Family and cooking go hand in hand for me. I love cooking for and with my family, and I can’t remember a time where it hasn’t been that way. I am not completely sure when I started cooking, I just remember that cooking was something everyone did (at least to some degree or another). If you are old enough to stir and want to help, you are old enough to start learning and helping in the kitchen. Cooking people food was a way for me to express myself, learn and explore, and show love/kindness. I have had many cooking influences, and a passion to learn keep learning.
My mom has been the biggest influence on me, especially in the kitchen. I started with standing on a stool or chair, and helping my mom stir (as do all children in my family). Any recipes where my sister and I could help measure, pour, stir or taste-test, we were there and encouraged to participate or ask questions.
My mom loves to explore new food and new recipes, and that encouraged me to have the same mind set. I remember once I got old enough to read and understand recipes better, I was able to find a recipe that looked interesting to me and take it to my mom. If it was a recipe that we could work into dinner plans for the week, we would add the ingredient to our shopping list.
My sister and I were also involved in grocery shopping. We were slowly taught was ripe/ready produce looked like. If there was a vegetable or fruit we weren’t familiar with, my mom was the first to say “Let’s try it!”. I wasn’t expected to like everything I tried, but I was expected to try it and give it a fair shot.
As my sister and I got old enough to cook independently (but with an adult still home), we were expected to cook one meal for the family a week. I would read through my mom’s cookbooks and cooking magazines, finding new and interesting things to try. During this time, I was always able to go to my mom for help, and she would walk me through it. I learned how to properly prepare vegetables. I learned to read the recipe ALL the way through before starting (and I relearn this once a year). I learned that comfort food and what food is considered “normal” can take so many different forms, and can be unique to individuals and their experiences. I learned that I was able to control what was in my food, if I cooked it myself. I learned that I could provide comfort and show love to others through food.
My Step-Mom and my Dad:
My step-mom has been a part of my life since childhood. She is the reason Thai food is a comfort food for me. She is originally from Thailand, and has owned/operated some Thai restaurants. She moves so fast in the kitchen, and seems to create magic. She taught me a couple recipes as a child (such as her version of an egg roll and soft rice soup), which I have made for many people since then. I will never claim to make them nearly as well as she can, and I will never turn her down when she offers to make them for me. She loves to feed people, you can’t walk into her house without being offered food and doesn’t always take no for an answer (something that I have also been accused of).
My dad lived all over the USA throughout my childhood (and learned to cook a bit from each of them), including New Mexico, Louisiana and mainly Alaska. With that, I had more exposure to creole, southwestern flavors, and seafood, and this just fueled my love for them. He always encourages using quality ingredients and keeping things simple, and has just as much of a passion for food as the rest of us.
My Step-Dad and his family:
My step-dad has also been a huge part of my life since childhood. I loved to get me and my sister to try stuff in that was outside our comfort zone, such as smoked oysters and sardines. He got that from my Grandpa, Lou, who would provide me and my sister with non-standard American kid snacks (pickled herring and extra sharp white cheddar became a tradition at one point). He always encouraged my sister and I to learn and try new things, every day.
My grandma, Margaret, is originally from England, and gave me a love for many English treats, and made sure I knew a proper table setting and manners. I have many great memories of family coming together for meal, everyone sitting down together. To this day, she can make a dish, appetizer or dessert and the flavors are completely nostalgic. She always seems to get her food completely picture perfect.
Cooking With My Husband:
When my husband and I first got married, he was the first to admit his lack of knowledge in the kitchen. That didn’t stop him from working with me in the kitchen and asking questions. After watching countless cooking shows with me and working with me in the kitchen, he is now comfortable in the kitchen and has become a good cook himself. We love cooking together in our now bigger (but still small) kitchen. We take on projects together and learn together. He’s always the first one I want to taste a new recipe, because he has good taste and will be honest with me. He is always patient with my new ideas, or when I become obsessed with a new kitchen gadget. He loves new, and what some may consider weird, food. We have often been known to center weekends to Seattle around where we want to eat… along with other mini get-a-ways. My recipes are as much his as they are mine.
Cooking With Our Sons:
Our youngest has been watching me cook since he could sit in a high chair. He now has his own opinion about food, and likes to be involved in food making and decision making whenever he can. If my stand mixer or food processor get brought out, he brings his cooking stool around to help. I am sure his love and knowledge for food will eclipse mine, quickly. He stirs, mixes, measures, and tastes. We talk about what each item is, and what it is for. We give food out to our family, friends and neighbors as gifts. My husband and I have edible and produce bearing plants during the summer, and at least a quarter of it goes to his snacking pleasure (he’ll even the rosemary straight off the plant).
Our oldest hasn’t had much interest in the kitchen until recently, but has always preferred to see exactly what’s in his food. Whenever I’m preparing dinner, I point out to him all the different things that I’m using to cook with, and then point them out again once they are cooked. They things he likes to do in the kitchen are decorate baked goods, crush crackers and cookies, and help keep his brother entertain while I’m cooking.
I hope to continue to share my love for cooking with my family and friends, and to encourage other to find something that can drive them to learn more in the kitchen. Ultimately, cooking at home bring families together, allows people to connect on a personal level, share with each other, give ways to express oneself, and help manage what is or is not in our food. Food is such a part of our lives, it provides sustenance and comfort. It can bring forth memories from childhood or of travels, and then become a way to share that part of you with others.
Thank you to all of my family and friend for sharing your love for food with me, you have all contributed to my love for food. Thank you everyone, for allowing me to share my love for food with you.