Good food has a way of gathering people together, even online. Jin Perez has written about both the food she loves and her travels at Jin Loves to Eat since 2009. In the five years since she started writing, Jin and her blog have become the go-to for some of the best things to eat around Metro Manila; she also writes about food for her column in the Manila Bulletin. But there is more to life than food writing. Jin took a little time off from her busy schedule to tell the staff about it, and of course to talk more about the food that she loves.
1. When you’re not eating or blogging about food, what do you do? What’s a typical day like for you?
Contrary to what people think, I work, too! Blogging is really just a hobby, it is an online diary where I document my meals with family and friends, my travels, family celebrations, and really just anything under the sun. A typical day for me starts with a substantial breakfast complete with fresh vegetable fruit juice and a box of fruits that my mom prepares for us daily, before I hit the pile of paper work at the office. Being born into a Chinese family, it is expected of us to help with the business.
I try to eat lunch at home as often as possible, but lately I’ve been doing quite a bit of food tasting at my sister’s soon-to-open cafe. I also do menu and product development for a few companies and that takes up my afternoons. Whenever I have free time, I work on my Manila Bulletin column.
Evenings are usually spent catching up with friends over dinner or celebrating special occasions with family. We are a big clan and we celebrate everything together. On nights when I stay home, I update the blog. I have to admit this happens very rarely nowadays. Hi, I’m Jin and I am the most delinquent blogger in the world.
2. Every person who loves to eat has that ‘gateway moment’ where a snack or meal just opens up their senses. What was your gateway moment?
It was at Takazawa in Tokyo. The restaurant was set up like a laboratory where Chef Takazawa, in his white jacket, prepared the food on a stage and his wife Akiko served the tables. There was this course called “Dinner in the Forest” where bite-size pieces of Hokkaido lamb, sweet potato, gingko nuts and chestnuts were served on a big chunk of wood. Before serving the dish, Akiko presented us with a white tablet that expanded after she poured hot water on it. Turned out the tablet was a dehydrated towel! She then asked us to clean our hands with the cloth that smelled of wood because we will be eating with our bare hands! A burning pine leaf also rested on the meats to give off the smell of the forest. We ate the pieces of food with our cedar-scented fingers and it was, indeed, like having dinner in the forest! It was perfect and did not excite and pleasure only my tastebuds, but all of my senses. That experience blew me away.
3. Is there something you wouldn’t eat? Why?
I would try everything at least once. I’ve eaten scorpions, crickets, snakes, starfishes, and silkworms – you name it, I’ve eaten it! (laughs) But I would never ever touch dog meat. I’ve seen it being served in some provinces and even saw how they captured the poor things and kept them in sacks! It was horrible! I do not own any pets, but a lot of my cousins do and we treat them like family, even celebrating their birthdays with cakes and lechon. I cannot imagine eating family.
4. If you could eat a certain kind of cuisine everyday, what would it be and why?
Japanese, definitely, because it focuses on quality and freshness more than anything else. I love sashimi and Japanese beef and will never tire of them. Also, there are just too many varieties of it. You can have sushi on Monday, sukiyaki on Tuesday, yakitori on Wednesday, tempura on Thursday, teppanyaki on Friday, ramen on Saturday, and yakiniku on Sunday! Honestly, though, I can just alternate between sashimi and beef and be happy everyday of my life.
5. How did you get into the routine of trying new places to eat? Did it start as something with family or close friends, or do you do this on your own?
I love discovering new restaurants and new flavors and I am always in search for the best experience. Since I dine out quite often, I suggest new places to try when eating with family and friends. I have my favorites, but it will take the joy out of eating if I have to go to the same restaurant twenty five times a month.
6. Who do you like food tripping with?
I enjoy food tripping with my cousins because they are as adventurous as I am and they have huge enough appetites to keep up with me. I also have a “Love Food” group of friends who delight in eating as much as I do. Whenever we get together, it is all about food. We eat food, we talk food, and then we plan our next food escapade.
7. For you, what makes a good food writer? Do you have a favorite food writer or blog that you follow?
I believe food is meant to be something fun and enjoyable rather than serious and business-like. For that reason, I take pleasure in reading authors who have a sense of humor, whose pieces are light and entertaining, and tell more about their feelings after trying out a certain dish, rather than a detailed account of all the ingredients and cooking methods that went into it. My favorite writers/bloggers are the ones I can connect with, who can make me crave food and laugh at the same time. I always have a ball reading Robyn Lee of The Girl Who Ate Everything, and Joy Wilson of Joy the Baker.
8. It has to be said: you love to eat but it doesn’t show! How do you stay in shape?
I wish I could say I exercise regularly, do crossfit, and go swimming, but that would make me a big fat liar. I am ashamed to say my last time at the gym was more than a year ago. I am chunky around the waist so I wear clothing that hides the bulges, like loose tops and Spanx. I also try to eat healthier when at home. I skip rice (except garlic rice and Japanese rice) so I can eat more desserts-you can’t have it all. That is how I stay in shape. After all, round is a shape!