I began cooking as a very young child. Together, my mother and I would cook everyday family meals as well as special foods for Ukrainian Christmas (recipes on pages 7 and 76-78 of the Home Cooking East & West cookbook); curries when mom studied Indian cooking; Sweet & Sour Pineapple Pork (page 84) when it was Chinese cooking lessons; Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup (page 5) when a chicken was butchered; and delicious baking after milking the cow, separating the cream & shaking it to make butter. Luckily, my father loves good food! He, too, taught me a lot – including the fact that simple things can be great things. The humble pancake is one of his favourite foods and his simply delicious recipe can be found on page 151.
Because of this joyful immersion into homemade food and culture, and because I wanted to work in a field where everyday choices could affect quality of life, I studied nutrition for 6 years at university. Part-way through, I took half a year off to join a Canada World Youth exchange. Part of the exchange allowed me to live with a wonderful young lady named Amornrat and her family in rural Thailand. Amornrat very generously taught me how to cook family-friendly Thai food while I (with undeniable self-interest) suggested using leftover cooking coals to heat water for morning showers.
After finishing our Master’s degrees, my husband and I moved to Japan where we taught English in the mountains of rural Japan and where, in my spare time, I traded English conversation lessons for lessons in Japanese cooking. At the same time, I also completed a Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Three years later, we were back in Canada. I became a Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) – educating, training, researching and writing.
A decade and a half later, we moved back to Japan for a family adventure with our young son. I was once again able to study Japanese cooking and, at the same time, began hosting my own “Easy English” cooking classes. After Japan, we moved to Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, I left the College of Dietitians, became WSET® Certified in both Wine and Sake and completed a Diploma in Clinical Acupuncture. Since I was also working full-time in the Health Room of an international school, we hired a Domestic Helper, Elsa Amistad.
This brings us to now and Home Cooking East & West. Together, Elsa and I have been cooking and enjoying foods both “East” and “West” for almost a century. Over time, as she and I consulted with each other about menus and how to get things done in the kitchen, we decided we’d like to share 1) some of what we had learned about nurturing kitchen happiness in an employer/helper home/work environment and 2) our favourite recipes – East and West – with others.