Thursday, 10 January 2008

100th Post and the history of my cooking

Can you believe this is my 100th post? I certainly can't. When I started this blog on the 19th December 2006, I really didn't know where I was heading with it nor what I wanted to do with this blog.

Now, not only have I written 100 posts, but I've made so many friends from all around the world. Not only that, but I've joined the Daring Bakers and I'm also a contributor to The Daily Tiffin. Who would have thought huh? Certainly not me!

So, in commemoration of my 100th post, I thought I'd give you all an insight into how I started my cooking adventure and how it has turned into a love affair with food and the kitchen.

My first foray into the world of cooking started at a very young age. Coming from a family of three boys, we all had to help out with household chores and also in the kitchen.

I used to particularly enjoy helping Mum make desserts and I would often operate the cake mixer while she supervised and added all the ingredients. My favourite part, of course, was licking the bowl clean! It was definitely Mum that started me off on my love for cooking. I remember getting a Children's cooking book by Betty Crocker from Mom and Dad - a book that I still have!

Mum and Dad used to throw dinner parties ever so often and there was this once when Mum asked if I would like to help make the dessert since she was busy with other things. I jumped at the chance and diligently followed Mum’s recipe for a Chilled Cheese Cake. The recipe was handwritten in this Green Diary that served as a repository for her personal collection of recipes (she still has this green diary!). The cheesecake turned out pretty well and was a hit at the dinner.

This became my signature dessert for many years. During my university days, I would often make this dessert to try and impress the girls!

My years spent overseas as a university student saw me experimenting with different styles of cooking and using different ingredients. As eating out was often expensive, and few and far between, I would often try to replicate something I had tasted at a restaurant – on a trial and error basis. That is how I learnt to perfect my dishes. I seldom used cookbooks and on the oft occasion that I did, it was merely to get an idea of what should go into the dish – I never followed the recipe exactly.

Although Mum was the very first to instil my love for cooking, it has been the Lovely Wife, Angelina, who has challenged me and spurred me on to increase my repertoire of dishes – particularly my desserts!

I first tried to entice her (as with all the other girls!) with my Chilled Cheese Cake and although she liked it, she admitted to liking the Baked variety better and in fact, favoured a cheese cake sold in a particular Coffee franchise (Starbucks? Coffee Bean? San Francisco Coffee? I’m not telling!). I had to admit that the Cheese Cake there was really very good and since I had never made a Baked Cheese Cake before, my experimentation with Baked Cheese Cakes started.

The two of us also enjoy eating out a fair bit and Angelina would often ‘challenge’ me to make a dish that she had enjoyed at some restaurant or cafe somewhere. Thus far I have not disappointed too greatly!!

When my children came along, I insisted that I would bake their birthday cakes. The problem however, was that I really didn’t have any experience in decorating cakes – a must for a child’s birthday cake. I learnt quickly however and I also learnt that all things are possible where love is involved. To this day, my pride and joy is the ‘Elephant Cake’ I baked and decorated for my son’s Third birthday. As my wife often says – “that cake was made with 20% skill and 80% love!” Proof that with a lot of dedication, anything is possible!

I don’t claim to be a master chef. I don’t even think I could call myself a chef! I have had no professional training whatsoever. I am simply a man who enjoys good food and who enjoys cooking. I believe that anyone can cook. All it takes is a little willingness, a little experimentation and a lot of self-belief. A little love helps a lot too!

If there were any advice I could offer, it would simply be this:
Never follow recipes exactly. Each of us has different tastes and you should modify your recipes to suit these tastes. Omit ingredients that you dislike and substitute or add in those that you like. You really can’t go wrong. The only time you should be more strict about following recipes exactly is for cakes and desserts. Slight alterations in cake and dessert recipes can drastically change the way they turn out – and can be the difference between success and failure! However, having said that, it does not mean you can’t experiment. Most of my desserts have been perfected and fine tuned after a lot of experimentation, trial and error – and in some cases of abject failure, straight into the garbage bin!

I take great joy now in cooking and preparing desserts for my wife and kids. The greatest compliment I can receive nowadays is from my children. There have been times that we have gone out for a meal at some restaurant and my children remark on the way home - "I think Daddy's food is better... Also Mummy's." Yeah, my kids the politicians and diplomats, even at this young age!

There was this once when I gave my Son and Daughter $5 each to spend on anything they wanted. My son bought himself a Hot Wheels car from a pharmacy while my daughter (she was about 2+ at the time) couldn't figure out what she wanted. We walked along the row of shops till we came to a cake shop. She stood at the large glass windows and I knelt down and asked her if she wanted a cake. She nodded her head and so I opened the door to let her in as my wife followed her. My son, who until then had been busy studying his new car, suddenly darted into the shop and yelled out.

"Sarah! Sarah! Don't buy the cakes here. The cakes here are lousy! Daddy's cakes are much, much nicer."

True story and it brings tears to my eyes knowing my children think so highly off me. They are definitely the impetus for me to continue to improve and increase my knowledge in the world of cooking.

It's really been a lot of fun sharing my cooking with all of you out in the blogspere and even more fun making new friends. I hope to someday meet some of you that are frequent visitors to this blog and I'm looking forward to having a lot more fun with this blog!


Bellini Valli said...

Thanks for sharing your love of cooking with us Dharm. Your being a "foodie" will definitely rub off on your children who will learn all of your recipes. Dharm's family will have the best cakes (and other foods)around for generations!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your 100th post! I am planning on trying your tiramisu here soon!

DaviMack said...


I'm just happy for you that your children have good taste in food!

Meeta said...

Congrats Dharm! This is a fantastic post and isn't it just awesome when kids will eat GOOD food? Look forward to more from you!

Superchef said...

congrats on your 100th post...loved reading the story!!

Karen said...

Congratulations on your 100th post! I am new to this so I am on my 19th post. Working my way up! It is a great way to meet new friends and I am looking forward to reading more of your posts. Keep up the great work and Happy New Year to you!

Dharm said...

Thanks for your kind words. Indeed I do hope that my kids are influenced by my wife and me as far as food goes.

Thanks. Let me know how the tiramisu goes. You may want to wait a while as I am planning on posting a "Take Two" to my tiramisu

David, Meeta
Thanks! Don't know if their taste in food is good - maybe they just don't have a choice!! :) Seriously, it is such a joy when the kids enjoy home cooked food.

Superchef, Karen
Thanks for the encouragement and hope to see more of you around!

KJ said...

Beautiful post Dharm. Food is deeply entwined in so many family relationships. I wish your family happy eating for many years to come.

Cynthia said...

After reading all the way through, something caught in my throat at this: "Sarah! Sarah! Don't buy the cakes here. The cakes here are lousy! Daddy's cakes are much, much nicer." Awwwwww, so sweet.

Congrats Dharm and thanks for opening up and sharing with us. Here's to many more 100 posts.

Lydia said...

Congratulations on your 100th post! Your elephant cake is a work of art.

Ruth Daniels said...

Wonderful glipse of you and your family. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on reaching 100!

Judy said...

I enjoyed reading your story, and from what I've seen of your cakes, they've all been beautifully decorated! Kids are the best critics, you know, because they are honest and haven't yet learned how to say the 'right' thing. I look forward to reading your next 100 posts.

Happy cook said...

And a wonderful read.
Isn't it great that your kids love your cooking.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE that elephant cake! I have been so inspired reading all these foodie blogs & how well everyone does with their desserts & photographs. I posted a few of my son's cakes on my blog & sadly they are not as pretty. You have talent! Please check out my blog & enter the contest my friend & I are hosting. Maybe th problem with my cake is that I'm decorating them instead of my husband...... hummmmm... I'm going to try that out.

Thank you, Amy


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