By Dhanika Pineda
With edits by Lilibeth Garcia
Sahana Vij has always been surrounded by food. The granddaughter of Indian immigrants, she grew up in a Seattle home with a bustling kitchen full of spices. Her mother taught her to make garlic bread and French toast when she was 5. Now 18, Vij is a self-taught baker who’s sharing her recipes with the world through her new cookbook, Bake Away.
Featuring 20 of her original recipes, Bake Away has been in the works since her first year of high school. It hit the shelves Oct. 26.
Each recipe in the cookbook is tied to a location. The first, for citrus poppy seed bread, is inspired by Vij’s memory of picking fruit in her grandfather’s garden in Temescal Valley, about an hour away from UCI. In fact, the proximity of her grandparents was a large factor in her decision to become an Anteater.
UCI “was a good fit for me because of how much family is around me,” Vij says. “Family is a really big part of my life – something I can rely on – and I go visit them throughout the country a lot. Each Bake Away recipe comes from a different city and a different experience I’ve had with my family.”
Although she aspires to own a bakery one day, the UCI first-year intends to major in literary journalism and minor in environmental science.
“I entered UCI as undeclared to give myself some room this year to explore other options as well. However, now that I am in Humanities Core, I know I want to dive into journalism in my later years of undergrad,” Vij says. “I also have a strong interest in our environment, the impact humans have on it and the human responsibility to fix it. I want to help the public understand what they can do [about the future of our planet] and write about a topic I am passionate about.”
While she still has four years to go until graduation, Vij is already making an impact with her words. People magazine recently selected her as one of the “Girls Changing the World in 2021.”
The proceeds from Bake Away will go to No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit working to end child hunger that provides 10 meals for every dollar donated. All Vij’s author royalties as well as certain percentages of book sales, depending on the vendor, will be donated to the organization.
Growing up, she and her family would volunteer together at various women’s and children’s centers. Partnering with No Kid Hungry made sense to her, since the book revolves around food and because she knows how dire food scarcity can be, especially during the pandemic.
When Vij isn’t baking, writing about food or getting involved in her community, she’s enjoying being a student. “I wanted to major in a humanities subject because I'm not just majoring in journalism; it’s as if I'm also majoring in art, history, literature, philosophy and performing arts,” she says. “The most beneficial aspect of the humanities curriculum is that each of these interest areas intersects with the rest. You can't really study one without experiencing the others. I not only grow and improve my writing skills, I also get to learn about how animals have anthropomorphic meaning, the history of the alphabet through Ovid and the impact of the performing arts through Shakespeare.”