For some reason, the post below about jews and chinese food got me thinking about my mom and dad, and which of them were more influential on my eventual love of cooking and more so, obsession with the collection and reading of recipes which I might or might not ever get around to making.
On the surface, it would seem that my mom was the one that brought me to my love of food and cooking. From a young age, very young in fact, she encouraged me and my siblings to be in the kitchen with her. We were allowed to cook on the gas stove, probably far to early by todays parental standards.
She was a good cook, not great, but better than average and somewhere along the line she found a way to divert from her background of most likely just jewish style of cooking into a lot of very good Italian dishes. She actually made the best meatballs and my now very Sicilian MIL and extended family through marriage all say my meatballs are some of the best they've ever tasted. Thanks mommy!
So, I developed quite a good background in basic recipes, which got stored in my head that never needed to be looked at on paper, all the basics of home cooking. I was making roast chickens by the time I was 10 for certain. And those meatballs too.
However, my mom had a conflicted relationship with food. She wasn't overwhelmed or excited by it at all. It was just something you had to do in life as part of surviving. She had a saying, "you kids live to eat, instead of eating to live". Hey, what's wrong with that? I think she was always battling body image problems, as many women were and are.
My father, on the other hand, I think was the true gourmet. He relentlessly collected recipes from the New York Times magazine section, and faithfully stored them in my mom's never used, but somehow mysteriously yellowed, copy of the Joy of Cooking. And, he would eat foods which my mom in a million years wouldn't touch.
Since Sunday nights were my mom's sworn day off from cooking, it became a night of either eating out Chinese (hence the reason the earlier thread made me think of this), taking in pizza or; my dad cooking for us and me then hoping he'd decide to pull out one of those saved recipes and try something unfamiliar.
This didn't go over very big with the whole family I have to say. My mom I think tolerated it only because she just really didn't care what she ate.
My younger siblings, well, I can't remember for the life of me what they thought, but I do remember leftovers. But for me, this was truly delightful and something to be looked forward to. One of the things I vividly remember him preparing was a fish with browned butter, capers and lemons. Very simple, these days I could do this with my eyes closed but in our middle class jewish household, this was kind of an ecclectic and unusual dish and even fancy by my mom's standards.
My dad really did enjoy cooking, more so than my mom in retrospect and I only wish I'd realized this at the time. It could have been something which would have brought us closer together, not that our relationshp was a poor one, but by the time I really understood that he really had a passion for food, alas, he and my mom had both passed on.
But in the end it was him that certainly paved the way for my love of food in all respects and who I have to blame for the mountains of cooking magazines full of recipes I will most certainly never get around to making, although I do love reading them all!
So, out of curiousity, who was it in your family that influenced you the most? Obviously doesn't have to be a mom or dad, any relative is the same for this question.