Raj’s Food/Cooking Influences

Raj’s Food/Cooking Influences2018-06-05T15:41:23+00:00

I want to give credit and thanks to the big influences on my foodiness and how I got to this place in my relationship with food.

Family & Growing Up
But first I want to tell you a story.  When I was a child, I didn’t eat.  I mean, I ate, but not much.  I just wasn’t hungry, and I didn’t eat much.  Mom would touch my stomach saying, “I can feel room in there still”.  I knew it was a lie.  Or suspected at the very least.  “I see what you’re trying to pull here…,” but how can you say that to your mom?

From the start I did not like milk, and still don’t like the taste, but I drank a lot all my life.  I had to hide the flavor with chocolate syrup.  But not too much, not like the ratio in premixed chocolate milk Jamie Oliver talks about being served in schools.  I’ve never really had much of a sweet tooth, and being Paleo has made me even more sensitive to overly sweet foods.  I asked my mom for details on eating as a kid and she told me that I “really liked eggs, fish sticks, baby corn and McDonald’s food, mac and cheese”.  But don’t worry, the closest McDonald’s was an hour away, so it didn’t happen very often.

And then I hit puberty.  And suddenly I couldn’t get enough food.  Home-cooked meals with my family, at friends’ places, fast food, stealing fries from friends’ lunches in the cafeteria at school.  My friends started to know me as the garburator.  Mom says that there was really no time when I ate a “normal” amount.  It’s like my eyes (or taste-buds) were seeing the light for the first time.  There were times when Mom would pack Dad’s lunch left-overs for the next day before I got to serve up my dinner!  Come on!  I’m just making up for all the food I didn’t eat when I was younger!  Gotta fill these hollow legs.

My mom always cooked great healthy food, with as many vegetables grown from our garden as possible.  And she’d get my sister and me to help sometimes, rolling roti dough, peeling garlic while Mom read to us (good times, eh Sis?), helping Grandma make butter tarts when she visited (that was one sweet that I couldn’t get enough of!).  So I think we’ve always had a certain level of comfort in the kitchen.

My dad was great with the BBQ.  Well, I think he was over cautious with making sure our meat was cooked through, because I do remember burnt outsides.  Still tasted amazing, I think he just wanted to be sure his kids were safe, because since we’ve grown up his BBQing is the best.  I like to think the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree.  Anyway, we’d play basketball in the driveway while he was BBQing.  I can smell it now!

We used to visit my dad’s family for a few weeks each summer and between Aji (grandmother) and my aunts, I ate a lot of amazing Indian cuisine.  Dad told us he liked to be around when Aji was cooking roti.  He liked getting the hot ones off the tawa and eating them with butter.  She used to serve him rice with butter, too.  A story Aji told Mom about Dad was that “if the family was invited to someone's house, Dad would always ask if there was going to be food served.  If not, he didn't want to go”.  Mom learned from them early in the relationship how to make great curry as well- we ate it 2-3 times a week.  Friday was always curried chicken.  You should see her butcher a chicken, man!

 

University, Roommates, Friends, Ex’s
When I graduated from high school and moved off to university I had to cook for myself.  Cooking with roommates and friends can be a lot of fun, and man is it ever educational!  I had a Chinese buddy who could cook anything it seemed.  We made some amazing meals together including the biggest Valentine’s Day steak dinner you’ve ever seen (all the girls were out together that night.  I think the steaks were each close to 5 lbs, not to mention the sides), the best pizza I have ever had and ever will have (I’m not even in to pizza anymore because they will never compare), and post-bar 3am BBQ’d chicken in the snow.

This is a classic story I tell all the time:  I was at my buddy’s place (his was the apartment that everyone hung out at), just the two of us.  “Raj, you have to see this recipe book I just got!”  It was the first recipe book that I remember having really great mouth-watering photos.  Page after page of amazing photos.  Every page turn resulted in “Mmmmmm…”, “Ohhhhhhh!”, “Oh my God!” and nearly drowning in drool.  And we hadn’t even hit the grilled meats yet!  Suddenly a few people walked in the door and saw us on the couch looking at a book and the looks on our faces (and probably heard us from the hall):  “Are you two looking at PORN??”  “No. Better!”  Food-porn.  And my addiction the recipe books and food photography begins.

Then there were ex-girlfriends who I’d cook with, and I started to see how deep my emotional connection to and through food really was.  The social bonding aspect.  Which reminds me of a story my mom told me about being young:

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[Mom] was very shy around people, being an only child growing up on a farm and all.  I wouldn't let go of mom's [Grandma's] skirt if anyone was visiting.  If they stayed for a meal, I felt more comfortable with the visitor after I had shared Mom's home grown and home cooked food.”

 

Pharmacy
I have been a pharmacist for a few years now and very shortly after I began I could see that a surprising shocking amount of people are on 3 types of therapies: medications for sleep, depression, and elevated stomach acid and associated symptoms.  Seems like everyone.  Why?  I mean, there are a number of reasons, but I mean why now in the “evolution” of man are these required?  Were these health problems as prominent 50 years ago?  30 years ago?  20 years ago?  It got me thinking about lifestyle differences between modern day and our parents’ and grandparents’ days.  Food was the aspect that caught my eye.  The more I thought about it, the more it fit.  And suddenly I was very aware of what I was putting in my body.  I could go on and on and on, but let’s hit some highlights.  During this time my sister, my best friend through my life, suggested I read Wheat Belly (at a time when I was noticing a lot more people I know were being diagnosed with celiac disease).  Interesting.


Thailand
Soon after that I was traveling in Thailand (more on that later) and realized how great I was feeling on the Thai diet.  I have so much to say about this experience that I am going to throw it into another blog post.

Bottom line is that I was forced to look at what it was that made the Thai diet taste so amazing, caused such a change in my energy and feeling of overall healthiness.

 

Paleo Lifestyle
Again, enter my sister, fitness machine, and then, a new mother:  “I think you would do really well on this thing called the ‘Paleo Diet’.”  She told me a bit about it, but I don’t think I was really paying attention.  A few months after she’d been on it she brought it up again, this time telling me I really need to try it for 30 days.  “OK, January 1st, I’ll do it.”  No education, just knowing there was a list of things I couldn’t have.  I told a couple friends what little I knew about it, and they said they’d do it with me.  Cool.

We bought some recipe books.  My first was Paleo Comfort Foods.  I recommend it.  I borrowed a copy of The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf which changed everything.  Again, being in the healthcare field the technical parts of this book really spoke to me.  I’m one of those people who wants has to know “why”.  Suddenly knowing “why” made making healthy decisions easier.  “I am making good decisions because it is good for my being, and I understand why they’re good decisions.”

Using these different ingredients was fun.  I liked the experimentation, learning, and creativity of using different foods.  It reminded me of cooking shows where there’s a competition using mystery ingredients.  Or of my first-year drawing class I took as an elective where I was forced to try things outside of my comfort zone and get good at other methods.

A 30-day challenge quickly turned into a 60-day challenge, with weekly meals with friends.  I started giving away non-Paleo foods in my kitchen.  I started getting friends to stock their kitchens with things I needed when I would cook for them.  Started an online Paleo sharing group.  More food pornography.

Fast-forward:  Here I am.  Doing this.  Sharing with you, my food, my passion, my love.

 

 

Thank you.  To those who have shaped me and got me here.  To those of you who keep me here.  Thank you.

 

Raj - The Primal Desire

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