I didn’t grow up with grandmothers teaching me how to bake the perfect buttermilk biscuit or what their secret ingredient to meatloaf was. I didn’t have my mom nor my dad instructing me how to cook. I had nothing but the passion for food.
Not for the lack of trying – my mom just never really cared about cooking, and my dad preferred to explore. I would say my true culinary adventure began when I decided to be vegetarian my senior year of high school.
Vegetarianism is common among certain religions and philosophies, and if you’re of my grandparents’ generation, being a vegetarian makes you a treehugger. (If you like the TV show Community, being vegetarian means you’re constantly cold.)
For me, vegetarianism was a way to control my digestive issues and my weight. (Although from my experience, vegetarianism alone doesn’t mean you’ll get to be skinny.)
I’ve had stomach problems my entire life, something unlike culinary passion that is genetic, and caring what I put inside my body has solved a lot of my problems, especially once I went gluten-free. But not everyone sees dietary restrictions this way.
In fact, in my experience, most millennials don’t interact with food the same way I was raised. A lot of my friends within the past ten years were close with their grandmas – where culinary traditions were born – and Alex isn’t much different.
He grew up with a sweet tooth endorsed by his father’s mother, and it’s this same woman whose oyster cracker recipe inspired Alex to create the House Oyster Cracker Snack that serves as our business card. That’s pretty cool.
I’m actually pretty jealous. My mom, despite her negative reactions to her mom’s experimental cooking, was exposed to a lot of culinary creativity and decided piano was the outlet for her, and rightly so. I mean, my own personal inner chef wasn’t awakened until I studied abroad in Argentina, my junior year of college.
On the other hand, tradition has surrounded Alex his entire life. He grew up helping his dad in the kitchen, baking with his grandma, and exploring the culinary world with his brothers.
Although he is the one and only in his family to work in a kitchen outside the home, none of his family is surprised. For me, it is an antithetical tale.
But not. If my mom’s mom was still alive today, I believe we would have had many a conversations about spices, cuisines, and technique: what would she have to comment on, related to the flavors of my meatless chili? How would she analyze my gluten-free baking?
I will never know. But watching Alex fluidly reaching from one pot to another, with spices and technique like the blood coursing in his veins, reminds me that regardless of experience, there is always more to learn.
Cooking is always personal – forever expansive. The only grounding we have is our roots.
Alex had his first, albeit undesired*, lobster roll at seven years old, visiting Maine with his godparents and their children. He had his favorite lobster roll when he was visiting years later, kayaking to the Atlantic, and stumbled upon a small, crowded eatery. The food was simple; the lobster itself was caught the very same day.
You can’t get closer to the roots. You can’t root yourself more in tradition.
Let’s raise our glasses to our grandmothers.
*Alex has made a point that in this childhood story, he ended up experiencing his first lobster roll at a place that was not originally marketed to him. When the car he was in (along with his father, his godfather, and his older brothers), attempted to pull in to the parking lot of the original establishment, another car stole the prized open spot his father had his sites on. His oldest brother Cailan (around 13 years-old) sprung out of the car and beat his fists against the window in an angry fit, which ultimately resulted in Alex’s car-hold and his mother’s behind them in being demanded to leave by the manager. Alex triumphantly returned to the same restaurant years later with his good friend Neil (alongside his same godparents Bill and Fran), during his kayaking trip, and pleasured the experience as the best lobster roll of his life.