I started cooking for a family of four when I was a kid. This is probably the reason why I love cooking so much. From a young age I got to basically do as I pleased when it came to food. And, surprisingly, I only messed up a couple times. This is why cooking is my happy place, where I can create amazing meals that people enjoy, and feel accomplished at something.
Time for the Backstory! Both my parents were professional engineers and worked full time. So as a result, I had a nanny from when I was 8-months old on. When I got old enough to start looking after myself and my sister, my mom instructed Hilda, our then nanny, to teach me the meals she cooked for the family. I was probably around 11 years old. I was taught simple meals, that could be made in 20 minutes. (Also, to be fair, Mom taught me some meals too. I just don't seem to remember which ones.) Typically these simple meals, because I grew up in Alberta, had such staples as potatoes, corn and all the beef.
So I learned how to chop onions and potatoes and other vegetables. I learned how much salt to add to a pot based on how much water you had. I learned how to cook ground meat and roasts. Little things that I figured out by myself over the years as I made the same 9 recipes for my family over and over. Now I definitely won't claim to have been a chef extraordinary by the time I turned 13, but I had mastered the meals I had been preparing, on rotation, for all those years. I'm not joking about there being only 9 meals. I made them Every Day.
It wasn't until I turned 17 that my culinary escapade really changed. After my horrible job at a Boston Pizza, I started to work for my then friend's, now BF/Husband guy's, Mom. She ran concession services for the city and a catering business on the side. That women can cook. The BF would talk, mouth watering, about dinners he was going home to after class at the University. Soon, I came over for dinner too and came to realize that all those years I had been making "food" in name only and not in flavour. I had never had a curry before, or sushi, or Chinese food, or Thai food, or any food that wasn't meat and potatoes. My eyes opened, I returned home with recipes and food ideas I'd never even knew existed. (Yes, I was super sheltered.)
I experimented with curry, much to the chagrin of my non-curry liking family; I made vegetarian chilis with different kinds of beans and actual vegetables; I made spiced chicken breast with basmati rice; I made risottos. I used spices I'd never knew existed and all was good in the world of the tastebud.
When the BF and I moved out together in 2009, he taught me even more recipes that his mom would make. And we even improved on some of my favourite 'original' family meals.
Really, the point is that I'm still learning about cooking even today. About really weird ingredients or about better ways to cook food X. It's been the longest and funnest adventure out of all my hobbies. The key: to always keep trying new things and learning. Sometimes things just don't work out and throwing out an entire meal out happens (which is a blessing in disguise, because then you have permission to order Indian food to comfort the Ego). But the next time will be better, and the next time after that even more so.
The Half-Assed Hobbyist