MY HEAD, PLUS CHRISTMAS SPICE MOCHI BREAD BABKA
LIFE IS A GREAT ADVENTURE… ACCEPT IT IN SUCH A SPIRIT
OK, so I’m bald.
Wait, right, fine. Technically, not yet.
I just buzzed my hair off. Why?
Before you say it, this is not a Britney-style meltdown. Okay?
This is Jarhead. It’s war, and the enemy must be eliminated. But the enemy in this case – is myself. If you’re still interested, read on.
But before I start, I just want to apologize for making such a fuss in the past two weeks, sounding alarmingly distressed and melodramatic. That was me then. That is not me right now, as we speak. Now, in hindsight, even the idea of making a public display of my buzz feels acutely self-absorbed if not stupid, but having said that, I still owe you an explanation. So please know that whatever you read off of this, that it is in the context about hair, the nerve-less fibers that grow in ways without or without our consent and sometimes utter rudely. So if I sound like I’m being superficial anywhere in the story, I may have been. Well, here we go.
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I guess, the whole thing began when my dog-son Dumpling passed away about twelve months ago. I always knew such event was going to be big, like never-forget-it big, like scar-big. But I never could foresee the events that it triggered. In exactly 2 months after the heartbreak, my hair started to fall out in abnormal quantity. I didn’t pay much attention to it then because after all, I was on a rebound-vacation in europe and I wasn’t gonna let anything distract me from cheap Jamón ibérico. But in January, after I returned to my then-home Beijing and resumed to my lovely, hypochondriac self, it cook no time to secure my upmost attention along with three dermatologist’s appointments. Of course, after a couple of blood test on iron deficiency and thyroid functions, all of them assured me that it was just an episode of TE, a temporary hair-shedding followed by traumatic events, then sent me home to rekindle with hairs caught in the shower drainage.
To be honest, and I must clarify, the shedding wasn’t that bad or noticeable to others. What was really bothering me, pinning me down to the ground and halting my enthusiasms in all aspects of life, was this ghost-like pain on the upper part of my scalp. Ah yes… the pain. This burning, prickling, hypersensitive and maddening pain. It wasn’t “excruciating”, no, wasn’t severe enough to fiddle with any doctor’s curiosity except for my own sanity, and it wasn’t constant either, drifting in and out, sometimes lasting for days then gone, but only to return at any signs of good spirits then snipped them in the buds. It wasn’t the source of my distress. That would be vanity. After all, it was hair. But it made overcoming my fear that much harder. It disallowed me to forget, to stop obsessing. It’s hard to admit, but it crippled me. It rubbed my face down close to the shame of depression. I never knew it was that easy.
Informations, for better or worse, are abundant nowadays. I Googled the shit out of this.
As if obsession wasn’t enough, I threw in my best pessimism for good measure, and fixated on the worst case scenario in the long list of suspects. Something called, scarring alopecia. It’s an autoimmune condition without cure or known cause, triggering the body to attack on its own hair follicles, resulting in permanent hair loss in affected areas. The only definitive diagnosis is made by surgical scalp biopsy. It’s rare. It’s brutal. It’s super depressing. It’s right up my alley. I must had it. Yes. That was it.
Except, not a single trained professional agreed.
No matter. In late March, after we moved back to Hong kong, it was like a heavenly door opening to a frontier of brand new doctors. I was like a kid in the candy store. I scouted around town and hunted down two more dermatologists and held them hostages, forcing them to draw my bloods. Both blood tests, one on zinc, and another one on more severe autoimmune diseases (such as lupus) came back negative (scarring alopecia does not show up in blood tests). Needless to say, none of the doctors recommended, one of them plainly discarded, the prospect of a biopsy. I don’t blame them, because truth was, I did not (still don’t) resemble any clinical signs of scarring alopecia, the patchy, angry and visibly inflamed scalp, the real hairs in need. Instead, my diffuse and not-so-obvious thinning suggested derangement. Even the pain, my only ally, proved to be undependable to show up on time during appointments.
So another five months passed. I mastered meditation and was about to call it a year. But another obsessing opportunity came up where Kitchenaid invited me to New York – the base camp of SEAL Team 6 of medical elites – to celebrate their new mini mixer, and little did they know, I took another dermatologist as collateral damage. But this time, it was different. The specialist I saw reignited my belief that I had this condition. He told me that he had seen a patient in my suspected case and suggested that I do a biopsy by a student of his in Taiwan (because I wasn’t going to stay in New York). Three weeks later, quarter inch deep and two stitches wide, I did. And in another two weeks, the result came back positive. I have scarring alopecia.
It was… a surreal moment I must say. What does it mean? In an ironic sense, my body does not agree with my hair. Not that I blame it. The funny furs along my hairline have never listened. But without cure and only a managing regiment involving potent steroids, will I eventually lose most of my hair? Or all of it? Or not that much of it? When? Slowly? Or not so slowly?
Strangely, the suspicion of this condition haunted me mercilessly for almost 11 months, but the reality of which, only took me two weeks to let go. I found out on November 9th. Yes that’s right, that same day, in fact, on exactly 3:30 am EST. POW-POW! Back to back, so don’t say I wasn’t strong. Then I spent the first day in the denial stage, another two days in the bargaining stage, then allowed myself to cry for about thirty minutes after which, I officially had it with myself.
What was I so scared of? Being bald? OK, well, yes, it sucks, but instead of spending the next months, or years!, my precious time on earth in fear of a suggested outcome, fuck it. I was tired of being scared. I’ve got a life to live, sea urchins, travelings, autumn breezes, puppies! This… black humor, however powerful, was a mere distraction, and had to be addressed as such. Laugh and release. And I did it the only way I knew how.
A few days later, I buzzed it all off.
Ok, I know that you’re probably thinking, What the fuck. You’re not bald. I know I don’t look it. Yet. But I might, or probably will, and it doesn’t matter. And that’s the point.
Ironically, I never felt compelled to post my photos online while I still had a full head of hair. It makes me cringe. I mean it still does, evident from my inability to look into the camera and the awkwardly fake smiles. But now, there is something, however puny or important you want to make of it, that I want to say, even if it’s just a note to myself. That the weight of this entire ordeal shifted from crushingly heavy to feathery light almost overnight. What’s changed? Nothing. It only mattered because I let it mattered. I’m not trying to underplay the impact of this condition if anyone who is suffering from it is reading. It sucks. It does. But I am trying to say, that no matter what comes to life, both happiness and sadness is only a perceived reality. It isn’t anything anyone else can touch. It isn’t concrete. It isn’t even real. Except in here, a figment in our minds. Its only power over us, is the one that we grant it. It is up to us, a choice, which one it’s gonna be.
So be happy.
Or angry, or glad, or ambitious, or contented, or closed, or embracing, as long as you know that you choose it. That you can.
I’m not sure what you could take away from this, hopefully not that the worst things could happen, that Donald Trump could be the president of United States or that you could be bald by 40 despite your best judgement. No, not saying that. And if nothing at all, then I’m simply updating my friend, you, about what’s up.
And if nothing at all, what you should take away from this, is a twisted loaf of mochi bread babka stuffed with Christmas-spiced brown sugar.
Life can be a bitch sometimes. But it’s also beautiful.
This recipe is halved and adapted from my sticky rice bread, changed slightly to suit this application. It makes a really soft and chewy layered babka stuffed with buttered and Christmas-spiced brown sugar. It has a semi-sticky bun situation going on with caramelized and crispy edges.
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (75 grams) sticky rice flour
- 2/3 cup (157 grams) water
- 1 tsp (4 grams) instant dry yeast
- 1 3/4 cup (245 grams) bread flour (14% protein)
- 1 large egg white
- 2 tbsp (28 grams) granulated sugar
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp (26 grams) unsalted butter, soften
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamon
- 1/4 tsp ground clove
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup (110 grams) dark brown sugar
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, room-temp
- PREPARE DOUGH: Inside a microwave-safe bowl, whisk sticky rice flour and water together into an even liquid batter. Pour 1/2 of the batter into the stand-mixer bowl, then microwave the remaining on a 20-seconds interval, stirring once in between, until the it comes into an opaque and sticky dough (will take about 60 seconds in total). Scrape the cooked dough into the stand-mixer bowl with the rest of the liquid batter, and let cool for 5 min. Then sprinkle the dry yeast over the liquid, and let sit for another 5 min to dissolve.
- Add bread flour, egg white, granulated sugar and salt, then mix on medium-low speed until the dough comes together, then add the unsalted butter and knead on high speed for 7~8 min until it becomes a smooth, shiny, and very sticky dough. The dough should stick to the sides of the bowl, but still able to stay in a ball-form when scraped together. If the dough is too wet to stay in form, add a couple tbsp more flour and knead again. Cover with plastic-wrap and let proof in a warm place for 2~3 hours until fully doubled.
- MAKE THE BABKA: Mix cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cardamon, clove and nutmeg together. In a separate bowl, add dark brown sugar and 2 tsp of the spice-mixture, and stir until even. Once the dough has doubled, scrape it onto a well-floured surface. Dust with enough flour to prevent sticking as you go, and roll it into a 1/4" (0.5 cm) thick, large rectangle with the shorter edge matching the length of your loaf-pan. Spread the room-tempturature butter over the surface, then gently press the sugar-mixture evenly on top. Roll it together starting with the shorter edge. Once it's formed into a roll, split it open down the middle, then twist the two sides together to form the final, twisted loaf.
- Preheat the oven on 340 F/170 C. Transfer the loaf into your loaf-pan, cover with plastic-wrap, and let proof again for about 40~60 min in a warm place until it expands about 80% more. Keep in mind that because of the cut-open nature of the twist, the sugar will ooze out of the opening and look like an alarming puddle at the bottom of the pan. Worry not. The sugar will bake with the bread and turn it into a delicious, semi-sticky bun situation. But if you want to keep the filling stable inside the dough, you can cut the rectangle dough in half, and do two separate rolls and twist them together to form the final loaf.
- Brush the surface of the dough with egg-wash, then bake in the oven for 40~45 min until browned on top, and an inserted wooden skewer comes out clean from the middle. Transfer onto a cooling rack and best served warm.
MelindaDecember 8, 2016 at 11:26 PM
Gorgeous with or without. I do not think you’re being vain. Hair is as important (more, really) to women as it is to men, and look at the troubles they go to trying to keep it. I’ve lost SO MUCH hair since I had baby – now 9 – that I can’t even recognize myself.
I just love that you buzzed it off & showed all of us. These pics are so rare. Thank you!!!!! And thank you for sharing your process. I think it can help the rest of us with grief, illness, etc.
LindseyDecember 8, 2016 at 11:29 PM
Your buzz looks great! I’ve suffered stress-induced hair loss and get how scary that can be- let alone an actual autoimmune disorder. It sounds like you’re starting to see the silver lining though, or at least finding a way to work with it. Hang in there! You’ll be beautiful with or without hair!
ErikaDecember 8, 2016 at 11:48 PM
Thank you for sharing your journey with us. You’re beautiful with that buzz lady, rock the shit out of it and stay strong!.
Mary N.December 8, 2016 at 11:52 PM
I’ve been reading your unique recipes for quite awhile now, but have never seen the genius behind the yummy dishes and funny stories. What a treat to actually see you – you are BEAUTIFUL!
AkieDecember 8, 2016 at 11:53 PM
Wish I had beautifully shaped head as you do! I have been having stress related bald patches all over my head for about a decade. When the baby hair comes in, I always want to buzz off my hair but I am so scared with the idea of not knowing existing bald patches without hair to cover them up. Always scared of wind messing up my hair. You look and sound beautiful.
I have a couple of questions with this recipe.
①What is sticky rice flour? Is it different from rice flour? Is Sticky rice=rice to make Mochi or the short grain rice served in Japanese restaurants?
②do you buy Chinese brown sugar or do you have a place sells all American ingredients?? For this recipe, do you think I can substitute with molassess and glanulated sugar?
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 9, 2016 at 1:06 AM
Akie, don’t be scared! Really. Look around you and you’ll see things that are much more attractive and worthy of your attentions. sticky rice flour is not rice flour. It’s the specific type of rice that makes mochi, different from short grain sushi rice. You can find it easily online, and I like the ones from Thailand. The type of brown sugar I’m using is from Korea actually. I hvent tried with molasses, but it sounds interesting! Let me know if it turns out well :)
JessicaDecember 8, 2016 at 11:58 PM
I haven’t commented in a while… but I LOVE this post. Babka aside, I cut my hair short into a pixie cut a few months ago, in response to feeling really down and in a rut. For me, it’s been the most liberating experience (no more endless fussing with long hair!) but also a bit stressful. I get mistaken for a boy quite often, even if I’m wearing jewelry. (SUPER irritating) And my conservative Asian family is really thrown off and hates the look.
You pull off the buzzcut amazingly. It’s a courageous, bold, and mega-cool move in response to a really tough situation. Kudos to you!!
Amanda| What's CookingDecember 9, 2016 at 12:02 AM
I love your perspective and I know it takes time to cultivate it. You’re very beautiful. I’ve read that plant based nutrition helps to manage inflammation that causes certain auto immune issues, it could be worth a try. I love that you refuse to let anxiety rule your days. You’re such a talented lady all around.
ElyseJune 22, 2020 at 3:01 AM
You’re gorgeous! I love the buzz.
okchuDecember 9, 2016 at 12:14 AM
Thank you for sharing your story. As others have said , you are beautiful with or without the hair. I love your outlooks on life and your Fu**** attitude.
HeidiDecember 9, 2016 at 12:18 AM
YOU are beautiful. Thank you for sharing your life with us.
debDecember 9, 2016 at 12:18 AM
You are gorgeous and fierce. I admire your outlook. I am not sure I have that kind of resilience about a broken wineglass. (But you’re allowed to bitch and moan about it too and nobody will think less of you.) xoxo
Jackie Liang YogaDecember 9, 2016 at 12:47 AM
Mandy, You are the MOST beautiful being – talented, funny, hard-working, creative, beautiful …… I used to leave comments saying how much I enjoy your creation, but felt that I am too much of a grandma, a Chinese-Taiwanese-American grandma, so I stopped. So, sorry, long time no write. Keep up with the spirit. With your beautiful self and so much talent, who needs hair? You are so stunningly beautiful, go forward!
I lost my beloved Beau last December, I still talk to him. So, there. You are not alone. Lots of love to you. Keep up. Love your dishes. So talented. Amazing.
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 9, 2016 at 2:10 AM
Jackie, oh I’m sorry to hear that… My husband has been my rock throughout this whole ordeal. In fact, he buzzed my hair. My heart goes out to you. Say hello to him for me. Sending you my love.
DebraDecember 9, 2016 at 12:53 AM
I’m sorry to read you’re going through this, although you are being positive after all and that is of invaluable help to heal. I’ve had to cut my hair as well because I have bald spots and my hair has been falling out for a few years now. First was a horrible marriage situation, a divorce ensued, then the roller-coaster ride of my mother’s illness and untimely death, and just a few weeks ago, my dad passed away suddenly as well. I know it’s all stress related; but stress triggers a ton of other issues that can end up negatively impacting our health. I’m glad you’ve found the answer to what you have. I truly hope you can find the cure too. In the meantime, I just want to say you are beautiful and an amazingly talented human being. I wish you all the best! xx Debra
Debbie YueDecember 9, 2016 at 1:23 AM
I love that you’re sharing your painful journey from this past year, and love even more that you have healed so much now. I lost my little best friend and buddy, Ollie, over 2-1/2 years ago and still tear up when I think of him. That little Corgi mix was my stable and loyal life friend (better than a husband). While I think about adopting another dog, I worry about the deep pain that comes from losing another one to canine cancer. It does help to stay busy with cooking and traveling, as you obviously do. While doing genealogy research last year in Hawaii for my Chinese ancestry, I saw a well known psychic for clues. As an aside, she said I recently lost a pet, a dog or a cat, and he was happy. It’s a little tidbit, regardless of whether one believes in psychic abilities or not, but it does give me a nibble of comfort. Your photo is lovely. I think that short hair like that emphasizes the beauty of the person’s face, and yours is gorgeous!
JonasDecember 9, 2016 at 1:24 AM
I’ve been a fan of your recipes since that wonderful day when I discovered your heavenly Spicy Miso Ramen-Express and since then, each new recipe has been not only a pleasure to watch but also a pleasure to read. And the more I discovered of you throughout your writing, the more I’ve become a fan of the person behind this angry food blog.
I’m truly humbled by your philosophy regarding the battles you’ve been facing and I must say that even though you might think you’re making little sense, you are an inspiration in perseverance and maturity for everyone. Of course you look very beautiful on these pictures, but I’m also glad that you seem to feel better as well. I really hope that despite the hardship, you’ll keep your newfound strength to continue delivering little scraps of food heaven wrapped in hilarious prose to my inbox.
I wish you all the best,
Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast todayDecember 9, 2016 at 1:28 AM
Looking at it from a different point of view – you made me want to be bald again! I shaved my head few years ago, not because there was something into it, but because I always wanted to be bald and I’ve decided why not. It was the best period in my life fo me, I think. I was self confident like never, I learned a lot, people start to see me differently, so on , so on. Then there’ve been few years that I asked random people/friends to cut my hair (strange appearance period) but I realised today that I miss having very short hair, just like yours now.
It’s great that you came to a good place with the whole situation. It’s nothing bad really, you’re lucky to look fucking awesome almost bald :D Can’t wait to see you in person again!
CaitlinDecember 9, 2016 at 1:32 AM
Your ability to speak candidly is always inspiring. Oh, and the food – looks killer too.
anjaDecember 9, 2016 at 2:05 AM
Finally I can see you.Your courage and spirit is inspiring.
“And you better be on time
And you better not be late
All stripped down
Let your backbone flip
And let your spirit shine thru
I want you all stripped
All stripped down”
Love from Berlin, anja
ClaireDecember 9, 2016 at 2:08 AM
You are BEAUTIFUL!
KimDecember 9, 2016 at 3:02 AM
Thank you for sharing – you look lovely, btw.
AlexDecember 9, 2016 at 3:07 AM
Mandy, thank you for sharing your story of fear and anxiety so boldly, and for sharing how you’re dealing with this change like a true warrior. You are right, perception is reality.
On the bright side, you are very beautiful with or without hair (I’d personally be thrilled to have your bone structure…)
NaomiDecember 9, 2016 at 3:35 AM
I have been a fan of our blog for a looooong time – I lived in Beijing for donkey’s years so understood all of your postings! But you never posted a photo of yourself – you are gorgeous! And since I never saw you with any other hair styles, I don’t have anything to compare your current “do” with! Your photos and blog are a comfort to me….hair or not hair….!!!
NastasyaDecember 9, 2016 at 3:50 AM
I’ve been a long time follower but have never written (at least as far as I can remember?). So, hello! Vain or not vain, people take such advantage of the things we have, especially when it comes to our bodies, that the thought of losing it strikes us in ways I don’t think anyone can really imagine until we go through it ourselves. I mean, I think I get it. Maybe it’s not the hair itself so much as the complete lack of control you have over the whole situation. I’m sorry, but also you’re doing fucking amazing at handling this and power to you for taking control of the fear and loss and for keeping on.
Questions about the recipe, though:
Apparently I’m a hippie and I don’t have a microwave. How else would you suggest cooking the other rice flour? Double boiler? Direct heat? Hmm..
Also I’m in Seattle experiencing 20-35 degree weather and my house is super old with single pane windows. I don’t *think* just a few hours of rising will do the trick here. Could I rise the dough overnight in the fridge or something and still get good results? Would I need to do that for both rising sessions?
Thank you! Love the blog, love the recipes, love it all.
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 9, 2016 at 1:37 PM
Natasya, you can also cook the batter in a pot over medium-low heat! And yes, if your place is cold, then you might need a much longer time to proof the dough. But because the dough is slightly warm to begin with (the cooked batter), it helps. So I would say to leave it at room-temp however long you can to get it going, then place it in the fridge overnight to do the rest. Then the second proofing as well.
OkoOctober 11, 2018 at 12:01 AM
Did you end up trying Andy rising the dough in the fridge? I want to make this recipe and am wondering if it worked. Thank you!
SenadaDecember 9, 2016 at 3:56 AM
I love everything about this post, Mandy! Your wise words, your beautiful writing, your amazingly beautiful hairstyle, and recipe. Indeed, as you said, “Life can be a bitch sometimes. But it’s also beautiful.” and absolutely worth it! Bon courage!! Thank you for sharing it with us.
MaureenDecember 9, 2016 at 4:07 AM
Your beautiful prose reflects your beautiful and humorous take on life — thank you. Don’t we all have our battle with something? And damn, you do beautiful things with food!
Christine C.December 9, 2016 at 4:21 AM
I try not to comment on women’s appearances rather than their accomplishments, but the shorter hair is gorgeous on you. Really emphasizes your beautiful cheekbones. Thank you for your honesty and bravery in sharing this. I especially liked this part of your post, and sent it to a family member (who doesn’t read food blogs, WHAT THE FUCK, DO THESE PEOPLE EXIST?) who struggles with depression and putting things into proper emotional context:
“What’s changed? Nothing. It only mattered because I let it mattered. I’m not trying to underplay the impact of this condition if anyone who is suffering from it is reading. It sucks. It does. But I am trying to say, that no matter what comes to life, both happiness and sadness is only a perceived reality. It isn’t anything anyone else can touch. It isn’t concrete. It isn’t even real. Except in here, a figment in our minds. Its only power over us, is the one that we grant it.”
Best wishes that you either don’t go bald, or you grant the nerveless fibers no power over you and ultimately stop caring. Hearts.
KarenDecember 9, 2016 at 4:40 AM
You look beautiful! Hair is a funny thing, I lost heaps after both my pregnancies and now it falls out in alarming amounts on a regular basis because of a medication i take to deal with an auto immune condition. No way to win! But you have a clear vision of moving forward and that’s important. I have nearly done the buzz a few times myself after seeing half my hair sudddenly lying on the floor of the shower. you have inspired me. Stay strong, stay beautiful.
AnnaDecember 9, 2016 at 7:19 AM
Several years ago, due to traumatic events that forever altered my life, past, present and future for the worse, I lost about one third of hair. It started to fall a little at first then later by a handful. I looked ridiculous even sickly then since I had bold spots mixed with patches of long long hair, so I shaved my head completely, like Britney Spears. Initially I was uncomfortable and even embarrassed to go in public with my bold head but I felt I had no choice. I kept shaving my head until my hair started to re-grow which took a while. (Now I have about a quarter of hair I used to have.) But I remember as time passed by I began to forget about my boldness until someone commented or questioned about my lack of hair. I had even made peace with the idea of not having hair for the rest of my life back then. So you do get used to big changes in your life but that does not mean you are healed with all your pain. I hate when people say time heals everything because it doesn’t. It leaves scars. I am truly sorry for the passing of your pet dog-son and your newly diagnosed condition, however, with your ability to think optimistically, no matter how sarcastic that may be, I’m sure you are going to be alright.
I actually miss my bold head sometimes…By the way, you look fabulous with your new buzz cut. I am certain you will look fantastic even if you go completely bold.
Thank you for sharing your story, after reading through it all I just had to comment.
WendiDecember 9, 2016 at 9:33 AM
You are so gorgeous, in every way possible.
Thank you for your words and your food.
SLTDecember 9, 2016 at 10:26 AM
Although many said that our locks are supposedly ladies’ crowning glory, but you rock with this pixie-like crop. Just wanted to give you a BIG virtual hug ! stay strong !
qDecember 9, 2016 at 11:09 AM
i must say that i have always adored your recipes … but now your personality left me in awestruck wonder, that behind these recipes is someone with such a beautiful personality. thank u for being so real. for identifying with the hurt and challenges in life and not sugar coating the truth. for choosing the discomfort of being real than the easy way out of pretentiousness. u will never know the impact u have in our lives. not only food wise, but even more so on our outlook in life. this post definitely encouraged many. grateful for all that u are !
cherieDecember 9, 2016 at 11:24 AM
What a beautiful piece. You look wonderful with the short hair. And your understanding and perspective is a glowing thing – I hope it works its way into many, many hearts. Thank you so much for sharing this along with all the wonderful recipes you’ve shared!
Liz BeesonDecember 9, 2016 at 1:42 PM
Booom! Nice photos, as always. You look great. I’ve followed you for a while, along with a few other blogs, however this was the first time I’ve ever actually read an entire posting. I’m such a food person and recipe reader that I target them immediately upon entering a page. Thank you for sharing and I support you.
SakiDecember 9, 2016 at 3:54 PM
I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now, and I feel like I know you better than I do, through your amazing recipes and through your writing. Your voice has become my favorite on the internet. Thanks for having the courage to share these moments with us, and for showing yourself as you truly are— not just now in these photos of your buzzed head, but in every post you write. Your honesty and energy are contagious.
SarahDecember 9, 2016 at 4:03 PM
Good for you! I love your blog and have been reading it for a while now. You have made me laugh so many times and inspired me with your recipes. This is by far my favorite entry. I wish you strength always! You are beautiful!
MadaDecember 9, 2016 at 4:24 PM
Prudence MaruleDecember 9, 2016 at 4:34 PM
I’m so glad you shared this with us, I think for me the biggest take away from this is to trust ourselves even when the doctors say we shouldn’t, that we’re overreacting, that its nothing to worry about, you know your body and you know when its not well.. so when 5 doctors who tell you you’re overreacting, keep looking until you find 1 who will believe you and who will help you, finding that 1 person who know what they’re talking about and having them believe you is like having a ton of bricks lifted off your chest and all of a sudden your prognosis falls into context and you realize you’re going to be ok. And you will be, come what may, you will live and be happy (and sometimes sad) but you will be ok. :)
Bread is my baking nemesis but this one looks delish!!.
SofiaDecember 9, 2016 at 5:05 PM
In my real daily life I currently work in a hair loss related business, and everyday I speak to people that are stunned, embarrassed and low on confidence with regards to their situation. Kudos to you for shouting this out so grandly in your blog, that definitely takes some confidence You definitely cannot tell in the photos, and you look so gorgeous.anyway. It’s also great that you decide to prefer to spend precious time looking at beauty in other things in life, and realise that there are also worse problems in life unfortunately.
GeorgeDecember 9, 2016 at 5:31 PM
Mandy You Look Ace! Telling it like it is… super read. I’m happy Er-thing is looking bright. Go Girl!
Now about this recipe: wanna try it- and I mean badly – seriously MOCHI BREAD Oh ye-. slide it my way – kibi mochi, daifuku, kusa mochi, sakura mochi, ice-cream mochi – MOCHI PERIOD- I AM IN. But I need you to let me know whether can I drop the sodding bread flour- as in the wheat kind, because we all have our “conditions” right.. Gluten + me = Violet Beauregarde (less the color purple) plus other complications. Can you recommend an alternative? I’m thinking one of those gluten free bread mixes might do the trick- question is that 14% protein necessary?
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 9, 2016 at 5:49 PM
George, oh gosh I really can’t say, because I’ve never worked with gluten-free flour before and have no idea how it works. But do give it a try! And let me know how it works :)
Peggy HauserDecember 9, 2016 at 10:27 PM
You look beautiful! Wish my head was as nicely shaped as yours!
LynnDecember 10, 2016 at 12:39 AM
You are so beautiful with or without hair. Would love to see more of you, you have a serene peaceful look, despite the internal turmoil.
Let go and let live.
PearDecember 10, 2016 at 3:28 AM
Mandy, thanks for sharing your story so honestly. You look incredible–love the sharp sideburns. Powerful, self-assured writing, powerful look.
I also had a very drastic haircut several years ago, but for decidedly more shallow reasons. But–maybe it’s not about the hair in and of itself, but how you view yourself and all its constituent parts. It is about bodily autonomy. It is about change, the ability to definitively change a part of yourself when so much else is beyond your control.
I now cannot imagine having longer hair again; it is no longer me.
But I can imagine making this gorgeous bread! I tried to make a similar one, but with pumpkin puree in the dough and pumpkin spice in the braid… it did not go so well. But since you work so thoroughly on your recipes I am excited to try this.
LisaDecember 10, 2016 at 5:00 AM
jeeezzz Mandy.. You made me weep. I Was looking forward to reading this post after the last one you wrote and it is well worth the expectation. Plus it is amazing to see you are as beautiful as one can imagine by reading your blog.
JenniferDecember 10, 2016 at 8:29 AM
Thank you for your honest post. Your blogs are so much more than just about food. You are beautiful inside and out.
Willow | Will Cook For FriendsDecember 10, 2016 at 10:57 AM
“Life can be a bitch sometimes. But it’s also beautiful.” — you said it! This is so beautiful, thank you for sharing. And for what it’s worth (not that you need to be told by strangers on the internet) you look amazing with the buzz, and I’m sure you’ll look equally amazing (and totally bad-ass) bald, if it comes to that.
I know there are those with clinical depression who might disagree, but for most of us, I am with you on the idea that we choose for ourselves how we feel about what’s handed to us in life. I think the way you handled this is amazing and inspiring, and it reminds me that I can take on anything. Thanks for that. :)
MarilynDecember 10, 2016 at 11:12 AM
The less hair the better to show off your lovely shaped head, right? Bread looks killer!
thefoliaDecember 10, 2016 at 4:15 PM
Beautiful, courageous and strong…damn that inflammation it’s all of ours worst enemy…but if we all had an ounce of your spirit, oh what we all could do!
auroraDecember 10, 2016 at 5:26 PM
I have to say we have far too much attachment to hair – when it goes, a lot of the vanity goes with it –
(i too have a shaved head, and its amazing the amount of women comment, and wish they had the courage.)
VictoriaDecember 10, 2016 at 9:18 PM
Bread looks amazing and you look great! I do hope you contacted every one of those doctors that denied you a biopsy so they never make the mistake of not listening to patients again.
KaraDecember 10, 2016 at 11:22 PM
Mandy, you brave and beautiful soul. I am sorry that you’re going through this; I was very sick a few years ago and went through a similar experience with doctors before I finally found one who validated that I was actually ill. You look gorgeous, and thank you for sharing with us. Also, that bread looks amazing.
SueDecember 11, 2016 at 6:06 AM
Aren’t you lucky to have a perfectly shaped head, beautiful face, and to be able to write and cook, too.
I looked up Cicatricial alopecia after reading your previous blog, because I knew that must be what I have, even though I have been treated by numerous dermatologists in the past 10 years (I’m not bald, yet) with a variety of medications (anti-malaria, cancer, and organ transplant medications.) At the end, I probably won’t be as brave as you to get a head biopsy, though I have had others done on my skin, which came to the conclusion that I have sarcoidosis and it has left many scarring effects all over my body and on-going with my whole scalp. None of the treatments have made any headway (pun) with relieving the condition, so I have just stopped taking any meds and will just live with it and just continue to read your blog for all your wonderful twists on food.
I seldom read blogs, but I was so captivated with your blog’s photos of all your wonderful recipes, that I actually started reading your entries from the start. You have inspired me to step out of my old flavor profile and into your world of spicy and delicious foods. Many of your dishes have become a regular standby in my house (pork stuffed sticky rice balls with that wonderful sauce.) I still have to make cruffins, using my pasta maker—so clever.
Please continue to share your life with us, because I think of you as a friend, not just a blog.
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 11, 2016 at 3:19 PM
Sue, the biopsy really wasn’t that bad at all, quite painless, and I strongly recommend it if you want a clear diagnosis :). Sorry to hear that your treatment isn’t helping you, but like I said, don’t let it matter! Be happy :). These types of condition loves stress as a company, so don’t give it any chance.
Samantha WDecember 11, 2016 at 11:54 AM
I second Sue’s comments and also think of you as a friend even if we’ve never met. I just got a chance to read through this page and my heart sank. I too, also hope you will continue to share your creative thoughts and inspirational recipes! Wishing you well and happy holidays. I’ll be trying your ba da bings soon! :)
cynthiaDecember 13, 2016 at 4:01 AM
Mandy, you are stunning. Not to mention so badass, brave, and fierce — so glad that you stuck it out and got the diagnosis you knew you had (the medical profession baffles me sometimes…) although not at ALL glad, and so so sorry, that you did end up being right. Thank you for sharing this with us and for sharing these photos, which prove that you are crazy gorgeous regardless of what is on your head. Constantly inspired by you, in the kitchen and in all ways. And in LOVE with this bread — I’ve been experimenting with sticky rice flour as only part of the flour in recipes lately and am so amazed by what it does! I need to try this bread next, I’m convinced. Sending love across the Pacific to you!!
NoviDecember 13, 2016 at 5:15 AM
From one person with a shaved head to another, I wish you well and warm ears. When I first shaved my head, no one told me how cold I would get or how uncomfortable I would be. While I expected some things, I had no idea that sleeping on a pillow without hair would be a completely different and even uncomfortable experience. There are some freedoms that balance that out though. For me, getting my head shaved every other week means that I won’t stay up late touching and pulling out my hair. It also means I can go in public without worrying about strangers seeing my bald patches. I’ve learned that I like getting my head rubbed and that shaving my head simply feels good. While I know we’re in different situations, I hope that you too can find all the little positives that will occur with this change. It’s a shock at first, but it will be okay. Be gentle with yourself and remember that all your feelings about this are valid and real. You are real, important, and you’re doing great.
georgie @ icookstuffDecember 13, 2016 at 2:28 PM
LOVELY HEAD & LOVELY CHRISTMAS SPICE MOCHI BREAD BABKA & LOVELY WORDS … :)
emilyDecember 13, 2016 at 9:42 PM
What does this mean –
‘But if you want to keep the filling stable inside the dough, you can cut the rectangle dough in half, and do two separate rolls and twist them together to form the final loaf.’
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 14, 2016 at 12:08 AM
Hi Emily, basically you do two separate rolls and twist them together (instead of one big roll cut in half, and twist the two halves together like in the photos)
emilyDecember 14, 2016 at 1:25 AM
Got it. Your response came through just in time for shaping my dough!
(You’re beautiful, Mandy! And so is your writing. Thank you for sharing your life with us.)
Joyce @ Sun Diego EatsDecember 14, 2016 at 6:58 AM
In high school, my dad once spent a summer observing me and my sisters’ routines (we all had long hair) and concluded that we spent about 15-30 minutes a day just dealing with hair – de-tangling it, washing it, conditioning, straightening the frizzy bits, etc. He declared that if we shaved off our hair (or at least with some kind of more manageable bob situation) we could probably find enough time in our day to start taking Mandarin lessons again or learn to code. So if anything, consider yourself now better equipped to take on the world.
P.S. I’ve been meaning to try and make this bread with taro filling, this is a good reminder to get on that.
kimithyJanuary 27, 2017 at 5:21 AM
YES, THIS (both the hair/time bit and the taro filling, which sounds awesome).
HollyDecember 14, 2016 at 7:04 PM
It’s possible to reverse an autoimmune condition through dietary changes and detoxification strategies. Please read Dr. Amy Myers’ book called “The Autoimmune Solution”. If you don’t, at least keep your diet organic for better nutrition and to avoid GMOs. Thank you for your courage to share your story. That step alone is a big one toward emotional healing. Your are beautiful, by the way, inside and out.
kimithyJanuary 27, 2017 at 5:19 AM
Holly – I know your response was probably well-intentioned, but please note that while diet can have an affect on some autimmune symptoms, autimmune disorders are extremely complicated, and there is a massive range of them with a staggering variety of symptoms within each category. Myers’ book has been routinely debunked, and there is a large amount of misleading information in it. Diet/lifestyle changes can have minor to moderate effects on some autimmune symptoms in some people, but it’s in no way a cure or “reversal”, and it makes absolutely no difference in many, many people. It can be extremely hurtful and frustrating to have people tell you that you can “reverse” or “cure” an incurable disease. I’m speaking from personal experience here as well, if it matters (this is an issue that comes up a lot in convo with other autimmune peeps). If you’re wanting to give advice about symptom relief, wording it like “I had __xxx__ results from using _xxx__ strategies from _xxx__ sources”, and recognize that these were specific to your experience and may not work for others, that can help reduce frustration/defensiveness on the part of the recipient for sure!
AimeeDecember 16, 2016 at 3:40 AM
You (and the bread) are absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing this message of hope and positivity. :)
FlaviaDecember 16, 2016 at 3:55 AM
You are gorgeous, and will always be, with or without hair. Rock on, girl.
EvaDecember 16, 2016 at 4:41 PM
I really want to thank you,
cause people like you make
me be still for a moment en realise
that body image, self esteem and anything
appearance-related, is soo vague…
And it’s all about how you deal with it :)
And you are dealing with it in such a
cool way, it makes me respect you even more!
TamaraDecember 21, 2016 at 10:43 PM
A-fucking-mazing. Thank you!
OkoDecember 26, 2016 at 8:57 AM
I’m sorry ab your experience and struggle with finding a doctor who could solidly help you verify what you already knew. Your post actually made me realize that there are other forms of hair loss outside of age and hereditary reasons. I wish you the best in your journey and want to say that we support you! And your new haircut is kickass :D
In regards to the recipe you shared, thank you! And I was wondering is 1) can you use a bread mixer for this recipe and if so, how? And 2) is there a substitute for the butter for someone who is lactose?
Thank you and rock-on!!
tunieDecember 26, 2016 at 1:52 PM
Wow, you look crazy modern and alluringly genderless (wait, that sounds creepy but is not meant to!)…anyway it’s cool you just attacked it head on…Thanks for sharing here so articulately!
Sarah @ The ImaginariYUMJanuary 13, 2017 at 1:57 AM
Lady, you look gorgeous with a buzz cut. This was a beautiful post. Cheers to you, your courage, your wonderful writing and your amazing recipes!
ZackJanuary 18, 2017 at 12:53 AM
Mandy, Great buzz cut you look beautiful! I hope all is well and I really admire your courage through this journey. Consider adjunct oral tetracycline therapy as well if you want…fairly mild side effects has been shown to help in the majority of cases (med student here).
Anyways, wanted to say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog and you’ve inspired me so much in the kitchen. Huge fan. Much love from Wisconsin <3
ZackJanuary 18, 2017 at 12:55 AM
and don’t forget to check out and donate to Cicatricial Alopecia Reasearch Foundation (CARF)!
mandy@ladyandpupsJanuary 20, 2017 at 12:49 AM
Zack, thanks for the advice! I was on oral tracycline for a while, but stopped after the doctor’s recommendation :)
kimithyJanuary 26, 2017 at 5:09 AM
Dang :( I’m sorry the news was a confirmation of your fears vs. your hopes. I AM glad that you aren’t in that f*cking awful period of pre-diagnostic self-doubt, anxiety, obsession and doctor-dismissal which is so miserable.
Love that you went for the buzz. Of the people I know who buzzed/shaved their head (for any reason, health or not), they all seemed really surprised about how much time they’d spent thinking about / feeling insecure about their hair over their lifetimes. It’s a move everyone I’ve ever known fantasizes about doing themselves, and it looks good on you, which is awesome. Like you, I don’t want to minimize the experience – I’m just glad that you’re accepting and happy to have it figured out and that you’ve had an amazing perspective shift as a result!
http://www.cvilledoulas.com/April 24, 2017 at 2:23 AM
Joshua: My iPhone does have a habit of making things look a bit yellow, but I think those are Chinese style wrappers and not the white Vietnamese ones yes. Still tasted nice though.
MichèleJuly 23, 2017 at 6:07 AM
Just read about your condition, and I thought of this:
There are some cheap PDT hand held units on ebay, it wouldn’t be a great financial risk to try one.
Contact me if you want the link to the 3 units I have bought for personal use, if you like.
You never know, it could help.
Check also the site dr Clark net, you may find some ideas there (Or I can look it up in my books if you like).
PS: You are still very beautiful!
Melanie FordSeptember 8, 2018 at 2:53 AM
I used this recipe however additionally sauteed diced red and green peppers with a diced red onion along with the flavors together with the additional ingredients was really yummy. Thank you
HanKAANOctober 7, 2020 at 3:37 AM
I think you re axtraordinary.. believe me
ChrisDecember 31, 2020 at 1:19 PM
I came across your blog via Smitten Kitchen and have been binging it ever since! I admire your writing, your research and the wide diversity of recipes. Plus the dogs! This post prompted me to respond, as I admire your tenacity in finding out the cause, despite being told otherwise. I especially admire how you made peace with the finding, dealt with it and took control and moved on. You’re talented, gorgeous and an excellent writer. Plus the recipes have some friends and I drooling!