I will eat anything put in front of me, at least once. It started when I can’t remember. I didn’t know food mattered, because to me it just was. I didn’t know soup came from a can, I knew the hours of smelling it simmering on the stove and waiting for it to be perfect. I knew the rhythm of chopping vegetables by the time I was three, and my nanny was tentatively teaching me to use a butcher knife at 6. I knew that if you grew it in the backyard, it just tasted better, tasted more real. Growing up, life centered around the kitchen. If it was watching my grandma bake, watching my grandpa garden, watching my mom and dad cook, having tea and pie after school, being disowned (yes, really) because I didn’t want to finish soup at my bubbies or learning how to make a proper minestra at my nanny’s. Food mattered – eating out happened – a lot – but I knew that at home, we ate as well or better. My mom helped found one of the best chef schools in Canada, so I knew what the best of the best were doing, even if I didn’t know they were the best of the best.
We ate well, the steadiness of the kitchen often being the only constant in an early life I often felt was spinning out of control. Food is never food – it’s a way of getting something, anything, from those around you. It’s who we are, have been, and always will be. My dad saw growing up in northern Ontario, saw parents who survived the depression, and fought to see food as anything other then something to live off, he saw his father’s love of having a garden, and his mother’s love of making the perfect dessert. My mom saw a childhood that many people not only did not live through, but those who did lost a part of themselves. She saw her parents lose their families, friends and souls to a tragedy that made moving across the world seem like the best possible option. She saw moving from Germany, saw food as a part of life, and the joy of being able to cook as a way of showing love, sharing history and heritage.
I like the beauty of cooking, how tomatoes and basil and thyme simmering on a stove looks as good as it smells. I love cookbooks, I love dishes that remind me of memories. I grew up in the kitchen. I remember being at mom’s events, and sitting in the huge industrial kitchens, out of the way, in the corner just watching. I remember watching everyone I knew in kitchens own the kitchens, they were just a part of them. Cooking is what my family does, it’s what we’ve always done and what I will always do. I learned to cook because I watched, I never asked, I was never told I just watched. I was comfortable there, to this day it’s a good gage of how stressed I am by how much I’ve been cooking. There was a time where everyone thought I’d become a chef, but I don’t want to have to cook, I just want to love it. So I’ll eat what you put in front of me, I’ll cook when I just want to be happy, and I’ll continue to love food.