The first person to refer to me as The Kitchen Ninja was a young, self-made piercing artist and fellow fire arts performer. At the time, I was 19 years old, trained bujinkan ninjutsu and lived in an apartment with very high shelves. To reach ingredients and utensils, I would clamber around the kitchen like a little monkey, and then get back to my cooking as if nothing had happened.
My friend was far more impressed by my culinary artistry, however: freshly baked breads, Japanese chawanmushi, Italian pasta and more. So, the term “kitchen ninja” ended up referring to both my athletic abilities and my “cooking-ninjutsu”.
By the time my friend gave me the nickname, I had already been on the path towards becoming a “kitchen ninja” for almost 15 years.
When I was 5 years old my grandmother and great grandmother decided it was time for me to learn the art of cookery. Although it is common for a young girl to learn how to cook (after all, it is an indispensible life skill!), it is less common that the teaching is done by professionals. My great grandmother was a professional cook and ran her own guesthouse (so she was also an entrepreneur!).
My grandmother, though not a cook, was a professional housewife. Unlike most young women of her time, she studied at the Swedish equivalent of a finishing school, where she was taught all the skills for being a competent housewife. Of course, the art of cooking was a key part of her training. Eventually, she would pass all her skills (and her school cookbook from the 1930s) on to me.
Having lived in Italy, traveled throughout the world and made friends with people from more countries than I can count, I cultivated a curiosity for food and culinary traditions. Today, both my mentors have passed on and I now take my inspiration from modern celebrity chefs such as Jacques Pépin, Jiro Ono and Fergus Henderson.
At age 8, I found my first book on nutrition in the school library and memorised all the vitamins and minerals that it described. Over the years, I have continued to read up on nutrition (particularly sports nutrition, as I was a competing athlete for many
years). After I became lactose intolerant as a teenager, I started learning more about special needs diets. Although I don’t work as a dietician (I would probably need a certificate first), the knowledge has been most useful when cooking for myself and others.
I have managed the catering for friend’s parties and family dinners. I have worked on and off in professional kitchens. I have even prepared created 3-course gourmet meals and baked bread and cakes over an open fire in the outdoors.
At age 22, I published my first cookbook – Fantasymat – a Swedish book on how to creatively cook dishes for dramatic impact. It included more conventional recipes such as sourdough bread and cultured butter along with some more exotic recipes such as deep fried scorpion and scrambled dragon (ostrich) egg. The book still sells today.
Now, I want to share my knowledge with you. Under the category of Kitchen Ninjutsu, I will post some of my favorite recipes, tips and tricks. Now it is your turn to become a kitchen ninja!