When I first started on the path to learning about healthy eating, I had to scour the internet to find a single blog with any truly useful information or recipes. It was like a desert. But now, because of generous bloggers like Aimée Suen, that has all changed.
Our content manager Rachel shared Aimée’s blog, Small Eats, with me as we were brainstorming who we wanted to join us as a guest editor. I was immediately drawn in by her down-to-earth writing, her simple recipes and ability to break seemingly complex information down into bite-sized, digestible chunks.
I’m so pleased that Aimée has joined us this quarter and I hope you’ve been enjoying her thoroughly useful and fun posts on the site. We are lucky to have her!
Read on for a fun Q&A where we unpack how to stay inspired (when the you-know-what is hitting the fan), why our senses are so valuable and how learning to put yourself 1st is a revolutionary (and life-changing) act. Enjoy!
Welcome, Aimée! I’m stoked to do this Q+A with you today – so that both myself and all of our readers can get to know you a bit better. Let’s start by having you tell us a bit about you, what you do, create and love…
So excited to be here! Like you, Stephanie, I’m a proud hapa (half Chinese, half white). I was born in LA, raised in Dallas, and spent a good amount of time in one of my favorite cities ever, San Francisco. I live in LA now – it’ll be 10 years this fall.
I’m constantly making and creating things, have since I was little. They’ve changed forms over the years, but the ones that are strong now are design, writing, photography, and food. I design stationery and paper products during the day and channel my love of writing, photography and food into my blog in every other nook and cranny of the day.
Honestly, I love food! I cooked and baked growing up, but that passion really grew when I started cooking for myself and experimenting with flavors and new (to me) foods. It has definitely become a fun new way to express myself over the past few years.
I also LOVE learning. I’m always reading or asking questions about things because I just can’t stop figuring things out and how they work and why and what’s that? It has gotten me into some trouble over the years, asking too many questions, but hey, I’m curious, I can’t help it!
Girl, tell me about it. We could totally spend hours talking about lifelong learning over a table full of yummy food. Ha! So, tell me about your blog Small Eats. How did you decide to start a food blog? Why does the work you do feel important to you?
I decided to start Small Eats after making healthy food for a few years and getting rave reviews from my boyfriend and friends. But, in true perfectionist fashion, it took me a year or so to really push beyond all of the little things (and fear) that were holding me back from publishing it.
The final push came when I was going through a rough time at my then job and just really needed to create for myself and share that with people. I was also really taking charge of my health through food and my desire to share that with others had just kept growing and growing until I decided to just do it.
Altering how you eat and how you approach food can have such a positive impact on your life. I’ve lived through it personally. It’s amazing how your body changes, your energy increases, you just feel better. I couldn’t very well keep all that knowledge and positive transformation to myself! I’ve learned so much about food over the years – from what’s really healthy for you to what’s not, to how to shop, to how to prepare all kinds of foods, to making a dish really taste good. I just want to share it and give that power to other people who want to live a healthier life.
I love how you turned this life-changing practice into something creatively fulfilling for yourself AND something that benefits others. That’s what I call a win-win! We all know that life is challenging and some days can feel like a total slog…I’d love to know how you stay motivated and inspired in work/life, when things are feeling less than magical?
Yes, staying motivated can be tough. There’s always something that’s going to pop up in any area of your life that will rock you or throw you off your game. I really work on staying grounded as much as I can (with lots of support, reminders, and yoga). And try to remember why I do what I do in the first place, that drive to want to help others and feed them great food.
Outside of blogging, I bring it back to me, which is a pretty new concept for me! I love helping others so much I often forget to think about myself. After doing that most of my life it’s really become clear that putting others first all the time, isn’t serving me anymore. I try and shut out all the chatter and listen to what I really want to do. Sometimes that’s seeing what’s going on in the world and that will spark something creative or joyful, and other times it looks like resting, being with my boyfriend or just focusing on me.
Yes! Oh girl, I feel you on this. I think women are such givers, we often get caught up in giving more to others than we do ourselves. I’m proud of you for recognizing that and starting to put yourself first – bravo!! Tell me, what gets you out of bed in the morning?
There’s so much to do! The endless (sometimes exciting, sometimes overwhelming) possibility of things to do, learn and make get me out of bed. And an occasional early morning yoga class.
What does it mean to you, to live a life and have a business – with SOUL?
It’s such an important question and something that’s been coming up a lot for me in the past two to three years. For me, living a life and having a business with soul means really drilling down and finding your values and working to live from your values. It’s not easy. The media, the curated Instagram life and the sneaky comparison trap can catch you up, but at the end of the day I have to keep asking myself, what are MY values? What works for ME? And that’s when I can bring it back to what I truly want and how I can live and work more soulfully.
I’m gonna switch it up for a minute – I’m a believer that our six senses (taste, see, smell, hear, touch, feel/intuition) are a pathway to fulfillment and joy. What do you feel is your predominant/favorite sense? Anything in particular that lights up your senses?
Yes! I completely agree. Especially in cooking, missing a sense can lead you astray in the flavors, textures, or tastiness of a dish. You need all six to make something (not just food) really good and well rounded.
The more I think about it, I’m really strongly tied to all of the senses in different ways. As a recipe creator, taste is huge for me. Memories are heavily tied to sounds and smells for me. As a designer and maker I’m always looking and touching things to see what they’re like.
Even though I love food, I don’t think I could live without sound, especially music. Ever since I was little there’s always been music playing when I’m making, cooking, driving… I love the sound of silence as well, but there’s something about music that just keeps me moving in any situation.
I’m with you, it’s hard to pick just one (they’re all so amazing). Another not-so-random question – (as a big birthday fan) I’d love to know your dream way to spend a birthday?
My birthday is always at an odd time of year (a few days after Christmas), so everyone’s usually all over the place. I would love to spend my birthday day surrounded by all my friends and family over some really good food. Also, if it could be in a city we were all discovering for the first time, that would be awesome too.
What are the top places you’d send me if I was visiting your ‘hood (Los Angeles, CA)?
- If you want some good food (because who doesn’t), one of my favorite places to go is Sage Vegan Bistro in Culver City. You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy the food here at all. I love taking my food allergy/non-meat eating friends somewhere where they can eat anything and everything! My favorite dish is their Buffalo Cauliflower. So good!
- Living in LA you can’t not go to the beach, and my go-to beach is Dockweiler State Beach. It’s not as crowded as other beaches and has a great bike path running through it that can take you all the way down past Redondo Beach. There are also fire pits there for some late-night s’more making.
- What I love about living in California is how lucky we are to be able to grow seasonal food practically year long. Because of that, we have great farmer’s markets all over the city at almost every day of the week! My go-to is the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market on Sundays in Mar Vista, but there’s also the West Hollywood Farmer’s Market that same day, the big Santa Monica Farmer’s Market on Wednesday… Check localharvest.org and you can check out any of the great farmer’s markets and see just how much amazing food we grow here.
Couldn’t agree more – the farmers markets here are amazing!! Tell us what you’re working on right now that feels like a celebration?
I’m working on getting back to a regular yoga practice. I’d been practicing regularly with a dear friend who’s an amazing yoga teacher, but she stopped teaching regularly to focus on other things. After trying to practice on my own off and on for a few months, I realized I craved the connection with community and signed up at a studio.
I really love yoga for it’s mix of movement and spiritually, and when I practice it makes me feel stronger, more connected, and like I’m doing something really good for myself on a lot of levels. And that’s worth celebrating!
Indeed it is, congrats on that! Through everything you’ve created and the life you’ve lived, you have undoubtedly learned a lot – if you knew then, what you know now, what message would you have for your younger self?
Stay true to you. Love and share your love with others but always put yourself and what you need first.
And breathe. It’s all going to be okay.
And finally — what is one thing you know to be true?
I know for sure that nourishing food makes everything better. Your mood, energy levels, body, spirit. It’s the best way to show love to yourself and others when you cook for people.
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In a world where we’re bombarded with negative media (and news stories that resemble a bad horror film), it comforts my heart to know that there are women like Aimée out there, fighting the good fight and putting out information and inspiration for us all to live a happier more healthy life. Thank you for that Aimée, and thank you for sharing yourself with all of us here at The Girl Who Knows!
And thanks for checking out our interview series – I hope this inspires you to go make + do + create some magic in your own life!
Photos courtesy of Aimée Suen