you’re a minority and that people will hate on you for expressing your belief that you do not believe in same-sex marriage. All at the same time, you know that this is just another instance of persecution against the church and you worry about the LGBT-agenda and how it will threaten your Christian community. Gay marriage should not be allowed because it’s wrong and perverse, you’re convinced. And today, it’s you and your faith against the world.

Thank the Lord, then, for the next five years. Because right now, you know nothing about love.

You’ll realize that true love is in scarcity in this world and that to find anyone who loves you unconditionally is a miracle in and of itself and that should be cherished. You’ll learn that judging people based on their sex is the most perverse act of all. You’ll learn that attraction can’t be helped or reasoned and that romantic love is magnetic and unexplainable. You’ll learn that marriage isn’t a union of penis plus vagina. It’s a union of two souls. Whether or not you have complimentary sexual reproductive organs has nothing on your ability to love and to cherish, for better or for worse, in sickness or in health.

“It doesn’t mean you should act on it,” you would shoot back.

No. But it’s a far worse sin than to be anything than true to yourself.

In the next five years, some of your closest friends will come out to you and you will realize that nothing has changed, besides the pronouns of who your friend is dating. You will realize that love has nothing to do with the sex of a human being and that penis or vagina is simply a matter of preferences. Most of all, you’ll realize how it’s none of your business what people’s preferences are.

You’ll learn that to say “Banning homosexuality means saving the souls of the lost” is an extremely bigoted and ignorant statement. By saying that, you are immediately judging others and by saying that, you are saying that you know what’s best.

Of course, this won’t convince you. You’ll argue that incest and bestiality are next and that humanity is fulfilling the Biblical prophesy of being chaotic and immoral.

Here’s the thing: You don’t know what’s best.

You don’t know the feeling of being in the hospital, knowing your loved one is dying and not being able to be by their side because you’re not technically a family member. You don’t know the feeling of hiding your sexuality and true self in the fears that your entire network of friends will judge you.

And you may never learn that.

But you will learn a bit more about love than you do now, at 2010.

Love means accepting your friends for who they are, what they love, what they do. It means fighting for their right to be with whomever makes them happy, it means treating them like an equal. It means trusting that they know what’s best for them.

Of course, given your upbringing, you’ll have a whole other letter in response to this arguing back on every single point.

But in five years you’ll be a little bit wiser, have gotten a couple heartbreaks under your belt, and experienced love in its craziest and rawest form. After all of that you’ll realize: to love and to be loved is the most precious thing and is an experience everyone deserves to have. The opportunity to do so should not be based on what lies underneath one’s pants.

You won’t believe in the Bible anymore, but this verse will always hold true:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Coronado Islands Scuba Diving



DCIM100GOPROGOPR0562.I’m in San Diego this weekend — visiting friends before my international travels.

Decided to sign up for a boat dive. I went to Coronado Islands off the coast of Mexico through Waterhorse Charters. Got extremely seasick, but the dive was worth the trek out there. Lots of sea lions, a school of fish, and the visibility was stellar.


My National Geographic map of China has come in the mail. Seeing the hundreds of little cities in each province is making this feel super overwhelming. Time to start routing….

A Note

I wanted to address something re: my crowdfunding campaign.

For those pulling out the “this girl is rich” card, why is she doing this, I’ll say this:

1) I support myself 100% with all the money I make from my freelance career and trust me when I say it’s not a lot. I make money off of traveling because I write about my travels. I work my ass off every day writing articles and on weekends, leading food tours. I don’t tap into my family’s money at all, besides living at home to save money.

2) If I go on this trip without crowdfunding help, I will not be able to finish the project. I will be tapping into my savings regardless but it’s not a lot.

3) I am not using any of the money for profit — it is going to logistics and hiring LOCAL help.

4) The product is a collection of recipes that don’t exist to that scale currently. I will be there working — you know, interviewing, sourcing, booking, taking photos, writing. Sure my life looks and sounds like a glamorous compilation of plane tickets and food shots, but behind all of that is a lot of work. I’m a writer — I get paid to write.

5) I am also committed to being as transparent as possible about this process, as I am asking for the public’s money. So ask me questions before you come to nasty conclusions.

I’m Scared + I Can’t Believe I Did This

So I’m going to be madly blogging the next year of my life, because I just did this:

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Help Me Collect Recipes From All Of China

As I type this, my hands are shaking, my cheek is a crimson red, my heart is pounding and I feel like crying. You see — this is an extremely vulnerable thing that I just shared, even though to you, the average reader, it’s just another Internet thing.

I’m freaking out because this idea, collecting recipes from all of China, has been my baby and daydream for the last year. I’ve tossed and turned it around with my friends, deleted it, revived it, and today, because of a series of events in the last week, decided to just DO IT.

I’m going to be realistic and say I’m probably not going to hit my goal. $20,000 for four months? As a freelance writer, that’s fundraising more than my average salary per month (hahah I know this is kinda sad). But I promise guys, this isn’t a ruse to steal your money or use it to party in the clubs of Shanghai. I really want to document the recipes of China in an earnest and professional way. This type of resource just doesn’t exist. I’ve scoured the bookstores. Even in China and Taiwan.

(For those who are new to this blog, you can see a small cross-section on my past coverage on Chinese food here.)

I’m also terrified because putting this out to the world means that I’m committing to this journey and it’s a journey that I’m terrified of (even though it will be exciting).

You see, I’m terrified of it because I’ve lived in China before. And it can get extremely lonely, as a woman who looks Chinese but is actually American. The same hospitality extended to Westernized-looking Americans isn’t always granted to me.

I’m terrified because I remember the feeling of sitting in a pedicab in Suzhou by myself trying to madly find the train station and with a driver I didn’t trust. I remember people meeting me initially and bombarding me with just one of two questions: 1) Do you have a boyfriend? 2) Why do you have acne?

I’m dreading the food poisoning I always get, and the crowds that push and shove during the train stations. I’m wary of the crowded hostels and the taxicabs that purposely go the long route because they know you’re not a local.

But I KNOW this will be worth it.

I remember the Gobi Desert and the singing tour guide who lived simply and took me and my friend camping in the sand dunes. The restaurant in Shanghai with fatty pork cubes that became my ultimate comfort food, even though it was 40 minutes from campus, by cab. The sweet potato vendor, the crepe guy at breakfast, the poor migrant worker who is spending all of his life miles away from his family living in a construction zone just to make a living, just to send money back to his wife and son. The beautiful kids with cleft chins, adopted by an American family, living in the suburbs of China.

And of course — the food.


I don’t know where my journey will take me, I can’t guarantee that I will succeed. But I will say — that I will spend every moment in China looking and documenting as many recipes as I can.

I’m going regardless of whether or not I get the money. I’ll dip into my savings, I might just have to deal with it solo — without a photographer friend and any sort of company. I might run out of money, I might have to come home.

But this week, after spending it with a legion of people I call mentors, I learned:

There’s what you plan for and there’s what shows up.

Dear world: this is my plan.


Yosemite Summer Car Camping

There’s something about having full phone signal and being in front of a laptop for days on end that screws with my brain chemistry. It becomes a hazy cloud of “What emails do I need to follow up on,” “Will he call me?” to “I have so many things to write.” My thought processes become as scattered as my notifications. And then, cue the gradual build-up of stress and anxiety.

Being in isolation, miles deep on a trail or on a river, makes me realize how little most things matter.

I’m happy being present in the moment — so long as my basic needs like food and water, are met. This relatively recent realization has propelled me to go on trips like Utah, Sequoia and most recently, Yosemite.

I spent a long weekend in Yosemite Valley, car camping at Upper Pines Campground and getting social with a bunch of strangers I met through Sierra Club.

Despite the crowds and the insane number of screaming children, I had a lovely time.

What I Did:

11415575_10204837741716635_6394600153339424855_oHiked the Panorama Trail (8.6 Miles): The first hike we did. If you want sweeping views of the entire valley, this is the trail to be on. You take a one hour narrated shuttle up to Glacier Point and hike down from there. It’s long, but not difficult. Mostly downhill anyways. Take a lunch break at Nevada Falls and then you have two options: head down the Mist Trail if you have time. It’s steeper but the view is breathtaking. If you’re in a rush (which I was), opt for the John Muir Trail instead.

11426371_10204837741396627_5369767158286143257_oHiked Mirror Lake (5 miles): An easy hike that we did on the second day to wind down after the Panorama Trail. Lovely views of an almost non-existent lake. It’s a pretty flat walk; loved the towering boulder pile towards the end of the lake.

11057769_10204837679075069_5404901488689303957_o (1)Rafted the Merced River: This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Nothing better than cold river water to raft on after a blistering hot hike. The river was tame enough for us to jump in whenever we wanted to take a quick swim. Can’t recommend this enough — though word in the valley is that the season is almost over because the water levels are dangerously low. $31

11054517_10204837740036593_2002502991521210513_oWalked Mariposa Grove: I did this two years ago, but I wanted to stop by to just take a quick five minute stroll and photograph some sequoias. If you have the time, I suggest dedicating half a day to this. They have a lot of good trails here.


Sierra Club fee (included shuttle up to Glacier Point, campsite, hot water in the mornings, dish water, coals): $57
Gas round-trip (per person, spilt between three people): $31
Rafting: $31
Pizza from Curry Village: $12
(And the rest of the food I brought from home)

Total cost: $131 for 3 nights.