I’m the type of person who gets all kinds of excited to visit Williams Sonoma or Sur la Table to peruse the aisles and buy, yet again, a wooden spoon or plastic spatula. I’m like this now, but…
I grew up in a traditional Hmong family and my mother made it her duty to ensure that my sister and I had all the skills a good daughter (and future bride) would want: cooking, cleaning, sewing, politeness, etc. It’s just the way my culture was when I grew up. It’s the story of every daughter who comes from immigrant parents – struggling to figure out how to honor your traditions while embracing an American lifestyle.
Needless to say, my sister and I loathed it – especially me.
I really didn’t like cooking as a kid because I didn’t realize how wide and vast cooking and recipes were. Now that I’m an adult, I really appreciate the cooking basics my mom taught me because it was that much easer to turn cooking from a chore into a hobby.
This thought hadn’t really occurred to me until I started traveling and seeing people cook all over the world. The most striking pattern I saw overseas that I didn’t see here in the U.S. was teaching children basic skills in the kitchen and learning some basic recipes. I took for granted the cooking skills my parents taught me because I saw it was more of a ‘duty’ than something fun and creative.
My cooking journey has positively evolved because of some things I changed. Below, I share with you some tips in case you find yourself in a rut about learning how to cook!
Traveling in my late teens and early twenties changed my life. In terms of food, traveling gave me a new appetite for food that I never knew existed in me. When you travel and live overseas you have no choice but to eat what the locals ate. I embraced that with all my heart and found it fascinating how much food plays in each countries identity. From how it’s prepared, the tools, the techniques, and more I enjoyed learning and being a student again.
Tasting fantastic food from around the world was great – until I had to go home. It inspired me to learn how to cook certain international foods that I missed eating. Sure, it wasn’t exactly the same, but the thought, process and final result always brought back nice warm memories of my travels and friends that I made along the way.
Now, whenever I find myself missing a certain country or memory, I can recreate a recipe and it just brings me right back. Maybe you’ve never been to another country – don’t let that stop your curiosity. Look up authentic recipes online and test them out anyway. It’s all in good fun!
It can feel like you’re in a pressure cooker when you decide to try a new recipe for a big gathering. Which is why I never put myself in that position. I really enjoy testing out new recipes on low-key weekends and tweaking it before I bring it to a big gathering or event. This allows me to take my time on the weekend reading recipes, watching YouTube for ideas and then figuring out how I want to make it. Doing it this way allows me to test and time the recipe to ensure that it gets done in time.
Humans can be judgmental and ignorant. When it comes to food, some folks are just set in their ways and allow their biases to prevent them from exploring and creating new things. Who cares? You do you! If you love French food and want to learn how to bake a loaf – do it! Maybe spicy Indonesian food gets you spiritually, or eating a simple carbonara reminds you of a town you visited in Italy. Maybe you just want a taste of Jamaica or Costa Rica? Whatever genre or style of food attracts you, just go with it and relish in the joy of cooking… anything and everything.
When you allow yourself to simply learn without expectations beautiful things can happen. I once had a roommate in Sydney who was studying abroad from Beijing. She taught me how to make dumplings from scratch one evening when she was homesick. I’ve made dumplings before, but never tried a real recipe from someone from China making everything from scratch, even the wrapping. I was stunned at how simple it was. I also enjoyed the stories she told about how all the women in her family would get together once a year to sit, chat, joke-around and make hundreds of dumplings that they would share with each other.
We both really enjoy cooking and eating all kinds of foods. He grew up eating meat and potatoes, while I grew up eating rice and stews. We both now love everything from Italian, Vietnamese, Southern, Indian, Hmong, French and so so so much more. Together, we’ve developed an entirely mixed up, beautiful, complicated, delicious palette of food and I love it.
I hope you have the courage to try a new recipe today and let me know which foods you love below!