I was asked to participate in sharing MY FOOD HERO by the Community Food Centres along with my fellow Food Revolution Ambassadors, in a blog post and the only person I could think of was my mother Jeannette. My mother was born with the name Esther but for some reason she didn't like that name and changed it to Jeannette. My mother was born in Poland and moved to Belgium and during the war she was take to a concentration camp. Luckily my mom was a very strong person and even though she was only a teenager she survived. My mother never had proper formal education and worked from home as a seamstress. She would work all day and then at 4 o'clock she would start dinner and try and have a full meal on the table around 5pm.
It wasn't always perfect because some things she learned from her mother and some things she learned from friends and other things she just winged it. My parents have a world of ethnic influences, my dad was born in Greece and had Spanish decent and they met in Belgium but were married in Jerusalem.
My mom picked up food influences from all over, French, she made great french fries, Jewish, she made the real deal Chicken soup, and other things that I just thought were normal until my friend pointed out that we ate things they didn't know about like Artichokes which my mother cooked in a pressure cooker and then made a vinaigrette sauce that my brother and I added our touch to, they were a favourite of my whole family.
I was the one in the kitchen stirring the pot, getting the ingredients, measuring things and peeling things. Little did I know in helping out that I was actually learning something and even though my mother didn't have a formal chef education little alone a proper education since she missed a lot of schooling and had to work after the war. But she somehow learned some proper cooking techniques. She taught me how to whip egg whites and to fold them into chocolate to make a chocolate mousse. She taught me how to char eggplant and red peppers to make baba ganoush and a roasted red pepper salad. She taught me how to bake cookies and cakes and to cook without a recipe. She didn't know how to cook everything, her vegetables were over cooked but I didn't mind it when it was cauliflower in a cheesy bechamel sauce that was baked in the oven with a bread crumb topping. She never mastered spaghetti and meatballs, the meatballs were ok but cooked in the sauce it made the sauce greasy and then it would slip off the pasta. Sometimes her steaks were like shoe leather. But the things she got right are almost ingrained in my brain. The only thing I can't remember how to make exactly are her sugar cookies. They were thicker and lighter than regular ones and she used the dough to make apple pie which I also tweaked once I learned some techniques from watching chefs on TV.
I learned how to cook from taste and how to balance seasonings and what works with what. I am grateful that I don't have to struggle on how to cook in the kitchen and my only struggle is the time and energy to cook now.
My mom did another thing that has stuck with me for life that has probably had the biggest influence on my Food Blogger life and that is introducing me to different ethnic cultures through food and entertainment. She took me to a cultural event every year that had different ethnic community groups showcase their culture in all kinds of churches and centres around town. I sampled Filipino food, my first Falafel, Spanokopita, and all things related to different cultures. That gave me a great appreciation and curiosity for different foods and flavours of the world. I just wish I could travel to some of the places I would love to explore.
My parents were working class people that came to Canada with no money and worked hard to feed us and always made sure we had a full refrigerator full of food. Most of it was fresh meat and vegetables with hardly any processed foods.
This holiday season, I'm celebrating #myfoodhero, my mom, Jeannette, and you can celebrate your food hero with a donation to Community Food Centres Canada to support the work bringing the power of food to low-income communities. I hope you'll consider making a donation in honour of your food hero, too.
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