My journey to become a foodie started when I was 12, in the summer between grades 7 and 8, I went to sleep-away camp for the first time. Before I left home for two weeks, I assigned my parents homework. I’d dug up some paperback cookbooks from the ’80s that my mom had stashed in some forgotten corner of the kitchen and dogeared recipes for them to try while I was away.
You might think this is both a bizarre and obnoxious thing for a child to do, and it is. The thing is, I was suffering from a severe case of meal monotony. Our household cycled through the same five recipes every week:
- baked salmon with rice
- pork chops with applesauce
- Dad’s famous spaghetti bolognese
- steak and potatoes
- KD with a side of boiled hot dogs
The remaining two days of the week were spent eating out or having leftovers (there are worse fates, I know). I thought my fortnight sojourn at an all-girls camp in Algonquin park, that cruelly mandated a wardrobe of green shorts, green socks and yellow t-shirts, was the perfect opportunity for my parents to expand their culinary horizons. I highlighted two recipes for them to try: chicken fajitas and beef enchiladas.
I came home to discover that our bearded collie Jude had beheaded one of our roosters and that my parents had only attempted one of the two recipes I’d assigned.
It was an all-around disappointment.
Jude could be forgiven his homocidal tendencies, he didn’t know his own strength and the roosters were always taunting him with their pomp and cock a doodle doo. My parents on the other hand, inexcusable.
I suppose they were preoccupied running their own business and making a name for themselves, but in my adolescent ardor, I was completely lacking in compassion. In an effort to put a stop to my moping, they did indulge me in making the fajitas again.
I was smitten. I still have that recipe memorized and will sometimes make it when I’m feeling nostalgic, or just hungry.
On the enchiladas front, I was forced to take matters into my own hands. I made them myself. It might have been the quality of the beef or maybe just my novice technique as a 12-year-old, but they were a letdown.
The fajitas though, they were the catalyst that set me on my foodie path. I looked my parents square in the eye and proclaimed, “When I grow up, I’ll never make the same recipe twice in a month.” I can’t remember their reaction but I imagine that statement was met with an eye-roll and, “You do that.”
At any rate, once I got to university and after I moved out of residence, I bought my first cookbook. It was aptly named: The Really Useful Ultimate Student Cookbook by Silvana Franco. My first forays into home cooking proved that I wasn’t exactly the wunderkind culinarian I’d hoped to be. I can’t remember much of what I made from that first cookbook and I think there’s a reason for that.
In my third year of university, I won a copy of the Eat, Shrink and Be Merry cookbook by Janet and Greta Podleski. By this point, I’d stumbled my way through enough salads/soups/pastas from my first cookbook to actually prepare some palatable dishes. I quickly fell in love with Eat, Shrink and Be Merry and have made nearly every recipe from its pages.
Now, long done with undergraduate and graduate degrees, I’m a proud home cook. My favourite source of recipes are fellow food blogs and Food & Drink magazine, a.k.a. the Food Porn Bible, published six times a year by the LCBO.
And, as it turns out, I’ve been true to my tweenage proclamation: I never make the same recipe twice in a month.
I hope you’ll join me as I continue to discover new recipes, restaurants and cocktails on Taste & Tipple!