I’m Maria and I am a healthy-ish, head-over-heels lover of food.
Nam Nom started as a platform to share my ideas and passion for clean cooking. I do my best to source transparent ingredients free from processed chemicals and inhumane treatment, so I get a majority of my food locally from farmers (very easily, actually, via Indie Plate). To put my food philosophy in just a few words…I eat meat, even more vegetables, and I like to know where they come from.
In this blog, food serves many functions beyond a form of sustenance – it’s the body’s medicine, it’s art, it’s a shared experience.
Growing up Vietnamese
My unconventional upbringing revolved around food from the start. When I was born, my dad’s entire family (eight brothers and sisters) lived above their self-made seafood wholesale empire in New Orleans, sourcing fresh seafood to sell to local retailers. My childhood memories evoke the smells of shrimp and mullet roe and the sounds of machinery chugging and churning. I grew up unattended, sliding down mountains of ice in the giant freezers, baiting fishing hooks, but most importantly, eating the freshest food cooked in one of the most flavorful cuisines in the world- Vietnamese cuisine.
Hurricane Katrina changed everything in 2005. The flood waters destroyed our seafood dock. The family separated, and our connection to food, disrupted. Years passed, I got older, and I started eating a Western diet, only to rediscover my clean food roots much later.
At 13, my mom called attention to a protruding bump on the left side of my neck. Several ultrasounds, biopsies, blood tests and scans later, the doctors diagnosed me with a serious case of papillary thyroid cancer. On September 11, 2013, I went into a surgery that would change my life forever. I woke up from an 11-hour procedure, voiceless with a scar across the entire width of my neck and a lazy eye that I would later find out was Horner’s syndrome. Despite the trauma, I was lucky.
My voice healed after a month. The scar healed after a few years. My left eye is still different than the other, but that’s more than okay. The doctors like to attribute my recovery to my youth – knowing that youth is temporary kept me searching for ways to stay healthy in case I ever go through an experience like this again.
The cancer did not necessarily pave a direct path to my food journey, but rather, it built the foundation for it. Thyroid cancer taught me about life’s beautiful yet fleeting nature – that I had a responsibility to maintain it. It helped me prioritize what I find most important for a fulfilling life – family, shared experiences, personal relationships, health…and food was the perfect medium for all of it.
Love for Local
In my second year at LSU, I got a photography gig at an online farm-to-table grocery store Indieplate.com, and that was it. The floodgates of fresh food opened wide, and I embraced all the romanesco and rainbow carrots that came my way. As I worked my way up to being lead designer, I also unknowingly developed my food personality, which started with cooking food that tasted good to adding layers of transparency and nutrition. Most of the food featured in my blogs will be from Indie Plate – it’s not a paid plug I assure you…I just love my job and the local food we source. I hope you’ll love it, too. 🙂