Spice

26 01 2015

When I was growing up in the ‘Wood, my foray into the culinary world was about as extensive as moose steak and mashed potatoes. The most exotic meal I knew of was Jigg’s Dinner, coveted by my bestie-Newfie-transplant-friend Lisa, OR the much-drooled-over in advance of the oft-made Pepper Steak, otherwise known as The Only Thing I Ever Saw Melissa Cook. I can still hear her say “Mmmmm…. Pepper steak,” as we cooked it on Saturday afternoons. We ate mostly healthy food back when I was young, but in retrospect, it might have been a tad limited. I wouldn’t say bland as I did grow up with a lot of homemade yummy goods as well as hunted meat, but the foreign aspect, the worldly aspect, the spice aspect…… it was missing. This isn’t to say it was anyone’s fault. It was the late 70s and early 80s in a small coal mining town. It just was the way it was, good or bad.

We all used to laugh about some of the kids in our class whose parents had immigrated from India, in our 80s sadly-acceptable-racist-ways, making fun of their abundant use of curry. Hahaha, we’d laugh, wrinkling our noses at such a foreign scent, never ever knowing the wonder of that spice. There was one day I recall that I went to my friend’s house: we tried on saris, I wore glass bangles all up my arms, and ate the most amazing sweet rice I have ever tried and this strange fudgey stuff, that I think now might have been Halva. My gastronomic juices began flowing, I believe on that day…. The strangeness of the flavours and textures made me curious about food.

I was lucky enough to travel a bit and I came to realize the astonishing fact that the Eye-talian spaghetti and meatballs I grew up eating (yes, absolutely DELICIOUS but still) bore no resemblance to the pasta I ate in Italy. Then I tried risotto. I was all “this is the best thing I have ever tried ever” and promptly gained 20 pounds eating gelato and chocolate and bread and pasta and mortadella. The brie in France was a creamy passion I fell in love with instantly. I tried duck for the first time. Sadly, I DIDN’T EAT ANY GOUDA IN HOLLAND! I regretfully realize now that my youth didn’t have the brains to sample more… Why didn’t I go to Spain? Or Greece? Ugh….. the mere lack of food experiences make me wistful. And eager to travel more.

I have slowly learned how to embrace cooking and the one thing that has made this a much easier path is my new gas stove, giving up fear of the unknown and just going for it. And wow, the fun I’ve had!

I enjoy cooking, I put on my iPod, pour my wine and COOK. It’s like a weird meditation for me, searing and sauteeing, chopping and peeling, dancing and adding flavour.  Salt and pepper liberally tossed around and onions softening in a melted butter orgasm.

I secretly love Anthony Bourdain. Yeah, he’s my pretend boyfriend.

The Food Channel is my weakness. I’m learning ever so slowly and my foray into the world of food, hopefully, won’t end any time soon.

So here’s to cooking, to dabbling in the unknown, to trying new things and treasuring the old.

 

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One response

24 02 2015
Melissa

Pepper steak was my specialty way back then. LOL It was a gateway drug for me and cooking. I have had duck long before my family did. It was an extreme pleasure to orderer Peeking Duck in Beijing for us all, knowing their love of darker, richer meats. As I suspected they loved it. We had so many amazing tastes and flavours for our Asian adventures. One of my favourite places to go now is t & t market in Calgary. It’s like stepping back into china. I find all kinds of strange and intersting treasures there. Tea’s, spices, vegetables… I love it all. We also are fortunate here in Drum that the bus depot is also a store owned by an indian family. I get all kinds of great spices in there, and we also have a little phillipino store in town. I love the variety. If you ever come across lotus root, you gotta try it. Peel it, slice it and add it to a stir fry. Texture of a water chestnut with a very subtle Jasmine flavor. Great stuff.

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