I Never Cooked Growing Up

From time to time I get asked about how and when my love for cooking started. I’ll tell you now that food’s always been a love of my life, but my cooking started very late. I never cooked growing up because I was just constantly fed.

My mother never taught me how to cook anything. I’d just watched her. My mother, and father, filled my stomach with most everything I wanted from a very young age. It’s because I was born sickly.

Sickly babies were talked about by everyone in the Korean community, and with feigned sympathy. My mother still purses her lips and shakes her head when she tells me stories of rushing me through the doors of the hospital each time I fell ill.  Not eating was a superstitious sign of looming death in Korean households, and my parents had once or twice feared I’d die because of my weak immune system and appetite.

Anytime I was well again eating happened all the time to keep me full, and strong. Later, food became treats and bribes and love from my parents, who often felt guilty for things out of their control. There were some childhood battles I fought  and won and some that I lost, and some that left me scarred because I had no chance at winning. My parents tried to heal my scars with road trips and plane rides and food from all over the world. They spoiled me, but I was still punished severely when I did something wrong. It was tough Korean love, but there was always good food.

I always sat next to my grandfather at big family dinners, because as the eldest he always got served the biggest and best plate of food. He always gave me what I asked for off his plate. I miss him.

chicken wing

I got fatter as each year passed, but I never cooked any of the food I ate. I never cooked growing up, and never baked cookies with my mother either because I had no interest in the kitchen. My mother never shuttled me in there for instruction, because she wanted me to read as much as I wanted. I read Beverly Clearly and Judy Blume. The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High and later all the VC Andrews scandals, and everything in between, I read.

So I never cooked a whole meal myself from scratch until I was 19 and moved out of my parents’ home. Cooking came very naturally to me, and I was lucky. It’s another reason select pothead friends and I got fat when we had the munchies, when I first moved out on my own. I cooked. Disastrous on the waistline, but I learned a lesson.

Growing up I’d merely watched my mother cook all her magic until the day I moved out on my own, but I’d always greedily tasted everything during her cooking process like an annoying chihuahua. In grade school I remember every few pages I’d put my book down and hop into the kitchen. I’d open my mouth wide and my mother would just pop into it a perfect bite of whatever it was she was shredding or smearing at the time, and smile and I’d pop back to the sofa to continue reading.

Even now, as a grown woman, when my mother comes to visit us in Belgium and cooks in my kitchen, I’m always lurking and tasting this and that while she puts our meals together. Noah is now around when I’m in the kitchen, and he insists on tasting everything that I put out of the kitchen. He loves meal time, and snack time, and when we see my mother next he will surely eat everything she prepares again. She will just need to get used to having Noah always in the kitchen because he just wants to be playing where the food is.

I have to build a little fort around him while I cook.


Nowadays in between cooking, I write more than I ever read as a little girl. I cook most every meal on the weekdays at home, and on the weekends we sometimes wing it and order out. Food is important to me, but food with my family is most important to me. Part of me inherited that need to indulge loved ones in food, from my parents. My parents often indulged me out of guilt, but with Noah I’ve yet to feel guilt yet. I just love feeding him.

My closest friends who know me best know that I’m happiest in the kitchen sharing food with people I care about. So my closest friends know that I truly am where I want to be feeding Davy and Noah.

Always dishing,



  1. My grandfather left his family home when he was 16 to live on his own. He married my grandmother when he was 18 and from that day forward he never picked up anything in the kitchen . 60 years later, my grandmother passed away. My grandfather was 78 and was now living on his own. We all worried he would starve, but we fast discovered that in the 2 years he had been on his own as a teenager, he had taught himself to cook. The meals he cooked surpassed anything my grandmother had ever made. He said he had always enjoyed cooking. We asked him why he never cooked while she was alive and he said it was because it wasn’t his place. My grandmother was old fashioned and always felt it was her duty to do all of the housework, and he was not going to take what she loved away from her. Food is a necessity of life, but in loving hands it is so much more. In loving hands it feeds the soul. My grandparents had soul.

  2. Bev

    There is so much satisfaction when your loved ones leave the table full and thank you for a great meal. It makes all the time you spend in the kitchen worthwhile.

    My parents worked full time and I had to rush home after school to prepare dinner. I never got to do after school sports so I suck at sports. Don’t cry for me Argentina, I cook a mean roast beef and Yorkshire pudding! I was the opposite with my daughter and didn’t want her to miss out on anything but she loves to cook now. We have our best conversations of life past and present during food prep.

    Life is funny, huh.

  3. Markson

    The thing about cooking is you start with what seems like nothing and are able to do anything you want with it. It’s like an artist with a blank canvas creating works of art for your belly.

    Beautiful family Jun, they sound awesome. Cook and feed them for as long as you can and cherish those moments.

  4. MarluvsBB

    I so get the “I’m happiest in the kitchen sharing food with people I care about” comment. Same for me. Cooking a great meal and sharing it with those who are special to me, and then seeing how much they enjoy it, makes me so happy. My mom learned to cook from her mother-in-law. She told me her mom couldn’t boil water. She passed what she learned on to me and I’ve always been grateful. Her food always tasted better than mine though, no matter how hard I tried. She disagreed with me, and I think hers was better because it was Mom making it for me. Once I left home, I always looked forward to my visits when she’d make me all my favorites. I love how you are making memories with Noah in your kitchen. Who knows, he may become a world-famous chef someday.

  5. Sparky

    I primarily grew up in an old fashioned German household. Until I was 12 I lived with one grandmother or the other and most of the time it was my mother’s mother. No one around me was physically demonstrative of love. Little hugging and kissing, but lots of food. Granny always had food prepared and it was offered as soon as one walked in the door. They were simple dishes, but they tasted like heaven to me. I spent tons of time in the kitchen with her and it was there we had the best talks ever. Neither my mother or my other grandmother were good cooks and had a very limited repertoire. We lived very close to a corner ice cream store that also made hamburgers so they were a staple. I never learned how to cook at all. I have no idea why. I guess I wasn’t interested all that much in food at the time. When I got married I found out how little I knew. Thank goodness I married a man who could cook and loves to do so. I can cook now and am fairly good at it, but my husband could be a gourmet chef and he adores cooking. He opened a whole world of food and meals to me. I still associate food with love and I guess I always will. A lot of what I did know about food and preparations came from just watching my Granny.

    I love that your blogs encourage and enable so many of us to share bits of our life with others. Thanks for that and for being you.

  6. Im Russian and Irish. My grandmothers emptied the refrigerator onto the table when we came to visit. And they cooked. I was passed to my grandmothers most weekends. so i learned to help run a rabbit and poultery farm. I know them from birth on. and when sent to Idaho i learned to clean and can fruit and veg. I can remember lighting the oven when i was in Kindergarten and almost blowing up the house trying to make breakfast. these days i still cook most meals. The PI started helpiing me when my spine was so bad and hes really a good cook now and fun to cook with. We shop together as well. Its fun to share the work.

  7. i learned to cook by helping and tasting and lurking in the kitchen. I ended up being a better cook than mom and she let me. i have cooked all these years but glenn would do the clean up as his father had for his mother. then my spine fracture and it hurt to stand up he learned to cook and hes getting very good at it. we grocery shop, cook and clean up sharing and its good. my son grew up in my kitchen and he put himself through college cooking. now he shares the kitchen with his 4 year old daughter. its a family thing feeding people.


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