When you grow up in a big family, you can't help having lots of memories revolve around food. There were six of us, three boys and three girls (don't even begin to think Brady Bunch!), and we definitely did our share of eating. My parents owned a bar, restaurant, gas station, and marina that was on beautiful Omena Bay, Michigan. The town was so small that our family of eight pushed the population up over 50. Our 'back door' was the marina, where boats would come and dock so folks could grab a burger upstairs in the bar while they sat on the porch, or on Fridays, have 'all you can eat' perch and walleye with all the fixins.
In summer, my older sister and I would hang out at the beach, literally a stone's throw away from our house if you had a good arm. We'd swim and collect petoskey stones, go out to the raft and soak up so much sun our noses would blister and peel. We kept one eye out for boats to pull in, seeing the boaters make their way up the stairs, sit down and 'oh no, order lunch!' Dad would come out on the porch, whistle loud enough to wake every dog in the neighborhood from their lazy afternoon nap. That was our cue to dive in, swim to shore, run up the road and slip in the side door of the kitchen so the unsuspecting customers never knew their food was being cooked by 11 and 13 year olds, and cook up the order, water still dripping around our feet. I guess the folks from the child labor department didn't visit too often back then! There were many days we ran back and forth so many times the pavement just about burned holes in our feet, but somehow we were able to make work fun.
It's too bad as 'grownups' we so often lose that abilty that we had as children to turn work into fun. Did you ever make a snow fort that took hours and hours of digging, building, shoveling, and scraping with hands that were frozen stiff in mittens that were crusted over with ice and frozen snot? No complaining was even thought of during those hours, especially if it was done on a precious God-given 'snow day' from school, and yet the work involved was backbreaking, and there were times we were sure we would need fingers amputated due to frostbite. When the fort was finally done, with a stockpile of snowballs ready for the certain upcoming battle with the older brothers, we never sat back and groaned about how hard it had been, we only took pleasure that our fort was better than theirs! (in our minds, anyway) What a good reminder to us to work hard at what is set before us, don't complain, but take pleasure that we actually have work! Learn the secret of being content, no matter how hard the job.
Somehow in the midst of building snow forts and spending summers on the beach, I fell in love with cooking. Not just burgers on the grill, but lots of crazy concoctions. I put my family to the test with my many experiments, and somewhere in the winter of my senior year in high school I made some vegetarian chili that will go down in the family history as being the absolute worst thing any of them had ever eaten! I never even heard of cheesecake until I was an adult. I had my first piece in a hotel lobby restaurant in Dallas, TX back in the early 80's and it was love at first bite! I managed to get a recipe that I loved, and 'Cami's cheesecake' has become one of my signature dishes. I hope you, too, will have that 'love at first bite experience!