As cooks, we all have had or still have great influences in our lives- those persons who have influenced our perspective of food and of the kitchen. That person who taught us to chop vegetables while guarding our small fingers, to make a simple cake batter then let us lick the bowl, to understand the joy of planting seedlings in the spring and reaping the bounty of the earth in our own backyards. These persons, for me, are my parents. They’ve taught me much, but the example they set in the kitchen has influenced me in ways that are both subtle and profound.
My father has shown me the value of hardship in the kitchen, as he used to work as a chef in a Chinese restaurant. He’s also taught me the value of speed, efficiency, and style when it comes to cooking. There’s a dramatic flair to his movements in the kitchen, an attitude that puts Yan Can Cook to shame. My mom, on the other hand, is a self-proclaimed non-cook, but in a pinch, can magically whip out a delicious homecooked meal in mere minutes. She did cook for the two of us on many a night when as a kid my dad had to work late. Beyond cooking on the fly, she, most importantly, has instilled in me a love of hostessing, a joy of entertaining. She’s always the one to make the first toast, to write labels for dishes in numerous languages to accomodate the non-english speaking guests, to ensure that the bar never goes dry.
Being in their kitchen is more than just being at home for me; it’s a classroom of culture, the arts, and the technique of food making.
I was at home this past weekend for a camping trip, just me and my parents in the Shenandoah Valley. On the second day, we hiked 11 miles, drove home, where my parents proceded to cook an extravagant feast for us and a dinner guest. I took notes….