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 sec­tion of the web­site and decid­ed that I would write a book instead as well as 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 dif­fer­ent 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 you 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 start­ed to degrade, 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 about 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 being 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 40’s, 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 amounts of 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, 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; how­ev­er, 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: Decem­ber 7, 2022

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