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My first culinary creation at age 12.

Updated: Feb 13

In my youth, I resided in an upstairs duplex in Los Angeles, CA alongside my grandparents, while my aunt, uncle, and cousins occupied the downstairs. In our family, culinary prowess was a shared trait; my grandmother handled the cooking, while my aunt specialized in baking. During holidays, our homes united, with festivities primarily hosted upstairs. On these occasions, I would shuttle between floors, honing my culinary skills alongside both.

At the age of 12, my family relocated to Dallas, TX where my father's job awaited us. He greeted my mother, sister, and I at the airport with a Mariachi band! The transition wasn't merely geographical; it marked a shift in family dynamics. With no extended family nearby and my mother's aversion to cooking, I assumed the responsibility of meal preparation for our household.

Rooted in my grandmother's Lithuanian heritage, my culinary repertoire initially leaned towards Eastern European flavors. However, Texas offered a mosaic of new culinary landscapes. Exploring Tex-Mex and Southern American cuisine expanded my palate, while encounters with Chinese and Italian fare broadened my culinary horizons.

A pivotal moment occurred one evening as I prepared dinner, drawing inspiration from my grandmother's cherished spices: paprika, curry, and turmeric. Recalling a "chicken cacciatore" recipe, I arranged chicken pieces in a roasting pan, seasoning them with these spices, then layering diced onions, green peppers, celery, and mushrooms atop. After adding water and baking, my "first" original recipe emerged. The family's enthusiastic response filled me with pride, marking the inception of my culinary journey.

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