I Grew Up in the Kitchen

by | Jan 4, 2024 | Straight Talk


I grew up in a Montana kitchen. I was the youngest in a working family with 4 kids in Missoula, Montana. The kitchen was simply where life was happening, so I liked hanging out there. Because of that, my working mom drafted me as her assistant at age 13. I was also the only one in the family without a job. Mom was an excellent cook with a great “nose” for flavor and, out of necessity, ran an extraordinarily well-organized kitchen. Meals were planned a week in advance, and she knew what was for dinner when she got up in the morning. She did an amazing job of putting delicious and nourishing meals together on a limited budget.

The diet I grew up with was very meat-centric, but in 1959 America that was the way most people ate. First decide the meat course, and then what you’d wish to put on the plate with it. We had fresh fruits and vegetables in growing season, but most of the year our fruits and vegetables came from frozen and home-canned stock.

My pallet continued to expand as I grew older, but I had a real awakening when I got hired to go sing with Seattle Opera. It was 1974 and I was off to the “Big City” to pursue the career of my dreams.

Seattle was truly culture shock on so many levels for a kid from Montana. I was in heaven! It was a vibrant arts hub with an opera company, ballet, symphony, and a terrific theater scene. But it was also a food town! Fresh seafood was a real thing in Seattle and the place was really beginning to rock it as a restaurant city. As a resident baritone with a big city opera company, I was also meeting singers from across the US and around the world who were eager to share their favorite foods with each other. It was a whole new grown-up lifestyle.

I was the chief meal planner and cook for my family. It just came naturally after my upbringing, and I found my time in the kitchen relaxing and a lovely escape from the day’s activities. My daughter never liked eating meat and preferred eating like a vegetarian as a preteen, so I started studying the pros and cons of going meatless. The more I learned, the less I wanted to continue eating meat. It wasn’t good for my health, and it was absolutely horrible for the environment. This wasn’t a sustainable choice! Damn! I liked eating my meat. I wasn’t ready to change my lifestyle quite yet.

Then in my early 30’s my father went in for an emergency triple by-pass. A few years later he had a disabling stroke. The doctors simply explained away his arterial disease as hereditary and the result a lifetime of enjoying the Western diet. He wasn’t even 70 years old! That was a turning point for me. I didn’t want to end up like my dad. So, it was “Game On!” It was time to finish growing up. I started eating a healthier plant-based diet. I just referred to it as mostly meatless.

When I remarried in my mid 40’s, my new wife Priscilla, was even more in tune to a plant-based approach to eating than I. She encouraged me to write down and share the repertoire of recipes I was developing (and carried in my head) and became my muse as I continued to discover and create new approaches to plant-based cooking.

I’ve now lived a predominantly plant-based diet for the past 30 years and have incorporated that into my daily cooking. We enjoy a far wider range of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains than we grew up with, and our plates are more colorful and flavorful than we ever imagined. We include fish and dairy in our diet, but no meat.

Today we continue to discover flavors and cooking techniques from the various cultures worldwide as our careers have provided opportunities for lots of international travel. You might say we’ve finally grown up as we enjoy a wider range of international foods. The results of that lifestyle are now displayed in my online cooking site, The Grown-up Kitchen.  

Come join the grown-ups in the kitchen. All ages are welcome. (Some of us still have a way to go.) Together we can make a difference.

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