For the entirety of my life, my mum, Gina, has been cooking and writing, writing and cooking. To her, food is love. She writes unique themed cookbooks — she’s done an unofficial Twilight cookbook, Love at First Bite, and an unofficial Harry Potter cookbook, From Muggles to Magic. Her culinary ventures have had a deep impact on me — I’ve developed a passion for food, writing, and people.
Needless to say, nineteen years of growing up with a cookbook writer for a mum has boiled down (cooking pun intended) to a few things that run deep to the core of my being. Having a mum who is a culinary whiz comes with some obvious perks — which have become more useful than ever now that I’m a UC Irvine student.
I can make really good non-student food
Part of growing up in a kitchen with a mum who was always cooking means that I picked up a few tricks of the trade. I’m a pro at coming up with something — anything — to make with whatever is in the fridge or pantry. I don’t survive off of instant noodles or fast food, I know how to cook my own meals that both taste good and are good for me.
I didn’t gain the illustrious ‘Freshman 15’
Because of my semi-sophisticated palate, I was never excited about eating food from the dining commons. Those floppy grilled cheeses couldn’t hold a candle to my mum’s home-cooking. Instead, I adapted the foods I was provided at school into things I would eat at home. Last year, one of mine and my friends’ favorites was a salad I would make using the baby spinach from our dining common’s pasta station, apples from the fruit bowl, dried cranberries from the salad bar (which was, needless to say, very bland, boring, and limited), and a balsamic vinaigrette made from the olive oil and vinegar that was also parked by the salad station in the DC.
My friends seek out my culinary mastery
About once a week, I go over to my best friend’s apartment so we can catch up with each other, but every week (like clockwork), I inevitably end up cooking her dinner. Don’t get me wrong, because I LOVE to cook for her. When I ask her what food she has to make, her usual response is, “Nothing, I don’t know how to cook.” After a glance in her fridge and pantry — I find flour, eggs, butter, and other staples — I know I have something to work with. Our culinary adventures often take us to the land of miniature foods, where we make things like mini chicken pot pies and quiche. Foods that are sophisticated (enough), yet doable on the college dime and skill level.
I am adventurous and confident inside the kitchen
Too many people are scared to mess up their cooking. One of the many gifts my mum has given me is the ability to be comfortable in the kitchen (no, I usually don’t follow a recipe). For me, this began at a young age, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late for you to become comfortable within your own kitchen.
…Which translates outside the kitchen, too
The range of activities I have participated in that are related to my mum’s books are what I’d consider atypical, verging on unique. I’ve spent numerous hours in libraries, TV stations, and bookstores across the US for her book signings and guest appearances. I’ve been a hand model for her book covers. I’ve spent summers making cold calls and playing the role of her publicist. I was her travel companion when she received a prestigious international cookbook award. I have been and still am her guinea pig in the kitchen. Most importantly, I’m her biggest supporter (and vice versa).
Not all pre-teens are comfortable enough to unexpectedly go on the air to perform a cooking segment, nor are they well-versed enough to be able to make phone calls to adults, to talk to them about business, and to get them to order books and to schedule book signings. I have grown up in an environment that has allowed me to blossom as a young woman, to develop incredible people skills, and to be confident.
Ultimately, having a cookbook author for a mum has shaped me into the person I am today, and who I want to become tomorrow. Because of my mum, I have been exposed to food, people, languages, and cultures from all around the world. I have had conversations with people who don’t speak the same language as me, but because of a commonality — our shared love for food — we were able to communicate.
If I think about where I am today, I don’t think I would be majoring in International Studies had I not been born to my mother. Mum, I’d just like to say: Job well-done (cooking pun intended again).