The first job my dad gave me in the kitchen was peeling garlic.
I was nine at the time, extremely annoying and desperately wanting to be given a job helping him in the kitchen. After weeks of incessant nagging, he eventually caved and I was deemed “garlic girl.”
I was strictly banned from going near the stove, cooktop or any knife in sight. I was absolutely miserable.
But secretly, I liked to be there and watch him.
It was his happy place. He turned on music and danced around the room. Even though he could possibly be the worst dancer in the world, he would have so much fun cooking. It made me want to have fun too.
Twelve years later he still calls me garlic girl, except now I have other jobs too. I am no longer banned from the knives or the cooktop or the oven. Partly, I admit, because I’m an adult now. A 21-year-old should not be banned from those things. However, I would like to think it is also because he trusts me.
You see, he realizes that the kitchen has become my happy place too.
I always had a passion for food, but I did not know I wanted to cook. I grew up in a family where everything revolves around food: vacations, weekends, birthdays, graduations. Every celebration you can think of revolved around a grand meal.
Sometimes I felt like that’s all we talked about. It got to the point where my mom made a rule that we couldn’t ask what was for dinner before noon.
Even amidst all of that, I took a backseat in the kitchen. As I said, I liked to watch my dad cook, not really cook with him.
When the pandemic smacked the world in the face last March, I was so bored that I finally decided to hop in the driver’s seat.
My dad and I spent seven months from March to September cooking together almost every single night.
Just like a proper French restaurant, we set up a kitchen hierarchy, or “Brigade de Cuisine,” where my Dad became our chef de cuisine or head chef, and I was his personal sous chef.
I loved it. It not only kept me busy during COVID-19 lockdowns but gave my dad and I a purpose and an excuse to do something together.
He taught me how to shop in our local Korean grocery store, make fresh tagliatelle and tomato sauce, and helped me get over my fear of cleaning the raw shrimp.
The feeling of boredom during lockdown turned into a feeling of freedom. I finally felt like I had found something that I like to do for myself and not for resumes or my future.
When September came and I moved into my first college apartment, I brought the skills my dad taught with me. I now use cooking as a way to relax and focus.
The garlic girl can now officially hold her own in the kitchen, but I honestly would prefer not to.
It is way more fun when my dad and I dance around it together.