Finding kitchen inspiration is easy for me. These days, it is…
But what has inspired YOU over the years? What was the first dish you made that got you thinking… “Wow, I can cook stuff.” ?
I’ll tell you what initially inspired me…
First though: Food, nutrition, cooking — they were NOT always passions. I was taunted by my entire family growing up. They made fun of me incessantly. Who would burn toast every time? ME. I was certainly not the epitome of health or food knowledge, either.
It started for me around the time I became a vegetarian, all those years ago. Options were so limited — ESPECIALLY in the early to mid-90’s. I ate a LOT of peanut butter on toast. Yuck. It was going to either be that I learn to cook SOMETHING…or I starve…or I continue to eat like shit. My family was entirely at a loss on how to feed me.
I will never ever forget a trip I made to Toronto, as a teenager, where I ate falafel for the first time. It changed my life. “What IS this delightful thing? I can eat THIS? Wow.” I have sustained a lot of calories and nutrients from falafels over the years. haha.
Interestingly enough… my cat started me down the nutrition road. I was 18 and vegetarian and I loved this cat to pieces. I began to research how to care for him and discovered this world of food. Here I was eating peanut butter and toast every single day, but chopping up fine pieces of raw meat for him. I also had a blend of nutritious things I made into a powder to top his kibble, when I did feed him kibble.
Damn, was he a healthy cat.
The first person to get me inspired in the human kitchen was my boyfriend at that time. He fancied himself a bit of a chef (though I think he’d had mostly dishwashing jobs). He did inspire me to get more creative than peanut butter on toast. We’d make big pots of spaghetti sauce together, filled with every vegetable and herb ever, and loads of chickpeas. And we talked about writing a cookbook for people with food security issues, to teach them how to cook fabulous things without spending much. I remember for my birthday that year he made me steamed artichoke hearts with a garlic butter dipping sauce, and served it by candlelight. To this day, I STILL haven’t even made steamed artichokes. He got me excited about food, that’s for sure.
What REALLY got me cooking creatively, though, were three things:
1) Cookbooks: I learned practically EVERYTHING about food from reading and studying cookbooks. I read them like novels. Devoured. At least, what I could get my hands on that were vegetarian. (I was vegetarian, still, at that time.) But the couple of cookbooks I used most, I still own today. The same copies. Over 20 years later. Travelled/moved all over Canada.
2) My first Salt Spring Island roommate, Erin: The first thing we made together was homemade samosas. I STILL MAKE THAT recipe today. She was so lovely and fun and really gave me the confidence I needed. (She’s a midwife in New Zealand now.)
3) BIGGEST INSPIRATION YET: My Salt Spring Island friend, Jenny Osburn. Jenny was a tad younger than me (we were all so young). And she lived with 3 (or was it 4) dudes. And cooked for everybody. I would go over there and pretend I WAS a part of their misfit family. And she would teach me to make sushi, and cabbage rolls, and other crazy stuff. Thanks Jenny. (She went on to own a successful, awesome restaurant in Nova Scotia, which she just sold a year ago.) Her food is scrumptious and beautiful.
Jenny and I have remained great pals over the years, and still continue to inspire each other in our kitchens (though mostly virtual). Jenny JUST came out with her second cookbook this year. IT’S SOOOOO GOOOOOOD. She has tapped into Maritime cuisine and everything she creates is delicious. I’ve decided, just for fun, to promote it to you all because I love her and I love her food and… well that’s it. That’s the reason.
That’s all for today.
Who inspires YOU in the kitchen? I’d love to know. Please share with me in the comments below.