I am a 31 year old recently divorced "Maine-iac" living in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
My favorite things to cook
I was introduced to the kitchen by my mother, who used to allow me to "assist" when I was only three years old. I remember it as our exclusive time together, especially after my sister was born and time in the kitchen seemed to be the only time Mum didn't have a baby in the crook of her arm. We made bread. And cooked puddings and biscuits with molasses and cut-out cookies and all-day spaghetti sauce. Things my mother's mother taught her to make.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My mother was a nurse and when I was about 8 she started working 2nd shift. This left my father to prepare dinner for his two daughters and son. He had assured my mother that this would not be a problem, though the only thing he could manage was some sort of grilled cheese sandwich he whipped up using a toaster. I can still picture him slicing hunks of longhorn with a buck knife and smashing it between two pieces of bread before forcing it into the toaster slot. To this day those grilled cheese sandwiches have never met an equal. But, man cannot live on grilled cheese sandwich alone, so, as the oldest, it was sink or swim time in the kitchen.
My cooking triumphs
For years, the only thing my sister would eat was macaroni noodles sprinkled liberally with parmesan cheese. (The whole house smelled like dirty feet and armpits for hours each time she made herself dinner.) The only thing my brother wanted was tuna noodle casserole. As I had taken over the cooking mantle, I thought that perhaps I could combine my sibling's culinary cravings into one, awesome meal. It took the better part of two days, but I, as a novice 9 year old chef, had invented "Extra Extra Parmesan Tuna Noodle Casserole Without So Much Feet In It." My sister loved it! My brother danced a dance of joy! Even Dad agreed it was better than toaster grilled cheese sandwiches! We clinked forks over the entree in victory, confident that we would neither have to starve nor marinade in the lingering odor of armpits and rotten feet as long as Mum worked 2nd shift.
My cooking tragedies
Alas, as an adult with much more cooking experience, I now realize and accept that this too would be the "Extra Extra Parmesan Tuna Noodle Casserole Without So Much Feet In It." My mother passed away in March 2006 just a month after her 53rd birthday. We all miss her so much, and there have been times when I'm cooking that I'll imagine her standing just behind my shoulder laughing at the flour I'm throwing around or reminding me to check the bottoms of the cookies. Now that I'm divorced, I don't cook very often, and after Mum died, I lost my greatest cooking resource. I suppose that would be my greatest "cooking tragedy". That I've lost some of my drive and desire to actually do it. But, I know that it'll come back to me someday. Though by that time my skills might have regressed to "toaster grilled cheese sandwiches" level.