By Julia X.
My first time in the kitchen was when I was seven years old. At that time, I could only watch my parents saute the cabbages, bok choy, and broccoli and smell the delicious pork belly on the hot iron pan from the living room. Occasionally, I would help my parents wash the vegetables and prepare some seasoning. When I was ten, I was able to reach the stove, so my parents decided to teach me the basics of Chinese cuisine.
My parents aren’t professional chefs, but they do know many Hunan recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. I love eating Chinese food. Each and every dish has its own flavor and unique quality to it. Chinese cuisine has a wide variety of dishes that make your mouth water just by looking at it. I have always wanted to cook Chinese food because I love eating Chinese cuisine. The crispy and soft Chinese pastries just melt and crunch in my mouth, and the delicious and savory aroma pulls you towards the dishes and makes your mouth water. I also want to cook food for my family and hear them praise my food. The thought of tasting my own food and listening to my parents praise me about my cooking just made me more and more excited and encouraged me to try my best.
My very first dish was a simple vegetable dish, bok choy. The only seasoning was salt. In preparation for this dish, I had to break apart the vegetables into small parts and wash them carefully. When the washing process was done, I heated up the pan and added some oil. Then, I realized that I had added too much oil! My face twisted into a frustrated snarl. I promised myself to try not to make any more mistakes as I mentally prepared myself to dump the vegetables in. My hands vibrated like a phone with an unanswered call. I have often watched my parents put in the ingredients. There would always be an eruption of oil droplets shooting out of the pot and sizzling onto the surrounding area. I held my breath and dumped the vegetable very quickly. A satisfying yet frightening popping sound erupted from the pan.
“Ah!” I yelped in a sudden sensation of pain and surprise as an oil droplet fell onto my arm. It felt like a tiny, hot needle on my small, chubby arm. My parents and I took turns sauteing the vegetables. The smell of the vegetables sizzling in the pan was mouthwatering. I was so excited to cook that I sometimes accidentally fling some of the vegetables onto the ground. Tears of frustration stood in my eyes. All of a sudden, the kitchen felt hot and stuffy. The grease on the walls suddenly annoyed me.The loud noise of the exhaust fan deafened and dulled my senses.
As my frustration built up, my patience slowly dwindled. The heat of the flames from the stove didn’t help my patience, either. I was sweating profusely. The only thing that kept my spirits up were the vegetables sitting in the pan waiting to be cooked and eaten. They kept on saying, “Don’t give up!” and “Hurry up and make it tasty!” So, I took a deep breath and continued on sauteeing the vegetables. Finally, the vegetables were fully cooked through and I was ready to plate them. Then, I remembered that I still had to season them with salt. My hands started to sweat and they became very slippery. My parents had told me to be very careful when seasoning the dish. They said that if I put too much salt, then the whole dish would be ruined.
I slowly brought the salt shaker over the pan with two hands. My hands were shaking very badly, and I almost dropped it two times. I was so afraid of dropping the salt shaker and messing up the dish that I put so much effort into. The big moment came when I slowly shook the salt over and onto the vegetables. My hand suddenly jolted and I cried out in alarm to the sudden spill of salt. I realized that I had put too much salt in the dish. I was very disappointed, and my pent up frustration finally exploded. I burst out in tears. “I ruined my very first dish!” I said as I sniffled and wiped my big, fat tears away.
My parents rushed into the kitchen and said, “It is common to make mistakes. What we have to do is to learn from them.”
I finally calmed down after a while. As I winced and ate the salty vegetables in despair, I thought of ways to correct my mistakes. I couldn’t just leave my mistakes unfixed!
“The vegetables in the fridge are practically pleading for me to cook them!” I told my parents, “Please let me try one last time. I can do it!” My parents saw the determined gleam in my eyes and agreed.
My second attempt at making bok choy was a great success. I thought of many methods to correct my mistakes. For example, I used the oil bottle cap to measure out the correct amount of oil and instead of using the salt shaker, I used my fingers to pinch some salt and sprinkle it onto my dish.Sauteing the vegetables was a lot easier, since i had gotten used to the big spatula. I was so happy to see my family eating my food with big, bright smiles. They repeatedly complimented me and I had a fuzzy and warm sensation in my chest. It was a very nice sensation.
Nowadays, I like to experiment with different recipes from Youtube and try to cook new dishes for my family, including Mapo tofu, braised pork ribs, and Chinese scallion pancakes. Many have succeeded, but some also failed. Although some of these dishes were not very successful, I learned to accept the mistakes and carefully analyze and correct them. Often at times, I tried again and again to fix the mistake. My efforts were not in vain and I often succeeded. My way of finding new dishes and bringing them into my household could not have been developed without that failed vegetable dish that I had cooked when I was ten years old. I was so excited to make more dishes for myself and my family.