When so many of us were young, we would stand on a stool next to our mother or grandmother and cook with them. And those 20-30 minutes in which our childish attention was captured forged a bond, created shared experience, and showed us what was possible with hands that had repeated the motions hundreds of times. But the day comes when we try our own hand at cooking, and it is a turning point, a milestone, even. Preparing food is one of the oldest ways people have to give of themselves, but it also lends the cook something: freedom of choice, a level of responsibility, and the ability to express personal taste and style through more than words or dress.
The first time one steps into a kitchen is often marked by mishaps, like gizzard stones in your teeth (see Sarah’s story) but those are the stories we retell, again and again. Here at FOODISH, we feel so honored that our users have chosen us to keep their amazing tales, and we would like to share some of our favorites with you.
Sarah Alon grew up in a Jewish community in a Marathi speaking province in Southern India. At the age of six Sarah’s mother passed away, and she and her two brothers were largely raised by her sister-in-law, who was suddenly thrust into a position of responsibility cooking for the entire household. Sarah was seven and a half years old, and her sister-in-law was away visiting family, when Sarah decided to cook the chicken her father had bought herself. She dismembered the bird and cleaned out the insides, but she didn’t know that the gizzard also needed to come out as it contained the stones the chickens would eat to help digest their food, so she cooked it whole with the gizzard still inside. The only complaint was the extra crunch. To this day, whenever she prepares chicken curry, the memory makes her laugh.
Zharenaya kartoshka, which literally translates to ‘fried potato’ in Russian, was one of the first dishes Shmuel Prints learned to cook when he moved into the dorms during his medical studies. He grew up with a single mother, who managed to feed them healthy and delicious food, despite the shortage of raw materials in Russia and her role working long hours as the sole breadwinner of the house. Shmuel never cooked anything from scratch until he moved out of the house, and even then, largely relied on the student cafeteria food. But every so often, when he was feeling low or his studies were stressing him out (or he wanted to impress a new friend) he would make his mother’s fried potato recipe, which to this day reminds him most of his childhood.
Noga Burkett tells the story of her mother, who lived in Bat Yam with her family, and who decided at the age of 12 that she wanted to learn to cook. She found a copy of “From the Kitchen with Love” by Ruthi Sirkis, which was present in almost every Israeli kitchen at the time, and saw a recipe for a dairy lasagna which she made with great aplomb and was rewarded with the rave reviews of her family. From then on, her mother’s lasagna was famous. When Noga’s mother met her father, she invited him over for this same lasagna, and only noticed when she served it that the oven wasn’t working and it wasn’t baked at all. Clearly, that didn’t matter much.
What was the first time you tried to carve out your own independence, whether through a different opinion or decision than that of your family, or perhaps with a job that you assumed? What is the story you tell? Upload it to our food story archive, so it lives on.