As long as I can remember I have loved to be in the kitchen. As a young girl, every chance I got I was watching and helping my dad in the kitchen. My mother was a school teacher and by the time she got home from work and we came from school, a delicious meal awaited us . My dad worked outside the home too but he made his own schedule, so he was able to have dinner prepared everyday.
I remember asking my dad who taught him how to cook . He said his mother. He was one of twelve children, so there was a lot of cooking in their home. My dad said when he was 12 years old, he broke his leg and back in those days they put a cast on your leg that came up to your chest. He couldn’t go to school, so he was his mother’s little helper. Well, I pretty much stayed in the kitchen watching my dad’s every move and asking lots of questions. It’s the unspoken messages of a good cook that you have to watch.
I remember that everyone of my siblings had a kitchen chore. Either washing dishes as my dad cooked, cleaning and cutting seasoning, cutting corn off the cob (back in those days we didn’t use can corn). There were many other projects but the 50-100 pound shrimp chores never seemed to end. My dad would go to the bayou and come home with fresh shrimp in bulk and we had to de head, peel and bag.
When I was about 11, I can remember being able to cook an elaborate meal and often times, cooked surprise dinners for the whole family. My maternal grandmother lived upstairs when I was a young girl and I would make my way to see her when I smelled aromas coming from her home. She was a good cook too and she would let me help her as well. She was also a good baker and showed me some basics but I didn’t seem to pick up on that like I did cooking.
Growing up as a child we LIVED to EAT. Everything we did was surrounded by food events. On my dad’s side of the family there were exceptional cooks too. Every Friday, our family would go downtown by my grandmother’s home and there was a feast, including an assortment of seafood dishes. My dad’s sister , aunt Thelma was a great cook. When I went over there, I remember being under her too asking her how to cook. She taught me how to make candy apples from scratch and I watched her over and over until I perfected that skill.
When it came to grocery shopping, I loved to go with my dad. I watched how he decided on purchases. I watched him compare prices. He wasn’t a coupon shopper, he knew his prices. When I grocery shop, I am the same way. My brain has memorized prices on things we buy regularly. We shop in bulk and pay cheaper prices. I had learned long ago from my dad how to shop and keep a pantry full.
There are so many wonderful holiday memories of cooking in my family that it’s hard to name them all. Our home was where all the elders came for holiday meals. As one of the young ones, we got to help prepare the meal as well as serve them. We did not eat until they were all served and comfortable. I think back to how I am as an adult. I love to serve guest and will not eat during most events. I get caught up in serving others and can’t sit down.
I can recall my mother telling me, “Sheryl you’re going to get cut with that knife, you’re so close to your dad while he is carving that turkey.”
Everything my dad did when cooking had a well thought out plan. What I admired so much about him is that he could be working on 10 different food projects at once. He watched the pots, knew when to check the food in the oven, knew what ingredients he needed and had everything systematically laid out when ready to cook. I remember that he had good strong cooking spoons , sharp knives and heavy cast iron skillets and Magnetite pots. I thought to myself that when I am on my own, I must too have all the good equipment needed to cook. I never remember my dad burning anything or throwing food away. He always made leftovers taste just as good and sometimes made a completely different meal out of it. I find myself doing the same thing without thinking.
My love for cooking as well as learning good food preparation habits has grown so deep over the years. I am constantly wanting to learn more ways to prepare various foods. I love to concoct my own recipes. (make up my own recipes). When the Food Network first aired I thought this was the coolest show. I watched it every chance I got. Not to learn how to cook, but to absorb more knowledge about facts related to cooking and presentation. I enjoyed learning about different foods that I was not familiar with and wanting to try them.
As a mother, when I had our 3 sons, I had them in the kitchen as young as 2 years old helping me do things on their level. My husband and I work together in the kitchen and he is also an excellent cook. When he cooks, I do his prep work and when I cook he does all my prep work. That is key to good cooking, to have your ingredients cleaned, chopped and ready to use. Our sons are all grown now but have demonstrated great skills in the kitchen. So, I know they were not just enjoying all those home cooked meals, they were paying attention.
Like most good cooks like my dad, his sisters , my husband and my grandmother’s , none of them cooked by recipe. I also do not cook by recipes but by sight and taste.
Once I decided to start my cooking website, it was very obvious that I needed to write my recipes. Foods that I have cooked over and over now needed to be documented. A plus on my side is that I have always taken pictures of food for as long as I can remember. My task now, is to write as many of my recipes as I can.
My love for cooking and feeding others has always gone far beyond eating all this good food. Of course, I enjoy when people compliment one of my dishes but to me it’s not about that. My mother who is no longer with us would tell us all the time, “It’s not about the food, it’s about bringing family and friends together to fellowship.” She said, “It’s the memories that we keep dear to us when we gather to share a meal.” That is how I feel as well and it is with this memory of my mother that I cook with love for my family and friends. I truly believe that when you cook and have a passion for it, it will be evident in the food on the plate.