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Ashley Graham

The Love of Food

If you follow me on twitter, facebook, tumblr, Vine, or any social network you know I love to cook. I spend many sick days or lazy days laying on my couch and the television is always on the same channels. It's the cooking channel, travel channel, Discovery channel, Food Network, or HGTV. I wish I could say I gained my love of cooking from my parents, but I can't. My mother could make two things: tacos and spaghetti. That's where it ended. Funny thing is she owned an Italian restaurant when she was about the age I am. I used to mock her and poke fun at her when she brought it up saying that it must have been a drug front. My dad can make you a hamburger and anything instant. If it goes in a mircowave, he can make it. I can remember going to visit him in DC when I was about 11 and I asked for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. The look of terror that crossed his face is one I'll never forget. He had no idea how to make it, didn't know how to do the noodles, nothing. So, he bought me a box and said I'll watch you, just follow the directions. That was the day I made my first food.Yes, it came from a box, but I was proud of myself. I could do something my dad couldn't; cook Mac N' Cheese. Since neither could cook, we spent most of the time eating out. We ate out so much that one waitress rarely took my order, unless I waived her over, because I ordered the same meal everytime, an array of seafood. MY mom was a big seafood fan and I'm sure I got that from her. Thanksgivings were spent in lavish seafood restaurants. My father preferred more of the Southern Ciuntry cooking. I took that from each of them. I can cook a mean Mussel, Shrimp, or Salmon meal, but I can also make you grits, Country Fried Steak, and the best potato salad you've ever eaten.

When I turned 13, my mom began to let me cook more. I would spend hours scouring the internet for what I wanted to eat, print out the recipe, go to the Farmer's Market with her and pick out the ingredients. It was that weekend Farmer's Market trip to Carlsbad after we walked the beach where we connected. MY mom and I were close, but we didn't have the best relationship. Some would describe as oil and vinegar. We just didn't mix well. Same went for my dad. The difference was my mom and I could bond over picking out vegetables, walking the beach, and going to health food stores. My dad and I bonded over junk food and a love for gadgets and computer games and books. Maybe that's why I love Farmer's Markets and cooking so much because food is what brought my mom and I together. We loved trying new restuarants, mainly seafood ones. She was very health conscious being a nurse and she passed that on to me. She was my sious chef and I was the one in charge.

The first thing I ever made her was Chicken Enchiladas. She was so proud, she went and picked up like ten of my close friends and their famiyl members to try it. Talk about nervewracking being so young and having so many people taste the first real dish you made. It turned out wonderfully. I added some extra stuff here and there, but it was delicious. I still make it now from memory for Scott and my friends. It's always a hit. Ask me how I make it or for a recipe and I'll tell you a scoop of this, a sprinkly of that, some chicken, some sour cream. It's not helpful. I don't know the quantities anymore, it's been engrained in my head how to make, just like tacos and spaghetti has. I'm sure someone could follow me around the kitchen and tell you exactly how to do it. I can't.

When I moved in with my dad at 18 due to health issues, I gave up my cooking for a bit. I had been vomiting a lot and when you're that sick and it causes you to throw up, you lose the passion you had for cooking. Then, I met my ex, and I got tired of cheeseburgers that my dad would make, along with this rice beans, and meat slop. The man lives on cigarettes, red meat, and coca cola. I don't know how he's still alive. I wouldn't eat the slop. Instead I'd order in from Thai places or go get sushi. My ex was the one who took me to a book store one day and I found myself looking at cook books again. I was tired of eating the shitty food, I wanted shrimp scampi on a bed of linguine and I lived next to Eastern Market so I had th freshest ingradients to grab on my walk home. So I did it, I stopped in and I grabbed the ingredients that the cook book called for. I was still under age though, so I had to call my dad and ask him to buy me white wine. He did, no questions asked. They left me alone in that kitchen that night listening to me cuss at myself because my skills at everything had gone so downhill. Then two hours later, I finished. The house smelled of lemon and shrimp and it felt good. They ate every last bite of it that night, as did I. Soon after that, I moved in with my ex and continued to cook. I burnt some chicken fried steak, I got drunk off wine while cooking one night and started a fire. It was a mix of successes and failures with cooking, but it was something I loved. I could sit alone and make something great with my hands. I could never draw or paint, all I had was my writing and cooking to show my creative side.

Since moving to Georgia, I cook more. Scott shows me how to chop things because I never knew how to before. He explains how the grill works, and I show him recipes. I'm still not at the stage where I can taste everything, but the nice thing is he cooks too. So, we make a dish together or he makes one alone and I do the dishes and vice versa. Then, we sit and we eat. We ask each other what the other thinks and if I lie to make him feel better, he calls me on it. As he says, we'll never make it correctly and you'll never like it unless you point out the good and the bad. So, I do now, and he does the same. We learned I hate frozen frish and I can easily taste the difference between fresh and frozen. I never realized I had that palette before, but I will turn my nose up at fish that isn't fresh. I know that most restaurants that are chains can't cook chicken to save their lives, they over cook it and it becomes dry, same with pork. I now grow my own veggies and herbs in the backyard in a garden he built for me. I try things now and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. Some days I get whacky and grill whatever can be grilled in the chicken just to do it. This is how I learned that warm watermelon is not appetizing, it's warm and rubbery, not fresh and juicy. I'm no longer so scared of fish heads, although I still prefer to not see them. I like cow tongue, but not tendon. My wishlist on amazon(  ) has become an array of cooking untensils and cook books and the normal girl/model stuff, but I get most excited when I see someone bought me cooking realted. I can watch an episode of Chopped and figure out what to make out of a basket, not sure if I could execute it in 20-30 minutes, but I could try. Fodd; it's something that I love, the smell, the feel, the flavor, the process of growing it, picking it, going to the market, learning new cuisines. I've become passionate about it. To put it simply, I love food and everything to do with it. 


Last night, I made Carne Asada burittos, pico de gallo and guacamole from scratch.




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