I started cooking after I had access to my own kitchen. Until then, I had been indulged, first by a doting mother who cooked all meals, including delicious after-school tea-time snacks, and later by a mother-in-law whose formidable cooking prowess left me a reluctant cook, but eager diner at the table. The husband was happy, mother-in-law was happy, and I’d have been foolish to complain. Through all those years, I was drawn to the bustle of markets and variety of fresh produce. I observed how vegetable and fruit were chosen carefully – by tapping and smelling them, feeling texture and gauging weight. And how the women brought them home, then sorted, cleaned and stored them away in linen or plastic bags, wicker baskets or in the refrigerator. Most importantly, I watched my mother, Grace and later, my mother-in-law Mama Kay in the kitchen. Their hands always seemed to know what to do, there seemed to a silent, invisible instruction that shepherded them through the ritual of cooking our meals. Something I now find quite meditative. If they saw me lurking around, I was invariably called on to peel garlic or chop a vegetable, something I initially tried to avoid, but later grew quite fond of. And then there was laughter, good healthy laughter. And so, as the years passed, while nothing extraordinarily unique was taking place, I was unknowingly the lucky recipient of a great deal of knowledge – of simple but down-to-earth ways of cooking a heartfelt, healthy and tasty meal, and for that I feel especially blessed.
There’s no way better to learn a recipe, than to be at the elbow of the cook. The best food I’ve savoured has been in the homes of friends and family, not at restaurants. Naturally, trying to get a clear recipe from these wonderful cooks with detailed instructions is almost futile. “My effort at giving you a proper recipe is very clumsy darling. My measurements are all by sight. So many years of cooking and tasting leave me no patience for measuring and weighing. Every thing is rough and ready. So learn as you go along!” quips Mama Kay when I ask her to write down a recipe from her past. I confess there is some ‘roughness and readiness” to my recipes as well – but you must know that I’ve tried to be as detailed with the ingredient list as possible and have explained the recipe instructions to the best of my ability. To be honest, no recipe of mine tastes the same the second time around. Ask my Well-Tempered Husband. So feel free to adapt the recipe to your liking – your taste buds and olfactory nerves will pass the final verdict, and when that happens, you’ve made the recipe truly yours.
Some of you might remember a recipe site ‘TableTalk’ that I created and maintained between 1997 – 2004. It was in the early days of the web and an early precursor to food blogs as we know today. However in eight years to follow, this site became defunct as my energies focused on getting back to my first love, music. I had been teaching music since 1985 but with moves across two countries it had been difficult to establish a working studio. In Boston, my teaching career took shape once more, I started writing and composing, and subsequently released two jazz quintet releases. Today, the connection between cooking food and creating music are intertwined in a special way for me. Hope you enjoy some morsels of my culinary experiences here – feel free to nibble through the site and drop me a hello on the way!
This project is dedicated to the two dearest women in my life – Grace and Mama Kay