Thanks, BuckyTom for starting, and restarting this thread. Only thing is as I tell my story you will probably regret it.
I actually believe I was born a foodie. My Mom was of English/Irish heritage and was probably the best cook I've ever known. She would let me watch or help her in the kitchen as long as I remembered. She was also ill a lot and so when my sister left for university when I was 11, I started to make meals. Of course they were pretty simple at first - things like macaroni and cheese (baked) or spagetti, but I did pretty good. On Sundays when Mom was well we would have beef or pork roasts with all the trimmings and I would get to help. Mom also hosted most of the Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving dinners because all our other relatives were older. I loved those times.
Then there were the weekends when I would stay with my Dad's parents. My GranMom was also a great cook and she would let me help her make huge batches of candy (turkish delight), "nuts and bolts" and her famous ham loaf for my great-uncle's club bazzars. Also, when my friends were watching cartoons, I was watching cooking shows (the Gallopping Gourmet, Juilia Child) and reading cookbooks. The first one I bought was a paperback version of the Betty Crocker cookbook (just 2 years newer than ExpatGirl). It is now in several pieces and brown with age but I won't let DH or anyone buy me an updated one!
But I think my true calling started around the age of 8 when I started making the Christmas dessert. It started out with Jello type desserts from recipes I found in magazines to grabbing the November issue of Bon Appetit or other magazines, carefully writing out the instructions for the fancy cover dessert and replicating its every detail (even chocolate holly leaves and ribbons!). I loved the ooooo's and aw's I would get. (I wrote them out because I would return the good as new magazine back to the shelf in my Dad's drug store
) This branched into birthday cakes for my nephew's and friends.
I digressed and went to university for my other passion, writing; however it didn't stop my experimenting in cooking and baking. All but one of my jobs through high school and university were to do with food, and I would experiment on my room mates and friends as much as possible.
I went to school in another province and had an aunt by marriage close by where I would spend weekends. Her Mother was Romanian and she taught me to make perogies, stuffed peppers, cabbage rolls, etc. I also had some room mates from other places and learned a lot about French-Canadian, Szechuan, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese and Italian cooking. I was majoring in English and minoring in French, but I think I learned more about food than either subject.
It wasn't until a couple of years ago when my DH and I sold our internet business that he was able to convince me to go to culinary school with some of the proceeds. I surprised everyone (including myself) by taking the culinary program instead of the pastry, but I had taught myself enough about that and really wanted to explore the savoury flavours for a change. I still ended up in off hours in the pastry kitchen asking questions and even conning the instructor into letting me try things.
When my 80 year old Dad watch, with tears in his eyes, me get my diploma in culinary arts, he said he knew my Mom would be proud of me. I told him that she was my inspiration and the best "chef" instructor I ever had.
Sorry to be so long-winded. I am just so greatful to all the people who inspired me that I get carried away!