Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Writer Wednesday - Siiri Sampson

Siiri Sampson is a Seattle, Washington native who shares her cooking tricks and tips on how to keep it local without spending more time, money or energy than ordinary on her blog, A Half Cup. She aims to convey these themes to the young bunch like her, the parents on time and money budgets, and home cooks who just feel like there’s never enough time to follow a recipe! And, as you can tell from reading her interview below, she is also a total badass. Her thoughts on food and life ring so true for me, and I hope you'll find the same. I'm so glad Liz (purveyor of all things in good taste!) introduced us, and I can't wait to hear more from Siiri as she progresses on her Year of Growth!

Who are you? Siiri Sampson. 32yr old Seattle native, living, working and cooking in downtown Seattle. (well, technically working on the Eastside out in Bellevue for a strategic marketing agency, but soon to be part time working elsewhere!)

Where can you be found online?  Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work?  If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation? You can find me online: BLOG INSTA TWITTER PAPER

There might not be anything revolutionary about my blog, or what I'm cooking, but I do get feedback that I convey my sense of humor through my content and my experience, and that people do find some dishes/ideas that they successfully replicate at home. If I can help one person break down a barrier to cooking for themselves, enjoying the process, sharing that meal with a loved one, and potentially teach someone else how to cook? THAT is success to me.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging?  When did it happen? My blog is like the Area 51 of my cooking life. I started it 5 years ago when I strung together a pattern of events in my life one day. I had been getting emails and phone calls from strangers (family and friends of my colleagues and friends) that all went something like this: "Hi, you don't know me but I'm so and so's cousin and I'm having a food emergency. They said I should call you...can you help me figure out XYZ?!" When I realized that was happening rather frequently, I thought a testing zone for what I was doing might be helpful to others. You see someone else flailing their way through home cooking, and then you don't feel so alone/scared to break out of your routine and try something new yourself.

Why do you write? I write because I'm learning (a lifetime pursuit I pray never ends. If you're not learning, you're just plain lazy). Writing about what I'm learning in my cooking helps me process all the information, my goals, what isn't working, and why I love cooking so much.

I write because I know that I could talk about cooking like I'm heading up a filibuster on the Hill, but that not everyone in my life wants to HEAR about me cooking all the time. This is an outlet where I don't have to worry about length, tone, being "fancy" or having something overly curated. This blog is not a "foodie" blog. This blog is for people that want to cook, learn how to cook, read about the struggles and successes of someone else that cooks, and maybe get a little motivation to jump into the kitchen themselves.

Your writing inspires me.  Who inspires you?
Well, gee thanks! That's kind of you to say. :) I have a handful of folks who inspire me to continue writing/blogging (because honestly, sometimes I just groan when I think about my blog....after this many years I sometimes wonder what the point even is anymore). My friend Liz is great about her regularity and the breadth of what she covers in her blog and she's actively out there searching for great content to distribute in addition to living a full life that she shares with great anecdotes.

Fellow Seattleite and food blogger, Molly (of Orangette and Delancey fame), has a wonderful lens and honesty to her writing (which is only one reason why everything she and Brandon do is always such a raging success). Every time I read one of her posts or see a moment captured of her food or family, I'm motivated again.

And my buddy Brendan serves it up direct and honest, in a way that is always educational and pushes his readers to reassess the impact their cooking, eating, sourcing and generally the way they live.

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? Man, there are a LOT of places on my "short list" which is, admittedly, not so short. I think the best way for me to answer this question, at 32 years old, is to say where my NEXT trip would be (all expenses paid of course in mind). It has to be Spain. MUST BE. I had started planning a trip to Spain early this year, and it was in the midst of my "Year of Change" which I just wrapped up at the end of November. I'm now 2 weeks into my "Year of Growth" which I'll touch on in your last question below...but back to Spain!

I have never been. In fact, despite the fact that I studied Spanish for 4 years in high school, had a high school sweetheart whose family was from Chile and El Salvador and spoke Spanish with him and his family primarily in their home, and studied Spanish Literature throughout my time at Reed, and used my Spanish daily at a law firm I worked at after college, I still haven't even made it to Mexico.

I truly believe that timing is everything in life, and I know now that all the previous iterations of me attempting to get here or there (including my attempt to study abroad in college, but being shot down because of funding issues) just weren't the right timing. I needed more time to steep my desires, my questions, my purpose. With the "Year of Change," I realized I couldn't just up and leave to Spain in the midst of all the hard work I was doing on myself. I would not only be depleting my bank account at a time when I'd been in massive save mode for my impending move away from my day job, but I would be jumping the gun, not really knowing where I should go to get what I wanted out of what I'd internally been referring to as "my trip to the motherland."

The "Year of Growth" will help set the course for asking and answering the question "what do I need to learn while in Spain, and how will I do that? Where will I go? Who do I want to meet?" So, it's Spain. I've traveled a moderate amount for someone of my age, but Spain will be full of a different purpose. It will crack me open when I'm ready, in a way no other trip or time in my life could possibly do.

What is your favorite place on earth? Is it trite to say "the Kitchen?" Nah, I won't say that (although truthfully, there are few things more satisfying than slowly caramelizing a vat of onions while swaying to some Bill Withers).....this is hard to answer! Sometimes I feel my favorite place on earth is around any table, sharing a meal with someone I can learn from. That is a place that always changes, but never lets me down, you know?

I think that's a different question than "Where's your favorite place to be?" The answer to that question will always be "with my sister, brother-in-law and nephews." My sister knows me better than anyone. We are weirdly twin-like considering we have a 5 year age difference. She's my older sister, best friend, and Director of Truth (seriously, she has a title). She is an incredible mother, business woman, wife, sister and friend. I definitely hit the sibling jackpot. She and I bring out the absolute best in each other (especially after about 11pm when we're hamming it up, processing flowers in her garage studio for a large wedding or something - she's a very successful wedding floral designer) So, being with her? That's my favorite place on earth.

This was taken a couple weekends ago when I participated in a benefit dinner for Chef Tyler Moritz, as part of Chef Brendan McGill's team. That image was shot by Atina Tan, and you'll see I'm helping Chef Ethan Stowell plate his main course. It was the most chef-intense dinner I've had the honor of working on to date.

Anything else you'd like us to know? So this "Year of Growth" I mentioned earlier...

Last November, I was getting ready to attend a food industry event (not the industry I currently make my living in, by the way. I've been at the same amazing marketing agency for eight and a half years now). I had been reflecting on an inspiring conversation with a colleague of mine who'd recently made the transition from the tech industry to the food industry full time. I thought to myself, "God, some day it'd so great to—" and the other inner voice, the one we like to ignore because change is hard and scary, shouted, "THAT'S IT! ENOUGH!" I put down the curling iron, and just sat there, staring into the mirror like a moron. The annoying change voice continued to chip away at me, "This is effing EXHAUSTING. Just stop. Stop lusting after this life you want. No more 'some days,' just DO IT. You have one year. Figure it out, make it happen. If not now, when?! If not you, WHO? If you can't pull this off in a year, it's not going to happen."

The funny thing was, I was right! I had/have zero things holding me back. I don't have kids, I'm not married, I have no partner, I don't own an animal or any real estate, and I have no debt. What the hell was I waiting for?! Based on a very honest conversation I'd had with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Ted (who's a genius), I decided to take his very sage advice. "Identify everything that scares you, and then go do it." It sounded a little insane, but what happened was that my stupid change voice started piping up every time I'd think of some risk or change I could make. A little alarm would go off, "SCARY! What if I fail?!" And suddenly I was compelled to go do it. What happened was even scarier. Things started going well, falling into place, and more opportunities showed themselves. So I kept going, changing, sticking my neck out there.

That was the genesis. Sparing all the details of the actual year, I finally made it with a week to spare. I had found my path, discussed the transition with the most amazing boss I could have ever asked for (who is a wonderful friend and my biggest cheerleader in my food pursuits) and I'll start apprenticing in January.

I have been working on lining up internships and apprenticeships for the next 6 months to get my feet wet again in the industry. It's been years since I have even waited tables, so being in a real kitchen and learning from scratch is really what I need to do. Build that house on a strong foundation, right? I'm scared s%&*less, which is how I know I must be doing exactly the right thing. :) Always be the dumbest person in the room so you always have something to learn. Always ask questions. Fail fast and often. Always try again. The next milepost is the end of June when I'll leave my current work family entirely and forge ahead into food full time. My eventual goal/career path is to redesign the way food fundamental education is formatted and delivered to various segments of the population. But there's a long road to ensuring I'm doing that correctly. I'm not doing it to get rich or be famous. My end game is not to be a food personality like Martha or Ina. I'm doing it because I hate seeing people not cook for themselves. I want to break down those barriers. Food is the only art form you can share with another person that touches all 5 senses. You have to eat every single day, you should enjoy the hell out of it.

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