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My grandfather did not speak or read a word of English when he moved to America from China at eleven years old. With a lot of hard work, he proudly became an US citizen and began his own Cantonese restaurant in Kingston, NY, from the ground up. He is not a trained chef but has a natural gift for combining unexpected flavors and ingredients into the most delicious dishes. Although the food on the menu is the absolute best Chinese food in the country, the really out-of-this-world dishes are the ones that he serves his family in the back of the restaurant. He doesn't read cookbooks or write down any of his recipes; all his creations are original. Growing up, I spent every summer with him eating these foods. Every morning, we would pick fresh vegetables from his garden that he would use to make the noon and evening meals with. He stuffed garden zucchini the size of my arm (of course, my arm was smaller then) with fresh lobster and shrimp. This is just one example of a simple summertime lunch for him. Without a doubt, his cooking is the greatest influence on my tastes in foods and my own recipes.
My favorite foods are the ones that I grew up eating. Since my mom is of Irish descent from the mountains of West Virginia, she cooks hearty Southern comfort foods daily. Of course, I love the Cantonese cuisine and Dim sum that my dad and his family make.
My favorite dishes are my uncle's (my dad's brother's) Beef Chow Fun, my Grandma's (my mom's mother's) slow simmered country-style green beans, my mom's spaghetti with meatballs, my mom's award-winning strawberry pie (my dad was banned from making his New York-Style Strawberry Cheesecake for our church's bake-off, so he made my mom's recipe for Strawberry Pie and won anyway.) Growing up, Sunday dinner between church services was always my favorite meal of the week. It was one of the following meals: my dad's peking duck with my mom's peas, mashed potatoes and gravy; my dad's seared lamb chops or steak with my mom's green beans and linguine with clam sauce.
Seasons and holidays greatly influence the dishes that I crave. I love my dad's secret recipe for Barbecued Spare-ribs which we eat every Fourth of July with my mom's collard greens, deviled eggs, baked beans, corn on the cob, Dolly Parton Coleslaw (Recipe #479012), and strawberry shortcake. My favorite meal of the year is our Thanksgiving Feast overflowing with appetizers of smoked fish dip and crab dip with crackers, and pumpkin bread; main course of roasted turkey with giblet gravy, green beans, zucchini soufflé, and sweet potato casserole, and Sausage, Artichoke, and Parmesan Dressing (Recipe #504355); and dessert of custard pie, pumpkin tarts, and Pumpkin Cheesecake (Recipe #458678) with sweetened whipped cream on all of them! Christmas Dinner is roasted goose with all the trimmings; treats such as banana nut bread, German Stollen, and eggnog; and Christmas cookies such as Finnish Bread, Golden Sesame Cookies, Almond Balls, Pecan Pick-Me-Ups, and Danish Knots.