My mother was born in Tokyo during WWII. So culinary-wise, there's two things she really doesn't do. One is use the oven. Japanese traditionally don't use ovens, so other than some cookies and cakes, lasagna, a stuffed chicken breasts recipe, the meatloaf my dad forced her to prepare, and holiday birds, we may as well just stored things in the oven. She learned most of her American cooking from the maid, so my Asian mom can make some MEAN collard greens. The second thing she didn't do was grill. In ravaged wartime and post-war Japan, her family had to cook over an open fire outside, so even though in enviable Florida climate we had two grills overlooking the pool and a view of Tampa Bay, she wanted nothing to do with cooking outside. And most of the fish we ate wasn't cooked at all. So my cooking style resembles her experience...
My favorite things to cook
Exotic foods. I like a lot of fusion stuff and different and opposing tastes mixed together. Like sweet and savory or spicy and sweet. I like the Chinese tradition of the five different tastes and using a component of the dish representing each one. I like Indonesian and South Asian (Indian) cuisine. After all, that's why Colombus accidentally discovered the New World-- not for gold, but for East Indies spices, because European food was so bland and tasteless...
My favorite family cooking traditions
Sine my mother is Japanese and I have lived 20% of my life outside the US, I never grew up with customary American comfort food outside of what I would eat at restaurants or friends' homes. For example, I never tried Kraft Mac n Cheese til I was in uni, and may I say that it is NASTY. I reckon it's like Vegemite; you have to grow up with it. This leads to squabbles with my white bread BF because I have no traditions of eating my meat and veggies separately--I grew up with everything cooked together with a delicious mingling of flavors. For months I kept bristling at his noisome queries about "What kind of 'sides' were for dinner?" I didn't understand the importance he placed on these 'sides.' In fact, I only acquiesced to living with him if he stopped asking about "sides." I grew up eating red meat about once a week and potatoes, not in the form of the chip or the ubiquitious fast-food fry (which I don't really care for), only once a month.
My cooking triumphs
I now have my pigmentless, Irish-descended, hunter, ideologically carnivore BF eating all kinds of ethnic foods, including vegetarian dinners once a week. He swore he hated Indian food because ONE time he dined at an Indian restaurant and didn't like it. He now gets excited about Indian curries. He used to eat ginormous grilled steaks twice a week, in between the days he ate mondo pork chops, always accompanied by steamed broccoli. He mocked my tradition of soy sauce marinades for meat. Now he wants stir fries and steaks marinated in soy sauce.
My cooking tragedies
I forgot to add sugar to my sweet potato pie that I took to my friends' parents' nouse for Thanksgiving. It was terrible, but her brother who HATES sweet potato pie, liked it.