Family, Stories

Siblings in Arms: Learning to Conquer and Share the Kitchen

This is the first post by our new contributing writer, Savindi! She’s been a great friend of mine, ever since we met through WordPress in our fledgling blogging days over six years ago. I’m excited to share with you this story about her cooking adventures with her brother and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Note: This post is not sponsored by Goodfood meal kits

I will be the first to admit that I’m a control freak in the kitchen. I have to do things my way or else I feel like I’m a mess. If I was to analyze this even deeper, the kitchen is the only place where I have felt like I have had the most control due to various things that have happened in my life.

When the COVID-19 lockdown came along, my family and I (along with many people in our neighbourhood) had been receiving coupons from the meal kit service Goodfood for a couple of months. We’d previously chucked them in the recycling bin since we usually either cook food ourselves or order takeout on occasion. But one day, we got a coupon that had Serge Ibaka (a Toronto Raptors player who has an awesome YouTube series called How Hungry Are You?) on it, and my brother suggested checking it out. After a few conversations back and forth with a very helpful Customer Service assistant to understand the process better, we signed up for the Family Meal Plan that included four meal kits.

Recipe cards from Goodfood

For our first foray into this culinary adventure, the meals we chose were:

  1. Korean-Style Chicken Bulgogi Pizzas with Marinated Daikon & Carrots
  2. Curried Cod & Dahl Thali Plate with Basmati Rice, String Beans & Zesty Yogurt Sauce
  3. Seared Chicken Breasts in Bourbon-Mustard Pan Sauce with Spiced Potato Wedges & Crunchy Green Salad
  4. Spanakopita-Style Stuffed Peppers with Greek Salad 

Once we picked our meals, my brother said to me, “You know you’re probably the one who has to do most of the cooking, right?” To which I rolled my eyes and responded, “Of course I do.” In our family, the kitchen had been the domain of our dad and myself, so why should ordering meal kits change that?

Well colour me surprised when it did. 

On a quiet and sunny Sunday, our meal kit box (which was huge!) arrived. We were both impressed with the packaging, which is mostly recyclable (including the delivery box and the ice solution that can be emptied down a sink), except for some of the containers. After reading through the information provided and the recipes, we settled on making the Korean-Style Chicken Bulgogi Pizzas as our first meal. I was surprised initially when my brother offered to help. He normally never helps in the kitchen unless asked, and our unspoken agreement in the house has been he does the dishes if Dad and I had cooked. 

When dinner time arrived, we tried to divide what our responsibilities would be and my brother immediately volunteered me to cook the chicken, which I knew would happen. I also ended up being in charge of peeling the carrots while he made the marinade sauce. As I was cooking, I had to field remarks like, “It doesn’t really look like how it’s supposed to look, does it,” and, “This is taking a long time to prepare”. After what felt like a long time, we finally had a finished product:

Korean-Style Chicken Bulgogi Pizzas with Marinated Daikon & Carrots

After adding the carrots and daikon on top, the dish tasted heavenly. The marinated carrots and daikon definitely balanced the spiciness of the chicken to create a harmonious flavour. Verdict on sharing the kitchen with my brother for the first time? A few bumps here and there, but not a bad start.

Fast forwarding through more weeks of us making meal kit dinners together, I’ve realized that my brother and I share some control freak solidarity in the kitchen. He also has to do things his way (which means putting oil in the pan first and then turning on the stove, whereas I let the pan heat first and then add oil to it), having a specific process to cut vegetables (he dries them with paper towels first before cutting them while I just rinse them and start to chop).

Egg godamba roti

Aside from Good Food meal kits, my brother and I have also made one of our favourite Sri Lankan rotis called Godamba roti. When we were growing up in Sri Lanka, there used to be a Godamba roti seller who would come to our neighbourhood and we loved watching him make Godamba. It’s quite an art and a process. Through trial and error, we’ve learned that we’re better off making it in a circular pan rather than a rectangular one, especially when you’re making egg Godamba roti (because your eggs will go all over the place if you use a rectangular pan). And although I haven’t yet mastered the art of flipping it, I can see why it matters that the dough needs to be thinned out as much as possible. Working together, we’ve ended up with some pretty delicious roti.

In cooking with my brother, I’ve had to learn to share this space which I normally assume control over. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve come to enjoy these cooking sessions with him. He has a curiosity towards the process and will ask why certain things are done a certain way, or why coconut oil (which Sri Lankans always cook with) can’t be used for certain dishes. I’ve learned to hand some of the reins to him and give him space to make decisions. I’ve also tried to help him see a recipe as merely a set of guidelines that you can play around with to suit your own tastes. In some ways I’ve come to see my brother and I as a set of scales in the kitchen (no, we’re not Libras, I’m a Capricorn and he’s a Leo). I represent the traditional, tried-and-true way of making things (I really am sounding like a Capricorn here!) while he represents a more curious and new way of approaching cooking. What we both bring to the kitchen are valid perspectives that can exist together.

We’ve also discovered things that both of us can agree on:

  1. We both hate cutting onions. Sometimes I slyly pass on cutting them to him (I’ve suffered numerous tears over the last 4 years cutting onions, it’s about time he shed a few).
  2. We aren’t fond of kale— we’ve had it once with a Good Foods salad and weren’t too keen to try it again.
  3. We both enjoy trying different foods.
  4. Our kitchen would really benefit from having a slotted spatula to cook fish with.

In the end, maybe the kitchen isn’t really something that needs to be conquered. Instead, it’s meant to be a place where ideas and togetherness can be shared. We can come together to share our love for food among other things— after all, the kitchen is where you often go to soothe your soul. Does that mean that I’m going to start putting oil in the pan first before I heat it though? Probably not. But I’ll do my best not to cringe when my brother does that. 

My brother’s contribution to this post: “Everyone’s survived!!”

Honey-Soy Salmon with Kimchi Butter Udon Noodles and Baby Bok Choy