My first experiences cooking were when I was about 11 or 12. In my Boy Scout troop, the scouts were responsible for planning and preparing the meals on campouts. Needless to say, when you have a bunch of guys under 15 years old cooking on charcoal fires, expect some crappy food. It wasn't until I was in college that I started to actually figure out how to cook really good food. Now, almost 20 years after those first charcoal-fueled disasters, my friends will practically fight to the death for my cooking. It has become so much more than a means of acquiring nutrients, food is my primary creative outlet now.
My favorite things to cook
Anything with robust, in-your-face flavors. My favorite cuisines are Mexican, Indian, and Thai. I'm an unrepentant chile head. It gives me an excuse to drink more beer...
My favorite family cooking traditions
I still haven't managed to quite achieve the same quality as Dad's smoked brisket or his gumbo. On the other hand, I'm okay with that, he has about 40 years more experience with it than I do. Dad usually cooked gumbo for the times when my cousins would come up on weekends. It was a way of clearing out the freezer and a cheap way to feed a bunch of people, especially if we had a bunch of ducks from 2 seasons ago that needed to be used. And usually on Independence Day or Labor Day, Dad smokes a beef brisket that I SWEAR has magical properties. No matter how much of it you eat, you always want more and it's always better than the last one. And Mom occasionally makes the best green bean casserole in the history of the world. You just have to sweet talk her a bit first.
My cooking triumphs
My fajitas can cure cancer, bring peace to the Middle East, and pay off the United States' national debt all in one swell foop, but nobody will listen to me about it. Seriously, though, I made some carne asada a few months back that was downright orgasmic.
My cooking tragedies
There was this one time, not long after I'd moved out of my parents' house, I attempted to make red beans and rice for the first time. As an aside, this is an object lesson for why men should NEVER read an instruction manual. I was cooking the beans in a slow cooker and saw that it said you could put the rice in with the beans (since they're served together anyway, why dirty 2 pots?) and cook them together. Either the manual neglected to mention or I didn't read that rice and beans cook at different rates and absorb water differently, so I put the rice in with the pinto beans and went to work expecting them to cook together and turn out fine. Wrong. The rice cooked to the consistency of Elmer's glue and the beans were hard and crunchy. Good flavor, HORRIBLE texture! And that is why beans and rice are cooked in SEPARATE pots!