As Shakespeare’s famous line from Twelfth Night goes, “If music be the food of love, play on!” In addition to being a stellar violinist, this month’s featured student Marisa Lin is also a very talented baker. In her interview, Marisa talks about how her foray into baking connects her with her family, as well as her growing social media presence and the connections she sees between food and music.
Tell us a bit about your time in CYSO.
My name is Marisa Lin, I’m 16 years old, and I play violin in Concert Orchestra. I’ve been in CYSO since my freshman year of high school, so this is my third year in CYSO. It’s honestly been like a dream come true. I still remember the first day of rehearsal when we jumped right in with the opening of Beethoven’s Fidelio Overture and just being in complete shock by the grand sound of the whole orchestra.
CYSO has really made me fall in love with music, but it goes beyond the music as well. I’ve met a ton of incredibly talented and hard-working musicians through CYSO and I’m also so grateful for all the opportunities CYSO has given me. Being able to interview composers and alumni on the Social Media Team is such an incredible experience. Last summer I worked as an intern with the marketing department and seeing some of the behind-the-scenes really made me appreciate all the work that the team puts in. CYSO is a great organization and I’m very proud to be a part of it.
Tell us about your baking hobby—how did you get into it and how long have you been at it?
I first started baking when I was around 11 years old and the first recipe I made was Sarah Kieffer’s famous chocolate chip cookies for Father’s Day. My mom loves to bake too, so she taught me in the beginning. It wasn’t until the pandemic that I dove deeper into baking. I’d read through all of our cookbooks, about the authors’ stories about how they got into baking, about the specifics of the ingredients they used, and about some of the science behind it. It’s so fascinating because you really need to be precise in your measurements and ratios, and it’s food science!
During the pandemic was also when I started my first baking blog, but I didn’t take it too seriously at first and was just reviewing other peoples’ recipes so it only lasted a couple months. It wasn’t until the summer before sophomore year in 2022 that I started my current blog, meimeibaking.com. It was a huge first step because I had to pay for a web host and domain and it was a lot of work in the beginning to research web hosting services and set up the website. However, it was definitely worth it, and now I create my own recipes inspired by my Asian-American background and share them on my blog! I’ve received so much support from my friends and family which has really helped me keep going, and now I even get messages and pictures from followers who make my recipes, which makes me so happy.
What lessons have you learned from baking?
I’ve learned a great deal about the significance of each ingredient in a recipe and how each impacts the other as well as the outcome. I’ve become really interested in food science thanks to two of my role models, Stella Parks and Kenji López-Alt.
Other than the technical aspects of baking, I’ve also discovered a lot about what food can really mean to people. Food is one of the main ways my family expresses love. My parents as well as extended family will spend hours upon hours cooking for a feast that we can all enjoy together. I think that’s something really special. It’s a way for us to connect with each other, like evenings where my family and I would sit in a semi-circle and make potstickers. Food also serves as a way for us to connect to our heritage and develop a sense of home, so overall I think baking has really shown me the different layers of meaning it can have for people.
What connections do you find between music and baking?
Both baking and music have a set way of doing things. In baking you follow a set of measurements and directions, and in music you need to first learn and master the technical aspects like the notes and rhythms. However, adding your own flare or interpretation is what really makes both special. Since I’ve gained a lot of experience with baking, I can now craft my own recipes or adjust others to my own liking. In music, it’s similar in that I can play around with the phrasing or change what I am trying to express. I don’t think either one directly makes you better at the other, but I think both require that process of problem-solving and trying different solutions again and again.
Are there any challenges to balancing school, music, and baking?
Balancing baking, music, and my academic work has definitely been a struggle for me, but something that’s really helping me is creating a schedule. I keep a planner that comes with a weekly schedule where I write my events and tests for the week and it also has a daily schedule where I write my tasks for the day and make time blocks for each task. Sometimes it can become overwhelming to the point where I start to lose enjoyment in what I do, but when that happens I make sure to take breaks, listen to one of my favorite pieces, or bake one of my favorite recipes to remind myself of how much I love what I do.
Any exciting baking or social media campaigns coming up?
Since fall is right around the corner, I want to do something with apples, like a miso apple cider caramel crumb bar. I also want to experiment more with breads, like cream-filled buns or using glutinous rice flour for a slightly chewy texture. Besides baking projects, I’d love to do a raffle someday where people could enter by sharing my Instagram post and then the winner would receive a fresh batch of ube butter mochi or some other baked good. I’d need to figure out the logistics of who could enter based on location and how the winner would receive the food though. Be sure to follow me on Instagram!
Any other cool things you’d like to share with our readers?
My dad also played the violin when he was my age and I’m currently playing his old violin. He also saved a lot of his sheet music and books, so I’ve been using his old music as well. It’s really charming because his music is all marked up, and I can see the passages that he practiced a lot as well as some quite random notes like a “haha!” written out above a note. Violin and discussing classical (and contemporary!) music are one of the special ways my dad and I have connected.