Author Archives: Isha

Comments, Questions and Concerns

The concept of a comment section on the Internet is generally a scary and overwhelming place and for good reason. The more that we have been allowed free rein of anonymity on the Internet, the more and more people start to feel free to express some of the more controversial and hateful opinions that they harbour with little empathy for others, as is seen particularly with articles and content created by women. Aubrey Hirsch in particular writes about her experiences in receiving online vitriol for content that she has created, and the ferocity that was in some of those comments was quite honestly horrifying. I knew in my brain that those types of things were being said on the internet, but to see the real screenshots of what people have to say when they are given the appropriate environment was jarring at best.

When I was designing Considering Cardamom, the template I picked out for my site had comments automatically built into the post formats. Initially, that was something of a turn-off for me. The last thing that I wanted was to have to potentially deal with disrespectful comments or people criticizing my content. Furthermore, reading more and more about the backlash that women experience when writing articles was overwhelming even just to think about. I’m not a professional journalist, I am not writing this blog intending to reach the masses and educate them about my opinion. The posts I write are for personal reasons, whether those are for internal reflection or just to have a record of some of the recipes that I’ve learned from my family.

Ultimately, I did decide to leave the comment sections open. Logically, it makes little sense that there would be a large amount of political debate or harassment within my comment sections given the content of my blog. I highly doubt that people are going to be sending me death threats or sexual harassment over my chai recipe. The context of a site is so important to consider, and it put my worries at ease to realize I wasn’t going to be linking my real full name to any highly controversial content. Additionally, while checking out other recipe blogs that I have used in the past, one thing I noted was that most of them had open comment sections. Most of them that had significant activity allowed users who made the recipes to offer suggestions and personal anecdotes that could facilitate new users’ experiences while cooking. I wanted to provide that possibility for a community and figured that I would handle any unrelated comments as they arose.

Works Cited

Becky Gardiner, Mahana Mansfield, Ian Anderson, Josh Holder, Daan Louter and Monica Ulmanu. 2016. “The dark side of Guardian comments

Hirsch, Aubrey. 2022. “That’s How it Works When You’re a Woman on the Internet

Transmedia Marketability

Creating Considering Cardamom has been a learning curve on just about every front imaginable. I always used to think of blogging as something easy to do, that you could just sit down and write whatever came to mind and people would give you money for it. I never really understood how someone could make a full living off of something as simple as that, and I will be honest, I definitely thought that bloggers were a little bit ridiculous when they complained about how much work they had to do. However, being on the opposite end of things now, I can see that there is a whole lot more to blogging than just writing.

One thing that I know I’ve definitely taken for granted is the presence of an audience just waiting for content to be distributed to them. On most social media platforms that I’ve participated in with a public account, it has not taken long for me to develop a relatively large audience with very minimal effort. One funny Tiktok using a trending sound could get me over 16K views. Running a blog is very different, as I’ve noticed from looking at my analytics. The last time I checked, the high point of traffic on my site was a grand total of 11 people. Judging from the fact that they logged in on a Monday and the class for which I am developing this blog had an assignment due on Tuesday, it was no great surprise to me that my fellow students might want to see what I had done to gain inspiration for their own assignments.

I think that in the future if I choose to continue this blog, I would want to incorporate social media into my blog to help grow my audience. When it comes to recipe sites, I rarely seek specific blogs out on Google. More often than not, I end up finding a delicious-looking recipe by scrolling through Tiktok or Instagram and getting a link back to the site where the recipe is hosted. This idea of transmedia storytelling is something that I know I have experienced several times from a consumer perspective, but was not aware of the name or intention behind it. The use of different mediums to appeal to different audiences all contributing to the same overall brand is something that’s seen in social media, entertainment, fashion and more. From a back-end point of view, this is a brilliant strategy and one that I myself would love to give a shot when I have the time available to film and edit social media videos.

The Perfect Roti

Roti are a staple in Indian cooking. Just about everything that you eat could be improved with the addition of a roti next to it, from curries to sabjis and sometimes even dessert! I know that when she was younger, my mom would break off little pieces of her roti and use them to eat kheer, which is almost the Indian equivalent of rice pudding. Roti is such a permanent fixture in both our diet and our culture that oftentimes, mother in laws will judge their son’s partners based on how round their roti are before the two can be married. Hopefully my mother in law is not that traditional or judgemental, or else I’d be in hot water with my lopsided roti!

When I was a kid, I used to love helping my mom making rotis to go along with dinner. We still have baby videos with me and my sisters playing in the flour while my mom portioned out dough next to us. We even had a little baby sized rolling pin so that we could copy what she was doing. I remember getting bored easily, thinking that making roti was so boring and time consuming, and not understanding why I couldn’t just eat white cheddar mac and cheese for every meal.

Now, given that I’m a little older and have much more experience in the kitchen, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at just how easy making roti can be, and I hope to practice my rolling skills a little more!

A puffed up roti sits on a metal rack above an open gas stove element. Behind it is a half cooked roti on a tava.

The Perfect Roti

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Makes roughly 12 roti

Ingredients:
1 cup durum flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup water + more as needed
1 tbsp oil

Instructions:
1. Mix together durum flour, whole wheat flour and water. Knead until the dough does not stick to the side of the bowl, add more water as needed to achieve this.

2. Drizzle oil around the outside of the dough and then knead again to combine.

A top down view of a lump of whole wheat dough in a silver bowl.

3. Let rest for at least 15 minutes and up to overnight.

4. Portion out dough into small balls, roughly the size of a golf ball. Roll between floured hands to make round and push down to form each ball into a little disc. Coat lightly in flour and set aside as you portion out the rest of the dough.

Five small balls of dough next to a wooden rolling pin with red handles on a black countertop. Behind them to the left is a container full of flour, and a dusting of flour speckles the countertop.

5. Roll each disc out flat on a lightly floured surface, trying your best to ensure that it maintains a round shape. The flat roti should be about 1/4 of an centimetre thick.

6. Heat a tava or a flat, non-stick pan on medium high heat. On another element, either place a small heat proof metal rack as close as possible to an electric element, or on top of the gas flame.

7. Flip a rolled out roti onto the nonstick pan and let cook on one side until it changes and darkens in colour. Flip the roti then, and use a spatula or tongs to push down the edges to ensure they are cooked evenly. Allow to cook for another 30 seconds or so before transferring onto the metal rack.

A top down view of a half cooked roti on a nonstick lava.

8. Turn the heat on to high below the metal rack and allow the roti to puff up. If you notice only one area of the roti is bubbling, lightly press on it with a spatula or tongs to encourage the spread of the air. Once one side has some nice charred colour, flip to the other side and cook again until the colour matches before removing from the heat.

9. Repeat the same process until you run out of dough. Serve with your favourite Indian dish, or slap some butter on it and enjoy!

Peer Review #3

This week I had the opportunity to look over yet another website of one of my peers. Caffeinated Tammy is a personal and lifestyle blog run by Tamanna about her daily life, the things she enjoys, and her experience as a first generation Indian immigrant. As a child of immigrants, it was wonderful to read through her blog and see someone who had such similar and still opposite experiences to myself. There is a refreshing overlap between our content, with both of our blogs being dedicated towards remaining in touch with our culture.

In terms of marketability, I think that Tammy has done an excellent job in ensuring that her site can be discovered by her intended audience. She has links to several different social media platforms indicated clearly at the bottom of her site. One thing that I would recommend in terms of social media links is to have the social media links and icons also listed at the top of the site as well. The lists of pages on the menu are on the right side of the header, leaving space for social media links on the left side. In general, it is generally unlikely that readers will read anything that is “below the fold” unless they are given sufficient motivation or are looking for something in specific. Following this logic, we can assume that they will not be scrolling all the way to the bottom of the page and therefore it is likely that the social media links will be missed.

The social media platforms themselves are as well quite well chosen in regards to Tammy’s intended audience. Her choice in uploading posts to Tiktok, Instagram and Twitter make logical sense given that the user demographics of each of those sites are generally younger audiences. Based on how the algorithm on Tiktok in particular works, those who interact with content that is similar to Tammy’s will be more likely to see her posts. The title of her website is also both distinct and inoffensive enough that a Google search will lead to the intended blog, and there is little overlap with other platforms. Furthermore, Tammy’s use of social media operates in the same fashion as the transmedia storytelling, in that each platform linked can be consumed almost entirely on its own, however they all contribute to the same overall story. Overall I have little to suggest, and can’t wait to do more stalking into her site!

Putting Yourself Out There

Aside from the astronomical amount of homework I seem to have collected in the past two weeks, I’ve really been enjoying running this blog over the past few months. It’s a really nice creative outlet that allows me to reflect on my own experiences as well as a reason to kick myself in the butt a little bit in terms of leaving my room and learning to cook with my mom. I’ve really enjoyed the experience, and having the opportunity to share that through this platform is actually a lot less nerve wracking than I thought it might be. Furthermore, as I’ve been applying for co-op jobs, this site has been an invaluable resource and incredibly helpful in demonstrating my experience and skills with website design and copywriting to potential future employers.

Something that hasn’t really crossed my mind in the past little while is the concept of SEO. In my past job when I worked for WIFTV, the site I was running had a built in SEO plugin. It would scan each page of the site and provide suggestions in order to make the site more SEO friendly and easier to find for the general audience. It was a super useful tool, and something I’ve been considering downloading for my own site. While for me, my site has been wonderfully easy to run, I have not really done much to make it easily discoverable. As Sam Hollingworth outlines in his article “15 Reasons Why Your Business Absolutely Needs SEO“, there are numerous benefits to using SEO for your site.

Some of the reasons outlined in Hollingworth’s article I already knew, such as the idea that SEO can help make your site more discoverable through organic searches by an audience. What I was not necessarily aware of was how SEO can provide information on audience preferences, which is something that I believe would be well worth knowing if I want to keep this blog going in the future.

Works Cited

Hollingsworth, Sam. April 13, 2018. “12 Reasons Why You Business Absolutely Needs SEO.” https://www.searchenginejournal.com/why-seo-is-important-for-business/248101/#close

Chai Cookies

This week, I decided I wanted to try something a little different than my usual recipes, and give a shot at a remix of an Indian classic. Chai is a staple in every Indian and South Asian household, and is commonly served with an assortment of sweet or savoury goodies to keep your guests entertained. It stands to reason then, that combining the flavours of chai with a cookie would result in the most perfect and delicious fall treat!

For the majority of this recipe, I used this recipe from Ginny over at In Bloom Bakery! It’s one that my sister has used before to great success, though I wanted to try and tweak it to see if I could recreate the flavours of chai that I love so much. For the spices, I cut back on the amount cinnamon significantly in comparison to the original recipe, using about 2 teaspoons instead of an entire tablespoon and a half. I also increased the amount of all the other spices, leaning a little more heavily on the cardamom since that’s the flavour I prefer to taste most prominently in my chai.

A diagonal shot of a sheet of cookies in rows of 2 and 3.

I was super happy with how they turned out for the most part, they’re absolutely delicious cookies with crisp edges and a soft pillowy interior, but there was something missing in the flavour profile that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It wasn’t until I pulled them out of the oven that I realized there was no flavour of real tea in them! Next time I make them, I think that I will substitute out one of the egg yolks in favour of a couple tablespoons of strongly brewed orange pekoe tea to see if I can impart a little more of that chai flavour.

Data and Catering to the User

The longer I run this blog, the more I’m starting to notice how the things that tend to draw me in are quite different from the things that might draw in my audience. For example, when logging onto my blog the first thing that I tend to gravitate towards are the recipes. As someone who loves cooking, my eyes immediately go to that section and the images that accompany each of the posts are a big draw for me. However, based on the Google Analytics installed on my site, it was really interesting to see that the section that is most viewed are my Process Posts. Technically it does make sense, given that a large quantity of my audience are peers from this class and the Process Post section will be most helpful as a guide to help them complete their own works. Still, seeing the contrast was really interesting.

Even more than that, what I’ve been incredibly intrigued by is just how much of our day to day actions can be tracked. Our society is so reliant on computers and modern day technology that we don’t even realize when we’re using them half of the time. For example when I go to the coffee shop on my way to class and pay for my drink and little treat, I don’t think about being tracked. However, even the simple act of paying with my credit card is me giving data about my location and tastes to the bank that the card is connected to and the store. I also take the bus every Tuesday to get to class rather than taking the long drive to campus, and me using my Compass card offers up data about my route, my habits, and my status as a student to the transit authority. It’s crazy to think about how much of my thoughtless acts are able to be tracked!

On one hand, I don’t like the idea that I’m being surveyed all the time. While I’m not the most interesting person in the world and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to track my data, there are some things that I would prefer to keep to myself. On the other hand, as someone with an interest in true crime, I can’t help but think about the potential to locate either missing persons or suspects using this kind of technology, and how many crimes in the past might have been solved had it been available. Just some food for thought!

Works Cited

Pod Academy. 2016. “Digital breadcrumbs: The data trail we leave behind us.” http://podacademy.org/podcasts/digital-breadcrumbs-our-data-trail/

The Inauthenticity of Social Media Democracy

As we move further and further into the 21st century, much of the social connection we make has become increasingly concentrated into online forums and social media. The internet’s unique ability to transcend both time and space across the globe has allowed for a new postmodern era of networked communication, which in turn created an entirely new realm of experiences. Now more than ever, people are being exposed to belief systems, cultures and moral codes that they likely would not have otherwise experienced. In such a vast amalgamation of perspectives, it is easy for people to declare their own personal beliefs as being morally superior or “correct” in comparison to others. While debate and contrasting opinions are core elements of democracy, it is important to consider whether the algorithm based platforms of social media are the best conduit for nuanced discussions of politics and social justice issues. 

Unlike any form of content that has been readily available to the general public, social media platforms rely heavily on the use of algorithms in order to tailor the content displayed to the user’s particular taste. In the simplest of terms, algorithms function by collecting user data and finding patterns in behavior in order to suggest content that will better help the users replicate the same patterns over and over again. By interacting with posts, the user creates instructions, which the algorithm then follows to create a curated feed (Hickman). For example a person more prone to commenting on posts aligning with liberal or left wing belief systems will be more likely to see similar kinds of posts, while those who subscribe to right wing ideology will be subject to more content that align with their personal beliefs. What this leads to in the grand scheme of social media are large concentrations of a singular belief system in a person’s social media feed. Rather than allowing for an exploration into belief systems outside of one’s own, curated feeds create a sort of echo chamber in which the same beliefs are repeated back upon themselves and warped into increasingly controversial opinions (Wojcieszak and Muntz). In this case, rather than promoting democratic debate and the authentic development of political beliefs, social media exacerbates preexisting beliefs and provides validation for all sides of the political spectrum depending on the content a user engages in. 

Furthermore, on the basis of authentic development of politics and social justice ideals, the inherently consumer based formatting of social media often does not lend itself to genuine creations of beliefs. Because social media content that gains traction is able to be monetized, and algorithms share the content that is most engaged with, it stands to reason that people will create content that will best cater to what appeals to their audience to gain traction with algorithms in order to turn a profit. With the political spectrum leaning further and further left, it stands to reason that content creators will mimic these trends in order to gain a following regardless of the beliefs that they hold personally. Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell employ the term “moral grandstanding” in their Atlantic article to emphasize the phenomenon of using political beliefs to garner increased validation and engagement from an audience (Haidt and Rose-Stockwell). In the process, important facets such as nuance, compassion and understanding of opposing beliefs are lost in favor of sparking outrage and drawing attention. Another term commonly used to describe the co-opting of political causes in order to gain a moral high ground and a successful platform is performative activism. The most widespread example of performative activism came following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers. In solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, many celebrities, influencers, and social media users alike participated in “Blackout Tuesday” where the only social media content that was supposed to be posted was a single black square in order to better amplify the voices of Black protestors. The simplicity of the movement allowed people to do the bare minimum and still gain the moral standing of “supporting” a cause. This encapsulates how performative activists use social media as a means to perform allyship with little real substantial good. Any real benefit from the Blackout Tuesday event were donations made to established Black Lives Matter organizations. (Thimsen). The deep inauthenticity and self interest that come along with performative activism and moral grandstanding encapsulate exactly why social media does not provide the adequate foundation to accomplish democratic change. 

There are a multitude of benefits that come with social media, including connection, education, entertainment, and exposure to other cultures. However, the very structure of social media stemming from algorithm organized feeds and engagement based monetized platforms do not provide adequate discussion and contrast of differing authentic ideas for true democracy to properly develop. 

Works Cited

Haidt, Johnathan, and Tobias Rose-Stockwell. “The Dark Psychology of Social Networks.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 3 May 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/12/social-media-democracy/600763/. 

Hickman, Leo. “How Algorithms Rule the World.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 1 July 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/jul/01/how-algorithms-rule-world-nsa. 

 Thimsen, A. Freya. “What Is Performative Activism?” Philosophy & Rhetoric, vol. 55, no. 1, 2022, pp. 83–89, https://doi.org/10.5325/philrhet.55.1.0083.

Wojcieszak, Magdalena E., and Diana C. Muntz. “Online Groups and Political Discourse: Do Online Discussion Spaces Facilitate Exposure to Political Disagreement?” Journal of Communication , vol. 59, no. 1, 26 Mar. 2009, pp. 40–56., https://doi.org/https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2008.01403.x.

Language and Culture

Hi folks! Sorry for a lack of recipe again this week, it’s been a crazy time and I unfortunately have not had the chance to pester my mom into teaching me something new this week. Hopefully by next week we’ll be back into the swing of the regularly scheduled programming!

For now, I thought I would talk a little bit about how language has made me feel more comfortable and connected with my culture. I’ve noticed as I’m writing down these family recipes, I often have to turn to my mom and ask her what the English word for an ingredient is. Cloves, fennel seeds and lentils in my mind are more commonly known as long, sonf and daal. Even the titular spice of my blog is called elaichi rather than cardamom in my house, and for the longest time I could not figure out how to tell my Western friends about it.

It’s a very small thing, but being able to refer to the spices of my culture’s foods in my native language feels like an accomplishment. I’m not a Punjabi speaker, at least not right now. When I was young I used to be more fluent, but as time passed and I was in closer proximity to my Western peers, I slowly forgot the language. It’s a disheartening sentiment when my grandmother speaks to me and I can’t always understand what she says. But I’m taking small steps like learning the names of ingredients, and hoping that with every new word I learn, I’ll feel more and more like I belong. It’s a slow process, but I’ll willing to put in the work and I look forward to where the experience of reconnecting with my culture takes me.