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#12 Are you an intuitive cook or did you acquire cooking skills over time?
I’m sharing this story to let you know that even if you couldn’t fry an egg properly until you were an adult, it doesn’t mean that you’ll never be a good cook. You can. I have proof.
I have two daughters, Sam and Alex. Sam studied Photography in college; Alex chose Theater.
Today, they are professional cooks.
How did that happen?
Sam is the intuitive cook. When she was about three years old, she was already hanging out in the kitchen and mimicking my movements. If I was mixing something in a bowl, she’d have her own bowl and do the mixing motion even if the bowl were empty. She even had names for whatever she was “cooking”. By the time she was in grade school, she could pick up anything in the kitchen and come up with a beautiful dish.
Why Sam’s love for cooking overcame her passion for photography, I am not exactly sure. But after some paid gigs, an opportunity to work at a pizza joint owned by her college friend presented itself, and she jumped at it. She didn’t stay there long but long enough to gain her first experience the food industry. With the COVID lockdowns, she had to stay home anyway. That crepe cake above was something Sam baked on the third week of lockdown. When I asked for a recipe, she said there was none. She was just eyeballing and winging it. Damn, right? Jaw-dropping. I actually felt a little envious.
Even in grade school, Alex couldn’t manage to cook scrambled eggs. The bottom would be burnt but the top would be raw. Mostly, she just waited for someone to annouce that there was cooked food that she could eat. She never really showed any interest in cooking. She learned to tell good food from bad, but cooking? That was her sister’s domain.
So, she studied Theater. Worked in Theater. But I know exactly how the shift from Theater to food happened. Alex had been working for a few years when she realized she was doing more corporate events than legitimate theater productions, and she wasn’t happy.
But she liked earning money, so… One time, she was hired as Stage Manager in a play. It wasn’t a big production but it was a real play, so, she accepted.
Central to the play was a pot of chicken adobo. But no one in the production, crew and actors alike, knew how to cook adobo. And no one wanted makebelieve adobo on stage. It was a live play and the props had to be done right. The audience in the first rows should be able to smell adobo. Alex called me up, asked for instructions, and I guided her through the process of cooking chicken adobo.
It changed her life. She said as much to the director and the playwright. Not long after that, she took her savings, enrolled in culinary school (her father and I pitched in so she wouldn’t blow all her savings), and decided she wanted to cook and bake, and sell her products.
With COVID restrictions relaxed, Sam is working again. Not in the old pizza joint but in a newly-opened cafe in Manila. Yesterday, the place was reserved for a birthday party, Sam cooked the food for the party, and sent us some pics. I applauded, congratulated her and told her that she is now officially a chef. Not just a hobbyist cook but a cook in a brick-and-mortar food establishment. A chef. And because she occasionally substitutes as barista too, she’s developing an additional skill.
Alex had been selling her food products even before COVID hit. Bread and pastries, but mostly pastries. She was a supplier for a school canteen until schools were closed in 2020. She shifted to bread and savory dishes, and sold pan de sal and yakitori in the neighborhood. She never stopped experimenting (her pizza rolls above). But some two weeks ago, she baked something so perfect and I just knew that she finally found her corner of the sky. Not the pizza rolls, but something else. A flagship product. She sent out samples, and the orders came in. Just like that.
So, you see, even if, as an adult, you couldn’t tell the difference between braising and steaming, it doesn’t mean you will never ever be a good cook. Sometimes, all it takes is inspiration and a willingness to stray from the familiar.
What’s new in the blog?
20-minute shrimp curry rice bowl - With ground shallots, garlic, chilies, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste and coconut cream for the sauce, you'll want to drizzle that lovely sauce on your rice.
Mortar and pestle for the home kitchen - Stone or wood? Polished or unpolished? Smooth or coarse? We've gone through dozens of mortars and pestles, and here's what we learned.
Salt and pepper pork - Traditionally cooked with fatty pork ribs, cubed pork chops marinated and tenderized overnight are substituted for a meatier dish. Double frying the pork gives it the crispiest crust.
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