Friday, July 2, 2010
I love the idea of folks sharing their stories of when cooking clicked for them. I can't wait to read what everyone has to say. For me this happened when I was just out of college, living on my own on a small island in Northwestern Washington. I had never before thought about food, where it really came from and the amazing flavors of fresh grown vegetables. I was a single 22 year old living in a community of mostly retirees and young families, outside of my work there was little social life for me up there. I eventually came to befriend a wonderful woman who had an amazing kitchen garden, and ability to make meals from this and that she had harvested that day. These fresh herbs and veggies were often paired with fish caught by her fisherman husband who was often out at sea. Up to that point in my life I had never enjoyed seafood that wasn't heavily breaded or slathered in tarter sauce, nor had it ever occurred to me that herbs and spices did not originate in little jars in the grocery isle. The first time she had me over, I was sent to pick some broccoli from her garden while she poached a bit of halibut. We worked side by side in her farmhouse kitchen preparing a fresh and simple but delicious meal for ourselves. After that I went straight back to my little beach studio and planted myself some basil and cilantro out on my front deck. I spent the summer snipping bits to add to my meals and ate in total satisfaction that I had actually grown some part of my food. In my year of living on that little island I was introduced to farm stands, co-op markets and the delicious tastes of fresh picked fruits and vegetables. My friend often gifted me with freshly canned tuna or berries she had picked (I was a starving VISTA Volunteer, free food was always welcomed), along with advice how how to prepare them to most enjoy their flavors. I will always remember this friend, and the way she unknowingly started me on the path of growing food for myself and my family, learning to appreciate and cook with what is fresh and in season, enjoying of all sorts of grains, soaking beans, baking my own bread and preserving the amazing flavors of summer fruit. These are the things that make cooking most enjoyable for me, along with the joy of trying new things in the kitchen and especially doing it in good company.