y grandmother, who hailed from St. Petersburg, Russia, was a caterer. Her name was Cecil, unusual for that time, unusual for any time, actually. Unfortunately, she died before I was born and so I never met her. Ironically, she perished from stomach cancer. My mother, who was an artist, worked alongside my grandmother when she was a teenager and catering jobs came in. She learned and absorbed the knowledge my grandmother had to offer. No formal training, in other words. No Cordon Bleu, no cooking school of any kind. My mother loved to eat and having the ability to cook facilitated her access to food that she liked. She also indulged in experimentation in her cooking. As a kid, I’d hover near the stove. Kitchens are magnets, drawing people in organically. The aromas are captivating. I’d watch and listen as she worked churning out dishes that we, as a family, spooned up with gusto. My father had no objections. He loved to eat too and was lucky that he carried a skinny frame all his life. The calories must have filled his lanky legs. When I was older, my mother and I would watch cooking shows, after school. We liked the Galloping Gourmet, a cooking show with an Aussie chef by the name of Graham Kerr. My mother hastily scribbled down the recipes while my mouth simply watered at what I was seeing. Then we’d try the recipes out. Some went well. Others were a disaster. I remember a Beef Wellington, in particular, that imploded quite spectacularly. Hot cooking oil spattered the kitchen walls. I had to duck for cover. This early experience, hovering in the kitchen, engendered a love of food and cooking in me as well. I’ve indulged in this interest ever since.