Food blogger takes ‘How To Eat Your Feelings’ in a positive direction
Holly Haines is really skilled at teaching herself how to do things. She taught herself web design and now works as a full-time web design manager. She taught herself how to cook by watching cooking shows on television as a kid. And from her impossibly tiny kitchen, she created her food blog (“From My Impossibly Tiny Kitchen”), creates videos for her recipes on her YouTube channel (“ItsHollyTV”) and recently wrote a cookbook called “How To Eat Your Feelings.”
“I wanted to re-frame the dialogue around the saying ‘eating my feelings’ into something more positive,” she says. “I want to show people how I use cooking as a form of meditation, to not be afraid of being in the kitchen, and how it can be a fun and fulfilling experience.”
Haines, 36, lives in University Heights and took some time to talk about where her passion for food came from, her book and how she eats her own feelings, and her love for combining food with music and puns.
Q: You’re a web design manager who loves cooking? Let’s talk about your day job first. You mentioned a long-running joke about being self-taught?
A: Whenever people ask where I went to school, I tell them I went to “The University of Google at the Barnes & Noble campus.” I’m self-taught in both of my careers: web design and cooking. It’s not that I don’t love school; I really do love learning. I guess I just prefer to do a majority of my learning on my own, loan-free.
Q: You also don’t have any formal culinary school training, so what has your own self-taught training been like?
A: I think my training really started when I was around 11 or 12. I didn’t watch cartoons after school or on Saturday mornings, I watched “Yan Can Cook” and “Two Fat Ladies” and the “Great Chefs” series on PBS. I love knowing the ins and outs of a recipe, like how the ratio of brown sugar to white sugar changes the texture of a chocolate chip cookie. I’m very much a food nerd and do a lot of reading. My process is trying to understand why something is the way it is, then adding my interpretation to it.
Q: Where did your passion for food come from?
A: My mother’s side of the family is Filipino. If you’ve never been to a Filipino party, first of all, you’re really missing out. Second of all, it’s SO MUCH FOOD. Tables and tables full of flimsy metal trays filled with lumpia and pancit and salt-and-pepper chicken wings. My appreciation and obsession for well-seasoned foods started with my plates at Filipino parties.
What I love about University Heights ...
University Heights is the best! It’s close enough to Hillcrest to be able to walk over, but far enough from all the bars and restaurants to be relatively quiet. I love not having to get in my car on the weekends and still having a ton of great food options on the main strip on Park Boulevard. Ethiopian food at Muzita Abyssinian Bistro, Mexcian at El Zarape, fish tacos at Kiko’s Place, Thai at Plumeria Vegetarian Restaurant and Banh Thai, coffee from Lestat’s. I couldn’t have built a better ’hood if I tried.
Q: So, what did bell peppers and shredded lettuce ever do to you? Why do you hate them?
A: First of all, bell peppers are just disgusting and they taste like a sneeze. Both of these ingredients were ruined for me courtesy of Subway, where I worked for three years in high school, back when they still cut the bread into the little “u” shape. I’m offended any time a restaurant adds bell peppers to a dish “for color.” It’s rude and unnecessary. My loathing of shredded lettuce is more directed at lettuce on warm foods, like a burger or rolled tacos. Who wants to eat lukewarm lettuce? That’s the devil’s work.
Q: Your book is called “How to Eat Your Feelings.” Where did the idea for the book come from?
A: The title came to me first. I woke up one morning and that was the first thing that popped into my head. I started looking back through all of my recipes that I had filed under “maybe this could be in a cookbook one day” and recognized the patterns in the things I cook and the way I feel when I cook them.
Q: How would you describe your own relationship with food?
A: It’s a love-love relationship. I love food enough for the both of us, really, although we didn’t always have a great relationship. In the past, I’ve struggled with actually being sad and “eating my feelings” in a not very healthy way. Now, I’m always striving to strike the balance between “eating to be alive” and “life being too short to eat bad food.”
Q: What’s your process or pattern for eating your feelings?
A: When I’m anxious, I love to do tedious little activities with my hands. That usually means making some type of dumpling or dim sum or ravioli. The repetitive activity eases my mind. When I’m stressed, I LOVE getting my hands into some dough. It’s like being a kid and playing with Play-Doh, except I get to throw it in the oven afterward and eat it.
Q: Your book is organized by emotions, like “Anxious,” “Annoyed,” “Cold-blooded” and “Happy.” Which chapter is your favorite?
A: The “Happy” chapter is my favorite. Those are the recipes I make the most and are some of the most requested from friends and family. That chapter is full of good food memories for me.
Q: Based on your approach in your book, how would you “eat”: a break up, a celebration, and a need to relax or decompress?
A: For a break-up, I’m assuming I’d be sad and maybe a bit annoyed. I’d probably smash a bunch of garlic then make some fresh pasta and turn it all into a white lasagna. Cheese is known to mend broken hearts. For a celebration, lumpia. Every celebration needs lumpia. And to relax or decompress, it’s a quick meal, something with instant gratification that I can dig into and enjoy immediately, which usually means something shrimp or spaghetti carbonara.
Q: What kind of food mood have you found yourself in lately?
A: I’ve been super dang happy! The brown butter chili egg from my “Happy” chapter has been making an appearance as breakfast-for-dinner, lately. When I’m happy, I’m usually experimenting and pushing those experiments onto my coworkers and neighbors. Recently, I used spicy Filpino peanuts (shoutout to @kitchennuts) in a chocolate chip cookie recipe. It was a hit!
Q: Where do you like to eat when you don’t feel like cooking?
A: You can usually find me at three places: The Friendly, Menya Ultra and Salud. And also, the poke bar at Lazy Acres in Mission Hills is a sleeper — really some of the best poke in town.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: “If it ain’t fun, don’t do it.”
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: I’m obsessed with combining food, puns and music. I have several food pun-themed cover songs that are terrible and I’ll only share them with my best friend, JerVae. I also love creating punny dinner menus inspired by musical artists. I once did a Beyonce-themed dinner party with dishes like “Braise-y In Love” and “If I Were a Po-Boy.”
Q: Describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: It’s above 72 degrees, but below 79. There’s a nice breeze, but it’s not freezing cold in the shade. I’m going to the beach where parking is plentiful and easy to find (you said ideal). I’m either trying a new restaurant or going to an old favorite. I love picking out a neighborhood and hanging out there all day, bouncing from restaurant to coffee shop to dessert shop, and taking strolls in between to “walk it off.”
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