FUJINAGA alias Mrs Susie
is a very short biography and if you want more information
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asked Mrs Susie to tell us in her own words a little
about herself and her love of food. This is what she
my name is Susan Fujinaga and I live in Chicago, Illinois,
USA. I am fifty years old and have lived in the Midwest
Region of America for most of my life. I started cooking
when I was ten years old.
first project was an apple pie, still one of my favourite
desserts. I messed around with cooking for the next
two years, mostly making desserts from boxes for my
family. My first dinner was for my Girl Scout badge
in cooking - French fries and fish sticks. While I was
talking to my Mom they burned in the oven. My mom made
us eat it anyway, so that I could get my badge and,
boy, did my brothers complain.
remember one day wanting to make a chocolate cake and
went to my Dad asking for help. He looked at me and
said, Do you know how to make it? and I
replied, Yes, I know how to make it. I just need
a little help reading the directions. I was not
afraid of cooking. Oh, mistakes were made often but
I just went ahead anyway.
time, when making gingerbread, the oven was full, so
I just put them in the other little door of the stove
that was not being used. When they came out burned on
the top from the flame of the broiler we just cut the
burned part out and ate what was good. Food didn't go
to waste in our house. Once when making brownies from
scratch I forgot to put in the eggs and we had to literally
pound them with a hammer to get them out of the pan.
We ate them anyway. Maybe, that's why my flops never
bothered me, because we always ate everything anyway.
That's just how it was in my house.
age of twelve I started cooking five nights a week,
so I could get out of doing dishes for the week. With
seven people in the family there were always quite a
few dishes to be done. Mostly I made simple dinners
guided by my mother or father.
parents decided to take us to a Chinese restaurant for
the first time when I was eight years old. We had no
experience of eating anything but home cooking and,
to my knowledge, had never eaten Chinese food before.
We hated it. We ate the wonton soup and the cookies.
My parents had ordered enough for seven good eaters
and I remember going home with huge bags of leftovers.
Needless to say my parents were pretty mad. No more
Chinese food for us.
grew up reading. I hit the books hard in third grade.
I read everything I could get my hands on. Mostly I
loved adventure stories of pioneers or Indians, Clara
Barton or about other nurses or any kind of biography.
I loved the stories that told about other kinds of people
and their ways of life, including how to make things
and cooking. Because of this, I have always been an
adventurer. New places to go - OK, when do we leave!
New experiences to try - OK, how can I help? This is
how I grew up.
camped from the time I was six, not being able to afford
any other kind of vacation. With my Dad working for
the Boy Scouts of America, we always had a campfire
for the whole camp and we each had little skits my dad
taught us to put on to keep everyone that came entertained.
When that was done, we would sing the songs that we
had grown up with. These were great times for a little
kid to enjoy. From our camping days, I learned about
the peace and tranquility that can be found in nature.
I also learned to become a natural gatherer of food.
If we picked berries, we got to buy real milk, instead
of powdered milk. You can bet I picked those berries.
the time I was six I knew I was going to be a nurse.
I never thought cooking would become as important in
my life as it did. I did choose nursing as my profession
and I am a natural healer. I worked as a nurse in hospitals
for twenty-one years until, due to major foot surgery
complications, I had to stop.
met my soon to be husband in nursing school. He was
born in Hawaii, to a Japanese family. The first time
he took me to meet his friends, was to a potluck at
his Dojo (his judo club). I knew what to bring to potlucks,
so I made a chocolate cream pie and a banana cream pie.
When I entered the line for the food, there was every
kind of American food and also many, many Japanese dishes.
Now we had talked about what the food was going to be
like, before we went. So I knew all this different food
was going to be there. Food I had never even seen, much
less tried. I just got what looked good and sampled
many kinds of the new food. Most of it was wonderful.
I also took some jello cubes, because I loved jello.
When I got to the end of the line, I was horrified.
NO FORKS. Just sticks. I grabbed these too and while
it took me a long time to eat most of it, I did OK.
But I had this jello left on my plate. Growing up in
a clean your plate family, I knew I had
to eat it. (I have since changed this behaviour.) So
I ended up stabbing the jello with one of the chopsticks
and popped it into my mouth, pretending I had picked
it up with my chopsticks. Of course, when the desserts
came out, so did the forks!
have three grown children, ages twenty-eight, twenty-seven
and twenty-two. My house was the place the kids ended
up at and there was always room for one more at the
table. I learned how to find one more dish to stretch
the food to include the newcomer, a vegetable or fruit
I had canned. My son's friends used to call me Betty
Crocker. When the children were small I started working
with some friends at their Chinese restaurant. I was
a waitress there. I worked there for two years and didn't
realise the foundation for Oriental cooking was being
laid without my even knowing it.
I enjoy camping, gardening, growing flowers and vegetables,
peaches, cherries and berries. I also enjoy canoeing,
flying kites, white water rafting, ravelling, writing,
the Internet, meeting new people, cooking, canning and
making our own maple syrup.
I have cooking genes in my blood and there are now three
generations of chefs in our family. My youngest daughter
is now a maki chef and my son was cooking in a cigar
bar for one and a half years.
is how I started cooking oriental food . . .
come from a restaurant family. My grandparents had a
very successful restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and
my uncle was the chef at The Abbey in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
and at the Highland Park country club for twenty-five
years. One day my aunt came to me and said, "Susan,
lets make a Chinese dinner for Granny's 70 birthday".
I know I looked at her strangely and said, "I don't
know anything about Chinese cooking" and she said
to me, "Well you can read a recipe, can't you?
That was the beginning.
made a Chinese dinner with fourteen courses served.
The twenty-eight of us who attended ate for six hours.
It was a great party. That was twenty years ago. I have
since used this skill to be a chef for hire and have
gone into people's homes and recreated the event and
other menus and enjoyed myself no end. I am including
a link for those of you who do not have a Chinese store
Introduction to Oriental Cooking
I have already shared with you how I got started cooking
oriental food. I want to say at the start of this, loving
to eat oriental food and cooking it were concepts that
were worlds apart for me. Growing up in the 50's and
60's in the Midwest region of America did not prepare
me for this kind of cooking. The food I grew up with
was hearty and relatively plain. Marrying my Japanese
husband and working for 2 years in an oriental restaurant
as a waitress were the foundations I had to begin this
adventurous style of cooking.
I began studying oriental cooking, instead of being
complex and mysterious, I found oriental cooking has
a beautiful simplicity and logic to it. Once you grasp
this, and a few fundamental techniques, a beginner can
produce authentic oriental dishes without difficulty.
Oriental food is easy to make in your own kitchen with
regular utensils and while exotic ingredients are fun
to use, you will find they are not really necessary.
will be teaching you the skill of oriental cooking with
the premise that you the reader, (like myself when I
started) know little or nothing about oriental cooking.
As you begin to follow my recipes and tips, you will
see that this type of cooking takes no more time than
regular cooking. As you begin using these recipes, you
will see it is more a matter of method than anything
else. Once you master the fundamental techniques, you
will be able to prepare delicious meals with the ingredients
you find in any store.
cooking is a live and adventurous art, a combination
of aesthetics, nutrition, surprise, mystery and delight.
It doesn't matter if you like to dine simply or to entertain
with a grand manner, on what ever level you approach
it, oriental cooking will bring you new pleasure and
enjoyment. It can also add a wonderful sense of harmony
to your life.
Chinese have many sayings about good cooking and eating,
one is appropriate here. It simply states those who
live near water come to know the nature of fishes as
those who live near the mountains come to know the melody
of birds, so those who remain close to the kitchen acquire
the knowledge of good food.