Years ago, I was inspired by the foods of my family; the diverse offerings from around the globe that ended up at our table, the stack of cookbooks in the corner of our kitchen, the improvised meals on the run Mom packed for family trips. Back then, when it came to those cookbooks, I was drawn to the classic snobbery of fine dining. I would read them like novels, pouring over the notes with each recipe, memorizing details about Escoffier, imagining menus for the extremely elegant parties I would someday host.

Since then, my tastes have mellowed a bit. I’ll admit I’m still one to ignore my account balance when eating out in a new city, but simple home cooking, pared down flavours and unpretentious dining are my new personal aspirations. I still read cookbooks like novels, and treasure certain classic tomes, but the most food-splattered and dog eared are those that emphasize quality ingredients and simple preparations.

I’m at a culinary crossroads – a few years off from thirty, I’ve said goodbye to my parents’ table (except on Sundays), and a student diet of fast food and pasta has had its day. I am now at a point where I’m starting to establish the way I cook, the flavours that figure heavily in my palate, and the recipes that are slowly becoming my repertoire.

There is an anthology of Canadian Literature called “improved by cultivation”, and this thought has been tugging at my mind lately. I feel like I’m in that process — revisiting the comfort foods of my youth, learning the culinary traditions of the friends I love, and opening up my eyes to the world of food yet explored.

Thanks for the company.