The Connection Between Cooking and Nostalgia

[Some of you have read some part of this before, so sorry! This is a blog entry that I wrote in hopes of being a guest editor on Bethany Joy Galeotti's blog. She said to write about a journey you're on or have been on. This is an adaptation from a paper that I wrote in culinary school, hope you enjoy it. (I tagged people in my family, friends, peers in the culinary world, people who I think could relate.) Thanks for taking the time to read it!]

One of my first memories was creating recipes for marinated and sauteed mushrooms and making ice cream from scratch. If there was a chance to bake or cook for my class growing up, I took it. My birthday, projects on colonial times, etc. In high school, I took every cooking class and when it came to college, although I stumbled into the recording arts a bit, I ultimately ended up going to culinary school for Patisserie and baking. Being in the kitchen always been very therapeutic for me. “Going into [cooking] when you have no hope is sometimes just what you need to get to a better place”. So true in so many different aspects. Sometimes I feel the need to cook even when I am not physically hungry.

Usually, when I cook I am testing myself. Not if I can technically make the dish correctly, but if I can get it to taste exactly like my parents' dishes did. See, my Japanese/Mexican- American dad passed away when I was 16, and my Filipino-American mom last year, at 24. With both of them gone, and me being the only one who has any idea of how to do it, there's a lot of pressure to make our family recipes such as teriyaki beef or nilagang manok (filipino chicken soup) as close to the real thing as I can. It would absolutely break my heart to realize that I’ve forgotten how to cool sushi rice without making it too mushy or damaging the grains or how to mold potato croquettes. By making dishes like these often, I know that I am going to be able to carry on their tradition and spirit through one of the only ways I know how—through food. And retaining the knowledge…or rather, NOT retaining the knowledge, scares the hell out of me.

When I get it right—I am as satisfied as I can be. I feel my parents looking over my shoulder making sure it tastes right, just like when I was a kid. One bite and it brings me directly back to the memory of making each dish for the first time. It's intense. And it is also just the opposite if I get something wrong even just by a little bit. I’m as disappointed as when I made rice (actually, porridge…oopsies?) for the first time. It's a horrible feeling. If I have something else to eat that night, the unsuccessful dish is saved for another day or thrown away. It doesn’t stop with cooking. Like I said, baking has been my safe haven—my back up, the one thing I could turn to (besides writing). My homie. If I’m in a bad mood, I bake. I was pissed off the other day. I made snickerdoodles and a sense of calm rushed over me.

Walt Disney said, "I love the nostalgic myself. I hope we never lose some of the things of the past." You've got to hold on to your roots, anyway that you can. Sometimes it's not about the measuring and mixing. It was the good memories of measuring and mixing that heal my heart.

Mommy and I at my graduation from Le Cordon Bleu in 2009.


Hi Joy (or whoever is reading :)! Thanks for taking the time to read this. You're the best. I think it's so awesome to have the opportunity to give your readers the chance to be a part of your blog. I hope I made it in time! This is not my actual blog anymore, but it was the only way to have it be public so you could see it. If I do get chosen, if you want, you can link people to my facebook (http://www.facebook.com/chanelle.molina) because I do share a lot of my foodie writing on there.

PS. A short story: My sister and I were listening to a mix CD that I made years ago, and the last song on it was yours, "Crazy Girls". She asked me why I put it on there since it didn't blend with any of the other songs on the CD. I told her it was because your songs are like a little gem and I put one song on each of my mix CDs regardless of the genre. She said I should write to you and tell you that. haha There's my chance, I guess!

Congrats on your new baby girl. I'm sure you're an amazing mama. Take care and thanks again.

Chanelle Molina
East Bay, California