Let’s talk about a man. Just an ordinary man.
This man, the one with whom I spent countless hours watching cooking shows and kung-fu movies – my father.
Funny enough, he didn’t actually teach me much about cooking. I absorbed via osmosis.
He was a professional cook for as long as I can remember and professional couch-potato, cooking-show-watcher for even longer. He cooked constantly. He made apple pies, ramen, steak, pasta – literally anything and everything edible. He conquered them all.
With a deft flick of his burn-scar-ridden wrist, he makes the most magical of omelettes. He picks up searing hot pieces of meat straight from the skillet with his bare, calloused hands. He peels and de-veins shrimp with Olympic-like speed.
If there was ever a question about my culinary aspirations, one would just have to look at my father, taste his food, marvel as he worked in concentration and silence. That’s him. That is who I want to be.
My father is of the humble breed. Fresh off the boat, back in ’97 when we first moved to the U.S. He biked to work in the harsh Jersey winters. He’s worked in hotel restaurants, country clubs, nursing homes, his own restaurant (briefly) and is a bona fide work horse to the bone.
He is also the same man who hovers over me when I cook at home. He let’s me have it when I’ve over-peppered the asparagus. He isn’t afraid to yell and I’ve learned to yell back. Kitchen staff never lose that fire, even with their family members.
He is the same man who made an entire buffet of food for my 18th birthday. That picture doesn’t even show the sushi he made, the two desserts, and the fruit plate. It certainly doesn’t display my father’s worn but accomplished face after waking up and hauling ass at 4am to cook for this party that started at 3pm.
To this day – home is when my father takes out packets of ramen, works some voodoo magic over it, and makes enough for the family. Complete with eggs, ham and sometimes the occasional fish cake. My father is world-class and can make anything but his ramen…incomparable and nostalgic.