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Your Cooking, and How You Began


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Necessity. Raised mostly by my Grandmother who was a terrible cook and lived off of campbells can soup. Father cooked cheap steaks till they were almost beef jerky. Mother was a terrible cook aswell which i barely lived with anyway. So it was either learn to cook or live off can soup my whole life. We were not rich, but we were not poor either, its just how my family was when it came to food.

Edited by FeChef (log)
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I think every member of this board must like cooking or why are we here?

Mom was a phenomenal cook and I grew up assisting her in the kitchen but not really tasked with anything on my own.

In high school I dabbled with toasted sandwiches, some grilling and lots of frittattae.

Then in college in NOLA I volunteered to cook for my fraternity and so learned volume cooking.

Onwards pursuits of the mind at the expense of the commercial kitchen and I still like to cook and even do some part time catering these days but I'm not quitting my day job.

Mostly I just try to feed my family high quality varied ethnicity and healthy food at a fraction of the price of buying this variety and quality prepared.

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I love cooking but there are times, especially after a particularly busy day/week at work cooking for other people, when the last thing I want to do when I get home is cook for myself.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I think every member of this board must like cooking or why are we here?

There are members here that don't like to cook and don't know how to cook.

They hang out in the regional threads talking about restaurants and chefs and wine.

Although I don't think there are so many of them here as there used to be. (At one point there was a pretty insufferable contingent of the "What do you mean you haven't been El Bulli yet!" crowd.)

Edited by Jaymes (log)
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I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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My mother must be related to Jaymes's mom.  She hated cooking and did it badly and didn't know it was bad because that's how she was brought up. Restaurant food was supposed to be different and better. Home cooking was supposed to be lesser. Steaks were past well done. Burgers like hockey pucks. Frozen veg cooked lifeless and unseasoned.  Swanson TV dinners were a blessing when she didn't feel like cooking.

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I hate cooking!

 

Then I discovered ladies think man who can really cook are sexy. Sexier than man with a fancy Italian ultra hor$e power $port$ vehicle.

 

So I learned to cook.

 

dcarch  :laugh:

Edited by dcarch (log)
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When I was in high school, I worked at a soda fountain at the drug store and people said I made good sodas and sundaes. Then when I graduated from college and was living alone, it was before microwaves and fast food places, at least in the small town where I was teaching.  Frozen dinners had to be thawed and that took longer than making something from scratch.  After a few weeks I thought I could probably do as good or better than they had at the restaurant and cafe in town. I knew I could eat cheaper if I made it myself.  I started reading The James Beard Cookbook and the local grocery store let you buy things on a running tab so you paid for everything at the end of the month.  I also started collecting recipes for entertaining from Playboy magazine.  I watched The French Chef on PBS and mom could always be called for help when needed.  People said they liked my cooking.

 

Now that I am recalling that time, I remember the pizza restaurant was McMurphy's, had Tiki decor and the music was Stan Getz style jazz. 

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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My mother must be related to Jaymes's mom.  She hated cooking and did it badly and didn't know it was bad because that's how she was brought up. Restaurant food was supposed to be different and better. Home cooking was supposed to be lesser. Steaks were past well done. Burgers like hockey pucks. Frozen veg cooked lifeless and unseasoned.  Swanson TV dinners were a blessing when she didn't feel like cooking.

 

Your mom was light years ahead of my mom.  At least certainly more ambitious.  My mother saw no reason to buy frozen vegetables that might require effort and at least a modicum of actual cooking when folks like Del Monte so helpfully and thoughtfully cooked and canned them for you.  Never saw a need to cook cuts of beef steaks that might require nuance and skill when you could pat out a hamburger patty and wrap a piece of bacon around it, secure it with a toothpick, cook the hell out of it in the skillet, and then top with a snazzy mushroom sauce; ie; Cream of Mushroom Soup.  Or maybe go Italian; ie, Cream of Tomato Soup.

 

We never got TV dinners.  Way too fancy.

 

And besides, I now recall, they weren't common until the mid-1950s, so it wouldn't have occurred to my mom to lay in a supply of them.

Edited by Jaymes (log)
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I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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My grandfather (who I am named after) was a professional chef. My father was an excellent cook and also had exceptional taste-I was raised on brie, smoked oysters, French bread and hard salami. When I came of age he introduced me to fine  wines. I love cooking. An Indian guy living in an apartment below mine once told me that the smells coming from my kitchen reminded him of his fathers cooking.

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"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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Your mom was light years ahead of my mom.  At least certainly more ambitious.  My mother saw no reason to buy frozen vegetables that might require effort and at least a modicum of actual cooking when folks like Del Monte so helpfully and thoughtfully cooked and canned them for you.  Never saw a need to cook cuts of beef steaks that might require nuance and skill when you could pat out a hamburger patty and wrap a piece of bacon around it, secure it with a toothpick, cook the hell out of it in the skillet, and then top with a snazzy mushroom sauce; ie; Cream of Mushroom Soup.  Or maybe go Italian; ie, Cream of Tomato Soup.

 

We never got TV dinners.  Way too fancy.

 

And besides, I now recall, they weren't common until the mid-1950s, so it wouldn't have occurred to my mom to lay in a supply of them.

I think your mom had 5 or 10 years on mine.

 

But that bacon-wrapped burger was past my mother's repertoire. No sauce on anything. That would be foreign.

 

 Her abhorrence of the alien was odd considering she had an AB from an Ivy in Spanish.

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My mother did not enjoy cooking, but she had a family to feed, so she did it. She made good soups - her repertoire was chicken soup and vegetable soup, which had meat in it - but the rest of the stuff was basic. My father was a butcher, so we almost always had meat or hamburgers. Steak, broiled half to death. I think it's why I loved ketchup so much. All we ever wanted as kids were TV Dinners, but my parents never bought them. "OH, steak again?!!" we would cry, in full despair. Imagine. We wanted Gloria Swanson, Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese. When I was an adult living on my own I bought my first Kraft Man 'n' Cheese, I was so excited to be making it and then eating this sophisticated little meal. But in truth I thought it was vile. That yellow-orange powder in the packet, even the noodles, I couldn't eat it. These days I cook, and often I like it a lot. There's so much to learn, and eGullet has the best teachers.. But baking is what I really like to do. I can go on and on about that, but I won't. Baking makes the day.

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My mother was of that generation who grew up in wartime Britain under rationing. She never learned to cook - grandmother wasn't going to let her experiment with hard to come by food. One screw-up over dinner would leave the family hungry till the next meal. No running out for substitutes.

 

My father was of that generation (which still exists) of men who deem cooking to be woman's work. I don't suppose he even knew where the kitchen was in out house. He certainly wouldn't have known what to do with it if he found it. 

 

To say food at home was grim is an understatement. And the half dozen or so dishes my mother attempted were repeated with brain-numbing regularity.

Only when I was older and acquired a girlfriend, did I learn that food could be enjoyable, Her father made me a simple, plain two egg omelette. I was in tears of joy - I didn't know food could taste that good. I'll never forget it. 

 

After that, I devoured every cookbook I could lay my hands on (luckily, we had an excellent public library). My mother recalls me lying in my sickbed with various ailments, avidly memorising cookbooks despite being on a 'nil-by-mouth' regime. She worried about my mental health.

 

By the time I went to university and freedom, my mind was full of all the things I wanted to try. Not just ingredients, but recipes and techniques. I'm still on that trip. Still experimenting. Still learning. 

 

Cooking is how I relax. Planning, shopping, chopping, stirring, tasting, waiting.

 

And still reading those cookbooks in bed.

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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"OH, steak again?!!" we would cry, in full despair.

 

I recall throwing a tantrum when all there was but steak when I wanted hamburger.

 

Whether I like cooking depends on what day you ask me.  My mother was a good cook, but I don't do any dishes that I remember that she did.  My parents died when I was ten and I am basically self taught.

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Cooking and food is in my blood...

My family has been in the food biz for over 74 years in all different capacities.

I own 250+ cookbooks and the same amount of spices..

 

I love creating new things so much that I once juiced potatoes to extract the protein (its in the juice) to try and make

a heat coagulatable vegan egg substitute...It worked but tasted gross.

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Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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I like to cook because I learned to eat in europe for several years growing up.  both France and Spain.

 

my mother cooked every meal, but didn't enjoy it.   I watched Julia Child on TV :  The french cook.  She cooked what I remembered eating in France.

 

in the 10th grade I discovered Chemistry.  I did a lot of chemistry.  a lot.  then it all came together :

 

Cooking is Chemistry you can Eat.

 

what could be better than that ?

 

too bad i didn't turn out to be both brilliant and a billionaire 

 

i would have beaten out Nathan Myhrvoid .  put him to  shame.

 

I would have pretty much run Apple for starters  ( for the billions )  

 

I mean, plainly, who could have stomached working for Microsoft for more than 10 minutes ?

Edited by rotuts (log)
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I wouldn't call my mother a horrible cook when I was a young child but she did usually cook from the after-war staples of the times in the style of most women with a newly filled canned food larder and a freezer compartment stuffed with steakettes. She expanded her repertoire considerably when we went to the Yukon - after learning to harvest wild berries and to cook rabbit and moose and grouse.

My father never cooked a day in his life I swear till my mother died when they were both 69. He became a very adequate cook at that age - though stews were his specialty and he never got 'fancy'.

I have Brownies (for girls younger than Girl Scouts/Girl Guides. I may have been 7 years old.) to blame for my first foray in the kitchen as I recall. In those days, to earn a badge one really had to cook and bake. My assignment for my baking badge was to make a cake from scratch - for 50 people for a St. Patrick's Day party. No one was allowed to help me. I managed to produce the cakes and that part of the task wasn't too inedible but the icing was another story. It was a horrible shade of green, bordering on grey (we only had red, blue and yellow food colouring). It never hardened at all and was very, very runny. So, creative me - I got several 2 x 4s, sawed them (with a handsaw by myself - should have gotten my woodworking badge too!) to lengths that would fit around the outside of the cake (which was composed of 4 single, humpy layers laid in a square) to contain the icing as it slid off the tops of the cakes. I nailed the corners shut. I was embarrassed but there was no time to bake another set of cakes, etc. so I took the cake to the party. They passed me anyway.

I have never been an enthusiastic baker but I have improved considerably over the years. Cooking is really more of my thing. And I love it - but the love of it came from giving dinner parties, not from everyday cooking for a family, especially when I was a working mother - though I probably did learn a lot of basic techniques doing those meals daily. But, I broke every rule in the book when I had people over for dinner. I didn't ever serve anything I had made before. I experimented with ethnic cooking without having the appropriate ingredients, learning to substitute by taste and taste memory and taste imagination. I poured over cookbooks (which somehow just happened to arrive regularly via the cookbook of the month club) for ideas and then did my own thing with abandon. It was just pure fun - and usually I produced pretty darned decent spreads if I do say so myself.

Edited by Deryn (log)
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My Mother hated cooking.  And when I got married, I didn't know how to cook.  My DH taught me how.  And I hated cooking until just about 8 years ago and then one day...I suddenly discovered COOKING.  Well, first of all I discovered cooking with chocolate.  Since then there has been no stopping me. 

 

But I still don't know how to cook a regular North American meal: a hunk of meat, some potatoes and a vegetable.  And DH still does the short order cooking, like bacon and eggs. 

 

Added:  my Father couldn't even heat up a can of soup.

Edited by Darienne (log)
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Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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I've never HAD to cook. My mother is first generation Italian and a decent cook. My dad mastered the grill. I studied Hotel & Restaurant Mgmt in college and worked in high end restaurants so I got used to eating very well.

I don't really LOVE to cook; I get easily frustrated with failures that result in money and food tossed in the garbage. It's not so much the money as it is the waste of food. I can make a great sauce, a super lasagna, but I wouldn't say I enjoy cooking. I don't know why anyone would assume that's a given just because someone posts here. I love food, I love dining out, I love eating and I love learning. But I don't love cooking. Not yet. But I think I will get there.

ETA- hoping to sneak past my pup recovering from surgery for- GASP- a corndog that I will dip in ketchup as a late night snack, or really, a delayed dinner.

Edited by MetsFan5 (log)
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I do love cooking, and that passion and interest was (were? :unsure: , please correct me) developed as self defense.

 

I and my siblings ate pretty well until mama dumped us off at my father's love nest after driving from Chula Vista, CA to Columbia, SC. Then she committed suicide, and things went way sideways. I was only 8, with a sister 6, and a brother 4. The father thing kept us for the Social Security payments. Mom was an RN, so the payments, I found out decades later, were lucrative. Another attractive feature about kids you've abandoned and clearly don't want, is that you can turn them into cheap slave labor and abuse them at will without interference from a mother who loved them.

 

I took the brunt as the oldest and strongest, doing housework, yard work and garden work until the adulteress died of cancer a couple years later. Guess the Big Guy was watching?

 

After that the cooking fell to me at only 10. First chicken I ever served was raw in the middle when we sat down and cut into it, but slowly, I came up to speed, without a single cookbook in the house, and only the old Italian lady, Mrs. Polito, across the street to give me any guidance at all. They were a childless couple, but Leah Polito was very kind to us kids. I helped her can tomatoes from her garden and weed it, and she tried her best to give me guidance so I could cook for our family. She also gave us produce from her garden the first year, before we started our own. I even remember helping her bleach her white quartz landscaping stones she had under the shrubs in front of her house. Us pesky kids had to scram, bam, thank you, ma'am when her husband, Joe, came home from work, though.

 

Everyone in the family ate the food I cooked until the father thing remarried, less than a year later. Then the stepmother cooked for my excuse for a parent and herself, and I cooked for us kids, with much cheaper ingredients. I will never eat bologna again, and only recently, have I been able to eat premium hot dogs on premium buns smothered with chili, onions and cheese, and that's only because my husband so adores hot dogs. I remember being given one can of Cambell's chicken noodle soup for the three of us growing kids to split for lunch. I still like chicken noodle from the red can, but now I eat the whole can, and call it a light lunch. It's only 150 calories.

 

Once I escaped, 3 years later, I immediately began to explore ingredients, food, and cooking, and I'm still on that journey. I adore being in control of my ingredients, and what I do to put them together.

 

I've had flush times with lobster, and I've had hard times with beans.

 

I love the internet for the ability to research ingredients, recipes, cooking techniques, and I really love eGullet. I've learned so much here.

 

I've marked many things off my bucket list of culinary exploration, but I've many more to go.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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I like cooking and baking as long as I have the time to do it, and do it well. I dislike cooking as a chore, which is most weeknights after a long work day. I dislike grocery shopping and meal planning after work as well, but I can't get my sh*t together enough to plan it out on the weekend.  Otherwise, cooking is great.

 

My mom is the main cook in the family. She used to cook exclusively Chinese, with some "western" dishes every now and then (spaghetti & meat sauce, chicken/pork cutlets, etc). Until dad became an italophile (italianphile??) in the early 90's. Then she started cooking more Italian dishes - more pastas, ossobuco, stuff with pesto & tomato....  Now mom cooks quite a wide variety of things.

 

I started cooking more for myself when I moved out for uni with my sister. I don't like eating the same things day after day, and could only eat so much packaged ramen. Spending money to eat out all the time was out of the question. So began cooking for ourselves out of necessity.

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What an interesting thread this is! I am actually rather suspicious of the OP - there have been a few of these very general questions by new posters recently - and the OP never turns up again. But whatever the intent this has resulted in a collection of fascinating stories.

 

My mother graduated from Cornell in 1932 as a Home Economic major - taking lots of cooking, baking and pastry classes. The she married my father who was one of the most restrictive eaters I have known. Add in 6 kids and very little money - Dad worked in a factory, Mom stayed home. We ate pork chops, chicken and pot roast, green beans, peas and corn, lots of potatoes and rice. That's about it. The odd thing is that my paternal grandparents were Sephardic Jews who had grown up in Jamaica, coming to the US as young adults. But they raised my father to eat very basic meat, potato and a veg. The one exception was baked bananas, which my grandmother made and my father loved. After Dad died, my mother branched out - I discovered that she really liked eggplant, leeks and lots of other things that I had never seen in our home growing up. She did bake - pies, cakes and some wonderful pastries. At Christmas she made marzipan - starting with almonds that had to be shelled, blanched, dried and ground. We (the kids) helped with all the steps and she let us paint a few of the fruits and veggies she made - but only a few- they were her art work. Hanging around the kitchen I learned a lot about basic cooking and baking. We joke, in my family, that somewhere around age 30 all my mother's female descendants become involved in both cooking and baking  and some type of fabric art (she was a weaver and quilter). My daughter just turned 30 - she is a good cook but I'm still waiting for the other part. It seems to have skipped the males. 

 

I didn't really start cooking until I was in graduate school. Basically it just crept up on me. I think I started with a pretty blank palate (college food had not expanded my experience much) so lots of things were new. And being a book addict, i started collecting and reading cookbooks. I've been very blessed with friends who have taught me a great deal - spending a couple of years helping one with her catering business - and especially with a husband who loves and appreciates good food and is a great cook himself. Planning and cooking meals, whether just for us or for friends is one of my favorite activities. Even when I was still working, after a long day it was relaxing and rewarding.

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If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Cicero

But the library must contain cookbooks. Elaina

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