Have you heard the expression that you were born to do something? Twenty years ago I thought it was egotistical to say that. Now I am older, I am not so convinced. Here I sit dreaming about cooking, thinking about what I would like to discover this week.
Job after job, always coming back to the kitchen.
Like I was born to do this.
I remember that we lived in this old converted green farmhouse that had a central heating. I remember that there was huge, scary grate in the middle of the living room that hurt your feet to walk over it. Like any toddler, I wasn’t so keen on getting burned, so I always circled it if I had to cross the room. (Perhaps to pester my sleeping mother for a snack.)
My mother cooked over this faded green stove. (You know the kind that looked like a hospital wall.) I would stare at the flicking blue flames with a keen fascination. All she had to do was turn a knob, then the magic could begin. I wanted to be able to do that.
I bided my time, and once Mom left the kitchen, it was nothing to shuffle my high chair to the edge of the stove. It was the perfect height, allowing me easy access to the knob. I’d turn it on, puzzled about came next.
I’m sure you understand that after five minutes of adoration, a five-year-old will find something new to do. I was no exception; my mother would discover the front (or the back) burner on full blaze while I was up to some other mischief.
It’s no surprise that my mother used my fear of burns to try to teach me not to mess with the gas stove. Like most mothers at the time, she turned on the flames, and then brought her hands close to the flames. OUCH! She shouted, then quickly removed her hands from the flames, pretending to lick them.
My problem? I’m too smart for my own good. I knew she was full of shit. I kept doing it, to my mother’s dismay.
I eventually outgrew my habit of turning on the stove. Television was way cooler.
Mornings included me waking up at insane times – like any 5-year old. My bedtime was 6 PM (My parents liked to party because they were young. My mother had me at sixteen.) Of course, I was up before dawn.
Dad worked the late or graveyard shift driving taxicabs, and Mom worked as a waitress at a bar. Mornings were sleep time for them.
What I loved about Steven Yan was his style, the flash that he cooked with. He had a funny accent, and presented cooking in a way that made it out to be easy.
“Never use plastic chopstick!”
To this day, my weakness is Asian cuisine and I credit that to Steven Yan.
We moved a lot when I was younger. I went to thirteen different elementary schools, so I cycled through many friends. My best friend growing up was my sister. Together we managed to put more gray hairs on my mother’s head than most children do.
We explored the storm sewers below Calgary for hours on end. We taught each other how to smoke cigarettes. We fought. We would create some amazing stuff in the kitchen.
We had this sandwich making contest. Whoever made the grossest sandwich would win… with one limit… if your opponent couldn’t eat the sandwich, you had to.
The combinations we used to dream up don’t sound so different from what you would find in a fancy restaurant. Jam with pepper and Cheez Wiz. Mashed potatoes and licorice. Much like you would find in an episode of Chopped.
Tune in next time where I’ll tell you about my teen years and how they formed my palate.