For as long as I can remember
For as long as I can remember, I have had an innate love of food and cooking.
I grew up in a family of seven that loved food. My parents cooked a lot for us, but we also ate out often, in Worcester, MA. When we ate out, it was, Indian, Armenian, Lebanese, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, Thai, Greek, Japanese. My parents taught us about this amazing world through the lens of food.
At home it was some pretty classic stuff of the times. My mom made tuna noodle casserole and broke up Lays potato chips on top. This was my favorite. She made spaghetti and meatballs, roast beef and goulash. Old El Paso tacos were a staple, though I never loved the crunchy taco shell. On many Friday's she made matzah ball soup and, to this day, the aroma of chicken soup brings me home. Born Irish Catholic, converted to Judaism, my mother had a knack for nailing that soup every time. She was an English teacher turned school principal. How she managed to raise 5 kids and do that work will always baffle me. When I bring this up to her, she tells me how her mom, Agnes, would say; "Ya know, you wake up in the morning and you just need to get those feet on the floor." I think this is what Nike is getting at with their "just do it" line.
My dad loved to cook with a wok. His go-to was beef and broccoli. When dad made beef and broccoli, all was right in the world. He also loved to grill and it was he who taught me how to temp meat. The man knows his meat. He should, having grown up working in a butcher shop in Chelsea, MA, once home to a seemingly infinite number of Jewish delis and butcher shops.
My Dad's grandparents came from Odessa and Kiev in Ukraine. Chelsea became a welcoming place where immigrants could live, work and practice their faith without fear, something that sadly was not the case from where they came at the time. This history brought with it my love of pickled herring, smoked whitefish and salmon, chopped liver, gefilte fish, fresh dill and poppy seed cake! When Esther and Lou grew older, they moved to an apartment on Revere Beach behind the original Kelly's Roast Beef. This meant fried clams and roast beef eaten in the back of our Dodge Caravan on the way home to Worcester. The taste of Kelly's with the scent of Revere Beach is deeply ingrained in my being and I can't bring myself to eat at their new outposts. I wonder if some Boston friends feel this way...
My Mom's grandparents came from County Cork and County Mayo in Ireland. My grandmother's family settled in Turners Falls, MA, living in tenament buiding called the Keith Block. This was along side the canal where my great grandfather worked in the Keith paper mill. My grandmother was one of eleven kids. It was from her that this Jewish kid learned his love of bacon and ham. My grandfather, Malcolm, was a commercial pilot for TWA. He would drive from Gill down to NYC to fly out of Idlewild airport, now JFK. He traveled the world and was particularly fond of Indian food which he often ate in many of London's famous curry joints. He was a big guy at 6' 3" and I loved listening to him tell stories of flying. When I was little, I could tell you every type of cloud in the sky because of him.
Whenever my family was together, I just wanted to know what we were going to eat first and the rest was secondary. As a little kid, I watched Yan Can Cook, the Frugal Gourmet and, of course, Julia. After middle school I would watch Great Chefs of the world on PBS and fantasize about traveling the world and cooking like these amazing chefs.
For the past 12 years, I've been living that childhood dream all the while developing my love of sharing what I have learned and continue to learn with others. I believe in the power of food and cooking in so many ways, that I was compelled to start Noah's Table in order to create a space where people could learn about food, the world, and each other, through the act of cooking.
Thank you for visiting and for listening to a little of my story. I hope to hear about yours soon, either in a class or perhaps in the comments section.
I can't wait to get in the kitchen with you,
P.S. I'm the little guy in the sweet sweater vest on the bottom right in case you're wondering.