Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The reason I cook

I was going to put a vegetable chow mein recipe with this post, but as I started writing, it hit me like a thunder bolt that this post is the reason for my passion of cooking. Serendipity! Now for the post: Well where to start with Chinese cooking? All I can say is that I love it and you will find it hard to find a Chinese recipe or meal that I don't like. I always remember my first taste of Chinese food, which was from our local Chinese chip shop. It was a roast pork chow mein. I was only young, but it left such an impression that I can still taste it now. After that every time we went for Chinese I choose that. Even now if I order a chow mein, I always go for the roast pork.

Over the years I have branched out a bit from just trying that particular dish and for me the dishes have just kept on getting better. The funny thing about Chinese food and the effect it had on me is that I think it's actually the reason I enjoy cooking so much. When I was 16, I brought my mum a Chinese cook book for Christmas. I found it so fascinating that I decided to cook my mum a Chinese feast. It was a five course meal from a book called "The Taste Of China" by Frederic Lebain and Jean Paul Paireault. You can still get it second hand on Amazon for 1 pence. Looking back on it, I'm not quite sure what I was thinking of. I was going to attempt to buy, prepare and cook a 5 course meal from a book that was quite in depth, when the closest I had come to cooking was being shown how to peel carrots by my granddad.

I have just literally stopped to tell my girlfriend about it and I'm laughing as to how ridiculous the idea was. Nevertheless, I went ahead with it. The first thing I had to do was pick the menu. I can't actually remember what I choose, except for the exotic fruit salad and spring rolls. So menu done: time to buy the food. Being only 16 with a limited knowledge of food, I really did underestimate the task ahead of me as I under budgeted for this meal and in the end I think I spent £60 on the food. I did struggle to get all the ingredients as this was 1996 and specialist foods weren't readily available as they are today. I have to say that I can't remember where I got the money for this, I think that maybe my mum contributed to it.

So with all my ingredients and the kitchen ready, I was feeling confident. I was really looking forward to cooking this meal as this was all new to me. I started the feast in the late afternoon. First of all, I had no clue about non stick pans and woks and used a fork. Yes, work ruined before I had even got started, but being young and clueless I carried on. For all the dishes I gave my all and in return so did my mum: She ate everything I put in front of her and said how nice it tasted. They meals actually did taste nice, even though they didn't look anything like the pictures in the book. I finished cooking around 9 o'clock and I think that I must have used every utensil, pot and pan in the kitchen. It looked like a bomb had hit it, but I didn't care. I had completed a 5 course meal and was feeling quite good about myself. Even spending the next 2 hours cleaning the kitchen didn't bother me.

Looking back at the evening. I'm sure that that experience is the reason I ended up as a line cook at TGI Fridays, which is another rant I definitely have to go on as I have some great stories from my time there, but back to the point that the evening is definitely the reason I love all aspects of cooking. Thank you Chinese food!

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