For the first introduction in this mini-series, I’d like you to meet The Guru- aka, my step dad. It just so happened that his birthday was last week, so he will be first.
The Guru married my mom several years ago and she will freely admit that he’s the best thing that happened to her life (since I was born of course, not that I have an ego or anything…) and he happens to be one of the best things in my life as well. Often times, people mistake us for biological father and daughter because I am very much like him in many ways, and one of those ways is with food. He has helped me grow in my love of cooking simply by loving it himself and being willing to answer any (and I mean any) questions I may have about food. He knows a lot about obscure ingredients and how to use them so when I have an odd question or see an ingredient I don’t understand, he’s my lifeline.
The Guru got his name from first, his personality and because he likes the word “guru”, but secondly because he seems to have a sense about cooking. When we visit my parents, he usually makes all of the meals and when he does, you can watch him prep each ingredient with care. Carrots are peeled and chopped, dried herbs in large, exotic-looking bags are measured and sprinkled, garlic is crushed, meat is trimmed, bones are saved for stock and peelings are composted. He truly strives to waste no piece and I try to do the same.
The Guru taught me some very important lessons for the kitchen. First, love each ingredient. This means that you try and cook starting with the most basic form of each ingredient and work your way up. You buy your ingredients with care, store them with attention, and use them where they will be noticed. He keeps many things minimal so that the individual flavors can shine through. His meals even rival most restaurants I’ve tried, by a long shot!
Second, he taught me to never be afraid to experiment with flavor. Whether in the kitchen while preparing, or out at a restaurant. Never be afraid to try something new. The worst case scenario would be that I didn’t like it and he would finish it for me anyway. Often, he will look at a recipe, read it over, get an idea of what he wants, and then he will just use instinct. This actually drives my mom crazy because if she ends up liking the recipe a lot, sometimes he can’t recreate it because he doesn’t know the exact measurements that he used. It can get quite comical, really.
So, The Guru is kind of a free spirit in the kitchen, which is also funny because his outward attitude is a very convincing cover of someone that is the exact opposite of a “free spirit”. Don’t let it fool you. He’s really quite fun and interesting to be around, and if you ever doubt the colors you just thought you saw behind his eyes, just try the stew. You’ll never doubt them again.