I can’t even remember the first time I cooked or baked. It has just always seemed like a part of life, almost as natural as breathing. From baking cookies with my mom and younger siblings in the afternoon after school to making pancakes on weekend mornings to throwing dinner parties post-college in my first real apartment, I have just always turned to the warmth of the kitchen for inspiration and fulfillment.
One of my first eating memories is of the pink birthday cake my mother made for me when I was four years old. I’m not sure why she went along with it. Pink was my absolute favorite color as a child. The frosted cake sort of resembled one of those fluffy marshmallow things sold in pairs at gas station convenience stores. I thought it was bee-yoo-ti-ful and very special. I loved it!
There’s a certain fearlessness that I’ve always had, no matter how much of a mess I make, and, believe me, there have been a few. I can’t explain how great of a feeling, the amazing sense of accomplishment, it is to be able to make something I’ve eaten at a restaurant or to master some new skill at the stove. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I’ve always been exactly successful in the kitchen, but I have been willing to try.
My mother, to this day, will bring up how I burned chocolate when I was trying to melt it for some Girl Scout cooking project. The smell was pretty awful, as anyone who has ever done this can tell you. I don’t recommend doing it ever. The reason it had burned was that I had neglected to use a double-boiler and it burned right into the bottom of the sunshine yellow saucepan I was using. Mind you, this was 20-odd years ago, but I still get to hear about it occasionally as though it is another badge – “Kitchen Fiascos” – that I should have earned towards my First Class Scout patch.
Another culinary disaster of mine, which my family is also all too pleased to recall, was the time I over-seasoned a stir-fried rice dish I made when baby-sitting my siblings. To this day, my youngest sister reminds me of “The Ginger Incident” as she likes to call it. She blames me for her dislike of this flavor. “Don’t let her make ginger chicken for you!” is her rallying cry. I swear, if I’m not careful, I can see her lobbying to put that on my tombstone. Just to let her know, if she’s reading this: If you do do that, I will haunt you forever with the scent of ginger trailing behind me.