Meme: The Cook Next Door

I have been tagged by Karen of The Pilgrim's Pots and Pans for a meme: The Cook Next Door. I have read a number of them already, and positively enjoyed all the answers from the wealth of cooking and baking talent out there in the blog-o-sphere, so here is my little contribution...

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?
I used mash a bunch of Milo (powedered chocolate drink) with a little bit of water, not letting it get liquidy but just mushy and sticky. I gave it to my younger brother and told him it was "fudge". For quite sometime after he badgered me with demands for this "fudge" and to this day remains my #1 tester of anything I make.

Who had the most influence on your cooking?
My mother, father, and my grand-aunt. All great cooks in their own right. On my dad's side of the family all the men cook so they talk about it constantly. My grand-aunt (mother's side) got me into baking. My mother taught me the importance of having "signature dishes". I have tried making some of hers...but haven't tried her famous Osso Buco (Italian veal dish, braised or a stew) yet because the performance pressure would just prove too much for me.

Do you have an old photo as "evidence" of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it?
No photo, sorry! Although if I scrounged through enough boxes I could probably find more than one of me stuffing my face!

Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?
YES! Not any particular dish but cooking for a crowd. It's the whole expectation thing that makes my knees knock. The tense moment as everyone takes their first bite and I try to look oh-so-cool as I sit there thinking, "Will they like it? Am I The Great Pretender?" Suffice to say I have mastered the art of cooking for one. When I want to cook more than a single serving, but don't want the performance anxiety, I just cook for my brother the Tester.

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest letdown?
Hmmm, the espresso maker would probably top my list of most loved and used gadgets (if it can be considered a gadget) since I love coffee and can't really properly function without it. Biggest letdown? This fish scaler I got that doesn't really properly function and has not seen the light of day in ages.

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like and probably no one else.
Mayonnaise with anything. I also make this kick-ass sandwich composed of butter, cheese, bacon, and stroop (a Dutch treacle syrup which is dark and thick and VERY sticky).

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don't want to live without?
Chocolate, foie gras, and "chicharon with laman" (pork rind WITH the fat).

Favorite ice cream?
Chocolate...with brownie bits.

You will probably never eat again?
Durian. Without a doubt. It's a tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia and famous for it's, uh, unforgettable aroma. The taste is pretty unforgettable as well. Those who love it, love it with a passion that is powerful. Those who don't...well, let's just say I fall under that category.

Signature dish:
I really don't want to say Pineapple Upside Down Cake. I really don't. But it's probably the dish I have made most in my life due to popular familial demand. So right now I am working on finding another signature dish to topple it from 1st place. In the running: Fabada (a Spanish bean stew, also known as Fabada Asturiana).

Question added by Zarah: On average, how many times a week would you cook something to satisfy your sweet tooth?
Probably once a week.

Question added by Cathy: What do you usually eat for breakfast?
Aaah, the answer to that is the reason my blog is called 80 Breakfasts. Breakfast is my favorite meal and I love having a different breakfast everyday. Hence the name 80 Breakfasts. So there isn't actually anything I "usually" eat for breakfast, because it changes everyday. Part of this blog is my breakfast chronicles (well, I am just at breakfast # 1...but give me time, I'm new!), so stay tuned!

Question added by Alice: What are your stand-by dinner options when you don't have the time or the inclination to follow or create a new recipe?
Yogurt with honey and granola OR cereal with chocolate muesli. Like I said, breakfast is my favorite meal and I sometimes find myself trying to have breakfast for lunch and dinner!

Question added by Karen: What would you like to cook someday that you haven't tried before?
Foie Gras and Chocolate Souffle. Adobo -- some (ok, fine, most) consider it the national dish of my country, but I have never cooked it, only eaten it (countless times). A roast pig...outdoors. A really BIG cake.

I think everyone has already been tagged for this meme...sorry, don't know who else to tag!

Update (jul22) - I tag Midge of Sybaritic Diversions for this meme!