Any talent that I have in the kitchen can firmly be traced back to my grandmothers Olive & Ruby. The cooking gene definitely skipped a generation with my mother. (Love ya ma!) As soon as I was tall enough to reach the stove, and could cook a meal without supervision, my mother eagerly made the kitchen my domain.
Olive loved to cook and kept a record of her favourite recipes while Ruby loved to bake, but she wrote nothing down, and rarely followed a recipe as written. They were both stay-at-home moms each with no less than 5 mouths to feed on their respective husband’s income. Yet, they always prepared tasty and nutritious meals, and there always seemed to be plenty of leftovers in case anyone dropped by.
I have lots of memories of hot, lazy summer days sitting with Olive at her yellow painted wooden kitchen table, swinging my long skinny legs, eagerly waiting for the day that I could help. I also remember times when my cousins and I descended on Grandma Ruby while they played cops and robbers I helped Ruby either by shelling peas or peeling vegetables for supper.
Olive and Rhonda
It’s been 20+ years since I left for Canada but every time I went back home, I always went and spent time with each of them, and no visit was complete without us cooking and telling stories around the kitchen table. It’s been 10 years since Olive passed away, and at 96, Ruby has hung up her apron and left the cooking and baking to the younger generation.
A year and a half ago, I was cleaning out some boxes in the basement, and I’d found a box of “Olive’s stuff” and among her things I found her cookbook of handwritten recipes and, a book of mine where I recorded recipes that we cooked together. While the spines on the books are old and broken, the pages yellowed with age, the memories are as strong as if it all happened yesterday.
This was the catalyst that I needed to make some changes that I’d been secretly harbouring. I signed up for professional cooking classes, and started this blog to share my progress in modernizing those recipes with my family. Along the way, things changed, and instead the seems to be re-writing itself and drawing on what’s been going on in my life, including recipes I've made and products I’m trying. However, something’s been missing, and I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it. While I’m proud that I've kept the blog going for a year, but I’ve been struggling finding my "voice".
I am a proud Trinidadian "Trini" but, I didn’t want to have a blog where I only cooked Caribbean food. Trinidad is a microcosm of many different cultures and cuisines and growing up I learned how to appreciate and cook a bit of everything. I've found that most people don't necessarily think of that when they think about Caribbean food. So I've purposely not put any Caribbean recipes on my blog, much to the chagrin of my friends. Lately though I’ve been asking myself - how can I stay away from Caribbean cooking, when I am a Caribbean cook?
It took a weekend listening to inspirational industry leaders at Canada’s first food blogging conference, and an eye-opening conversation with Michelle and Meena to realize that the reason that I was struggling was because I wasn’t being completely authentic and writing about what I know. So instead of analyzing why I’ve been running from it, I’m now running to embrace it and, in time I’ll figure out what the correct label is for me.
It’s been suggested that I re-name my blog, but I don’t want to because the names Olive and Ruby have a very special meaning to me and my family. So I’m going to use my 20+ years of marketing expertise and find a creative way to let people know that Olive and Ruby mean – Love, Laughter and Dishes cooked with Caribbean flair.
So going forward on this blog, I’ll be sharing more things and hopefully it’ll sound more like me. Keep me honest if you think that it doesn't :)
I'll share recipes that I’ve make for family and friends, recipes that I’ve been inspired to try and posts about the things that are going on in my life. And one day in the not too distant future – I’m going publish a cookbook of Olive and Ruby’s recipes. Two weeks ago I saw Ruby, and we talked about my struggles with the blog. After listening to me and offering me a couple words of advice, she told me to take another look at the gift she gave me when I graduated from university. When I got home, I dug it out and the following had been underlined.
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
Rhonda, or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!”
Oh the places you'll go! Dr. Seuss
I’m on my way Ruby, I’m on my way.
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