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First Cooking Attempts


weinoo
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When I was a kid, my mom spent a bunch of time in the hospital

I know several people, myself included, who started cooking when a parent was hospitalized. In my case it was my father. My older sister had gone off to college just a week or so earlier, so I guess I was 11 years old. My mother spent all her time either teaching or looking after my father. So I was pushed into the role of kitchen self-provider. I think at first I reveled in the privilege of having takeout food every night, but eventually I wanted to prepare my own food. I started with sandwiches and moved my way up to heat-and-serve items and then to cooking things like pasta.

Even though my father was in pretty good shape after that initial hospitalization, the family dynamic had changed and my mother never really returned to the role of mother who puts dinner on the table every night. So I kept making many of my own meals, and even occasionally prepared dinner or breakfast for the family. A year or so into this process, my parents bought me a book, "The Teenage Chef," by Jonathan Jackson. I have no idea what happened to the guy -- he doesn't seem to have any other books. Anyway, I distinctly remember that the first actual recipe from a cookbook that I ever followed was the "Texas chili" recipe, which was really just a generic American ground beef, canned beans and chili powder recipe. Still, it was tasty, and I made it many times.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I remember being on a step stool, on the top step, mind you and I am 5'11" now - and keeping the pudding stirred for Mom in a double boiler as it thickened. No idea how old I was at the time.

Before that, it was sitting on the counter watching pound cake batter coming together and hoping for the beaters to lick. It was so pretty, a Chocolate Pound Cake.

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I remember the first official meal my twin sister and I cooked. My mom let us have the boy next door over for lunch when we were about 10. We made the little bunnies that were made out of a half of a canned pear on a scoop of cottage cheese. It had carrot stick ears and maybe a marshmellow tail. It was out of some kids cookbook. And we made jello. All I can remember about the jello is that the boy next door started to choke and he squirted jello out of his nose. We were laughing so hard we couldn't stand it.

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I was about ten or eleven, babysitting my little sister, who was about five. We made flour and water "glue" for some project, and we had quite a lot left over. I "forgot" the rule about not going anywhere near the stove or oven while the folks were out, added some sugar and a bit of vanilla extract to the glue, and baked it. And it was good! (Must have been self-rising flour). It was so cool. Of course, we never told Mom, who woulda hadda cow. We probably left a huge mess in the kitchen, but I guess the glue-making explanation covered that.

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Mom started by teaching me how to set the table...

(For you Canadian friends, we were on a family camping trip, and heard the CA guests next to us... mom asked young daughter, "PLEAASE lay the table!". Bro and I laughed until we cried (we were in primary school at the time) but it really cracked us up! :laugh: Oh to be young and silly again!

Anyway, salads came next, then Hamburger Helper, spaghetti sauce, scrambled eggs.

Our deal became she cooks, I clean or I cook, she cleans. No Contest! (I hate cleaning.)

My sweetest memory is when mom was hospitalized for a hysterectomy. In those days it was usually a week stay. I was designated "head cook" for Dad and Bro - Men don't cook, don't you know! :laugh: - and I was sixth grade, I think.

Of course, I couldn't drive, and wasn't really good at handling money so the deal was this: I made the list, Dad did the shopping, I cooked and cleaned.

The memorable time was when I gave Dad a list... and he saw:

gallery_51818_5282_199694.jpg

It's a re-creation of course, but my lousy handwriting hasn't changed much!

So Dad is shopping, and sees this on the list. He thinks, "Lamb? We never have lamb? Where in the world did she come up with this one?" BUT.... he decides I'm working hard and if I want to experiment, he'll play along. He finds some 3# lamb cut (?) and proudly brings it home.

You all know it... It was HAMB - short for HAMBURGER, and was supposed to make three Hamburger Helper meals in the next week! I didn't know lamb, never had eaten lamb, didn't know how to cook lamb! :laugh:

We did an "emergency" run for hamburger meat, and I called my Grandma.... a british ex-pat who helped me roast the lamb and serve it with mint jelly (YUCK).

The actual meal didn't work, but I'll always remember my Dad shopping and willing to trust his 11 year old daughter in her menu selections! :wub:

Jamie Lee

Beauty fades, Dumb lasts forever. - Judge Judy

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Somewhere to the short side of 7 years old, I was reading a "easy cooking for kids" cookbook (even at that age, I read cookbooks for enjoyment), and decided to try to make pancakes, from scratch. I pulled a chair into the kitchen to reach the high shelves, I measured as carefully as I had observed my Mom do, and made pancakes.

My sister, 4 years older, was my guinea pig. The pancakes WERE brown on the outside, but somehow were gray and gummy and unpleasant on the inside, despite being smothered in butter and syrup. Best that we can determine, it was baking soda instead of baking powder, and probably a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon. I'd like to think that she spared my feelings, but I can't say for certain she did.

But within a year, with minimal supervision from my Mom, I cooked a Saturday evening supper with Minute Steak, green beans, some sort of salad and rolls, and by 10 I was in a regular rotation for fixing family dinners.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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This is such a great thread!

I remember the first official meal my twin sister and I cooked.  My mom let us have the boy next door over for lunch when we were about 10.  We made the little bunnies that were made out of a half of a canned pear on a scoop of cottage cheese.  It had carrot stick ears and maybe a marshmellow tail.  It was out of some kids cookbook.  And we made jello.  All I can remember about the jello is that the boy next door started to choke and he squirted jello out of his nose.  We were laughing so hard we couldn't stand it.

I'm pretty sure I had that same cookbook--we always used to make faces on our cheeseburgers with various toppings from that one. I don't remember ever eating the pear bunny, but I remember the picture.

Mom started by teaching me how to set the table...

The actual meal didn't work, but I'll always remember my Dad shopping and willing to trust his 11 year old daughter in her menu selections!  :wub:

This made me cry, actually. Sometimes I really miss my dad.

As for my first cooking attempts---hmm. I have a really hard time remembering because I was always in the kitchen, and I can't recall when my parents were there or not. My mom is a flight attendant, so she was usually gone about 3 nights a week, and my dad died when I was 9.

My mom used to make hundreds of fried wontons and egg rolls for my school fund raiser every year and I was enlisted to stuff and roll them while she fried. I think I was 7 or so when that started.

I remember I made chocolate pots de creme from a chocolatier magazine by myself. It was for my dad (maybe his birthday?) so I had to be younger than 9.

I also loved cookbooks. There were a couple of them that I kept constantly checked out of my school's library, and I know I made a lot of recipes from one of them. I wish I could remember what it was called, but each chapter featured a child, some of whom were the kids of chefs, and their specialties that they cooked. I remember making lemon chicken from that book when I was 10, maybe.

As for the first real meal I cooked---I took cooking classes my whole childhood. At one of them we learned to make chicken stuffed with mushrooms, wrapped in phyllo dough. I made my mom give a dinner party right after thanksgiving and made that dish and wild rice. I don't remember what else I made, but I do remember that it was really good. I think there were 8 or 10 people there, including some of my dad's friends. I must have been about 10. Now that I think about it, it was really sweet that all of those adults were willing to put themselves in my hands like that.

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This is such a great thread!
I remember the first official meal my twin sister and I cooked.  My mom let us have the boy next door over for lunch when we were about 10.  We made the little bunnies that were made out of a half of a canned pear on a scoop of cottage cheese.  It had carrot stick ears and maybe a marshmellow tail.  It was out of some kids cookbook. 

I'm pretty sure I had that same cookbook--we always used to make faces on our cheeseburgers with various toppings from that one. I don't remember ever eating the pear bunny, but I remember the picture.

Betty Crocker's New Boys and Girls Cookbook (my copy dated 1965) may be the book. The bunnies were 1/2 canned pear with cottage cheese tails, raisin eyes, blanched almond ears and a red cinnamon candy nose. The cheeseburgers had a happy face on the top bun out of pimento stuffed olives. My son's first totally made alone meal was the bunny salad. He even walked to the market and shopped by himself. He had to call me at work to ask how to use the can opener.

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My mother was and still is a horrible cook. I love her, but she always approached cooking as a chore that she really didn't want to do but had to get done for Dad and the kids.

Some nights, we were treated to hot dogs, split lengthwise, fried in a cast iron skillet (perhaps in bacon grease?), instant mashed potatoes and canned creamed corn. This would be delivered to us in front of the tv while we watched a night of premium television (Batman, The Monkeys, The Green Hornet, etc.) Other quality meals included Salsbury Steak with Onion Gravy (hamburger patty with browned onions on top of instant mashed potatoes and a can of green beans). pork chops with instant mashed potatoes and some canned veg. I could go on and on but you get the picture.

My grandmothers, on the other hand, were excellent cooks and introduced me to all manner of perfectly prepared meats and vegetables. One grandmother saved up some box-top proof of purchase seals and sent away for a Gold Medal Flour "My First Cookbook", which she presented to me one rainy day. We made several things from that little recipe book, including a nifty tuna casserole in cupcake cups, topped with potato chips.

But in fairness, I think my mother's horrible cooking was the single greatest influence on my appreciation of fresh food prepared well. Also in fairness, she made wonderful potato salad and amazing fried chicken.

My first "dish", however, was when my mother was really ill and I had to prepare dinner. I was about eight years old. She talked me through it: Brown hamburger in a skillet, boil spaghetti in a pot, open a package of McCormick's Spaghetti mix and add a can of tomato sauce and a cup of water and mix all that up with the hamburger. I overcooked the spaghetti by about thirty minutes. :wacko: It was all pretty horrible, but at the time I didn't realize it.

Edited by Jane Die (log)
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For all the years I've been a member here, far too many of my posts have included "In my Southern childhood. . ." I have thoroughly enjoyed and felt every moment of these remembrances and reminiscences.

The tellings and sharings of those times and learnings and formings are priceless. Precious and priceless.

rachel

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When I was 6 or 7, I got one of those kids Pizza Hut ovens powered by a light bulb. It actually made good pizza if my memory serves me. I sure gave it a good work out. Number one pizza was my Oscar Mayer hot dog pizza. Don't laugh, they still put hot dogs on pizzas here in Italy!! :shock:

Edited by SWISS_CHEF (log)
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I had cooked frozen pizza and pasta with store bought sauce before, but the turning point for me was rice. Back junior year in college, I filled a pot full of water, probably 10 qtrs, and drop a cup of rice. It did not work out. One of my roommates show me the directions in the box. To my defence, this was in Austria and I did not read or speak German. Anyway, I few months later I was cooking dinner parties for 10 / 12 people with big paellas, tortillas de patata, all kind of tapas... That was a great year for me, a lot of fun. Discovering a new passion is a great feeling. It is been more than 10 years and now is an obsession!

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I don't recall exactly what we were making, but I convinced my little sister that we should cook breakfast for my parents. We couldn't have been more than 5 and 3 years old. My parents were either really sleeping hard, or felt comfort in the fact that the kitchen was about 5 steps from their bedroom.

I know one of us stood on my mom's tea kettle to reach the stove. She commneted on the dent for years afterward. :raz: When we were through with whatever it was that was in my mom's favorite skillet, the looks of it and the skillet bothered me so much I told my sister we had to take it outside and hide it. I do remember it was very cold (rare for that far South). Of course my mother eventually found her skillet. She wasn't mad, at least not that she let on, but some ground rules were established for future cookign forays.

The first real meal I remember cooking was when I was 12 and my dad had just started working off-shore. He was going to miss my mom's birthday, so we decided to cook a special meal for her and make her a birthday cake. We found a recipe for "One-Skillet Spaghetti" in a Boys and Girls Club Cookbook (I still have it) and walked to the convenience store for the ingrediants we didn't have on hand. I think it actually turned out okay, as the dish was made several more times in our house. My mother was touched and my father was proud. My sister and I felt very pleased with ourselves.

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent. Epicetus

Amanda Newton

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I don't recall exactly what we were making, but I convinced my little sister that we should cook breakfast for my parents. When we were through with whatever it was that was in my mom's favorite skillet, the looks of it and the skillet bothered me so much I told my sister we had to take it outside and hide it.

You just kicked in a flash-back. I forgot about the bacon we were gonna cook at grandma's. It started to burn (no fan to get smell out) so I took the cast iron skillet over to the window to "cool it down". Unfortunately grandma had those filmy nylon curtain things above the sink and when the skillet touched them they MELTED! My cousin and I ran away. She tracked us down and it was quite a day. I think we were about 8 or 9.

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I don't recall exactly what we were making, but I convinced my little sister that we should cook breakfast for my parents. When we were through with whatever it was that was in my mom's favorite skillet, the looks of it and the skillet bothered me so much I told my sister we had to take it outside and hide it.

You just kicked in a flash-back. I forgot about the bacon we were gonna cook at grandma's. It started to burn (no fan to get smell out) so I took the cast iron skillet over to the window to "cool it down". Unfortunately grandma had those filmy nylon curtain things above the sink and when the skillet touched them they MELTED! My cousin and I ran away. She tracked us down and it was quite a day. I think we were about 8 or 9.

I know the material you are talking about. My mother had a red nightgown of the same material and we tossed it over a lamp once for a cool red lighting effect. You can guess the rest...

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent. Epicetus

Amanda Newton

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I started cooking quite late. I did help my mum bake cookies and cakes and also baked some by myself but was never really interested in meals. I went to Japan and I had 6 host families over a period of 1 year and I wanted to give them a taste of Malaysian food.

It went well (except for the 'roti jala' but that's another story ) and I forgot all about it.

Then I came to The Netherlands as an au pair and I loved my host family's kitchen. It made cooking seem like a lifestyle and it made me want to make beautiful meals ! I cooked maybe once a week and baked occassionally.

Now I live with my partner and I cook everyday. This may sound stupid but nothing makes me happier than thinking what I'm going to have for dinner tonight. I spend all my spare minutes thinking about food! :D

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First attempt I remember: definitely a sandwich (do those count)? I think I was about 5 1/2 or 6 (still not trusted with kitchen knives, I know that) and reading the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books...came across a mention of a peanut butter and pickle sandwich and I just couldn't stop thinking about it. So I tried making one, using a dinner knife to slice up the Claussen pickles and spread the Jif. Goo-oood! although my family thought I was nuts. Still one of my favorite sandwiches.

First attempt involving heat (aside from some batches of chocolate chip cookies which were thoroughly forgettable): probably chapatis at 9? My mom had this international cookbook that I loved reading through, and for some reason I became enamored with chapatis (which I'd never had). I tried making them (didn't think to make any actual curry or dal to go along with them...weird kid); recipe sounded easy enough (very simple).

They were pretty darn tasteless - not enough salt - and dense and hard as all get out. Could have served as roofing tiles. I ate one, tried to eat another, and threw the rest away.

Nikki Hershberger

An oyster met an oyster

And they were oysters two.

Two oysters met two oysters

And they were oysters too.

Four oysters met a pint of milk

And they were oyster stew.

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i was cut loose on the grill as soon as i was old enough to be trusted w/ fire......

by age 13 i was working summer weekends for an outdoor caterer, chops, chicken and steaks.......

matriarchs in my family pounded us boys with pertinent 411 regarding ALL things culinary and domestic.........

the logic was "you better know how to do all this right, in case you marry some girl who doesn't know how".........

which happened.......

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First attempt was trying to make a basic marinara sauce. I must have been 10 or 11, and no one else in my family cooked, so I kind of had to figure it out as I went along. Try as I might, I couldn't keep the sauce from coming out totally repugnant and inferior to the canned stuff. I abandoned that recipe until I realized I wasn't letting the onions cook before adding the tomato paste. Yuck.

On the other hand, sauteeing chicken tenders in butter...how can that go wrong?

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Another sweet memory...

I used to serve Mom "breakfast in bed" for Mothers day..

I cooked and cooked, and dealt up bacon, eggs, toast (I think I was 9 or 10), I may have added pancakes...

Right before her death, mom confesssed. She hated those meals! She was alone in bed, she could hear Dad and Bro and I eating in the kitchen, and while she loved my efforts, she felt alienated and lonely.

Who would have thunk? I carefully planned a tray, replete with a rose, a linen napkin, a special card...

And bless her heart, she endoured it every year :wub: .

Jamie Lee

Beauty fades, Dumb lasts forever. - Judge Judy

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I was about 8. Summer holidays in rural America were extremely boring.

I really loved lemon meringue pie, so one summer I started baking them from my Mom's Betty Crocker cookbook. (This was back when Betty was still mostly from scratch.) I would ask my mom for grocery money, walk a few miles to the grocery store with my brother, buy ingredients, walk back, and bake the pie. This, of course, took nearly all day. Perfect boredom antidote!

I did this at least four days a week. I often colored the pie filling snot green to amuse my brother. Nobody knew what color it was going to be, of course, until the pie was cut.

It only took me two more decades to perfect my pie crust technique.

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The first meal I cooked for myself around six was scrambled eggs and toast which was my breakfast favorite.

I remember around eight or nine trying to make my first cheese souffle with a friend over, no parents in the house. I remember spilling the hot souffle (no oven mitts) all over the kitchen floor, my friend running away and me trying to clean up the mess before mom got home.

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