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


weinoo
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My mother hated to cook and you could taste the resentment in it.

Annabelle, that is one heck of a fine sentence. I mean, that's writing! I'm jealous of your skill. Hey, did Mom teach you to write? :biggrin:

Thanks! Actually, my mother was a reporter, just like Lois Lane with hats and tight-fitting tailored suits in the '60s. It may be hereditary. One of my sons is also a terrific writer and cook, as well.

Edited by annabelle (log)
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My mom wasn't really a cook (or a housekeeper but that's another story). My dad did most of the cooking. I would say he taught me the essentials but his dishes consisted mainly of solid southern food with no frills. He was best at cooking meats and had a mean BBQ chicken - how I wish I had a "recipe" for that sauce but his time was too short with us and I never got that down.

He also made a delicious brunswick stew and was the "stewman" for family reunions and church dinners.

I miss him.

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My parents divorced when I was about 10. At first, my brother and I lived with our father who was not an enthusiastic cook. He could grill a decent burger and even got a little experimental by slathering pork chops with mustard and broiling them. Mostly though, he cooked a lot of spaghetti and Hamburger Helper.

It was during summer breaks from school that I started messing around in the kitchen while Dad was at work. I learned some of the basics through trial and error, like how to fry an egg to my liking without starting a fire. I also learn to cook the fish I caught and the occasional squirrel, dove, or quail.

My mother is a good cook but I can't recall learning a particular dish when I later lived with her. I did learn a technique though. Back in the mid-70s, my mother managed a small chain of medical supply stores. Long before flavor/brine injection was well known, she brought home a serious looking syringe (similar to this one) and we experimented with injecting various flavors into meat, such as lemon juice into chicken.

Edited by PetersCreek (log)
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My parents travelled a great deal and were adventurous eaters and even though we lived in small town middle America we were exposed to a wide variety of foods. None of my friends had even heard of the dishes we ate (this was in the 1960's and 70's). I learned to make chicken cacciatore and polenta from my grandma as well as banga cauda and meat sauce for pasta and lasagna. I also learned never to complain of a stomach ache within her ear shot as it brought the dreaded fernet branca! My dad's one contribution to the table was making lunch after Sunday mass. It was nearly invariably tortellini stuffed with meat and cheese or stuffed with spinach and cheese in brodo. A lady in town made the tortellini so I didn't learn about that until much later in life. The broth was not homemade but canned but dad made it taste like it might have been by simmering it with chopped onions, celery, carrots and herbs and spices then straining it and cooking the tortellini in it. While I still think that homemade tortellini in brodo can be the best thing in the world I realize that being a Catholic Italian in the 1960's ( when you had to fast I.e not eat anything until after communion on Sundays AND your parents liked to sleep in on Sundays and attend 11:00 or 12:00 mass) and being ravenously hungry by mid afternoon made this meal the highlight of the week! Mom taught everything else from making hollandaise or bernaise sauces for fondue nights to the ghastly fish burgers on Fridays. Actually I learned how to make sauces for fondue because of my mom not from my mom. She wanted to make the sauces for beef fondue and sometimes could but often they broke or curdled. She handed me her "Gourmet's Basic French Cookbook" when I said "that looks bad" once too often and told me to figure it out. I did and became the house saucier!

Ah memories!

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Hypothesis doesnt hold up. Appears to be a case of observation bias.

Although a couple posts could go either way, on the first count the tally is:

one of my parents cooked reasonably well or better / I learned:

26

My parents served boiled boots, when they bothered to cook at all:

20

and now to raise the first class to 27:

measuring,

reading thru

planning it all to come together, use the kitchen well, etc

menu planning

trying new ingredients, recipes, techniques

and some favorite recipes.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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My mother is a spectacular southern cook so I learned all the standards. Country fried steak, cornbread, greens, yeast rolls et al. Her most "adventurous" dish was salmon croquettes (though she served them with ketchup).

She is also a fantastic baker but I hated to bake until I was in my mid 30s. I now often call her to tell me why my cookies went flat or my pound cake deflated.

My father taught me to grill meat.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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My mom is a decent cook and an outstanding baker. While I would say that I learned some cooking tidbits from her, I definitely learned more about baking - pies, cookies, crisps, cakes etc.

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At age 10 or 11 or so, my Mom taught me to make Crepes Suzette. Well, that's what she said they were. In a later restauraunt moment slightly uncomfortable to us all, I learned that Crepes Suzette did not involve cottage cheese and frozen sweetened strawberries. Instead, my order caused a whispered conversation between Mother and waitress - one that involved words like 'wine' and 'alcohol'. I was summarily informed that I would not like this version, and was left to work out my confusion until later in life.

Still, I had learned to make proper crepes and I've since substituted fresh strawberries macerated in balsamic and sugar for the frozen ones. It's still good. But I'm calling them "Crepes Esther" now.

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My biggest lesson was the value of good ingredients. We had a garden, my dad was a forager, and both parents shopped carefully for ingredients - not always easy to find in those days. A long car ride to buy straight from the farm was part of the weekend entertainment. I learned that a platter of freshly picked asparagus served with homemade mayonnaise, or a platter of thinly sliced ham, some hardboiled eggs, sliced tomotaes and fresh bread, was a feast as good or better than a roast.

My dad loved salads and grew many exotic lettuces at a time when iceberg and romaine were about as good as it got. I've never had green beans as good as those from our garden. Strawberries, raspberries, currants, rhubarb, apples, cherries, pears, peas, corn, potatoes, radishes, carrots, fresh herbs for salad, I really didn't know how lucky I was until I went into the greater world of our suburb and learned that most people didn't have gardens and ate out of boxes and jars (this was the 60's and 70's).

Cheers,

Anne

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My mother taught me everything about the kitchen and how use it all. She taught me all the fundmentals. My favorite was how to make flour gravy out of any meat that was fried in the skilllet; without lumps. Mom was raised in the depression and knew how to make anything go further. A southern cook she taught me how to make all those greasy good things like fired chicken, fried salmon patties, fried potato cakes, fried anything. One good thing she taugh was a balanced meal; meat, two vegetables (only 1 starch). She was an excellent cook and always made the dressing at Thanksgiving. She taugh me how one year and now that she is gone I make it like she did.

When I was old enough and had learned to carry my own in the kitchen my mother would let me cook supper everynight. I charish that time period to this day. It was when I learned to experiment with new recipes and still love to.

I won't waste your time listing all the things she taught me to cook, but she taught me everything I know. It wasn't until my mother was gone that I found recipes and recipe books hidden in different drawers in her house. All my 48 years,then, I never knew that my mother was a recipe hound like me.

I think of her everday I cook, in some small way or another.

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Nothing.

But I sure as hell learned how to drink! Heh.

Actually, I grew up with nannies and cooks (the norm in expat Asia), from whom I DID learn alot. Between them, I learned how to make most Cantonese, Shanghainese and to a lesser extent, Filipino, homecooking classics. This has meant that I still to this day have never made mashed potatoes, but I can make a mean adobo or xiaolongbao! :laugh:

My mother cooked only about the last two years prior to all us kids moving out of home (no cooks in the employ then!) and never really seemed interested in food, which was reflected in the interminable procession of the three dishes she was comfortable cooking, mostly involving minced beef god love her, alternated night after night ad infinitum.

Since we've all moved out of home, over the last 15 years, she seems to have experienced a renaissance. I think not having the exhausting duty of feeding kids has fired her imagination in all sorts of wonderful ways and she now makes amazingly varied and interesting food - even served up an Ethiopian peanut curry with accompanying teff bread last time I was home! Could NOT believe it.

Edited by rarerollingobject (log)
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My parents became vegetarian when I was about two or three, and were also big on health food, sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and so on. On the one hand, I really do appreciate their instilling in me a sense of the importance of thinking about food.

On the other hand, thinking about food also led to my conclusion that, in general, the entire 'substitution' concept is questionable:

You can't effectively substitute whole wheat flour in, say, angel food cake, just because it is supposed to be healthier;

Home-made peanut butter, made with lightly salted nuts, on Arnold's whole wheat = child will not eat lunch;

Carob drink powder becomes acceptable if you add a lot of instant coffee to it;

Honey cannot be counted on as a sugar substitute;

Nut loaf (substitute meat loaf) is a bad scene.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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One thing: how to make a what used to be called French Vinaigrette salad dressing, although no one called it that then.

Otherwise nothing. My Mother hated cooking and went for the first freezer plan ever on the market. That's why I grew up loathing ice cream. Cheap junk it was.

My Father was one of those who could barely open a can.

My DH, Ed, partly of French-Canadian heritage and with a Mother who made everything from scratch, taught me how to cook. Which I hated until about five years ago. That's my story.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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I was really lucky my mom could cook, bake and canned she is amazing. Now my dad thou bless his heart was not very good in the kitchen but he tried. I often think my mom was a bored housewife because she was always in the kitchen trying up new recipes or "playing" as she called it coming up with something new. Our bookshelves were loaded down with cookbooks and Bon Appetit issues. Now hear is the odd thing she never really pasted anything on to me until I moved out some 20+ years ago.

I loved being in the kitchen with her, but she never "taught" me. I watched her and other family memebers like a hawk but never asked questions.

I learned from trail and error which I found out later that is how both she and my grandmother who was a wonderful cook learned. When I look back on my childhood I remember everyone love coming to both my parent's house or grandparent's they all knew that the tables would be overflowing with the best food. To this day when I go back to my hometown and I run into old family friends they ask if I have picked up my grandmother's or mother's talent for cooking I can only say that I am running a close 2nd to them both.

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My mom taught me how to use the 'Archimedes method' to measure shortening--if you need half a cup of shortening, put half a cup of water into the 1 cup measure, add shortening until the water reaches the 1 cup line. Since I no longer use shortening for anything, that tip goes unused now.

I was allowed to bake sweets, to fill up my brothers and myself, so I started with cake mixes and graduated to cookies and candy.

Other than that, I think I mostly taught myself. She went to work when I was 12, evening shift, so I was responsible for dinner. She got the meat out of the freezer, and I pretty much had free rein with what happened next--the only rule was 'meat, vegetable, starch'--and the starch, per my father, was generally potatoes. And the veggies came out of cans.

sparrowgrass
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  • 2 weeks later...

My mom taught me a few things, but mostly it was my dad's love of rich food that I acquired. Mom was an excellent cook; she had to be with 6 kids, 7 if you count dad.

Dad taught me how to burn stuff on the grill and not get worked up about it, it was more of a concern if we spilled some of our beer from laughing too hard. I loved that about him.

There are 3 kinds of people in this world, those who are good at math and those who aren't.

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Great topic! I remember (why I am called the OLD cook) during WWII, mom and grandma having to learn to bake without the use of eggs, much sugar, etc. After the war, I learned to catch, kill, clean chickens and any other foods I hunted...we ate at times, ONLY because I hunted...grandma was great cook, as was my mother...so I learned to make dumplings, cream gravy from fried foods, fresh cooked veggies, how to can, later how to freeze veggies...the usual midwest foods. NOthing fancy, no Chinese, Italian, etc. It was plain farm type food. Later they "discovered" new cultural foods (pizza was considered really daring!). But, once we moved to larger city, they all learned to love and embrace new foods. So I grew up with a love of food, first for substance, and served with love; later an appreciation of all the flavors of the world. Except, (sorry folks), I still to this day, dislike too spicy of foods (I want to taste the FOOD), and Indian food. However, I despair, as I have no one to teach in my family who is interested in cooking....so a lot of the family recipes will be lost when I am no longer here. :sad:

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Please, at least post them here on RecipeGullet, so you can share them with us and our progeny! Have you checked with more distant kin? Maybe they'd like the recipes, too!

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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My mother hates to cook, and thats one of the reasons I learned how. I started experimenting in the kitchen at a young age and subjected the rest of the family to the results. What I did learn though was how to have a party. I used to be mortified when Dad would catch the chicken on fire on the grill, or the dog would steal the roast.. but everyone always had a great time! They were relaxed about it, and always made jokes and people still kept coming over. Usually unexpectedly. Mom knew how to stretch out one little tiny bird into a meal for everyone. I am not quite as relaxed as they are about things, but im getting there.

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"Tolerance"--yes, I was a fairly picky or at least small/light eater as a child. It was partly a textural issues, I hated (still do) the mouth feel of some kinds of fat. My mother was great about letting me choose what to eat, chances are, if my father had had more say in the matter (& been around more) I might have been pushed harder.

From my mother: schnitzel, wilted cucumbers, stuffed peppers & potato salad. Nussbrusel (sp? a small meringue w/nuts). Maybe pancakes from my father, although mostly I remember watching him, he'd always make a figure pancake for my sister & I. When we were small, we often had pancakes for Sunday breakfast (which we ate all together), and he always made them.

From both of my parents: enjoyment of fresh fruit & veg. My father had a good-sized garden when I was small, so we had fresh tomatoes, cukes, apples, pears, lettuce . . . and my mother used to buy other seasonal veg at a downtown covered farmers' market. She made applesauce from my father's apples. I remember sitting w/her & helping her shell peas, popping a few in my mouth every so often--so tasty. Seems like we feasted on fresh corn on the cob every year until I was perhaps 12 or 13 (we'd moved by then, to a different state & didn't have a garden). We used to go to northern MI for a few weeks in the summer, often right around sweet cherry harvest time, they tasted so sweet, and I could have as many as I wanted even if I made myself sick.

Now that I think about it, my dad grilled a tasty hamburger or hot dog.

My mother was a good cook--although I don't think she enjoyed it greatly-- she rarely cooks now. She had better nutritional knowledge than quite a few other people around & had worked in the lab of a MD research scientist who worked on a couple of vitamins (learning about the structure, perhaps synthesizing it). Since she had been raised in Vienna, Austria, chocolate was not candy, but a food.

My grandfather (I only knew one of my grandfathers) used to construct a variety of finger foods or hors d'oeuvres, that was it. I think my grandmother had had a cook for much of her married life (at least before they came to the US) so I don't remember much about what she cooked, if she did--I do remember that she would always have petit fours & Sachertorte or some other kind of torte, that came from the Eclair coffeeshop & bakery, that was just down the block from her building (apartment building). Because, when she gave dinners (family & friends), she used complete settings of tableware, I became familiar fairly young in life, of the uses of all those extra spoons & forks. My grandparents had some interesting friends, some of them had been through alot (as had my mother & her parents).

I still have some of the individual small salt shakers my grandmother used to set the table with, glass w/a sterling silver screw top. One for each diner.

The person who is truly got me started cooking was my college roommate. I couldn't stand the school meal plan, so got exempted from it (1st years in the dorms were supposed to be on the meal plan) & was trying to cook. I think she was at least partly a self-taught cook (possibly her mom had shown her some stuff) as her mom worked. She's certainly a very good cook, and she was, she told me years later, horrified with what I was doing, so she showed me the basics of stir-fry or Cantonese cooking (she's ethnic Chinese, born in Hong Kong, came to the US when she was 8) and I went from there. The basics I learned were very well suited to the restrictions of dorm facilities. Learned almost everything else from books.

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  • 1 month later...

Just my mother--cornbread, potato soup, chocolate chip cookies, country gravy, fruit pies, potato salad. She was basically a midwestern farm cook--simple middle American meat-and-potato menus, nothing too sophisticated, and even bland by some peoples' standards.

I envy the person who learned to cut up a chicken. By the time I was born, my mother had stopped doing a lot of the farm wife stuff like baking bread, having a big garden, putting up jams and jellies and things like that, so I didn't learn as much as she did from her mother.

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I'm sure I've learned a lot of cooking things from my mom but one thing stands out and that's cooking rice Syrian Jewish style. Fried in a bit of oil first. A lot of oil if you are going to toast the bottom before turning it out.

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My grandparents were Middle Eastern,and they cooked arabic foods together all the time. My aunts and my mother cooked all the time as well, but they also incorporated more eclectic foods, so I grew up watching them make anything from a simple home cooked meal to elaborate parties. I think that's what give me the love of cooking;

Edited by Jacquester (log)

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”

W.C. Fields

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My mother wasn't a great cook... she was a great gardener who canned and froze a lot of wonderful produce every year. But, she really didn't like cooking. However, she did lead my Girl Scout troup and 4H Club cooking classes, where we learned to do baked eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, s'mores and brownies and such. And, she taught me to make great gravy! She also taught me how to find people in the community who loved to cook and would do it for you and how to put out a nice spread of food other people cooked and that it's okay to do that. She was an organic gardener in the 60s... long before it became the "in" thing. I'll never forget the arrival of a box of praying mantis egg cases. They were creepy, but cool!

Grandma taught me to make bread, veggie soup, pot roast, green beans, corn bread, angel food cake, etc., etc... and, how to shell peas, snap beans, cut corn kernels off the cob, cut up a chicken and all that.

Grandpa taught me to eat the first fresh strawberries out of his straw hat, how to eat the first ripe tomato like an apple, leaning over the dirt in the truck patch and how to feed the squirrels peanuts out of my hand.

I had a great childhood, full of gardens and horses and drinking sweet tea with fresh mint on the porch swing. I was blessed.

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