I'm a disabled, 27-year old living with my folks in San Rafael, CA. I've known how to cook the basics, enough not to starve, but since I've been ill, I've started cooking more. Also, going vegetarian--and especially when I went vegan--forced me to learn how to cook more, outside my comfort zone. I love trying new things, even if they don't always work out.
When I cook for myself, I keep it vegan. However, since my family helps support me, I try to give back by helping around the house, especially cooking. So, for the family, I do cook with animal products--though not meat. I'll go as far as fish, occasionally, but if they want steak or something, they have to make that, themselves. ;)
My favorite things to cook
I like using the slow cooker, especially for soups. My absolute favorite thing is to make vegan recipes that taste so good, my meat-loving family doesn't even care!
My favorite family cooking traditions
My grandmother, before she died, taught me most of her favorite recipes. She grew up in Kansas, and most of her cooking falls in the "soul food" category. Also, she was a single mother, raising five kids in the 50s and 60s, so she had to learn how to make do with not very much--not to mention growing up during both the dustbowl and the depression, and WWII. I love taking the traditional recipes I learned from her and giving them a vegetarian twist.
My cooking triumphs
I spent a vegan Chinese meal of Hot and Sour Soup, Sweet and Sour Tofu, Chow Mien, and other yummy dishes. Took hours of prep, not to mention all the overnight marinating, but I did the whole thing from scratch with all fresh ingredients. It was the first time I ever worked with real ginger, or most of the herbs I used. And it turned out wonderful! Huge hit, and everyone in my family liked it. I knew how apprehensive they were, prepared to nibble and be polite, but the loved it and devoured everything. It totally made the hours of work and the ache in my arms worth it. :)
My cooking tragedies
When I was nine or so, my mom had to pick up a second job--in addition to night school--just to make ends meet. So it quickly became my job to do the cooking, cleaning, and baby-sitting my younger brothers. At that point, I really only knew how to make Macaroni and Cheese, so "cooking dinner" mostly consisted of popping a frozen meal in the oven for the family. I started trying new things, figuring I could always just read the directions. At the time, we did all our shopping at discount stores like Grocery Outlet; everything we bought was off-brand (and usually just before the sell-by date). So one night, I cooked a box of an off-brand Rice-A-Roni knockoof. I still remember exactly what it said: "For an interesting dining experience, substitute Apple Juice for water." I figured, why not? Well, it certainly was "interesting"! It also was absolutely horrible, completely inedible, and of course I'd used up two boxes and the week's supply of apple juice to make it! I was so disappointed!