Both my parents were the first of their siblings to immigrate to Canada from Calcutta, India and so they brought with them both families after marrying in Toronto to start a new, hopeful life. We all lived in a small but very loud house (my dad is the eldest of five and my mom is the second eldest of six). All my memories of growing up include a busy, hot kitchen filled with chopping, dicing, wrapping, folding, frying, you name it and it was happening in my tiny childhood kitchen.
I learned very early on that a good cook never blames her tools. We had one wok, one butcher knife, one round cutting board (all lugged across the Atlantic) and a 3x3 working space but the output could fill up an army- crispy sweet and spicy ginger chicken, chilli shrimp with caramelized onions, stir-fried cumin beef, sweet soy fried noodles, braised whole fish in black bean sauce… brightly flavorful dishes unique to my Chinese-Indian background that make me salivate with nostalgia when I think about them; these were immensely delicious dishes not because of the efficient cooking techniques passed on from the home, generation to generation, but because each dish was poured over with an abundance of love.
When you cook from the heart, you don’t need a recipe, you let your history and passion guide you. As soon as I was walking, I was in the kitchen observing and helping out and that’s how I know what I know today in the kitchen and I have my kick-ass mom to thank for that. She always stressed the importance of knowing how to cook well – that it's a respected gift you share with the ones you care about, one that comforts and is always there creating memories.