Someone on a message board posed this question: How did you learn to cook?
This was my response.
Growing up with my grandparents in a small city in Andean Peru, I would accompany my grandmother every morning to the local market where she would select the food she would make that day.
I can still hear the sound of the vendor ladies calling us to look at their wares as I held tightly to my grandmother with one hand and to the canasta full of produce in the other.
Back home, I would take a seat in her kitchen, and as she would regale me with stories of the past, of family trials, triumphs, and tribulations, I would watch her chop and dice and stir and mix.
Every so often she would call me closer and slip a delicacy into my mouth. "Shh!" she would say, "don't let your grandfather see, otherwise he'll want this morsel for himself." This is where I learned that making food is synonymous with love.
Once I returned to live in the US, although my mother is a great cook in her own right, the pace of life was much more hectic, and the only days I could hang around the kitchen were on weekends, when Mom would open a bottle of wine, turn on some classic Hollywood movie on the TV, and scour her cookbooks to prepare us elaborate meals.
I didn't realize all that childhood observation had paid off, that I had learned to cook almost by osmosis, until I was in my 30s and set up the first proper household of my own (as opposed to the bachelor crash pads I lived in during my 20s).
Before I knew it, I too was spending all weekends creating elaborate meals.
And word got out: just like in my childhood home in Peru, where people just drop by before mealtime, in my California home, friends learned that Saturday afternoon was a good time to drop by my home, announced or unannounced, to get a piping-hot meal much better than at any local restaurant.
My philosophy: if there's enough for two, then there's enough for three or four.
Although I don't cook like that any more, I know that I can if I want to. And I will always be grateful for those intangible lessons the kitchen has taught me.
How did you learn to cook?