I’m about to turn 50.
Ok, I’ll be 50 in 5 months and the crazy thing is I find myself recounting really young memories. I will remember very precise moments of my youth and I realize something about myself. I’m over it.
All of it.
I simply don’t have patience anymore for the memories I have of my youth, they are gone and I want them to stay gone. I’m ok with it. I smile when I think of how I feel about my youth now. I used to have anxiety about it. I would cringe at all the mistakes and stupidity I said and did. The wonderful thing about all this is that I have one specific constant memory of my youth that seems to come back to me everyday now. There is a very identifiable moment that I recount and smile and savour and just allow myself to feel.
I used to live in a town, which is now a city, called Oakville. My parents bought a small semi-detached house, modest 3 bedroom with a basement. The basement was designated as the TV room and it stayed that way for years until my brother decided to go away for university and then I convinced my parents, somehow I was able to let them believe it was a good idea, no, a great idea that my bedroom should be in the basement and my old bedroom upstairs should be the TV room. They went for it, I guess I had some good ideas when I was young. The basement gave me solitude which I really enjoyed and I made it my sanctuary. My favourite music group, I was actually obsessed, was Duran Duran. I would read books that I knew no one else heard of at the time anyway. My favourite was the Shannara Chronicles by Terry Brooks. It became a TV series on MTV and they did a fair job on it but it didn’t do the books any justice and it really can’t compare to Lord of the Rings movies, but the books are phenomenal. My favourite TV show was Three’s Company. I so enjoyed the main character Jack Tripper. He was young and energetic, kind and all the girls thought he was cute. If you know anything about me and my past you know how this character would appeal to me, if not read my earlier entries and you will understand. The most important thing about Jack though is that he had one great passion. Cooking. When we first meet him, he is in Chef School and he is very excited to be there. Every season we see him growing to becoming a confident chef. In the later season’s he confesses that his ultimate dream is to own a small, humble restaurant and he would call it, Jack’s Bistro. I was in love. I loved his focus and drive and how he dreamed. I wanted to be him. I wanted to be called Jack and I wanted to have girls around me and of course I wanted to be a Chef. That was the very first feeling I had of having a dream and being passionate about something. I told my parents and they were happy for me. I remember my Dad saying,
“To be a Chef takes a lot of discipline and hard work.”
I thought he was encouraging me. But looking back now, I knew he was pointing out all the traits I was missing to becoming a chef. Nevertheless, I asked my parents if I could start making dinner for the family occasionally. I remember the very first dish I cooked. The cookbook called it Japanese Curry Chicken. But I don’t know why it was Japanese or Curry. I think it was written by a British food critic that didn’t have any idea what those words meant. From what I understand now of the Japanese and Indian cuisine, there wasn’t any aspect of it that was Japanese or Indian. It was a chicken breast, butterfly cut, stuffed with herbs and spices. You pan fry it to give the outside a light sear and then throw it in the oven to finish. I would make a side dish, which I hated to do because it was all about the main character of the plate for me and I would think up a dessert. I would usually take a large wine glass and fill it with Jell-O and set it in the fridge slanted so that it would give it a different look when it was set and then the other side, I would fill it with a pudding. Besides sarcastic comments from my siblings, which we did all the time, my family loved it, all of it. I look back now and I know humour at the cost of siblings was a coping mechanism from the bullshit we had to live with on a day to day basis. My mother is a very disciplined cook, she follows a recipe to each exact measurement. Nothing to chance, my mother actually has always been by the book, any book. It served her well. I loved her cooking even though I was a brat when it came time to eating. I would complain all the time about the dinner we were eating, even though I always ate it all. In the Portuguese culture if you don’t finish your meal it is considered a huge insult. My father on the other hand, he cooked by taste and smell. The only time he would cook was when my mother was coming home late or if she was away on a trip, probably to Portugal visiting family. I would ask my Dad,
“What are we having for dinner?”
He would answer,
“I don’t know.” And open the fridge to figure it out. The result was a rush, explosion, sensual blend of taste that I couldn’t comprehend or believe. How did he do it? I would watch him closely and couldn’t figure it out. It would be later in my life that I would have the “Aha” moment about cooking. It was in a movie which I cannot remember now and the character in the movie described it as making love to someone without looking at them or feeling them. Say I love you with food. There it was, I found the way to tell the world how much I loved it by cooking for everyone. My first real job that I took seriously, the very first one was at Longos as a buggy boy and it lasted for 2 weeks, was in a restaurant. I loved every minute of it.
My second job was at a restaurant. Somehow, I stopped loving the world and the people in it.
It would be in my 40’s that I would start to love the world and the people in it. About 5 years ago, someone told me I should cook a lot. Everyday cook something.
I’m trying, I really am.
The problem is that my Hema, we’ll be married in 3 weeks and 5 days, is an amazing cook. The very first meal she cooked for me; I really knew for a certainty I was going to be with her forever. She told me without a doubt how much she loved me with the dish she served me. No pressure right? You’ll have to ask her what was my first dish I cooked for her, I can’t recall at this very moment. I know she liked it.
It’s now when I’m turning 50 that I understand one absolute. I was meant to cook. Everyday Hema and I talk about cooking. My most viewed videos online are about cooking. I love watching competitive cooking shows. Not to criticize but to watch other people trying to make love to the world. It sucks to see some of them leave a bitter after taste.
Along the way I also found another dream that I love to do. I’m doing it at this very moment. So, I find myself completely in love with my life. Then my very beautiful and intelligent wife-to-be approached me one day with a brilliant idea.
“You know, I think you should write more. But you should write about cooking or the things you eat or have eaten.”
I stared at her. The only thought I had at that moment was. Why didn’t I think of that? But that’s when I also realized I’m marrying the perfect person for me. She is the only one who understands and realizes what my dreams are and what I truly love.
Damn, she’s right AGAIN!
So, I leave you with this.
Dream, and dream often. If it doesn’t work out at some point, you never know, it still might, when you’re ready.