I baked my first cake when I was 7. It was a devil's food cake mix from Betty Crocker. I started to learn how to cook when I was 11. I made some kind of stir fried rice concoction. Back then, I thought it was a great accomplishment, but now I'm embarrassed to think about how awful it was. I learned so much about food and cooking after I moved out of my parents' home. I think that my skills really evolved around the time I got married. My husband is my willing test subject whenever I make something new. The kitchen is a place where I have always been comfortable. Time always seems to disappear quickly when I am cooking.
My favorite things to cook
I love international cuisine-- Middle Eastern, Japanese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Filipino are my favorites. Southern food and seafood make me happy too, since I grew up on the SC coast. I'm Filipino, so I've learned to cook my favorite dishes from when I was growing up. Since I am away from my family, cooking these things always makes me feel closer to home. I also love to bake cakes and cookies.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My dad always made a great Thanksgiving dinner. He learned how to cook when he first joined the Navy. Every year until my siblings and I left home, he made Thanksgiving dinner. He always made turkey with stuffing, ham with a pineapple-raisin glaze, and candied yams with marshmallows. He used to carve oranges into decorative shapes to garnish the turkey. As a kid, it was a delight for me to eat these carved oranges.
Christmas dinner was my mother's turn to cook. She would make arroz caldo, which is a chicken and rice soup. In Filipino culture, we usually eat this on Christmas Eve after attending Midnight Mass. The soup is flavored with ginger, black pepper, garlic, onions, then garnished with scallions. My mother would add green peas for extra texture and color. I remember eating a bowl of this comforting soup before going to bed.
My cooking triumphs
My triumph so far was mastering siopao, which is a Filipino steamed bun with a slightly sweet filling made of pork or chicken. It is very similar to Chinese steamed buns. It isn't difficult, but it does take patience and a LOT of free time. I knew I had it right when my family praised my efforts.
My cooking tragedies
When I was in the second grade, my friend and I tried to make a strawberry cake from a Betty Crocker mix. We couldn't wait for it to come out of the oven, and when we cut our first slices, we were puzzled. The cake had the consistency of Jello. Later that day, we found out that the cake turned out strangely because we'd forgotten to add one of the eggs. It was hidden on the counter behind a cup.