How long can I possibly have been cooking? I will have to ask my Mom but I would guess I was standing next to her and helping out with this or that since I was three. I know I have a little scar from a blister burn I got making pot roast on the stove when I was maybe eight years old. Please don’t comment that I was too young. I was very precocious and I really loved cooking so my Mom let me help a lot. And thank God she did, because she fostered a love that is a huge part of the creativity, happiness and serenity I have in my life to this day.
Let me tell you the story about the picture here. Back in 1997 I worked for a public relations agency in NYC called CooperKatz & Company. We were a creative crew (they still are!) and my bosses wanted fun pictures of us for the website. They were visionaries! Yes, back when most companies didn’t even have a website Andy and Ralph were figuring out how to stand out with theirs. Needless to say I wanted to represent a hobby or passion of mine in my photo shoot. This cute shot is what we came up with. To this day it is one of my all time favorite photographs. It helps that I was 27! Fresh-faced and fancy free!
I remember cooking so many things with my Mom. From boxed mac and cheese to homemade macaroni and cheese, from shortbread to marzipan cookies, from meatballs to pork chops. Growing up the dishes were more traditional American fare. Meals were predominantly a protein (meat), vegetable and a starch. We didn’t have a lot of ethnic meals like I cook today. But my Mom was and still is an excellent cook. She has this thing down pat! She knows how to season and use herbs and can cook meat to the right level of “done”, no problem. As a matter of fact, my favorite meal of the year is Christmas dinner, where she cooks a prime rib to perfection. No small feat. I still am too intimidated to give it a shot. If you mess that one up it is an EXPENSIVE screw up!
When I went to college my love of cooking didn’t take a pause. My Mom and Dad still laugh because when I lived in the Gamma Phi Beta sorority house at Rutgers I was often asked what smelled so good as I was busy in the kitchen. Imagine my sisters’ surprise when I would answer “pheasant alfredo” or “venison burgers!” I grew up in a house with Mr. Field & Stream for a dad and free meat for my college fridge was way too good to pass up. Little did I know when I was cooking my nearly free dinners that I was teaching myself to cook meals that could be considered pretty advanced for college cuisine!
In the years between college and today I have branched out beyond the dishes of my early years into more ethnic endeavors. I tried Mexican (which my parents did not like, but they have come around in recent years), Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, and more advanced Italian than the 70s spaghetti and lasagna of my childhood. Homemade tiramisu anyone?
Today I have a gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance that affect what I cook. But the limitation actually has EXPANDED my repertoire. I am constantly trying to create new and exciting dishes that will keep my taste buds interested and my creativity engaged. I can only say that I am blessed to have grown up in the kitchen of a mother with a love of cooking who was generous in passing it on. Thanks Mom!