Among the memories that I cherish the most in my life are those many pleasant hours I spent in or around a kitchen, either my own or at my good friends’ and family’s homes, cooking, eating, conversing and enjoying the company of the loved ones.
I’ve always had a remarkable appetite, which made me the chubbiest of all four sisters. As a little girl, as most girls do, I enjoyed playing house - but what I really liked was the cooking part of it! (well, I must say I also liked playing a teacher, as both my parents are teachers.)
After ruining many of my mother’s pans attempting to cook on improvised wood stoves my parents used to build with us at the back of the house, I perfectly remember how excited I was to have my first toy stove for Christmas. It was gorgeous, made of bright red metal and plastic, with six burners and a large oven, just like my grandmother’s, and it came with tiny aluminum pans. I was five, and I was the happiest kid that day at lunchtime, filling my pans with “adult” food and serving it to my sister’s and cousin’s dolls.
My incursions into my mother’s “real” kitchen started very early too. She would let us help her with the cooking and even let us do our own cooking, under her supervision, as soon as we were tall enough to see what was inside the pan. Being the oldest, I had to take the lead. I remember preparing many strange recipes for my sisters to try, such as a tomato sauce with grated coconut, which is still recorded on my mom’s recipe book with my wobbly handwriting - I was about nine, then.
My grandmother’s kitchen, on the other hand, was forbidden land. She reigned sovereign in her territory, giving orders to her four daughters and two daughters-in-law on how to chop vegetables and carve the meat she prepared to feed the 40 or so family members that gathered at her house every Christmas, New Year’s and Easter’s lunch. There, I could only watch, dreaming of becoming as masterful as she was - something all her daughters, I think, dreamed of.
With my parents’ separation when I was twelve, I decided that playing house could also be a not very pleasant experience, so I decided to follow my other inclination: being a teacher. I’ve graduated in Linguistics at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1997. After spending some time in the U.S. studying English, I went back to my country and took a two-year course on English translation and then got a Masters and a PhD degree in Translation Studies at the same university. During that time, I taught many classes, but my involvement with cooking was about to make a comeback.
Since I first started working as a freelance translator, I began translating cookbooks from English into Portuguese and vice-versa. Culinary translation was also the theme of both my Masters and PhD dissertations. In 2008, the same year I finished my PhD, I published an English-Portuguese dictionary of cooking terms with my academic advisor, and translated my first lengthy book on professional cooking. That was when I realized I needed to deepen my knowledge of professional cooking, if I wanted to continue translating those very specialized books. By the same time, I had an invitation to move to Dallas, so I decided to join the Culinary Arts Program at El Centro.
Once I began my course, in Fall 2009, all my love for the practical aspects of cooking gradually aroused. Not that I stopped cooking all this time - on the contrary, cooking for friends and family has always been one of my favorite pastimes. But I’ve never thought before of becoming a professional of the Food and Hospitality Industry. Now, every aspect of food preparation and service interests me, especially when I contrast them with my own culture and working experience as an English-Portuguese translator.
Whether I am going to open my own restaurant, here in the United States or back home, become a food writer, or continue to work as a specialized translator of cookbooks after finishing my Culinary Arts degree, I do not know (I might even manage to do all of that in the long run...) What I do know is that the Culinary Arts, and all the complexity involved in contrasting and combining Brazilian and North American eating cultures, will never cease to be an integral (and the most passionate) part of my professional career.