There's food porn, and then there's food blogger love. Jeni Afuso of Oishii Eats met Dylan Ho of Eat Drink and Be Merry back in 2006 at a food blogger mixer. The two bloggers had admired each other's work for some time, commenting on posts and corresponding through IM about food and writing. "I was attracted not only by her looks, but by the food she ate. She ate everything."
Which is what Ho wrote in his post "The Love for Food and Jeni: How Food Brought Us Together," a portrait of a relationship that could only be written by a foodie in love. Ho describes the meals that brought them together, from their first date eating street cart tacos in Echo Park, to their engagement in Mexico City (lengua de res and all).
Afuso's and Ho's blogs are maps of their meals week by week, but they are also personal albums of family, history, travel and work. Their posts are a bit sporadic, but when they write, their voices are vibrant and enthusiastic, with writing that is honest and accessible and the photos are stunning (Afuso is a photographer on the side and Ho is an art director). Squid Ink got in touch with Afuso to ask about life and love through food blogging.
Squid Ink: How long have you been blogging about food?
Jeni Afuso: I've been blogging about food since Jan 2006.
SI: What's your real job?
JA: I'm a second grade teacher in South Los Angeles. I'm also a freelance photographer focusing mainly on weddings, food and travel. Most of my free time is spent retouching images at home, kicking Dylan's ass, or hanging out at my "office" at LA Mill.
SI: What's your favorite little-known food blog?
JA: Culinerapy is the only blog bookmarked on my iPhone. Sara's newly married, has a husband who cooks, and is a bossy wife in the kitchen. Yeah, that sounds like me. Delicious Coma is another favorite. She's like the little sister I never had. Silver Lake girl with chopped bangs and a scooter. Adorable!
SI: What's unique about food blogging in Los Angeles?
JA: Our range and availability of ethnic cuisines makes food blogging in LA unique. I love that we could be eating Cambodian-style noodles for breakfast, enjoy brunch at Palate Food + Wine, have a Lebanese dinner at Carousel and end the night with Mexico City-style tacos from our favorite Highland Park taco stand.
SI: What's your favorite food truck?
JA: La Estrella, Highland Park. Taco trucks are the original food trucks. Always and forever.
SI: Are you from LA?
JA: I grew up in a bubble called The Valley. Known mostly for porn, not for food.
SI: What role does the food blogger play in a city like LA, with such a vibrant culinary scene?
JA: We are really fortunate to have so many food bloggers with different angles here in LA. We need a diverse group bloggers to cover our diverse culinary landscape. I have seen our roles become so much more influential over the years and the Los Angeles food scene has become more and more exciting because of food blogging. I hope that we've encouraged our locals and visitors to try something new, to drive a little further, to put aside fears and learn about other cultures through food.
SI: What is the hardest part about food blogging?
JA: Keeping my cholesterol down!
SI: Where do you get most of your ideas for posts?
JA: I write as I live. I enjoy my life, take photos, then decide what's worth sharing.
SI: Tell us a little about meeting Dylan. How did it happen?
JA: I actually had a crush on Dylan way before we met in person. I enjoyed how he wrote about food and followed him through his catering journey. I was attracted to how he was never afraid to take chances. We started commenting on each other blogs and then he eventually planned a food blogger get together in April of 2006. It was our first time meeting in person and I was completely nervous. I must have tried on four or five outfits that night before the dinner! At the end of the night he asked for my phone number and the next thing I know, we got engaged in Mexico City.
SI: Where did you two eat out on some of your first dates?
JA: We went dancing at Soundlessons when they were at the Echo on our first day. After dancing, we sat on milk crates and scarfed down tacos at Tacos Arizas. Apparently I had cilantro stuck in my teeth all night and he didn't even tell me. He dropped tacos all over the sidewalk and broke my bottle of pineapple Jarritos. We spent most of our early days eating in San Gabriel Valley and Little Saigon. He was eager to show me food outside of Sam Woo and I was willing to show him Vietnamese cuisine outside of pho.
SI: How is it being married to another food blogger?
JA: I love it. He's my best friend. Dylan's always down for a late night taco run or drinks at the Varnish. I love that the first thing we think about each day is "What are we going to eat?" I also love that we both need time with our laptops. We'll schedule "cocktail parties" at night. Cocktail Party = Laptop + Cocktails. We'll sit next to each other, concoct vintage cocktails and work on our blogs or retouch photos. It's our geek time together.
SI: Do you cook together?
JA: Not usually. Dylan's in charge of the market shopping and cooking. He cooks, I clean. We practice the two-is-too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen rule. Every now and then I'll cook a meal, usually a 3-4 course meal. And I'll end up beating myself up and vowing to never cook again.
SI: Do you have similar or very different tastes?
JA: We used to have very different tastes. When I first met him, all he wanted were fried eggs and Maggi Sauce. I was into tacos and pastries. Since then, our eating worlds have collided and so have our taste buds.
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SI: Your blog often strays from the culinary. You talk about family history,
local events, etc. Do you think they overlap? Do you have strict guidelines
for your content?
JA: I started my blog as a way for my friends to see what I was eating around town. But I never lost focus on what the role of food was in one's life. It's the glue for the important things in life like family, friendships and significant others. If you think about it, a lot of our best moments come when we are gathered together for a meal and those usually are the most memorable. You don't call up your friend and say "Hey I haven't seen you in a while, wanna go recycle our cans & bottles and catch up?"