Grew up in San Francisco in the 50s where I was exposed to every type of food imaginable and every type of cooking technique the world has to offer. My Greek grandparents lived in an Italian neighborhood peppered with Hispanic familys. They all grew their own herbs in the backyard. Down the street was a Chinese grocer and across the 'Bridge' was my aunt's farm in the heart of the infant wine country. The Farmers Market on Alemany Blvd overflowed with every kind of vegetable, seafood, bushels of Pacific oysters, mushrooms, frogs legs, you name it, it's there. All the big holidays were celebrated in the neighborhood and everyone was invited. Tables were set up in garages up and down the street. The men kept the wine and beer flowing while all the Yayas, Nonnas and aunties worked together in the upstairs kitchen preparing gnocchi, stuffed grape leaves, homemade cheese, wine and everything else you can imagine. I worked one summer at a guest ranch in Calistoga in the early 70's where I learned 'speed' cooking on a flat top, 3 meals a day, 7 days a week for 300 guests. At 16, I didn't last the summer, but I learned a lot. We cooked the freshest food that the valley had to offer. During the school year, I worked for an aunt who ran a catering business in the city. I learned everything about the 'front of the house, from waiting tables, dressing plates just plain doing everything else that needed to be done. I always loved cooking and even considered it as a career, but in those days women in a professional kitchen were virtually non-existant. So I got a job in law enforcement to help pay my way through college and there I stayed until I recently retired after 35 yrs. Now I have the time to explore and re-experience the world I set aside so long ago. I still hope to attend cooking school and would like to believe that it's not just a pipe dream. The thing that irritates me the most is people who refuse to try new foods...even foods native to the US. On a recent trip overseas, Americans sitting a a neighboring table insisted on ordering hamburgers...in a restaurant in Rome! They're missing the whole point of traveling and understanding our neighbors who share the planet with us.