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An Update from Portland

Portland Spring Flowers

May 5, 2020. Day 50 of quarantine.

Hello friends. It feels very strange to be writing my first post of 2020 while we are all in quarantine. I can’t believe it’s been months since I popped on here to say hi. I can’t believe it’s already May.

I entered the new decade ready to make 2020 my year. Before coronavirus, 2020 was going better than I could have imagined. I was happy and optimistic…  it was the first time I’ve felt like myself in a while. And I was so busy, I could barely find time for blogging. I was working on a number of creative projects that I was excited about, including opportunities that came to me out of the blue. Veganizer was thriving, and I was on track to line up a full year of events and partnerships. I was contributing vegan maps to Eater PDX, which was pretty special for me as not that long ago, I looked to Eater NYC for restaurant tips, and I always wondered “how does one get to write for Eater?” I’ve always enjoyed exploring Portland’s food and beverage scene, but it has brought me a remarkable amount of joy over the past few months. Along the way, I made a lot of new friends and built meaningful relationships within the vegan and food communities. As an added bonus, I recently met a cute boy with an cuter cat. It was the first time I’ve been this excited about someone since my divorce.

Then it all came crashing down. The world became a crazy, scary mess. Everything I had grown to love and taken for granted had disappeared. Events cancelled. Projects postponed. Friendships turned into Facetime chats. Human relationships have become complicated as our only interactions are entirely virtual, and everyone has their own way of navigating the current state of things. It feels like we are living in an episode of Black Mirror. People talk about “when all this over”, but honestly, when will this really be over? This is the new normal. The world that we used to know is gone and won’t be back for some time. It’s starting to sink in that it will be years before things are really normal normal again.

Today marks day 50 of my quarantine. I went into lockdown on Monday, March 16. I remember my last weekend in the Before Times vivdly because it was a typical, yet enjoyable one. I cleaned my house, I made dinner for a special someone, we opened a bottle of wine, we watched movies and documentaries, we got pizza from Baby Blue, and the cats entertained us with their shenanigans. I even remember everything I had planned for March 16, which was quickly cancelled once I realized how bad the covid situation had gotten.

So here we are, Tuesday, May 5. After a long and meaningless April, I’ve started to adapt to this corona world and have been keeping myself busy. The words “unprecedented” and “pivot” have become overused these days, but I have finally managed to pivot during these unprecedented times. I’m not sure how often I’ll write here or what I want to be doing with this space (maybe I’ll finish up some travel content as the only travel we’ll be doing anytime soon is virtual). For now, I wanted to share some Instagram highlights, including a few that are pre-corona. These are my favorite posts from the past few months.

 

2020 Instagram Highlights

 

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Stepping into 2020. 💙 Since it’s a new year, and I haven’t done an intro in a while, here we go: Hello, I’m Waz! 🙋🏻‍♀️ I’m an architect turned graphic designer who got into food blogging while working in advertising for the wine industry. Originally from Singapore, I’m a former New Yorker who moved to Portland a few years ago. I’m a wearer of many hats: designer, writer, photographer, home cook, event planner, cat lady. I wasn’t vegan or even vegetarian when I started this blogger journey, and I never plan on turning back. My website and Instagram started with food, and that will always be a core focus, but I want to change things up. I say I’m all about vegan food + living, and I’m still figuring out what that means. I’m not a food personality. My brand and my name are one and the same. There’s no online persona. My brand is genuinely, authentically me. I want to share more of veganism beyond food. I want to share some of the food/blogger/vegan/social media topics that get discussed offline, behind the scenes. I want to offer more transparency to my audience. I want to share more of the random things good and bad that keep me up at night. I have many ideas, but the truth is I have no idea what I’m doing. So, we’ll see where all this goes. New year, new ideas. Cheers! —— 📸: @perfectfooddays

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Community. The #communitynotcompetition hashtag is brought up a lot, and building online community by following and engaging is part of this crazy social media world that we live in, but let’s not forget to channel that same energy offline. I’ve learned that community doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to network or be best friends with everyone. It doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every request or promote everything in order to be a “good” community member. It doesn’t mean you can’t know your worth and ask to be paid fairly for your skills and expertise. It doesn’t mean you can’t take pride in what you do and celebrate your successes. At the end of the day, how you interact with and treat other people *in real life* is at the core of community. When I think about community, this is what comes to mind: Are you kind and respectful to everyone? Do you look at others for comparison or inspiration? Are you dismissive when you don’t understand something or are you open to learning from someone else? Are you open to exchanging ideas and sharing tips? Do you build partnerships that help everyone succeed? Are you genuinely interested in collaborating or is it more self-serving? Do you credit those who have helped you along the way? Are you happy for others and their successes? Are you focused on social media growth or building relationships? As I wrote this, I saw where I want to do better and who my people and community are. ♥ What does community mean to you? If you have something to add to that list, please chime in below! —— 📷: @perfectfooddays 📍: @getawayhouse PS. This photo has nothing to do with this caption, but I guess I’m real comfortable with my online community since I’m over here in my PJs. 😹

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Happy Lunar New Year! 🧧 🐭 When I was a kid, my family celebrated with hotpot on the eve and vegetarian meals on the first day of the new year. Yesterday, I introduced my friend @food_saint to one of my favorite restaurants: @ichizakitchen. The perfect place to welcome the Year of the Rat. I’ve tried most of Ichiza’s menu, but yesterday was my first time diving into the mapo tofu for a spicy good time. (True story: I once gave a presentation about mapo tofu in Chinese class back in high school.) We shared a few other dishes too. It brings me so much joy when an omnivore has their mind blown by a vegan restaurant. Nice bonus when that friend happens to be a chef. I believe Michael was most fascinated by Ichiza’s delicious layered flavors and @ichizaeats non-gmo, fermented soy protein. Shockingly and satisfyingly meaty. People often scoff at fake meats, lumping everything from tofu and tempeh to Beyond and Impossible all together in the same category. That’s a separate post for another time, but I want to talk about tofu. It’s my favorite of the vegan meat trinity (tofu/tempeh/seitan). It’s the food of my childhood and my culture. And it bothers me when people call it fake because it’s unfamiliar to them. There’s nothing fake about something that has a recorded history that goes back 2,000 years. The stuff you see at the average American grocery store is pretty boring compared to the varieties of tofu that you’ll find in Asia. And there’s so much you can do with tofu. It’s a good source of plant-based protein, calcium, and iron. It’s also cholesterol-free and gluten-free. Tofu is one of my oldest friends. It always has a place in the meat drawer of my little blue fridge.

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That’s not a yoga pose. Or maybe it is. I’ll do what I want because it’s my yoga anniversary. Exercise and I haven’t always had the best relationship. No one in my family is particularly athletic, and as a kid, I dreaded gym class because I was always the smallest, slowest, and weakest. At my school in Hong Kong, we were graded in gym class based on physical ability, not effort or progress, which was horribly discouraging. Straight D student right here lol. As an adult, I’ve attempted to establish an exercise routine because it dramatically improves my mood, but I’ve struggled to find an activity that I enjoyed enough to stick with. Then I gave yoga a try, practicing at home with @adrienelouise (and Benji) videos before I decided to get myself to a yoga studio. I lucked out when @thepeoplesyogapdx opened their Hawthorne location a few blocks from me. I’ve taken a class with almost every instructor there, and I’ve learned something different about myself from each one. @heartshapedyogapdx’s class got me into the groove of practicing regularly and listening to my body. @rogermckeever’s class is the most challenging and rewarding, while bringing out all the feels and many laughs (often during chair pose). @abbywiththerods’ class is where I feel most in tune with my body, and I will never not be amused that Wanda is so much smaller than @chloetonymeow. I’ll admit that a guy was a also responsible for getting me into yoga even though we never practiced together, but I told him before we said goodbye. Yoga got me through that heartbreak last year. Yoga also brought me to Ubud, Bali for a mini retreat, where I re-learned how much I enjoy spending time with myself. Here I am, one year later. I am constantly amazed at how my body changes from one yoga practice to the next and how much it has changed over the year. I may not look different, but I feel stronger and my posture has improved. (At my last annual checkup, my doctor noted that I stand an inch taller.) My mind is more focused, and I’m more intentional with how and where I spend my time. Yoga and veganism fit together perfectly, and I wish I had discovered both sooner. —— 📸: @juniperandthesea

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Social media.⚡I have a complicated relationship with social media. I love how creative and inspiring this space can be, and I’m grateful for the friendships and opportunities that social media has brought into my life. Every single client that I’m currently working with can be traced back to @instagram. However, I started to change my approach to social media over the past year, but the changes only fully clicked in place when I was traveling last October. Whenever I travel, my Instagram goes into travel mode, where I share lots of unedited snapshots to my stories on the go. There’s no time to post to my feed or engage with other accounts because I‘m too busy engaging in real life. As a result, #instagram and I got back to our roots of visual journaling. Since that trip, I’ve been focusing on more of that. My IG engagement is down, and I don’t really care about that anymore. Instead, I’ve been investing my time and energy on myself and creating/sharing content that I’m excited about. Instagram isn’t going away anytime soon, but it’s far more valuable to develop marketable skills (photography, styling, writing, etc) that can be shared on Instagram, rather than focusing on driving follower count and likes. We often think that higher numbers = more opportunities. That is not untrue, but it’s not as direct of a correlation as we think. My follower count has barely grown much in the past year, but I’ve had no shortage of opportunities. By that, I mean projects where I am paid $$$ for my time and skills, not freebie exchanges. Not everything is about money, but that’s a whole other post for another time. There are moments where I’ll encounter a brand that’s completely fixated on the numbers, and that’s when I know they’re probably not the right brand for me to work with. If I run into a blogger who treats follower count like comparing 🍆 size (lol), well, I probably don’t want them in my community anyway. Don’t get me wrong, #socialmedia is still queen. But instead of worrying about the numbers (oh, we are forever at the mercy of the algorithm gods), I want to focus on sharing what I enjoy and what’s meaningful to me. #wazwu #veganblogger #veganladyboss

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@veganizerpdx started 2020 with an amazing #officiallyveganized partnership with @rallypizza that got people excited and talking about all things Veganizer. Next up, we have a February 23 (sold out!) meetup at @happydayjuice before kicking off a sweet program with @memozcafe in March. On April 27, we’ll be at @desipdx for a lil Indian flair. I wish I could share what I’m planning for June, but I have to keep that one a secret for now. We’ve come a long from where we started in 2017, where I contacted 40 restaurants before 1 said yes. I know that some people, omnivores and vegans, thought I was crazy when I told them about the Veganizer concept, but here we are. The process is streamlined, the calendar is booked months in advance, restaurant partners put as much care into their vegan dishes as they do their regular ones, and I’m so very grateful that the vegan community 🌱shows up *every single time*. ♥ —— To learn more or book a #Veganizer PDX partnership, email: veganizerpdx@gmail.com.

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Last Friday ♥, I woke up earlier than usual (this is worth mentioning because I’m not a morning person lol), got some work done, went to yoga, got a massage, went on a long walk, picked up my favorite pizza (got two pies because #treatyoself), then watched a movie with @chloetonymeow. My feline friends from the neighborhood visited that day too. It was a pretty perfect #ValentinesDay for this single gal. The worst part of being single isn’t seeing cutesy couples or doing things alone. It’s when people tell you to use dating apps despite never having used the apps themselves, when they want to set you up with people who aren’t a good match or don’t want to be set up, or when people tell you to put yourself out there. I know it’s well intentioned, but I’m so sick of it. I spend plenty of time interacting with people (tiring for an introvert), I’m not afraid to ask someone out if I’m interested, and my heart is open when someone special comes along. Believe me, I‘m out there. Instead of telling single folks to put themselves out there, maybe we should be telling everyone, including longtime partnered people, to focus on nurturing themselves. When I was on the apps, I realized some people weren’t working through own their sh*t, didn’t know what they want, and didn’t know how to communicate. I’ve been in that place. Most of us have at some point. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve learned that it’s important to step back, care for yourself, and feel good about going through life solo before adding someone to your life. I enjoy spending time with myself because I’ve grown to really like who I am. I want to spend my time building the best version of myself and the happiest, most meaningful life possible. I’m alone, but I am not lonely. I have plenty of friends. It would be nice to have a partner, but I’m waiting for real connection, not hunting on the apps. In the meantime, I’ll be here doing my own thing and reminding myself never to settle. Also, being single means I don’t have to share my food, which is a win. 😹 —— 📸 Reposting this photo by @vegancatman at @dougfirlounge because we all deserve someone who looks at us the way I’m looking at this burger. 🍔

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A few years ago, when I visited @farmspirit for the first time, I was absolutely delighted. Like a kid in a candy store, but with vegetables. At the time, I was a recent vegetarian-turned-vegan who had just moved from NYC, and many of the PNW’s ingredients were new to me. I recall smoky beetroot with a mushroom yogurt, chewy carrot jerky, a delicate rose made from one long carrot strip, the most delicious abalone mushroom, and an Alice In Wonderland-esque “Drink Me” bottle filled with refreshing raspberry kefir. Every seat at the L-shaped bar was a front row seat to watch the magic in the kitchen. Since then, the #FarmSpiritFamily has grown and with the larger dining room, as well as the addition of @fermenterpdx and @folklore_pdx, more people can experience that vegetable magic. What many people don’t know is that Farm Spirit now serves a $29 three course lunch tasting menu from Wednesdays to Fridays. When I last visited for lunch, there was a roasted kabocha squash soup in a vibrant shade of yellow, hay smoked black bean tempeh with Willamette Valley quinoa, braised kale, Sauvie Island carrots, plus a little sauerkraut playing peek-a-boo among the other ingredients. The lightly sweet dessert was a grown up twist on a caramel apple featuring barbecued honey crisp, sunchoke koji caramel, and raw walnuts. This week, the lunch tasting menu is $20 in honor of 02/20/20. To make your reservation, visit farmspiritpdx.com, or you can take your chances and drop by anytime between 11am and 2pm on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. —— *hosted* // #farmspirit #purposelyvegan #wazwu

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I could write a long post about COVID-19 and other coronavirus outbreaks that stem from animal exploitation. I could share stories about anti-Asian racism and xenophobia that I’ve seen on the news and social media. I could tell you all about how businesses are hurting, and many folks, including myself, are scrambling to find a new game plan for events, travel, etc during this chaotic time. And it’s only going to get worse from here. Instead, I’m going share a few moments of not just normalcy, but joy that I experienced yesterday at @g.lovepdx: spiced hazelnuts, vegetal spring cocktails, avocado with tamari yuzu and crunchy seeds, pickled shiitakes, a delightful baby lettuce salad (you guys, remember I’m not a salad gal so this is a big deal lol). The finale to this meal was a dreamy coconut cream cloud with kiwi granita, mandarin, lemon marmalade, and toasted coconut. And that jungle restroom was such a fun surprise. Peek at my story highlights for more. Thanks @workout.to.eatout_pdx for the lovely company, @perfectfooddays for the recommendation, and of course, G-Love ♥ for this lil escape to veg paradise. 🌱

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Last Sunday, I grabbed a bar seat at @epifpdx for @mirisata’s first popup. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect as vegan Sri Lankan is uncommon, and we live during strange and scary coronavirus times. That said, it was heartwarming to see the vegan community support this flavor-packed feast. The street foods were tasty nibbles, especially the curried jackfruit potato croquette. But I was blown away by the medley of fragrant curries — dahl, beetroot, spicy “chicken” — gorgeously presented on a banana leaf, and accompanied by pickled eggplant, coconut salad, and other sides. This was Mirisata’s first popup, and I can’t wait to see what else Alex and Simar have in store for us in the future. Hope we soon get to experience more community through food after we get through these crazy times. ♥️

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“Hope you and your family are staying safe and healthy.” I don’t know how many times I’ve said that in an email or text in the last few days. I mean it with all my heart every time I say it even though my heart is broken. Weeks ago, when coronavirus had just made its way to the US, I noticed that my Asian friends, those of us who had lived in Taiwan during SARS, were more concerned than some of my American friends. Not panicking, but on alert while going about our lives. Ten days ago, I was outside enjoying the sunshine, sipping cocktails, and giggling with a cute boy. And now, every morning as I wake up, I forget that coronavirus exists for a minute or so, then it sinks in again. How quickly things have changed. Many of my friends, clients, and collaborators are in the food industry, and the restaurant scene in which we have found community will never be the same again. Closures. Cancellations. Lay offs. I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can support small businesses through delivery and gift cards. But does it really help, even just a little? It feels foolish to believe even momentarily that it will. I’ve seen people post that coronavirus is nature’s revenge. No, this is not an environmental issue. This is an issue of animal exploitation, just like so many other pandemics. Eating animals is the norm, and that’s what I grew up doing too. Eating animals is how we got here. And eating rice and beans for the next few weeks and months is how we are going to survive. Let’s never forget that. I’ve been struggling to find moments of normalcy in the chaos. I cried every day this week. I cried through this post. The past few days have triggered my anxiety and stirred up interpersonal issues. I’ve had to remind myself of everything I learned through my therapist: how to take care of myself, knowing my worth, setting boundaries, trusting my instincts, and speaking up for myself. I wish I could end this on a more positive note, but it’s hard to find the words. There’s one thing I’m sure of though: we will get through this together. ♥️ —— Photo by @karalouisestokes at @getawayhouse during much simpler times.

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What was your last pre-quarantine meal at a restaurant? ✨ Mine was at @estespdx @damerestaurant where I caught up with @eatrichordietryin (it only took us 3 months to make this happen lol) over the Portland Dining Month menu. It was only a month ago, but this silky cauliflower soup and sprouting broccoli with pine nuts and preserved lemon feels like a distant memory. On that visit, I finally tried @patrickmckee’s vegan cacio e pepe, and I can’t wait ’til the next time I’ll get to twirl that on a fork. I ordered a few bottles of natural wine🍷 from Dame yesterday (curbside pickup or free delivery to the Portland metro area) and look forward to enjoying them soon. You can choose from various styles and color preferences or opt for Dealer’s Choice if you’re looking for a lil adventure. Dame’s selection of orange wines are my go-to as they’re as refreshing as a white and as bold as a light red, making them incredibly food friendly, especially with vegetal flavors. Maybe I’ll even create my version of this Estes meal when I open a bottle.

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This photo was taken by @juniperandthesea in April 2019. The truth is the woman in this photo might not be able to navigate these strange, scary times, and I’m grateful for my growth over the past year. Living solo is easy once you get the hang of it, but living solo while there’s so much uncertainty surrounding every aspect of our lives, that’s the hard part. I’ve cut back on how often I check the news because it gives me a lot of anxiety. I’m trying not to worry too much about everything I was working on before because there isn’t much I can do right now. I’m trying to be productive, while also allowing myself to sleep in or binge TV if I want. I appreciate everyone who has reached out to see if I’m okay, while also making an effort to check in with people. I‘ve been cherishing the connections that have brought me some joy and hope recently because there’s a shortage of both lately. I’m trying not to stress about the future of things beyond my control. I’m cooking simple meals because I know there are others out there who are less fortunate, but I know it’s okay to enjoy my favorite foods. I’ve ordered delivery to support local restaurants, but also cringe at the single use waste that it generates. I’m learning to find a balance between setting boundaries and cutting people some slack. We’re all just trying to do our best during these unprecedented times. Several friends have told me that this is a time when people will show their true colors. I agree. When we emerge from all this, we will all have learned so much about ourselves and the people around us. With everything that’s going on, it’s hard to be hopeful about the future, but we can and we must. Sending love to everyone out there. ♥️

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“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.” – Kitty O’Meara

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Day 36 of quarantine. I‘m grateful to feel safe and healthy, and I’m very fortunate to be able to stay home. What a strange time to be alive. Days blur together and feel like weeks. Little moments of joy are so precious, while disappointments sting more than usual. With so much uncertainty in the world, I’ve been trying to find simplicity and clarity wherever I can in my life, from my everyday routine to relationships with people. If anything doesn’t feel quite right, it’s not for me. That doesn’t mean I want to close doors forever, it’s just no good right now. I understand we’re all doing the best that we can to get by, and everyone is processing this time differently. I believe that everything will eventually work itself out. It’s hard, but I’m learning to trust the process. In the meantime, a little bit of kindness and compassion goes a long way. This photo taken by my friend @karalouisestokes at @getawayhouse last year has nothing to do with the caption, but perhaps it’s a reminder to enjoy the little things. Even if it’s just eating spaghetti in your favorite PJs. ♥️

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#EARTHDAY 🌱 It’s easy to post beautiful photos of our planet, but now, more than ever, we need to make real changes. Not that long ago, all we talked about were the fires tearing through the rainforest. Now, we are in the middle of a global pandemic with no end in sight. If there’s ever a time to take action, this is it. I am far from perfect and still have a long way to go, but I hope that you’ll join me to care for the earth. Celebrate Earth Day everyday. For many, driving a car is a necessity for getting to and from work, buying groceries for your family etc. However, if and when you can, walk, bike, or take public transit. It may not be possible to do this right now, so make a plan for after the pandemic. It may be challenging at first, but you’ll get used to it. It’s good to get your body moving too. Shop wisely. Recycling isn’t enough. We need to focus on reducing and reusing. Bring a tote bag to the store. Buy in bulk and avoid plastic when you can. Use reusable water bottles, glass/metal straws, and containers. Take care of clothing and accessories that you already own. Avoid fast fashion. Opt for thrift stores or environmentally conscious brands. When you shop, you are voting with your dollars. The single most effective way I’ve reduced my carbon footprint is by going vegan. In addition to subjecting animals and workers to appalling conditions, animal agriculture is awful for the environment. I’ve seen many headlines about meat shortages as meat plants are forced to close due to the increase in covid cases among workers. This is the time to change the way we eat. Eat more plants. Your body, the animals, and the earth will thank you for it.

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Today was the date of our @veganizerpdx @desipdx collab. It’s crazy to think about how we started planning last December and how much the world has changed since then. I was really looking forward to this one, not just because DesiPDX’s food is excellent and @dsaxena.pdx is great to work with, but because this was going to be in the OG Veganizer takeover style. We haven’t done a takeover popup since last summer (as we’ve mostly shifted to month long collabs), and I’ll always love how the #officiallyveganized popups bring people, from vegan foodies to omnivore industry folks, together to share a delicious meal. My hope is that this and other events aren’t cancelled forever, just rescheduled for a later date… whenever that will be. I’m not sure how Veganizer fits into the new normal as the entire concept is events-based — the PDX chapter will remain on hiatus for the time being. And frankly, I’m struggling to feel motivated enough to do much these days. I don’t know when’s the next time we’ll get to gather together as a community, but I hope that anyone who has ever attended a Veganizer event will continue veganizing in whatever way that you can because now, more than ever, humans need to be eating more plants and fewer animals. Even if it’s just one vegan meal a day, it’s progress in the right direction. PS. @desipdx is open 6 days a week, offering contactless ordering for pickup and delivery. Please wear a mask for pickup. Their vegan options are delicious and Veganizer approved. Let me know if you try the vegan plates!

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Michele
    May 7, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    I love all your photos, especially those taken at some of my favorite local restaurants. I hope someday to return to those carefree dining days…

  • Reply
    Erin
    May 8, 2020 at 8:20 am

    I miss the days of travel so much!!! We both went into lockdown on the same day and I’m so ready to get out!

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