When I was about ten years old I used to visit my grandparents for a week or two in the summer. My mother’s parents were German and my father’s were Dutch-Danish. I loved to cook and, luckily, so did both my grandmothers. One summer, my Dutch-Danish grandmother, Grandma Gert, taught me to make raspberry jam with fresh raspberries from my Grandpa Bert’s garden. (Yes, they really were Bert and Gert.) The following week I went from their house to my Grandma Lisl’s house. There, we used the raspberry jam to make Linzertorte. My Grandma Lisl was German and she baked using a gram measure and a scale. I converted the metric measurements for the recipe into cups and teaspoons, etc. and have kept that recipe and others from her for years. No one, myself included, could bake like my Grandma Lisl.
Throughout my childhood and teens I was always in the kitchen when I had free time. I scoured Better Homes and Gardens magazines for recipes with my baby sister in my lap playing a game we called, “That Looks Good” and tore out pages with recipes for later use. My mother always worried that I would try something which would not turn out and that I would be disappointed. She still talks about some triple braided anise seed bread that I made. She was sure it would fail to rise or fall or just fail in general, but it was beautiful! I never worried about things not turning out. I am sure that I had my share of failures or goofs, but nothing could keep me out of the kitchen for long.
I can still remember being in our kitchen one day when my mother said to me, “You know, you could be a chef.” I thought time stood still. “People would pay you to cook,” she went on. I was probably only about thirteen years old and until then I had only thought of cooking as this thing I loved to do. The only possibilities I had thought of for the answer to, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” were the traditional “lawyer” or “doctor.” I had no idea there were other creative options out there. It was a watershed moment in my life. From then on, when asked what do you want to be when you grow up, my answer was,“I want to be a chef.”