#1: I’m Passionate about Cooking

My interest in cooking began at a hibachi-style restaurant when I was ten years old. Prior to this meal, my definition of cooking was either: food from a microwave or food from a restaurant. I was absolutely blown away by the transformation of  ingredients during my hibachi-grill experience.

If you have never been to one, let me break it down for you:

Your table is built around a large griddle.

The chef [who doubles as an entertainer] prepares your food with epic knife skills and pyrotechnics.

Onions are stacked into the shape of a volcano and ignited in a large flame.

Eggs are juggled by spatula then transformed into fried rice.

I remember thinking, “That’s cooking? I want to do that!”

So inspired by the experience, I made fried rice at home a few days later.  No recipe, I just went shopping in the kitchen and gathered together what looked like the same ingredients the chef used.  I then tried to follow what I could recall he did.  A technique that comprised of recollection, intuition and testing/learning.

I would later come to call this process: SOMETHING out of NOTHING [or SooN] cooking. Ultimately, my process for creating SOMETHING out of NOTHING became my recipe for navigating life.  I’ve organized my discoveries into three distinct categories: COOKING, ADULTING and PARENTING and share them here, on SooN LIVING.

#2: I’m a Cashew

CASHEW

cash-ew | adjective

1. Term used to define someone who has one parent who is CATHOLIC and one parent who is JEWISH.

2. A variation of “Cath-Jew”.

Cashew = Catholic + Jewish

Religion is a core element of identity for many people.  Specifically for me, religion is less about religious practices and more about my family. Here is how my Catholic + Jewish culture and history have influenced SooN LIVING…

 

Catholic:

It’s actually my maternal grandmother, Perfecta, who exposed me to Catholicism. As a devout Catholic, she practiced the religion [with me on the sidelines] until her 88th birthday.  I had asked her what she wanted for her birthday present and she let me know that her only birthday wish was to have someone to go with her to Mass each Sunday. From that point forward, Sunday Mass followed by brunch at a local Mexican restaurant was our thing.

That time we spent together added depth to an otherwise generic immigration story.  What was once a simple declarative sentence: “My grandmother immigrated from Mexico as a child.” had become an epic tale of character building resilience and tenacity that came out of unexpected hardship. My only regret is that I wish I would have better documented her oral history.

One common assumption about my identity is that I learned how to cook Mexican food from my Mexican grandmother. The truth is that Perfecta was a product of the depression who saved salt and ketchup packages from take-out restaurants and called chicken tenders + flour tortillas from the hot bar at the grocery store “tacos”. While I have since learned to cook some pretty authentic tacos, the credit does not go to the Catholic in my Cashew.

 

Jewish:

I’m technically not Jewish since that comes from my father’s side of the family.  However, the exposure I’ve had has been predominately Orthodox which makes me feel comfortable enough to call myself “Jewish”.  I’ve even been to Israel!

Most of the credit really goes to my Aunt Maxine who serves as the matriarch of this family. I’ve clocked significant time in her Kosher kitchen and credit her for being the single largest influencer on my cooking identity. She taught me how to design, cook and serve a complete meal. We’re talking: separate courses for soup, salad and fish, nothing less than three mains and ALWAYS a fruit salad with desert. Whether it was a Shabbat dinner for three or a Passover Seder for 20, from her I learned the importance of OPTIONS + COHESION when entertaining.

Yet the best supporting role goes to her husband, Uncle Irwin. He sets an impressive table and makes incredible cocktails. No meal with Aunt Maxine is complete without Uncle Irwin.

#3: I’m an Amazonian

I’ve worked at Amazon since 2007 and continue to work there today.  If you are curious about my professional career, you can learn more by connecting with me on LinkedIn.

Now. What you won’t find on my LinkedIn profile are the three very important ways that working at Amazon impacted my identity:

1) I met my husband on my first day at Amazon!

2) I developed my love of acronyms at Amazon. If you are not familiar with the Amazon culture: there are a lot of acronyms across Amazon.

3) Amazon exposed me to the connection between process and problem solving.  When I came across a hurdle or roadblock that lacked process or a clear solution — I learned to make one up or try and make the existing solution more efficient. I also learned that there was no end to this iterative process and began to think of each time I experienced that same hurdle or roadblock again as an opportunity to improve upon the existing solution.

#2 and #3 were top of mind when I created SooN LIVING.  What you already know is that the acronym SooN, stands for SOMETHING out of NOTHING. But SooN is also how I define my self-proclaimed superpower of “bringing process to chaos” which is how I apply the process and problem solving techniques from Amazon to the challenges I face in my personal life.

#4: I’m a Mom, now

Before motherhood, I thought there were numerous stages in life: childhood, adolescence, your 20’s, your 30’s, being OLD, being OLDer…

Now that I have children, I realize that was the perspective of someone without kids.  Because as a parent, I’ve learned there are really only two stages in life: BEFORE KIDS and AFTER KIDS.

BEFORE KIDS I slept well after noon on the weekends and managed to hit up happy hour, exercise, cook full 3-course meals and watch 2-3 television shows during the week.  I also spent countless hours “getting ready” before leaving the house. This included but was not limited to:

  • Showering
  • Straightening or styling my hair
  • Ironing my clothes
  • Accessorizing my outfit
  • Putting on makeup

It was only after I had children that I realized the primary reason my mother was always rushing around unshowered and unfashionable in public was because she was a mom.  [I’ve since apologized for giving her such a hard time as a teenager.]

 

To learn more about my adventures AFTER KIDS, check out SooN PARENTING.

Now. Enough About Me — Start SooN LIVING…

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