frequently asked questions
Where are you from?
I live in Hong Kong, but I also spend a lot of time visiting family in Chicago, where I was born.
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).
What is Assyrian?
Assyrians are descendants of the ancient Assyrian empire, and we live around the world in a diaspora. My family's church is the Assyrian Church of the East. All of this influences our cuisine. For instance, we tend to eat a lot of vegan food, because we have a lot of vegan fasts (e.g., Lent, Advent, and a holiday that commemorates Jonah's Prophecy to the Ninevites). "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.
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). I just recently upgraded to a Canon 6D, but most of the photos on my website were taken with a very basic Canon Rebel and prime lens.
If you’re thinking about getting more into food photography, remember that having a nice camera doesn't matter as much as learning good lighting and composition, as well as learning how to use your SLR in manual mode. Some of my favorite bloggers even do all their shooting right from their iPhone, so don't feel like you need to upgrade right away (especially if you like doing lots of flat-lays, which are 100% about lighting and composition, and really aren't helped much by a fancy camera).
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.
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 use Squarespace and absolutely love it with no real reservations. If you use Squarespace, the key is to choose the right template for what you need (things are a bit less customizable than some other platforms, but incredibly well-designed and beautiful). The template I use is called "Five," which I've made a couple small style changes to.
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 really delicious 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 literature from Rutgers University, and a BA in English from Indiana University.