I started cooking by watching my mom and my grandmother. My mom was not a great cook, but my grandmother was a genius. She made the best Crisco pie crust I have ever eaten. Her #1 rule for making a good pie crust is: the less you handle the dough, the flakier the crust. My mom's food was meat and potatoes. I don't know where I developed my gourmet pretentions.
My favorite things to cook
From my recipe horde: Easy Tex-Mex Enchiladas; Jim's Apple-Grape & Pecan Chicken Salad; Lisa's Great Frijoles with Bacon, Chorizo, and Jalapeno; Cajun Fruit Cocktail Bread Pudding. I also like to switch around, move from country to country, so to speak: a bit of moussaka today; some chicen korma the next.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Family, of course, and the corn kitchens of Mexico; the bayou cooking of Louisiana cajun peoples; the rich variety of curries, from India to Indonesia; Mideastern vegetarian dishes like felafel with sesame and chickpea sauce, garlic and lemon juice. Pastas, pastas, pastas! Favorite is probably baked ziti with Italian sausage, mushrooms, tomato sauce, and Romano.
My cooking triumphs
I once made that old standby dessert from the 30's and 40's, baked Alaska, and I've mastered crepes suzette with Grand Marnier. I even made a fair to middlin Black Forest Cake.
My cooking tragedies
The time I put too many chilies in a curry and set the whole family on fire.