My passion for cooking began when I stuck my hand in an oven and acquired first degree burns on my hand. I guess I wasn’t the brightest kid out there, I had just wanted to get my pizza rolls out of the oven. I can still remember my ten year old self crying and sniffling on my bed, as my grandmother tried to soothe me. At the time, both my parents worked so I was usually left in the care of my grandmother. I never really took an interest cooking, I was more interested in the food and eating part. But after that scary afternoon, my grandma would haul me into the kitchen to keep an on me as she cooked.
When the boredom began to seep in, my grandma would give me small menial task to keep me busy. I started off doing dishes and sweeping up. I think now, she probably liked having a little maid cleaning up for her. But then, I started cracking eggs and boiling pasta and soon I moved on to baking little cakes, julienning vegetables and helping out with a roast. At first I didn’t like spending so much time in the kitchen, I thought it was punishment. I didn’t want to work, I wanted play outside. But my grandma loved cooking. She was a housewife all her life. She was homemaker, and to her the kitchen was home. It gave her the resources she needed to care and provide for her family. She loved trying new recipes, watching people’s reactions as they ate her food and just feeding people in general. She loved watching Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay and Martha Stewart. The grocery store was her second home. She would light up anytime anyone complimented her food and after a while, so did I. Her love for cooking was what started my journey in learning to cook.
My passion for cooking didn’t happen overnight. For awhile, I had disliked it because I had to give up some of my time that would normally be spent riding bikes and watching cartoons. But soon after, I had just started to like spending time with my grandma. She would let me do little task and let me have a taste of whatever she was making. It wasn’t until one afternoon when I was alone in kitchen, that I realized that I actually liked cooking. I was trying bake a cake, when my dad walked in. I was haphazardly mixing a large bowl of whatever I had randomly dumped into the bowl. My dad asked me why was trying to cook. I still remember how I enthusiastically responded “Because it’s fun!” I then proceeded to shove the contents of the bowl into baking pan.
It was later that afternoon that my grandma actually starting teaching me instead of just giving me menial tasks. She started me off slow. She would show me tools and explain what each one was used for. She would ask me what the difference was between a slow cooker and pressure cooker or why one should always lift a hot lid away from your face. Of course I wasn’t allowed to use any these machines until much later. After I understood how to use everything safely in our kitchen, I moved onto the pantry. She picked up a small bottle with a bright orange – red powder in it. She poured a tiny amount of powder in my hand, and told me to taste it. It had a lot of heat, too much for a ten year old. I made a face as the powder left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth and told her it was gross. She grinned and told me it was cayenne pepper. After that day, I spent quite a bit of time in the pantry. I would read the different bottles of spices and seasoning, sometimes taste them and my grandma would suggest different recipes that used a certain spice. Then I moved onto to different fruits and vegetables. From the basics like apples and corn to exotic fruits and vegetables like Lychee and Calabash. I learned the different ways they could be used and how they can be cooked for different recipes. It was during this year, that my grandma began to pass down her knowledge and I gained the building blocks that would lead to my future literacy in the art of cooking.
After a year of learning about tools, ingredients and completing simple task like breaking eggs and mixing ingredients together, my grandma handed me a knife. It was a small paring knife, specifically made for cutting fruits and vegetables. The task was simple, I had to cut up apples for a pie. I can still remember how my nerves shot up. I was comfortable just learning about ingredients but to actually be given an important task was strange. I was afraid I would mess up. My hands were shaky and my movements were slow, but under my grandma’s watchful eye I finished cutting the apples. It was after that day my skills began to grow. As my skills and knowledge grew so did my confidence. I began to take pride in what I could do and accomplish in the kitchen and I carried that same confidence into other parts of my life. Cooking became another method of communicating. I would make Sunday morning breakfast to show my parents my appreciation and what I had learned. I also baked my little sister’s birthday cake that year, I made it extra chocolatey for her. I was always a shy child, but I did start becoming a little more outgoing in school. I started middle school with many new friends. I would bake cookies or cupcakes for the school bake sale and I would light up when someone would come back to buy more of my goodies. The change was small and gradual but if it wasn’t for the skills I gained in the kitchen then I probably would still be really shy.
It wasn’t until I turned thirteen that I really started to hone and refine my skills. At that point my grandma had been teaching and instructing me for two years. By this time I had gained a somewhat satisfactory palette, my knife skill were superb, and my knowledge for different cooking techniques and different cuisines, along with passion for cooking had grown dramatically. I loved putting ingredients together and seeing how they turned out. I liked hearing the sizzle of a pan or the timer of the oven. The kitchen had become a second home. It was a comforting place, it’s where my knowledge and confidence in my abilities and myself began. Cooking started off as way to spend time with my grandmother, but her passion and love for cooking was extended to me, I gained another method of communicating to my family and friends and my skills and knowledge have only continuously helped me for the better.