Teaspoons and Habaneros

Anyone who knows me understands that I have a passion for food… consuming it, sampling it, understanding the history and techniques behind it and ultimately attempting to recreate it myself.

This section was originally a place to present my perspective on my journey in the culinary arts.

I hope to show some of my endeavours in recreating fine homemade dishes.

With the pandemic, I re-evaluated this website section and decided to write a book instead and a dedicated food blog.

For now, this is a quick preview of the contents.

I have linked my Instagram profile for you to view the many dishes that will ultimately find their way into the book and the blog.

Teaspoons & Habaneros — a preview

My Grandma was a huge part of my life.

I consider her the reason why I got interested in cooking in the first place, as she was an immigrant to Canada and came from a generation where you made everything from scratch and left nothing on the plate when you were done.

you left nothing on the plate

When she passed away, I got most of her kitchen supplies, and two of the items I hold most dear are her wooden rolling pin and her manual hand-crank meat grinder.

The rolling pin has long since degraded, and it’s now an heirloom on display in my kitchen.  The meat grinder is rusty and no longer safe to use; it, too, is on display in my kitchen.

Every time I would go over to Grandma’s place to cut her grass or shovel her sidewalk or help with some form of chores, she would always make me “a snack”… in reality, it was more of a multi coarse meal as she was always telling me that “I was too skinny” (such a trait of an eastern European grandma !).

I remember that around the age of 15, I was cutting her grass one day and told her that I was not interested in eating; I was going to cut her grass and run (such a teenage thing to do, isn’t it?).

By the time I was done cutting the grass, she had made me hand-squeezed orange juice and 4 or 5 dishes from scratch. When I told her that I was not interested in eating and had to go, she got angry with me.

Wham! The hand of Grandma came down on me (I’m sure many of you have similar childhood stories).

Never upset your grandmother

I asked her why she was so angry, and she told me about going through WW2 as a young adult (she never spoke of the war, so I sat and listened).

She was 19 when WW2 started and was displaced from her homeland of Lithuania, ultimately relocated through various countries as the war progressed until she eventually came to Canada in 1946.

She described a two-year stretch where she ate raw onions and drank water wherever she could find it; occasionally, eating a raw potato was a treat.

She spoke a bit of the horror of war and how few and far between hot meals were (even just hot broth)… even at the age of 15, this moved me, and as I write this now, in my late 40s, I am still reflective, horrified and grateful she told me.

What a world of difference compared to our instant ordering on our smartphones with Skip the Dishes or Doordash these days. I digress.

After sitting and listening to her for about an hour:

Ok, I understand Grandma, I’ll eat and never be ungrateful again.  Will you teach me how to cook ?

… and that was that.

I watched her intently every time she cooked a meal for me and listened to stories over those meals until her passing years later.

I have been cooking from scratch nearly every day, every meal, for the past 30+ years.

Thanks, Grandma.

The journey and my philosophy

Nothing worth doing is easy, and nothing done without passion is boring.

I am constantly stunned by people who say “I can’t cook” or outright refuse to… and I am saddened to see so many of the younger generation order take-out daily.

So many of these dishes contain excessive fats and preservatives and are hugely expensive over time. I’m not here to debate why people won’t cook or to judge anyone; I strongly believe that my diet, the variety of food, and the quality of the dishes are vastly better since I learned from my Grandma… and I wish more people would learn the basics of cooking and to spend a bit of time on the adventure and the journey.

The mechanics of the recipe are only a tiny part of the process, and with the bazillion of recipes online, one should be able to find nearly any cultural recipe as a starting point.

Quality ingredients, a dash of this, a little dash of that, a little understanding of your cooking devices, and certainly technique and style add to success; don’t forget passion and atmosphere and start somewhere and learn from the experience.

Many of my friends and colleagues continue asking me for my recipes, which has driven me to write a book to accompany my food photography. As for them telling me that my recipes are complex and fancy, nothing is further from the truth.

A wide variety, yes, complex, no, stay tuned.


Originally Posted: June 13, 2020
Updated: June 13, 2020

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