Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And So Can You!

So I don't know if anyone remembers, but there used to be a show on PBS called "Yan Can Cook" hosted by Martin Yan. The tagline was "Yan can cook, and so can you!" And was always shouted at the end of the show call-and-response style with the live studio audience. Of course, I was like seven years old at the time the show was at its peak, so I remember thinking his name was Yan Can Cook (not unrealistic for a Chinese name, but I think it was mostly because I was seven.). The things I remember most from the show are the religious way my mother followed it - she would often tape (I can't believe how rare VHS is nowadays) the shows, and barring that (or in augment), she would copy down the lists of ingredients that would appear on the split-screen occasionally and write down the handy recipe instructions - and Martin Yan's incredible knife skills. Often with a large meat cleaver, he would beat an always-surprising tattoo on his cutting board that would compel a little giggle to escape my mouth because it was hard to believe anyone could be that fast and precise.

I remember giant notebooks filled with her immaculate handwriting as well as pasted-in slips of recipes, causing the whole notebook to crackle and bulge and smell of paste and glue. The pasted pages were always a little wrinkled, and often you could see the pastel pea green lined paper peek through areas that weren't covered with recipes.

I recently thought of Mr. Yan and looked him up on the ever-reliable youtube and discovered that his English has gotten better, that he has a restaurant in the states with a couple locations, and just general knowledge about this man who I always associated with pbs and chopping really fast with a giant cleaver. He is witty, albeit slightly hokey at times, and I would say he has a great stage presence except for the fact that I feel like it's genuine; he's congenial and upbeat all the time. It makes me a little sad that I don't ever get to hear him speak in Chinese; I can only imagine the powerhouse this guy is when speaking in his native tongue. I can't decide if my admiration of him stems more from nostalgia of peaceful and tangible memories of my childhood with my mother or if it's because he's so dang fast with that cleaver.

Anyway, our rule for this post comes from Mr. Yan:
"Cooking is feeling, common sense, and imagination."

No comments: