Eight years ago, I created The Pantry Raid on a janky Blogspot site. I was a teenager and a college student who didn’t know Monterey Jack about food. The blog was a novel way to learn about feeding myself, as well as a fun exercise in creative writing. I didn’t know a lot, but I knew I loved food.
After school, I moved back to California, unveiling a whole universe of food culture I’d never known about. I felt like an imposter calling myself a “food blogger” in a place where everyone seemed to know more about food than I did.
Hungry to catch up, I spent that summer farming – on an avocado farm atop the steep hills of Watsonville, and then on an animal ranch nestled in the quiet Santa Cruz Mountains. I returned to San Francisco for my first “big girl” job a more informed and principled eater that cared where her food came and how it was grown or raised.
As a partnerships manager at Chewse, I fell in love with restaurants, struck by the passion that drove these people to push forward in such an economically and operationally challenging industry. That passion was not only palpable through their perseverance, but also through the flavors and stories of their food.
A year or so later, in Thailand, I remember wandering through the night markets like a kid in a candy store (except, instead of candy, I was eating greasy garlic fried frog, crunchy crickets and mango sticky rice). There, I realized how complex and sociologically layered food really is - an expression of history and land and humanity in every bite. I felt immediately hooked on this visceral experience, and have made traveling to new food destinations a priority since.
Looking back at the recipes and words I’ve shared over the years, it’s become clear to me that this blog has been a chronicle of my search for an identity –something we all experience in our twenties . Do I cook for nutrition, for artistic expression, for a connection to my past? Do I eat to feel fulfilled physically or emotionally? If I don’t know the answers to these questions, do I even have a leg to stand on when it comes to sharing how I eat with the world, and is it presumptuous to think anyone cares?
As my career veered away from traditional “creative work” and into more strategy and management, I wondered if having a blog at all was even on brand anymore. I’d settled into an identity, a routine, a career path and a set of food values (which is probably naive to say– I’m sure I’ll look back on this in five years and laugh at mid-twenties Sienna for thinking she had it all figured out), so writing the blog wasn’t a fun exploration anymore. My infrequent posts felt obligatory at best.
Triggered by a GoDaddy reminder to renew my URL, I considered shutting the whole thing down. That, or lean the fuck in.
As you’ll see, I chose the latter. The past eight years have been research for this next chapter of The Pantry Raid. It was one giant, very public brainstorm of what I wanted to share with you next.
This new space is less about my personal journey and more about yours. It’s about how you can cook uncomplicated, flavorful and wholesome meals at home. It’s about how to stock your kitchen so you’re ready for anything; where to go on your next vacation, and how to be damn sure you eat the very best things there. If you’re in the Bay Area, it’s about finding dinner plans for tonight or planning ahead for a special occasion. And yes, there will be plenty of pics.
The fun of this next chapter is that I’m still learning, bite by bite. Ironically, I think I was afraid to tell you that before, puffing up my chest and pretending to be an expert (you remember your early twenties, don’t you?) when really I was just a wide-eyed nineteen year old wandering the aisles of Trader Joe’s. These days, you’ll see a similarly awe-struck expression on my face as I rustle through heirloom beans at the farmer’s market and marvel at the Fibonacci fractals in romanesco heads.
All the old content made it over to the new site. I think it’s important to show you the whole picture, and also, there are some really good recipes and stories in there! The new site is broken into the sections “recipes” (which will be easy enough!) “travel” (essays, maps and guides) and “thoughts” (right now, a catch all for the other stuff). There’s also a Recipe Index for reference and the Bay page, my ode to home. You can sign up for email updates and follow me on Instagram to stay in the loop.
To kick things off, I’d encourage you to hop over to the Bay page, where I’ve got a map of a whopping 222 of my favorite places to eat, complete with a couple words on why I think they’re so special. There’s also a spreadsheet version, tee’d up for you to filter around by price, location, Craveability Score, etc. if that’s more your jam. I’ve got a lot more in store for The Pantry Raid, so please do keep in touch and follow along! Let’s dig in!