When I was a small child, I was a very picky eater. I didn't like spicy food and anything with strong flavors. My favorite food as child was either baked chicken or fried chicken--still is to this day. If I didn't like what we were having for dinner, my mother would always make something else for me. And I loved her for it! She wanted to make sure that I ate something. She worried that I'd rather sleep than eat. Truth is, I'd still rather sleep than eat!
Of course, there were times when my mother asked my older sisters to make me something if I didn't like dinner, like a sandwich if I didn't want to eat soup. That used to make my sisters mad, because it always meant more work for them and I was spoiled. It's true. But I didn't care about that. So long as I got what I wanted, I was happy to be picky. But that all came to an end when I was 10 years old.
My mother had made lamb curry. I didn't want lamb curry for dinner. I complained that I wanted a sandwich instead. My mother gave me a look. Uh-oh. It wasn't the look that signaled I was about to get a spanking. That look I was very familiar with. But this look was unsettling all the same. Maybe she was tired or maybe she realized that I was really a spoiled brat, but she told me that if I didn't like what we were having for dinner, then I could fix something else myself. I was shocked! Say what?
I didn't know how to reply. My mother asked me what I wanted to eat. I was relieved, thinking that she would make me my sandwich. Boy was I wrong! When I told her that I wanted a fried egg sandwich, she told me to get the ingredients and she would show me how to make a fried egg sandwich! I was like, What? But she was serious. So that night, I learned how to cook a fried egg--even flipped it over myself! I was proud of my accomplishment, which kind of took the edge off the shock that my mother was no longer indulging my whims. But I enjoyed eating that sandwich while everyone else had lamb curry. I didn't know it then, but my chores had just expanded. My mother had decided that it was high time I started to appreciate the efforts that went into making a meal and learn some life skills.
The next day, my mother had me help out in the kitchen making dinner. We were having fish stew. Blah. I wanted pancakes. So after making fish stew together-and I learned how to clean and gut fish that day--my mother had me get the ingredients for making pancakes and told me what to do. And by the time I was done making my stack of pancakes under my mother's watchful eye, the stew was ready. And for the rest of my time at home, I would help make dinner. My brothers would join in to from time to time, but I was the one who mostly enjoyed working in the kitchen.
As we got older, we took turns making a meal during the week. When I was 12, I was old enough to make dinner for the entire family. I made my fave--fried chicken! And it was good! When I was 13, I started experimenting with ingredients. I was fascinated by recipes, curious as to why we use some ingredients and not others. I looked forward to my turn to do the cooking. My family were the unwitting test subjects in my cooking creations. Their reactions told me all I needed to know.
I'm just glad no one got sick, although, my mother told me to stop experimenting on the whole dinner and just set aside the experimental portion for myself! Some of my experiments were successful--like soy sauce and honey glazed fried chicken, delicious! Those became a family fave. Others were failures--like cocoa flavored pancakes--awful! Just gawd awful! I learned that unsweetened cocoa powder is not the same as chocolate powder! It was bitter, salty and not sweet at all! The only thing worse than my cocoa pancakes were the soy sauce pancakes! Even the dogs refused to eat them!
Nowadays, I actually like all sorts of food, especially the spicy ones! I love trying out foreign dishes and local treats. Over the years, I still love to experiment with food. A lot of it comes from trying to save time or substituting ingredients because I don't have what's needed in the recipe. Once, I ran out of sugar and honey when I wanted oatmeal. That's when I discovered the delectable taste of hot oatmeal with chocolate candy bars; which led to raisins in hot oatmeal.
Pineapple marinated and glazed pork is just as tasty when it's pan grilled on the stove top as it is when it's grilled outside! Same thing with pineapple chicken, meaning I can make it whether it's hot outside or freezing--not that I've ever let the cold stop me from grilling outside. Once when I was visiting some friends for Christmas in Chicago, we had a bbq! That was so fun and the food was amazing in all that winter snow! Nothing like grilled chicken, ribs, and turkey tails for Christmas dinner! Egg salad--just eggs, mayo, salt & pepper--in a crepe is delicious! Grilled cheese with tuna, yum! Ramen noodles with ground beef served over Doritos chips, so scrumptious! Sweet cornbread with white beef gravy is fantastic. Coconut milk syrup over pancakes or hot rolls is divine! No milk or creamer for coffee? No problem. Vanilla ice cream in hot coffee makes for a sweet, delightful, flavorful creation.
Of course, there have also been some spectacular failures. This morning, I was hungry for pancakes, but I was out of flour and eggs. I looked in the cupboards and found a box of cornstarch. Well, I have used cornstarch to make pancakes when I didn't have any flour. Naturally, I had eggs then. But then again, I've made pancakes without eggs before, so I figured, eh, why not and proceeded to make cornstarch pancakes without eggs. I was sure it would be all right. But I was wrong! It was terrible! Just horrible! Gawd! I may as well have taken a spoon and eaten the cornstarch right out of the box! I had to brush my teeth to get that awful soapy, bitter powdery taste out of my mouth! That's one more thing that I would never, ever make again.
Thankfully, I had some ramen noodles, which I cooked and drained, seasoned and served with melted cheese--the breakfast of champions! Mmmmm. If there's one thing I've learned from years of kitchen experiments, it's that you learn from your mistakes and move on to create better things, lest you're doomed to repeat your failures and end up with a horrible taste in your mouth and hunger that won't go away. It's kind of like life. You live. You learn. And if you're lucky, you have more fun and good food along the way.
That offal taste