It has not been one year.
Well, apparently it’s my blog’s one year anniversary. I feel compelled bake something cute to commemorate this. But for today, we’ll just have to make do with a tomato tart recipe. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a delicious (and super easy!) recipe, but if you know me, you know I like (to celebrate with) cake and everything sweet.
Anyways, I’ve been thinking about my last post and what exactly I wanted to express. I felt some kind of unease in Africa, some embarrassment about my lack of cultural understanding, and guilt over what felt like exploitation of an entire country. Part of what I so ineloquently expressed is summed up beautifully by Spectra on her blog.
Part of what Africa made me realize was that yes, I am privileged. There’s no pretending that I, and most people I interact with, are affluent. And by going to Africa and donating some small sums of money to schools, and giving large tips to the service, I wasn’t saving anyone. I wasn’t changing anything. It’s unfair how much Africa affected me, and yet how little I could do in return. But I can’t pretend otherwise.
Another aspect of my discomfort comes from the fact that as an Asian, I’ve faced cultural appropriation, whether in the form of white people flashing peace signs in photos with me, people wearing kimonos at Halloween, or people asking me to say something in Chinese, as if I must speak Chinese because I look Chinese. I understand what it feels like to be the token minority, like some kind of trophy.
And yet, in Africa, I felt that I was taking advantage of the Africans. When we visited the Maasai village, our tour guide specifically told us to visit because we would pity them. We sang and danced with them, but it was all just some show, done for each group of tourists that drove up to the village. We visited the house of a sick old woman. We heard her coughing, hidden beneath blankets in the darkness. We stopped by a school where children recited the ABCs. And we could do nothing. We were simply there to experience a neat little slice of African culture.
I had always hated how people treated me like I was an outsider to mainstream American culture, how they always expected me to have different customs and speak a different language because I looked different. And yet, there I was, treating the Africans I met like they were some exotic oddity and feeling good about myself for giving them large tips. Exactly like some kind of Western savior.
Tomato Tart (adapted from Joy the Baker) – serves 2-3
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto:
1 7-8oz jar sun-dried tomatoes, oil reserved
2 cloves garlic, peeled
(1 small red chili)
Big pinch of granulated sugar
1 scant tsp salt
3-4 tbsp oil from sun-dried tomato jar (we just used all the oil from the jar)
Combine sun-dried tomatoes, garlic cloves, sugar, salt, and oil in a food processor. Blend until combined, but still slightly coarse. Taste and season as needed.
1 9x9in sheet puff pastry, thawed but still cold
(Small handful fresh basil leaves)
4 oz goat cheese (we used feta)
3 small tomatoes, sliced about 1/4in thick and dried on paper towels
(Handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half and seeds removed)
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Unfold chilled sheet of puff pastry onto prepared baking sheet. Spread about half the pesto sauce over the puff pastry, leaving a 1/2in border around the edges. (We used all the pesto…oops.) Coarsely tear basil leaves and crumble goat cheese over the sauce. Arrange tomatoes in a single layer over the goat cheese and press down slightly. Try to cover as much pesto as possible as it will burn in the oven as exposed. Sprinkle generously with fresh thyme and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 15-18 minutes until puffed and golden-brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes until serving.
(As you can see, we were missing a lot of ingredients but the tart still turned out delicious.)