12 Wishes for 2023
Inspired by a Peruvian New Year's Tradition (surprise book announcement at the end)
2022 was a good year. It began at a beach and ended with fireworks at a beach. We finally got the keys to our apartment in Lima and went furniture shopping which took us through completely new parts of Lima. Of course, we re-visited many of our favorite restaurants in Peru and discovered new favorites. Beyond Peru, we visited the Galapagos and Patagonia and spent a month each in Quito, Santiago, the Yucatan, and Buenos Aires.
As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. The more I’m away from Peru, the more I realize how special it is.
Last year, on this Substack, I published seven stories. This is not a large number, but I'm proud at how different some of the stories are and how I was able to interweave a personal thread into these stories about food around Peru.
I thought that I would start the year off with a list of twelve wishes for my writing this year. Why twelve? Well, the number is inspired by a Peruvian New Year's tradition where twelve grapes are eaten one at a time starting at midnight1. As each grape is eaten, the eater makes a wish for the new year2.
Grow my reader base. To be honest, part of me writes selfishly. I enjoy the puzzle of finding the best way to frame a story, and it’s a helpful exercise to process the new experiences and ideas I’m constantly coming across during my time in Peru.
At the same time,
I absolutely love sharing the many diverse aspects of Peruvian food. I’m interested in everything related to Peruvian cuisine from the ingredients to the people behind the cuisine to seeing everything come together on the plate. I hope that I’m able to share more with you this year.
As much as I enjoy writing for writing’s sake, it would be amazing to grow my readership in 2023. Please help me achieve this goal by subscribing if you haven’t subscribed yet.
Publish more frequently. I know that a huge part of building an audience is establishing a cadence. I plan to write more consistently by interleaving stories that take more research and thought with shorter ones and by making use of some of my older unpublished content.
Last year was a busy year. Firstly, I started a new job that had a fairly steep learning curve. It's easy to write about Peruvian food when we're in Peru, especially when I can fact check something by walking a few blocks to the market. However, it was harder to finish stories when we got behind on planning for the parts of the year when we're not in Peru.
Meet more of the people behind the food. When I first came to Peru, I would ask questions about the food to everyone I met and was invited to see the kitchen for almost every restaurant I visited. However, the pandemic put me in a bit of a bubble, and I've become more timid even as I continued learning more Spanish. I hope to change that some this year and meet more chefs, farmers, and fishermen and incorporate their perspectives and insights into the stories I write.
Write about more regions in Peru. My original, admittedly ambitious goal for this Substack was to capture the diversity of Peruvian food by featuring stories from different regions of Peru. However, if I just write about what's on mind, I'd just end up writing a dozen stories about the same topic (ie ceviche). My goal this year is to write at least one story about each of the the three major regions of Peru: the coast, the jungle (selva), and the Andes.
Network more. I admit that I've been sometimes guilty of throwing my content over the wall. In real life, I love having conversations about food, travel, or whatever people are passionate about, but I usually only hop on Instagram or Facebook to post something. I haven't been really investing in the social aspect of social networks, as obvious as it might sound. For me, Instagram always felt more like social media for extroverts while Substack feels more appealing to the introvert in me. This year, I’d like to engage more in thoughtful conversation with like-minded writers and readers.
Write about home cooking. I believe that you start really undestanding a dish when you to try to make it, and when we're in Peru, we have access to all of these wonderful markets. There's only problem though-it's taken us months trying to get our gas setup. That's a story in itself. I can't wait to get our kitchen fully set-up and to tell you about it.
Share unpublished stories. I have a number of stories, notes, and photos from my earlier years of travel that I've collected but had not had a chance to share. There are many reasons why these hadn't been published, but one of the main reason is that they didn't fit Instagram or Facebook as a medium. I wish Substack had been around when I started getting to know Peruvian food!
Making photo editing less of a chore. It hasn't always been the case, but writing is pretty fast for me nowadays (at least the first draft). What really holds things up is editing the photos, and I don't even do any fancy editing. Importing the photos and converting between formats (especially from the iPhone) are more of a chore than it should be3. Also, it would be nice to get off of using Lightroom since they’ve stopped innovating yet continue to charge every month.
Incorporate more video into my stories. A friend, Daryl, and I had a run making videos in Cusco a few years back. It was way more demanding than writing and photography, but it opened up a new dimension of storytelling for me. I find that incorporating just a little video like I did with my story about Chorillos helps liven a story. I would like to continue experimenting with that technique this year.
Get faster at typing. This one might not make much sense to people who aren't developers, but for years I've put off really learning vim, a text editor that allows you to write "at the speed of thought." I've picked up a few commands a year, but I never managed to achieve any level of fluency. It occured to me that writing story drafts in vim would be a good way to force immersion.
Get better at coming up with titles. It always seems that I come up with the best titles immediately after hitting 'Send'.
Publish my guide to eating in Peru. Actually, I've already published it!4
Expect a more “official” announcement in a couple of months. Since 2020 (when I finally had time to put everything together), it just never has feel like the "perfect time" to promote travel in Peru.
I intend to keep writing on Substack a hobby. I write as a way to unwind and enjoy the freedom to pick my stories. I also rely on being able to ‘hit the pause button’ on writing when other parts of my life become busy.
That’s why getting paid subscribers hasn’t been a priority. I’d rather just focus on writing. I hope there’s still some room for the amateur voice in online food writing and greatly appreciate new subscribers!
Please share with friends and family members who appreciate thoughtful stories about food and travel.
Finally, I’m taking requests! Please let me know if there’s a dish or aspect of Peruvian cuisine you’d like to know more about!
I recently learned that this is a tradition in other countries as well. The tradition seems to have originated in Spain.
These are not resolutions. Rather, they represent directions I'd like to go with my writing this year. Also, my philosophy about resolutions and goals with timelines is to only choose ones that you’re already on the way to. This might be cheating, but it definitely increases the chances for success. A cold start of a resolution of January 1 doesn’t make sense to me.
I’m amazed at how annoying it is to go from HEIC to jpeg. I’ve tried setting up shortcuts on my phone, but they only work for a short time.
I’m self-publishing for now since there are so many photos which doesn’t fit the Kindle format well. By self-publishing, I mean I built the web site and ordering workflow myself (using Netlify, Next.js, and Stripe). Self-publishing means that I can update the book way more regularly than in traditional publishing (minor updates and corrections every month and 1-2 major updates a year). I’ll explain more in a future post!