My love of food and cooking wasn’t something I was born with. My family was in the restaurant business from the time I was two years old so, I guess you could say I grew into it. I didn’t really take an interest in cooking or creating until I was much older.
I moved out on my own at 18. Until then, I hadn’t done much in the kitchen other than help out at the restaurant once in a while or when my parents would force me to chip in while they prepared dinner. Moving out with my first boyfriend made me realize I needed to learn some basics and cooking wasn’t something I was born with despite my family background.
I remember the first meal I attempted to prepare on my own: cannelloni and oh boy was it an event. I had the cook book out, all the burners on, sweat dripping down my forehead and all I’m thinking to myself ‘how on earth did I think I could pull this off?’
The dish turned out. It was very tasty for my first attempt and made me want to keep trying to improve my skills and widen my range of cuisines.
Up until this point I was a very basic eater. I didn’t venture much from my culinary favorites and would get the exact same thing at the restaurants I would go to. If you know me now, that is so hard to believe. It wasn’t until I went traveling around southeast Asia that I really started to broaden my palate. The markets and streets were full of baskets containing these amazing new fruits and veggies I’d never even heard. The amazing street food was a new experience for me entirely!
The first morning I woke up in Bangkok I went out to get breakfast. I was more than a little confused as to where to even start. There was no traditional breakfast resembling what I was used to. I found a little food cart on the side of the road and one of the dishes had a fried egg on top, so I thought, hey that’s close enough! It turned out to be this delicious meal of fried rice packed with flavours I’d never experienced before. From that point on my pallet was awoken.
I ate my way from country to country experiencing the most amazing cuisine that I will never forget. Most were cooked on the side of the road on street carts. My food norm was changing day by day and I widened my foodie comfort zone by trying things I never would have before. I lived off of spring rolls and shakes some days while other days I’d be having all you can eat Pho and satay on the side of a beautiful river in Laos.
I was lucky enough to take a cooking class while in Chiang Mai. There I learned to make Pad Thai and curries from scratch. I used spices blends and ingredients that I were unknown to me. Let me tell you, making that curry paste from scratch can be a workout!
While in Cambodia my tour guide extended an invitation to his family’s home for dinner. That was an experience I couldn’t pass up. We arrived at his house with a warm welcome from his wife and two daughters. I played with the girls while his wife was preparing. He went down the street to pick up the rest of the meal. He comes back and walks up the driveway with a duck in his hands and says, “dinners arrived!” I was a taken aback at first seeing this cute little duck that soon would be dinner. We, in the western world are for the most part, sheltered from this side of food supply with our ready-made packaged products. I thought hey, when in Rome right?
His wife began to prepare our meal in a big pot outside beside where we’d be enjoying this traditional meal. We started with sauteed eggplant, which was to die for. Then came the duck. It was one of the simplest yet most flavourful dishes. She cooked it with only three ingredients: oyster sauce, garlic and salt. That really taught me sometimes less is more when it comes to spice blends and flavor.
Traveling the world and tasting what it has to offer is such an important gift. I was so fortunate to be able to have the experiences that I did on this trip and I will be forever grateful for it as it changed the way I see and taste food today.
While today is a different climate for travel and we may not be able to fly to new place exploring tastes and flavors, I am so fortunate to live in Vancouver. Here, we have such an array of ethnic cuisines in our local community that even during a pandemic, I have been able to eat internationally, locally. Supporting local restaurants, catering companies and food businesses with my appetite for spicy flavors has been my pleasure. They continue to inspire my own passion for cooking, creating all for the love of food!