Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

What did You Learn (To Cook) From Your Parents?


weinoo
 Share

Recommended Posts

I also observed and retained many organizational methods from assisting at her many dinner parties. The latter has served me well over the years. People say "I don't know how you do it", but to me it all seems natural. Thanks mom!

I forgot this part. If I'm doing anything more than a normal meal, I catch myself making the lists like my mother does.

Edited to add: This is a really great thread. Thanks for starting it!

Edited by Corinna (log)

Corinna Heinz, aka Corinna

Check out my adventures, culinary and otherwise at http://corinnawith2ns.blogspot.com/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I also observed and retained many organizational methods from assisting at her many dinner parties. The latter has served me well over the years. People say "I don't know how you do it", but to me it all seems natural. Thanks mom!

I forgot this part. If I'm doing anything more than a normal meal, I catch myself making the lists like my mother does.

Edited to add: This is a really great thread. Thanks for starting it!

Thanks! It's also pointing out to me why my mother is so neurotic about everything she thinks she can't eat. Food to my mom was something you ate to live not lived to eat, and that's kinda sad.

I do remember holiday gatherings where I would watch my grandmother make things like potato latkes; though there was never any actual teaching of how to make them, you could tell there was at least a little pride and love in them. But the men really didn't have a role in the kitchen, iirc.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nothing from parents, nothing from grandparents. I love 'em all to death, but... zero.

So what do you make of the fact that so many Society members had lousy-cook forebears?

That's a good question. I wonder if the fact that so many of us had lousy-cook forbears acted as an incentive to learning how to cook well and eat well. A different attitude about life balance might contribute as well. And a different socio-economic status.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm with Jenni. My mom was an awful cook, and cooking didn't really interest my dad. I learned from watching cooking shows on PBS...when I was able to buy my own books, I bought cookbooks! Now that I have control over the kitchen, cooking is my favorite hobby! I love that my four year old knows what fondant is, how to make ganache, and what ingredients go into pesto. It'll be interesting to see if the trend goes the other way with our children, if because we're so food obsessed here, our children will be not that interested in food...like some kind of odd cycle.

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess I'm the exception to the rule, because my Mom's cooking is pretty good. My Dad's too. In fact, he sort of pushed her to learn how to cook. He grew up in logging camps where his mother worked as a cook, and when he married my mother she barely knew how to make anything. Apparently she made him something horrible one night early in their marriage, something processed out of a box like Mac & Cheese, and he told her to learn to cook or he was sending her back to her mother's house. She learned!

She doesn't make really adventurous food, but she cooks from scratch. We always had homemade chicken stock, fresh vegetables (we had a huuuuge veggy garden at one house), homemade tomato sauce, etc. I remember she cooked things like tacos in the 70s, when Mexican food was nonexistent here in the far north.

My father cooks as well. He started baking bread from scratch in the 1980s, and still does. It's not fancy - plain white sandwich bread (though he does sneak bacon fat in there) - but delicious. He still makes it now, 10 or 12 loaves at a time. He's in his 70s.

My parents definitely got me started cooking, and developed my palate for real food.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pancakes, from my dad, especially his truc of adding sour cream to the batter (or, as I do nowadays, thickened yogurt).

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Specifically, my dad taught me how to make flaky biscuits, gravy, and scrambled eggs. Those were the techniques that he took care to pass on. But he was also the one who did a majority of the cooking when I was young (house-husband) and from watching him I learned how to approach family nutrition and regular day menus.

My mother taught me cookies! And how to make whole wheat bread, or at least a very specific kind now with the official moniker of "mom bread." But, most important I think, she taught me how to choose produce... squeezing avocados, sniffing peaches, etc. That is one of the great pillars of my own cooking to this day!

Also, while I liked food as a kid, I really got into cooking and food explorations and experiments with the influence of my uncle. He likes to experiment himself, and often he is the one to show me unknown techniques like nor mai gai or biryani. Not that I can do them by myself... yet!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From my mom, proper Chinese homecooking. Stuff like braised pork hocks, beef noodle, steamed ribs, soups.... My food doesn't turn out half as well as hers and I still haven't done much of the fancy complicated dishes for entertaining or festivals, but I'm hoping to improve. Mom's also taught me basic dishes like bolognese or chicken cacciatore - I like to think that I'm up to her level for Western-type dishes. She's not a great baker, so I've surpassed her in that department. :smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It started with an EZ Bake Oven. Then I bought a "Peanuts Cookbook" ("Peanuts" as in Charlie Brown) through Scholastic Books in my elementary school. I asked my mom if I could make something from the book. I made the "Apple Brown Lucy". It turned out great and there was no looking back.

Then my mom got a job outside the home and we became latch key kids. She would leave notes for either me or my oldest brother, depending on our school schedules, on how to prep dinner so when she got home from her job she could just finish it up (with our help).

We call my oldest brother the Mother Hubbard Gourmet. He can open any cupboard or refrigerator and make a gourmet meal out of whatever he finds. He made potato skins and BBQ Chicken pizza years before they were popular in restaurants.

My second oldest brother followed in our dad's footsteps and today he's a BBQ wizard.

I think I'm a pretty good cook and am not daunted by the kitchen.

My youngest brother seems to have missed out on eveything and today he can "nuke" a mean frozen burrito. :laugh:

Edited by Toliver (log)

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From my mom, more kitchen customs or approaches than actual dishes: to clean up as I go. There was a Girl Scout cooking badge, and that was one of the elements. She refused to sign off until she was convinced. It took a while.

I'm another one who had dinner every night at the table with the entire family (it was anywhere between about six & eight-thirty depending on schedules that day). It's still my vast preference, and I ate sitting at the table in the dining room for the decade & a half that I lived alone (& in fact specifically selected places to live with separate dining rooms).

Tolerance. I was the picky eater in our house (as in not mixing spaghetti & sauce till I was in college, when I was too embarrassed to ask for sauce on the side. Turns out it wasn't so bad after all.). Apparently, my mom was too as a kid, and was miserable at meal times, but she grew out of it as an adult. She knew I would, too. That having been said, there was always one meal, and we were all expected to eat the same thing; my parents just made sure it was something everyone would eat in some fashion. I now live in a household where there are both allergies & preferences, and cannot say enough how glad I am that my mom already worked out that whole dynamic for me.

Making pancakes & waffles from scratch & my mom's way of serving them. I don't use her recipes (which were from whatever Joy of Cooking you could buy in the late 60s)--there's nothing wrong with them--it's just that I love The Breakfast Book. But it was never on my radar to make them from a mix--and that carried over into pretty much my whole approach to cooking. We always had pancakes, waffles or French toast on Saturday mornings, & we never sat & ate them all at the same time. When a batch came off the stove, somebody got them.

Edited to switch link from 13-digit ISBN (which didn't work) to 10-digit (which does)....

Edited by faith (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My parents were decent cooks, but they never were really big into teaching me anything. Helping my mother cook meant doing dishes. My dad who was an avid outdoorsman did teach me how to clean fish and and how to clean and cut up rabbits, birds, deer, beef, pork chickens etc.

Funny thing about that is according to him you clean and break down everything like a rabbit. I have taught other people how to break down chickens and deer, and they always give me a funny look when I tell them its simple you just clean it and cut it up like a rabbit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My first cooking lesson was in "molecular gastronomy".

A few kids discovered that you can cook a hot dog very quickly by sticking two nails in the hot dog and wired it to an outlet.

Don't try this at home.

dcarch

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My mother wasn't a particularly adept cook. My father wasn't a particularly adept grill master. In fact, when I was ten or eleven, the job of grilling the meat became my job. Sadly, when I brought in the now-burnt-and-tough-as-shoe-leather pork chops or steak, no one corrected me because no one knew any differently.

My mother cooked from convenience products, like so many parents from her generation. Casseroles were king and if it could be prepared from multiple boxes or cans, she was all over it. One of my fondest memories was mom's tuna biscuit bake. 1 can of condensed cream of celery soup, 1 can of cheddar cheese soup, several cans of tuna, and 1 sleeve of biscuits from the grocery store. Lay the biscuits along the bottom of the dish, mix the remaining ingredients with a bit of milk to make it "pourable" and then smother the biscuits in the dish. Bake until the biscuits had risen and the rest was bubbly and melted.

While I realize how unhealthy this is today (just the salt levels alone), this is a flavor from my youth that I do crave from time to time. I have gone about, reinventing a more from-scratch version, but it doesn't quite hit the same sweet spot that her version did.

One thing that was always popular in my mother's and my grandmother's households was the Jell-O salad. I never quite understood how floating some canned fruit in heavy syrup in flavored gelatin qualified it as a "salad." And when I asked, the answer I always got was, "Because that's what the recipe called it!"

I put up with a lot when other in my family cook, but about ten years ago, I drew the line on these convenience products on special occasions, like holidays. Given to their own vices, jars of pre-made gravy and cans of condensed soup would return, but not on my watch. Which means I end up making most of it. But that's fine with me.

Flickr: Link

Instagram: Link

Twitter: Link

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most food at home was sort of edible but that should be qualified. When I joined the Navy, I was sure I had died and gone to heaven; Boot Camp food was so good.

I had never had beef or pork that wasn't dark on the outside and gray on the inside. Of course you could just glue the round steak to the shoe when you wore a hole. The formulas I learned were cook it 'til you are sure all those nasty germs are dead then add 15 minutes.

Robert

Seattle

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess I am part of the exception too. My home life was pretty much based around the kitchen. My Italian father was a short order cook in his pre-family life. He had seven brothers and each brother had a "chore" in the house. My father's was to help cook the family meals. My mother came from a long line of women that didn't cook, but what they did cook, they cooked well. I think they just didn't like to experiment to be honest. The latkes, the chicken soup, the noodle pudding, the roasts with the paprika potatoes, the chopped liver ....the best (in my eyes.)

As the years went by, they became more and more interested in food and would constantly try to vary or perfect recipes and try new things. Many nights we were all in the kitchen making some sort of contribution. My father cooked mostly Italian and everything he made came out well. They were also food snobs. We'd ask for "Chef Boyardee" or whatever else the neighbor kid was eating and they'd make it for us from scratch using the best ingredients. (Not all my neighbors were eating Chef Boyardee, mind you. I learned amazing American food recipes from my best friend's mother.) We also didn't eat out because "our food was better than what you could get in a restaurant." I am sure that was partly an excuse, but if we did go out, we'd only go out for things that we didn't eat at home like Good Chinese, Jewish deli meats and smoked fish, Japanese and Gyros (heehee). We were also very lucky to be exposed to very few processed foods. Although there is one recipe that my mother used to use a can of soup and it is delicious. My parents were also very welcoming so there would always be guests.

My grandmothers were also very good cooks and it was really fun learning with them. Making their recipes always makes me happy.

They also made sure we could cook from a very young age. They worked day and night and wanted us to be self-sufficient. The first thing we learned was how to cook eggs. I remember the first full meal I cooked on my own (under supervision) was a family recipe that isn't the best recipe we make, but is certainly delicious: Roast beef with little red potatoes along with sauteed mushrooms and sauteed broccoli.

I am very, very thankful for what they raised me to think about food. We took the recipes -and the values- with us. My table is always full. I love to try new things. And I love to make family recipes that make me recall those moments. I am not the best cook at all. But I don't think that really matters.

I'm just going to go ahead and apologize in advance for the typos. I always miss them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nothing from parents, nothing from grandparents. I love 'em all to death, but... zero.

So what do you make of the fact that so many Society members had lousy-cook forebears?

That's a good question. I wonder if the fact that so many of us had lousy-cook forbears acted as an incentive to learning how to cook well and eat well. A different attitude about life balance might contribute as well. And a different socio-economic status.

That's a very good question. I'm also from an incinerate and limpify pedigree. Maybe it's like shedding some form of oppression or misunderstanding.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Almost nothing. My mother never really cooked, more like reheated. "Fish" for dinner was Gorton's frozen fish, heated up in the toaster oven. "Stroganoff" was Hamburger Helper. Desserts for special occasions were always cake or brownies made from boxed mixes, etc. etc. She still doesn't understand how I got so interested in cooking from scratch. I guess I just always enjoyed cooking, and as an adult I started to dislike the idea of eating so many processed, prepared foods.

Once, after I was married, the family was getting together for an Easter dinner at my parents' house. I volunteered to make a cake, from a Nigella Lawson recipe that includes Cadbury's mini eggs placed on the top. My mom has that tone where she can criticize while making it sound like she's agreeing with you: "Sure, that would be fine. Or, you could just get a cake mix, and just put Cadbury eggs around the top anyway." I said I'd prefer to make the cake, and she shrugged and said, "Okay, if you want to go to all that trouble..."

Maddeningly, there are two mostly-from-scratch recipes that she makes really well, but will not give me the recipe for: chili, and stuffed peppers. She says she doesn't want to give me the recipes, because then I wouldn't have as much incentive to come visit them for dinner! :huh:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maddeningly, there are two mostly-from-scratch recipes that she makes really well, but will not give me the recipe for: chili, and stuffed peppers. She says she doesn't want to give me the recipes, because then I wouldn't have as much incentive to come visit them for dinner! :huh:

In the past we have discussed a technique of telling them we are doing a family cookbook and want to document the priceless recipes via video etc. Worth a shot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My mom also hated to cook, and while competent at it, has always been uninspired. Her favorite saying is, "There's a reason why God created bakeries."

That said, she also had to put dinner on the table almost every night, plus lunches and breakfasts. So, she taught me how to cook basics just to get some help around the house. I can remember being four and pulling a particular chair up to the sinkboard to cut up vegetables for salads. I fairly quickly graduated to moving that chair over to the stove to make other dishes. By the time I was five (I remember the ages pretty well because we moved every couple of years and I remember which house we lived in at the time) I had my own 'house specialties.'

I read a lot, and, checked cookbooks out of the library along with my usual haul of science fiction and other non-fiction. I was allowed to experiment as long as I cleaned up and didn't use too many expensive ingredients. Probably the biggest lessons I got early on were in sanitation: wash your hands first thing, wash & mop the kitchen when you're done, and, sanitize the sink every evening before retiring.

Once we moved to the country, we did have gardens and raised a lot of our own foods, we even raised cattle for about a decade. I could raise whatever vegetables I wanted from the seed catalog as long as I tended them in the garden, so, I grew some exotic produce like golden raspberries and purple artichokes -just to name a few. And, we did eat a lot of whole grains (my dad prefers brown rice over white, and wholemeal breads) and 'real' (not processed) foods -unlike our country neighbors who seemed to think that boxed mixes were the height of chic. So, as simple as mom's cooking was, at least I was exposed to a lot of different vegetables and grains, and I learned to tend them as well as cook them.

Mom also encouraged me in baking, while mostly being hand-off in the kitchen itself. She would take my baked goods to arts & crafts shows where she sold her art, and I made some serious money starting at about age 9. I can recall tabling my own poured fondant for petit fours for a particular client who purchased a lot of baked goods in the summer when I was 10.

I was also introduced to hostessing parties and mixology at a fairly young age. My father would have business associates over for dinner, and he was very concerned that everything be perfect. Since I was reading up on French cookery, I often cooked the meals and often mixed a few drinks. Once, my mother was very ill and I was 11 years old. I wound up cooking and hostessing a 'very important' dinner party for my dad's boss and several associates all by myself -fairly successfully.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I kid I grew up eating very plain food, lots of overcooked red meat and poultry and vegetables. I didn't enjoy food. I mean, there were one or two things I really liked, but mostly I didn't enjoy anything to do with consumption. I was a fussy eater. I wouldn't eat many vegetables as they were plain. They had disgusting, mushy textures.

I'm not sure what turned me around. Maybe it was cooking class in secondary school. That, I guess, broadened my horizons a little, but I was never allowed in the kitchen at home and I wouldn't say the class inspired me to go out and try new things to any great extent. Maybe it was me maturing, maybe it was me stumbling somehow on Bourdain's Confidential and then, of course, Les Halles, but somehow I reached a point where I'd try basically anything and grew to really enjoy vegetables prepared with care and skill. I'm now at the point where I prefer degustations to be 80% vegetable--I'm fast losing interest in the ones that have as much, if not more, protein content as they have plant matter. I guess it was a collection of little steps. That first medium rare steak. That first perfectly cooked and seasoned carrot. Oysters. Realising that all of these things could be good. Could be fun. Naturally enjoying the food developed alongside and interest in--and ability to--cook it. My attitude to food is totally different. When I go to a restaurant, I'm happy to go on whatever journey the chef wants to take me on. With my family, even my sister to a point, it's still a case of, 'I won't eat x or y or z, I won't eat a or b or c if they're prepared in this way or that way or some other way, I wouldn't go to m or n or o.' I didn't pick up skills or technique or tradition from home. It's all self-taught, uncovered from friends and books and restaurants and television.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the past we have discussed a technique of telling them we are doing a family cookbook and want to document the priceless recipes via video etc. Worth a shot.

My niece just did this with her grandmother. There were two recipes she never gave out, a meat marinade recipe and the recipe for her Chicken Adobo. The grandmother never really measured anything so she couldn't say what the quantities were. So my niece used her cell phone to record video of her grandmother making both dishes and was able to figure out the quantities. Problem solved. :laugh:

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mom taught me cooking basics: enough basic technique to read a recipe, follow it, and, sautéing, steaming, creaming, whipping, folding, to fry a chicken, bake a chiffon cake, keep myself & those around me fed adequately. But she cooked to keep her family fed, not because she liked it, so when we were reasonably trained, she gradually stopped cooking altogether.

Dad taught me a love of cooking and food, and that's why I'm here on the gullet. He too was a good cook with a repertoire of basic dishes, but then he started to explore, and while sometimes we felt more like experimental subjects than his children, the lessons stuck. He taught me to prepare and season a wok, mill wheat with fresh whole spices, and not be afraid to try new things, although the new things should never, ever include first-time tryouts of radical revisions of the traditional and much loved main course at Thanksgiving dinner.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...