Our idea for Brownble initially came from my desire to teach people how to cook vegan food, and the fact that we live far enough away from the city that starting with a small group of "in person" classes was a bit complicated. That's when Carlos came along with his high tech ideas and placed the first grain of sand into what Brownble is today, not only our new site and this blog, but also our online vegan cooking classes as part of our cooking membership program. What I realized the other day as I was frosting a cake was, that this has actually been a huge metaphor into what my journey into cooking has been like, and now I'm looking at Brownble in a whole new different light. Today I'm sharing a bit of that story with you. By the end of this post you'll know all about the strange way my mom influenced my cooking, what I used to do as a teen every single day after school, and in part 2 we'll be talking about my obsession with the French, how veganism completely changed my experience in the kitchen, and why cooking scrambled eggs under a tree made me into the vegan cook I am today.
I was born into a one-parent household, and my mother who raised me all by herself had a serious physical illness that for most of her life impeded her movements, especially with her hands, neck and legs. We went through years of her walking relatively well, to months of complete bed rest, to years of her being in a wheel chair, to what I saw most of my life, her collection of crutches and canes, the latter of which could just as well have belonged to an English count - they were famous! This is a long way of saying, it was through my mom that I partly found my love of cooking, but she rarely was able to stand next to a stove. We had some help in the house, a wonderful short, chubby and strong woman by the name of Esther who was practically part of the family, and who would follow all the step by step instructions my mom would give her. Here's the thing, my mom could make the best baked alaska, eggs benedict, and cheese soufflé, without ever actually holding the spatula. The only memories I actually have of her cooking something for me, were her world famous omelettes. She had that Julia Child flipping technique down!
Every week we would sit down together and plan our meals for the entire week. Meal planning had to include a protein, a starchy side, a raw vegetable dish and a cooked vegetable. Sauces and soups were also usually included, and so was dessert. This made me an expert on meal and menu planning since I did this every single week from the age of 14 until she passed when I was 21. We'll be discussing meal planning soon, and we're brainstorming something that might be coming for our members in the next few months regarding this as well, so stay tuned! This process of planning got me so interested in food and cooking that I quickly started to try cooking out for myself.
My mom also had a vast collection of cookbooks from around the world, she had endless rows of handwritten notebooks and boxes filled with notecards that would have made you think she was Martha Stewart's sister. She wrote down everything from traditional French sauce and protein pairings to diagrams of how our holiday dinner tables would be set. I guess I had big shoes to fill.
At age 15 I took the first steps into what I now clearly see was my long life journey into creating Brownble: I became a student of cooking shows. Every day, without fail, after I came home from school, I would sit down to watch cooking shows (don't worry I did normal teenage stuff too!). I didn't even watch them to be able to make the dish the next day, I studied the "whys". Why you warmed up a non stick pan with oil but a stainless steel one without any oil. When you added garlic and why you couldn't let it brown, why some baked goods worked better with baking powder and some with baking soda. I had countless recipe books and notebooks of my own, and it was video, that really made me the cook I am today. So as I sit down every week to test my recipes and plan our video shoots, film, edit and then post new videos for our members, I wonder if perhaps someone is watching and beginning their journey into cooking with me. It's funny how without noticing, things come full circle.
I can't believe I'm about to confess this, but even as a little kid (I loved performing and speaking in accents), when I made the only dish I knew how to prepare (brownies), I would stand on my stool in the kitchen and pretend I was the host of a cooking show, explaining why the chocolate needed to be melted in a double boiler and not directly on the pot. That must have been a funny sight for my mom to see!
We are such visual learners, that even in the lack of immediate practice, our brain, and even our hands start picking up on techniques and tricks way before we've even set foot in the kitchen. Of course no journey will ever be complete if you don't turn on those burners, but it is the understanding of why we do things in the kitchen that will make us great cooks and help us be recipe free as well as avid students of good recipes. That is my goal for all my members at Brownble, and all our readers too, that we become great cooks through the power of practice and learning through video.
If you're new to our site and are wondering about what our online membership program is about, click here to read more.
Part 2 is full of even more stories of my journey, and it's coming in the next few days so make sure you're signed up for our newsletter below so we can let you know when it's up on the blog. Now what about you, what was your journey into cooking like? What have your greatest challenges been? Share your stories with us in the comments below!