“I started The Cutting Veg in February of 2015 at a time when there were a lot of things going on in my life. My grandfather had just passed away, I was writing my thesis in college, and I’d just lost a lot of weight which I now attribute to orthorexia. My mom and friends finally told me I was very thin, so I went to a nutritionist who suggested I keep a food diary and use Instagram as a way to document it. I took her advice and started doing it and my page took off from there.
My account grew quite a bit quite quickly which has both to do with my connection with my audience as well as luck. In 2015, there was not yet this big flood of everyone starting food Instagram accounts and for those who had them, their accounts were still pretty small. It was really very simple. I shared the food that nourished me and nourished my soul and would get all these responses like, ‘Woah! You made beet hummus!’ and I’d post the recipes on my Instagram. It was never a business venture for me. It was just me posting recipes that I loved that got me through my last semester of college.
A lot of my love of cooking comes from time I spent with my Dad as a kid. He was a physician, so he’d be on call all week and we wouldn’t see him, but on Sundays, we’d stay in, watch sports, and cook. And when I say cook, I mean cook. We took an Indian cooking class together and would cook dal, agu bogi, etc and would literally spend hours in the kitchen together. I think that when you look at my blog now, you can see these flavors represented there.
I think the fact that I have a day job helps me stay fresh and excited about the food space on Instagram. After college, I spent a year doing economics research for a professor in Princeton and now I work for the federal government doing economics research. For me, having that balance helped me use my creativity in multiple ways.
One thing I don’t think people talk enough about is the culture of food. Food transcends barriers. The best possible way to connect with people across any platform is through food and cooking. For me, my creativity comes from my experiences going to restaurants with friends, eating a Moroccan dish, etc. I take inspiration from these experiences.
There was a time that I wasn’t so inspired by the food space on Instagram. To be honest, I think that until Instagram stories came out, I was a bit frustrated with the platform. Once they came out, though, I found them to be a space where I could be myself, find community, and connect. When I moved to a new city, to Washington, DC, it was lonely at first. Having all these people I could reach over Instagram helped make that transition easier so I didn’t feel so alone at first.
Finding a community of women in food through Instagram has been one of the bests parts of starting The Cutting Veg. I remember there being a time, if I could pinpoint it – it was March or April 2016 – when for all the big bloggers you see now, I don’t think anyone had more than 50k followers. I was always into working out and being healthy, but my existing friends weren’t really into doing so. I remember discovering friends through Instagram being the first time that I found people who had similar interests to me in terms of health and wellness. I think a lot of people would be surprised to hear that most bloggers are not full-time and have other jobs. I think we all find comfort in the fact that we’re all husting to have our dreams happen, having a community to support one-another even when it gets demoralizing at times is amazing.
One thing I get asked about a lot and try to educate my followers on is how to stay healthy on a budget. I do think that we (wellness) need to do a better job of being inclusive. I understand that I am privileged to get to try all of these expensive products because of my blogging and I think it’s easy to forget that most people can’t afford those things. I’ve made it a focus of mine lately to step back and say “’es -this is something I can do because a company made this possible for me, but I must remember to communicate that there are still things people can do to experience this or benefit from it, even if they are watching their spending.’ For example, Instagram right now is full of adaptogenic lattes and other foods that are wonderful, but are quite expensive and are arguably not essential for health. I think that what staying healthy really comes down to is buying the simplest things for your body and doing so in good quality. For example, I personally eat eggs and will only buy very high-quality eggs. Because I spend a lot of money on my eggs, I sometimes cut corners in my weekly budget in other places. For instance, using frozen organic vegetables instead of fresh. They taste just as good, but are much more cost-effective and nutritious since they’re frozen at their nutritional peak. Also knowing when to buy organic vs non-organic or also substituting beans or grains in your diet is huge.
Branding is sexy and companies don’t make money from telling people to buy more fruits and veggies, but you don’t need to buy a $7 bag of granola to be healthy. Sometimes I’ll read an online publication or blog and I’m just like, wow, the fact that we’re putting people on a pedestal who go to expensive workout classes or eat a certain way is not normal. A lot of people I know cannot spend more than $50 per week on groceries. I think that in the Instagram community, people often get disillusioned because though it’s sexy and cool, most people don’t eat this way. I’ll talk to moms on Instagram from different areas of the country who have no idea what matcha is, yet are perfectly healthy. It’s about taking baby steps with people. Just because you can’t afford it doesn’t mean you’re any less of a person. I think that sometimes gets lost in the message.
One thing I do love doing is recommending delicious, versatile foods to my readers. If you’ve ever looked at my feed, you’ll quickly realize I’m obsessed with chickpea flour. It’s a very affordable option to have around. It’s high protein which is great If you’re vegan. I love making socca with it which is basically a chickpea flour pancake. It’s not super sexy, but it’s super easy and nourishing. You can just make pizza dough or savory crepes with it. Pile them high with veggies, and you have a full meal. I also love polenta as a base with just about anything. It’s delicious, warm, and creamy surprisingly easy to make. The best part is, if you make a bunch of polenta and let it sit in the fridge, it gets solid and firm and you can slice it and pan fry it. I think that people tote this idea of meal prep and I think a lot of people don’t do it because they think it will be boring, but the real trick is making a bunch of things that are versatile. Polenta, for example can be eaten savory in bowls or on top of salads when pan fried, or can be eaten sweet with berries almost like an oatmeal. It’s all about changing it up. I get the chickpea flour and polenta from Bob’s Red Mill, but you can also get them from the bulk bins at the store. Tahini is something else I’ve been loving. I put it on everything. I go between the Trader Joe’s organic tahini and the Soom Foods tahini. Emilie from Emilie Eats also told me about this giant bucket of tahini that she found on Amazon and I’m so intrigued. I’m moving so I can’t buy it now, but I’m also flagging it because I might need it in the future. Apparently, it keeps for 2 years which is crazy. I’m very intrigued. It’s a commitment, but a good commitment.
My mission with The Cutting Veg is to, despite all the crazy things, have a down-to-earth point of view in wellness. There are 2 different conversations in food right now. There is health and wellness blogging and then there is just, eat really delicious food and let me teach you how to make it. Sometimes I think that the public views delicious food as one thing and healthy food as quite another. I was on a recent panel with Melissa Clark from the NYTimes and she spoke about her new book, “Dinner In An Instant” which had a ton of amazing insta pot recipes. It made me realize that the biggest thing we can do to get more people to cook healthy meals is to things easy and exciting for them. I think there is space for a food porn and health &wellness situation. All the yolk things or smoothie drips, almond butter drips, is making healthy food sexy. I think that’s something a lot of people lose sight of. Maybe you come from a part of the country where healthy food is not looked upon in a good way – this can possibly help. It’s interesting seeing this intersectionality.
Instagram can be a place where the ideals set are unreachable. I love my Instagram ladies who are always keeping It real. Some of the ladies who have been inspiring me lately are Nicole Modic from KaleJunkie, and Remy Park from Veggiekins.
People often ask what’s next for me and for The Cutting Veg. I’m starting grad school which I’m very excited for, but which I’m told is one of the most intense things I will ever experience. I do just really like where the blog is going now. I like helping to make healthy food accessible to people and showing them that you can still work an 8am-6pm job and still having the time to do live healthily, I think that is the most rewarding part of the community I’ve built. That showcase of yes- you might be tired, but with just a few minutes and a little planning, amazing, healthy meals are possible.”
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