Episode 3: Transcript - Why I Started In My Kitchen

Hi, thanks for joining me this week. It's a short and sweet this week and just me. And I'll be taking you on a bit of a journey from Pakistan to New Zealand, Japan and Italy. And sharing my background, my story, and why I started in my kitchen.

I'm going to share withyou one of my first food memories. It's kind of where it all started. I'm sitting in Bibi's apartment or house on a bar stool. Bibi was my grandmother on my father's side. She was from Pakistan. I'm sitting on a bar stool looking into her kitchen, so it's kind of one of those butler window type things looking into her kitchen and.

Bibi's there in the kitchen and her beautiful Sari. And what I distinctly remember is as she's cooking and her hands are moving, I'm remembering the sound and jingling of the bracelets that she was wearing, the glass Indian bracelets that she was wearing. And the aromas that are coming outta that kitchen.

Oh my God. It just permeated the space. And it would've been like the garlic and onion and butter, actually, it probably was ghee that she was using. And those smells and the curry spices were just too much for me. I, I loved curry at a very young age, and I would've been about four, um, at this time. And then I saw Bibi putting in.

Peas into the pan, the detested peas. I could not stand peas when I was little cold, mushy peas, and I was like, uh oh, this is not gonna be a great lunch. Anyway, Bibi continued to make this bowl of curried peas for me, and when she put it in front of me, the smell of the curry overwhelmed me. I couldn't not eat the peas, and I remember that first bite.

Thinking this is one of the most delicious things I've ever had, and that was one of my first real aha moments where I realized that food, the same ingredient, can be many different things depending on how it's made and who's making it. I am so grateful for how I grew up. I grew up with a rich diversity of cultural influences from India, Japan, Italy, and New Zealand.

Living in a household where family time involved creating meals that were fun, inspiring and memorable. It left me with a passion to continue to make connections thrItalogh cooking, culture, and travel. I also recognize later on in life the power of this, of how food connects us and how that in turn helps to combat or can help to combat racism and loneliness.

When I first started ruminating about In My Kitchen and sharing the concept with close friends, one of them said to me, Paula, it is almost likeyou're creating acceptance one dish at a time. Now, that really resonated with me, and I often think of that. It was important to me that In My Kitchen be fun and an inspiring place.

I wanted people to gather together in an informal setting and basically break bread together and just get to know each other in the kitchen by cooking and eating together. I was so inspired by the stories and dishes of my childhood. I wanted to create a place also where other people with similar backgrounds could come and share their stories and recipes and their culture.

GettingIn My Kitchen off the ground and how I found my first set of hosts and then navigating three years of a worldwide pandemic. Uh, that'll have to be for a separate podcast. Uh, talk about pivoting and getting out of my comfort zone. But I am here. In My. Kitchen is here, and it's been an amazing ride.

I wanna go back to the beginning and share with you a little bit about my upbringing and my unique experiences. For me, the purpose of this episode is about sharing my story withyou soyou know who I am and also what I may bring to the table, and why myself and In My Kitchen. Can helpyou really have a deeper connection or a more immersive experience withyour travels and exploring different cultures.

And at the very least, hopefullyyou can enjoy some good stories here. My dad was originally from India and then the partition happened and he was moved to what became Pakistan. My da, my dad was raised by his grandmother and his mother, and this is whom I call Bibi. She's my grandmother on my father's side.

My dad's father was not really in the picture when he was little. Um, my dad's father immigrated to Canada with some other relatives, uh, in order to bring the whole family or his immediate family anyway, so his mother, wife, and son over to Canada. That never really happened, and there's a whole other story there that we could talk about and analyze, but for now I'm just gonna park it and all that to say that the woman in my dad's life were a force and they created the opportunity to all come to Canada when my dad was 18.

They arrived in VancItalover, British Columbia, and what I find so interesting right now is when I look at the path of how my parents met, they were worlds apart, and then where they lived, Canada to New Zealand, back to another part of VancItalover, and then all of my travel adventures in between and the different places I have lived.

And right now here I am, I find myself raising my family in living just blocks from the home that my dad and Bibi were living in when they immigrated to Canada. Well, not right away, but soon after, and I just find it so crazy to think in a, in a really bizarre way. I'm right back where this all started from.

My mom, on the other hand, she grew up in a little country village called Pakotai in the Mangakahia Valley of the northern part of New Zealand, and I was lucky enItalogh to spend summers on that family farm from when I was a baby right up until adulthood. When I was nine, we moved to New Zealand and ended up living on a dairy farm just 20 minutes away from the family farm.

Now the family farm is where my grandparents. Live, and my aunt and uncle lived on another part of the farm just a few kilometers away. My upbringing was all about spending time on the farm from dawn to desk with my brother and my cousins, from playing tag in the hay barn to riding horses up the hills and across the rivers to feeding the calves And lambs were that, uh, when they were orphaned in the spring.

When we would go over and stay for two months at a time, I would go to school with my cousin, Kylie, and it was a small two classroom school in Pakotai. It was also the same school that my mom and my uncle Doug went to when they were children. But what I loved most were the family dinners and barbecues. Oh, and my grandma's shortbread and my great aunt Cis's pikelets, which are like mini pancakes, but way, way better.

I remember we would go out in the day, um, to a little river, really a creek in the bush in the middle of the farm. We would tie bits of raw sausage to string and catch freshwater crayfish. We would then come back and, and,you know, I'm talking like my mom's sister would be there and her family, and my, her brother, my uncle Doug and his family, my grandparents, maybe a neighbor.

And I remember grandma cooking these crayfish either on the barbecue I think, or under the grill in the oven, and they were delicious. We always had lamb and sausages on the barbecue and fresh vegetables from grandma and grandpa's massive veggie garden. I. To this day, steamed potatoes with fresh mint takes me back to a summer evening on the farm with lots of family and everyone talking and everyone cooking.

And at the end, all of my great aunts and my grandma and my mom and my aunt would, they'd all be in the kitchen doing the dishes. But that's where the good stuff was. That's where like the conversations and the stories and, oh, it was fabulous. I wish I had a, a tape recorder. The last time I was in New Zealand was in 2016, and we actually went and got scallops in the ocean.

We came off the boat late that night and I'm with my teen boys, but at the time, they weren't quite teens, I don't think. And my cousin and her children and her partner's children, we must have come off the boat at nine o'clock. And my uncle Doug, was such a trooper. He was there and he cleaned the scallops for us and showed the kids how to clean them, howyou open them.

And then my aunt, Gosh, she was awesome or is awesome. She, uh, cooked a bunch up for me cuz she knew how much I was dying to have scallops again, fresh outta the ocean. So there we were, probably 10 o'clock at night eating fresh scallops that had just been in the O Ocean hours before. And, uh, it was just amazing.

I could talk for hours about these memories of spending time living in, in New Zealand. Uh, it really shaped who I am today. I felt very attached to the farm in the Mangakahia Valley and for good reason. My great, great, great grandfather was a Maori chief in that valley.

His name was Kamareira Te Hau Takiri Wharaepapa. How cool is that for young girl to have that story to hang her hat on? We grew up hearing stories about Wharaepapa visiting his grave site, which was just down the road. We have a beautiful letter that reads like it was written by Elizabeth, who was Wharaepapa's wife. This story is a modern romance set in the 18 hundreds.

It started when Queen Victoria sent for a grItalop of Maoris to come to England as she had never seen them in person. So Wharaepapa was part of that tour, and then it was in England that he met Elizabeth and brought her back to New Zealand. And I often think or wonder,you know, did she think she was coming back to be the queen of New Zealand?

And then what a shock it would've been for her to be in the Mangakahia Valley, which at the time the only nearest city was Auckland, which would've been, she would've been very remote in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, I'll save this story for another time, but um, yeah, it's a good one. From a very young age, I listened to stories about Wharaepapa and spent time with Bibi in her beautiful Sari's in making delicious curries.

Bibi died when I was five. It is shocking to me how much I remember about her, especially tied to those smells and tastes of the curries that she made. My dad was not a hundred percent practicing Muslim once he moved to VancItalover. And went to the local high school. My dad sort of selected the elements that he would follow and felt were important.

And then,you know, he chose to drink beer and eat pork. He and my mom raised us without a specific religion, but with very strong values. And I remember my dad continued to read the Quran for years, well into my teens anyway, and he taught my brother and I some prayers, um, on the 20 minute drive from our farm in Portee to our school in Whangarei.

I often say to people that my dad was more Japanese than he was Muslim. And what I mean by that was my dad's business was focused on the Japanese market, and as children, we always had the chance to meet his Japanese customers when they visit Canada from Japan. I.you know, most people would take their customers out for dinner to conduct business, but my dad often brought them back to our home and we would all share a meal together.

And my brother and I who were just listen, were just, uh, little, sorry. He, we would grow up listening to the conversations around that table. Andyou know, by osmosis and by listening, we would learn some of the cultural ways of Japan, including some very fun after dinner games that Mr. Kenmatsu . And actually, as I say that, I'm looking back and thinking about that game now, and I realize when it was played properly, it was probably a drinking game that the adults played.

Growing up, I probably ate as much Japanese food as I did curries. Both my parents loved to cook and we had some of the most interesting meals. My mom went thrItalogh a delicious phase when we were living in New Zealand, where we ate the Japanese, uh, dish sukiyaki Almost weekly, she would bring the electric wok to the dining room table and cook the meal of fresh vegetables and meats in the broth.

Right at the table, I remember we would crack an egg into our bowl of steaming rice and then serve ourselves from the wok and put the broth and food directly onto that rice and egg. As that wok emptied, mum would make another batch, and the broth was so delicious. I think it was probably a combo of mirin sugar, soy sauce, water.

And I'm gonna guess that mom probably added Sake to it too. My dad would go to Japan twice a year for my whole life. It was eight days of hard travel and nonstop work building and nurturing the relationships with his Japanese customers. LifItalong friendships were made and he has a quotation marks Japanese brother, um, that I hope to visit sometime.

I have very few, if any, regrets in life except one in my twenties. I started to really travel and my dad always wanted to take me to Japan with him, but I was on a roll. I was traveling to cItalontries that I thItaloght were going to really change due to political reasons or other. In my mind I thItaloght Japan will always be there.

It is not going to change that much. I'll go next year. I kept saying, I took it for granted. I could go there anytime with my dad. What I didn't bank on or really think thrItalogh is that my dad was not going to always be there, and it was that trip I really wanted. I wanted to see his Japan. My dad died in June of 2010, so now my brother who goes twice a year to Japan, he is going to have to be a travel companion to me very soon.

He just may not know it yet, but I'll be letting him know. My parents moved to New Zealand in 1979. I was nine years old at that time. ObviItalosly there was no internet. Long distance. Phone calls were very expensive.you wrote letters that to take weeks to get across the globe. The cla, the town closest to us and where I went to school is called Whangarei or Whangarei, as the Maoris call it.

I remember when the first McDonald's, yep. McDonald's opened up there. I think I actually had my birthday there. That's where I would've chosen to have my birthday. We didn't eat gourmet or interesting meals every day far from it. Um, I loved McDonald's when I was a kid and oh my gosh, I could probably still recite.

Big Mac song, two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickled onion, on a boom. Anyway, movies also that came to town were um, in Canada years ahead and this has all changed now and quite frankly, in my opinion, New Zealand or Auckland anyway, is further ahead than VancItalover and Canada in general, especially in fashion and cultural events.

So all that to say it was a small town when my parents moved there. I think it was hard for, I know it was hard for my dad starting up a business in Whangarei, uh, being an immigrant from Pakistan. However, he found a kindred sItalol in a beautiful Italian man named Italo Coppolino. Italo wife, Katy was a very good friend of my mom's, and Italoand Katy have a love story that really shItalold be a movie.

Katy taught English in the sixties in Italy, and Italowas one of her students and fell hard in love with her. Katy, however, didn't want to reciprocate because Italo was quite a bit older than her. So she took off traveling in Italy. Long story short, even the newspapers in Italy at one time were printing stories about Italo love for Katy and how he was chasing her around Italy to get her to marry him.

He succeeded and they eventually moved to New Zealand. They have two amazing daughters around the same age as my brother and I and our families. Spent loads of time together and became very close for life. Oh my gosh. Meals at Katy's and Italo's were the what dreams are made of beautiful, colorful tableware, platters and platters of delicious Italian dishes sitting outside.

Al Fresco outdoor pizza oven, not far wine flowing and loads of laughter. Actually, I think this is where my passion for al fresco meals and beautiful table tableware came from. Eventually that is what I brought back from travels. Actually. I would have my backpack be traveling around and would collect tableware dishes.

Tablecloths from the countries that I visited. I'd wrapped the delicate stuff up in my clothes and put it in my backpack. And now I have dishes from all over the world, Thailand, Portugal, Ecuador. And I love to tell stories from my travels when I serve meals on those dishes. It's a way that I stay connected to those places and the people that I met.

Anyway, back to Katy and Italo. Katy could make mouth watering a mouthwatering dish, um, from anything. We had a beach place in New Zealand. Way up north in the Bay of Islands. And when the Coppolino's would come and stay, we would pick mussels just off the rocks and Katy would do them. Well, they're Italian style, but I always refer to them.

And later on in life my friends refer to them as Katy's mussels. Uh, they're so simple, but so good. I have friends who, to this day will ask me for the recipe. And these muscles were my signature dish for many, many years. If I was dating someone, uh, the way, the way I showed that I was like really interested is I'd invite them for dinner and make a pot of, uh, Katy's mussels anyway.

But there's also these little fish that we would catch. Um, I forget what they were called. Usually we wouldn't eat them, we'd throw them back cuz they were almost like sprouts. But I remember Katy would put them on a roasting pan with lots of herbs, lemon, probably salt and garlic, and grill them in the oven.

And they were so good. It was like eating peanuts. Katy and Italo are sadly no longer with us, and I'm not sure if they ever had any idea how much of an influence those family meals and their family had on me, but I'm always, um, so grateful for the time that we had. I think one of the things I love most about my upbringing is that nothing was labeled in terms of our experiences.

There was no life lesson spelled out to us in each experience, which I admit I do do sometimes with my team boys just once in a while. But no, we were part of the fabric of the life my parents created. Like we just did what they did. We ate what they ate, and my parents were open to all experiences.

People were people and the shared experiences, we had created connections that lasted lifetimes. And this taught me more about the cultures, the people, the places than any book or any lecture, or quite frankly, any social media post. I think what was so cool is that we always had more in common than we didn't, and that.

What we had in common was what connected us, and for me, that was often the meal that we shared, and that is why I was inspired to start. In My Kitchen. I want to help people who love to travel have a deeper connection to the people and places they visit, or may visit or dream of visiting through the In, My Kitchen programs like the classes and podcasts, and I hope one day we'll have a recipe book too.

I wanna give people the confidence to create and share dishes from their travels. Hopefully empowering them to make an impact at home and abroad by sharing what they learn and sharing who they are through the dishes that they make. I have really enjoyed doing this episode

I hope you enjoyed it as well, but I really, I really just want to thank you for coming back here each week and spending this time with me . I would love to hear from you is it helps me curate the episodes and what you're enjoying, listening to. You can send me a message on Instagram @inmykitchenpaula or an email paula@inmykitchen.ca links are below. And if you'd like to join me on more culinary journeys, you can sign up for one of my virtual cooking classes.

Where I interview and cook with passionate, knowledgeable home cooks from diverse cultures.

You'll learn about the recipes, culture, and people from the places you want to travel to. These classes are the perfect way to explore culture through food with me as your guide, moderating the experience to share it as a fun, smooth adventure. Just click the link in the show notes to see upcoming classes.

We also have unique corporate team building, cooking classes, and all of our virtual classes are available for private groups. A great way to celebrate milestones with friends and family from afar. Also, I am excited to offer my free guide, 10 unique travel and food tips. You won't find anywhere else. The link is in the show notes and there's some really great info in there. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode if you have any questions just ask me I'll be happy to chat with you in the meantime take the first step on your next culinary adventure and sign up for my free guide.