It's always been like that in our household. Growing up with large extended families in our culture, food always comes from every direction in large amounts. Every family get-together included pots of stew, frybread, tortillas, meat, potatoes, fruits and sweets. Yes, it was like a guaranteed buffet.
When my husband and I first moved into an apartment together I knew that I would have to cook for us. Just us. I remember the first trip solo to the grocery store. It's funny that I can remember how focused and determined I was entering the aisles, talking to myself with a mission to eat like an adult. On my own, I could get away with eating bits and pieces of food. Half a burrito, one tamale or crackers with cheese could pass as a meal. If I didn't watch myself, I would end up preparing appetizers as meals just like Cher in the movie "Mermaids".
So I asked myself, "How does an adult eat?" Basically that would be meat, side, veggies and sometimes dessert. From there I chose food within our budget that I could cook for my husband and me for dinner. Yes, dinner time was the first obstacle. Breakfast could still be cereal and lunch was pretty much open to anything.
There were some nights that I got confused with the sides & veggies and we ended up doubling up on veggies..haha! Confusing to look at on the plate but we laughed and ate up. As long as we had food on our plates it was success. There were no seasonings, no broths, no sauce because I didn't know any better. We had very bland food..haha! So the food looked good but I thought "hmm, this just doesn't taste like what I thought it would". That told me that I had to start including seasonings into my brain and budget.
One night I cooked chicken, cauliflower and white rice. We looked at our white food on white plates and literally inspected it confused..haha! Then I realized that I had to take the appearance of food into consideration. Okay, visual, another piece in the puzzle of cooking. Soon after, my husband suggested he take me out to dinner but I knew he really needed a yummy meal. Poor guy.
Growing up, I never really took the time to pay attention to all the cooks in our family. So I was not armed with a starter set of recipes passed down to me. But there was a library of images and flavors stored in my mind and on my taste buds. Throughout my childhood my mother and Grandmother made wonderful meals any time of day. Aromas would fill the house and hogan. Their meals would satisfy all my senses. So as I became an adult, I had to dig out all of those childhood meals from memory.
The other meals in my childhood were packaged food. In the cabinets were boxed & canned food with cooking instructions....but that certainly did not guarantee that the food was going to turn out picture perfect. So when my sister and I were left alone, we would eat our mess..haha! One of our first attempts was macaroni and cheese. We boiled the pasta so long that it turned to cheese mush.
So as I held my first two babies, my boys, I knew they would grow up to be hungry little men. I wanted to warm their bellies and tickle their taste buds with every bite. As I held them on one hip and they sat on the table, I would practice cooking at every meal. I wanted to cook better with each serving.
Then as I held my two daughters, I knew that I would have to learn more about cooking because I would have to teach them. They would cook for their brothers and their Dad...plus a hundred other relatives..haha!
Turns out, my children taught me to competely change my way of cooking. With my youngest daughter I had gestational diabetes during my pregnancy. It was my only pregnancy that I was on a strict diet. I had to completely gut my kitchen cabinets, fridge and freezer of the wrong food. I had to rethink my shopping habits.
Just when I thought that I was comfortable cooking anything and everything in the kitchen for my husband, I had to pull the rug from under the dinner table. If me and the baby growing inside of me could not eat certain things, then I would not tempt us by cooking it or keeping it in our home. So my husband and all of our children had to go along with us for the ride as well.
Today, we all cook. My boys crave grilled food. They fire up the grill outside, rain or snow, day or night. They challege themselves making food from scratch. They love fresh food. One of them researched Starbucks recipes online, found an espresso machine on clearance and now spoils me with homemade caramel frappuccino.
My girls mix dough for homemade bread. They bake cupcakes and research homemade icing recipes. They sell them for fundraising or bake batches for family events. They get excited about what they can make on their own in the kitchen. When we travel out of town and enjoy a meal at a restaurant they feel confident enough to try it out at home.
With all the slicing, dicing, chopping, mixing, blending, baking comes messy dishes, countertops and stove in our kitchen. So I'm still trying to train my cooks to upkeep the kitchen..haha!