The first dish I ever called my own

Late last week, my friend the Gluten-Free Girl tweeted this innocuous little question. What followed was a food storm of memories where folks talked about the first meals they ever made, the first dish that stands out in their mind, and the evolution of this first dish from childhood to adulthood. As the tweets came rolling in, the Gluten-Free Girl then asked us to write a post about this memory to share amongst others. Here I am – delving into my memory bank thinking about the dishes that I remember most.

Like many others, “blue box mac ‘n cheese” is definitely a front runner. I always remembered making this when I was younger. And it was so easy. The blue box, for better or worse, is the template for many on what mac ‘n cheese should taste like. This wasn’t my first food dish, but it was definitely one that was a big part of my culinary growth. Although when ‘cooking’ at 10 years old, culinary growth wasn’t my life objective; I mostly wanted to know when Transformers would be on. My first dish that I remember making was this – instant ramen.

Yup, the first dish I remember making on my own was ramen. But it wasn’t just boiling water and throwing the noodles into a pot. You see, I learned how to make my own version of ramen by watching my brother and dad. While my mom was a great cook, she worked a ton and we often made food on our own. So my dad was great with reheating and buying stuff from the local deli. But with instant ramen he’d add cut up vienna sausages (!). My brother would drop in an egg, because he loved egg flower soup and thought this would be similar.

So I took my cues from them and did my own doctoring. I would follow the lead of my dad and see what protein leftovers we might have; shredded chicken, Chinese sausage, steak, I may have added bacon bits once; all of these worked. And I definitely added an egg, it made the broth silkier and gave it more body. My variation also involved tossing in some vegetables. Bear in mind, this only meant adding some green onions. When all was said and done, I’d add a scoop of rice to my bowl and spoon over the broth and noodles. Yes, you read that right; I added even more starch to a starchy dish. What can I say; I love rice. Add it all up and I had a meal that I loved and could say was my own.

There you have it; my first food dish. As I thought about this post, it did create a lot of nostalgia and reminded me of why I loved food. Food is delicious, but when we make our own, it’s ours. This sense of accomplishment is what makes it so comforting and empowering. I was maybe 9 or 10 at the time, but I had the notion of wanting to eat good food. Yes, it was part store bought, but that was just a jumping off point to make something greater than the sum of its parts.

Lastly, thanks Shauna for creating this action amongst food lovers to share what we first remembered when we stepped into a kitchen and first began this magical thing we call cooking.

Photo from Honolulu Star Bulletin