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


weinoo
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From Mom: how to bake properly with soda and baking powder leavens, the best dang pie crusts ever, and that just about anything can be oven-roasted with tasty results. She also taught me that salad is an important part of every dinner, and that fruit salads must have an odd number of fruits in them, one of which must be pineapple of some description. Mom is also responsible for my life-long love affair with cast-iron pans and griddles - she taught me at an early age how to care for and feed these beasties, and my own have never ever let me down or grabbed onto my food the way other cookware has. She also taught me how to make jams, confites, jellies, chutnies, pickles, and all manner of other preserves, and how to ensure that jars are properly sealed. Mom is also responsible for my sense of culinary adventure - she taught me to try everything once, and then repeat the things I liked. Without growing up this way, I probably would never have had the courage to try my first Cuy.

From Dad: by necessity (he was an alcoholic and often left me at home alone with a fridge full of meat and the stove) how to properly panfry a steak. I learned this at 6 years of age. He's also, indirectly, responsible for my appreciation of fine single-malts - there were always bottles on the counter.

From StepDad: gravy and sauces, yeast breads (the basics), how to poach fish correctly, the best BBQ sauce ever (we call it Brand X, since it's normally stored in an old ketchup squeezie bottle with a big X in sharpie on it), how to field-dress and properly preserve wild game, how to tell when a duck or pheasant has hung for the correct amount of time to be really tasty, proper Ukraine-style Holupche and Pedehe, and probably scores of other stuff that I can't currently remember. He also taught me that long (2-3 weeks) macerations on otherwise crappy cuts of beef can elevate them to a new level of tastiness, and how to properly cut meat so that it remains tender regardless of whatever else might happen to it.

From Grandmas (various and assorted both related and adopted): how to cook a Haggis properly, flaming plum pudding with hard sauce, scones, macaroni and cheese the way it ought to be done, how to properly crimp Pierogis so that they don't explode when you boil them, how to properly wrap a Humita, how to properly wrap and cook Quimbolitos, Locro de Queso, Dulce de Leche, Maito, Tres Leches, Tiramisu, Zabaglione, Dulce de Higos, and many other dishes.

From Grampa: that butter tarts are the be all and end all of sweets, how to make a proper mustard sandwich, and the practice of eating a bowl of maple syrup with a nice slice of hot, fresh bread. Grampa gave me my sweet tooth as well as my appreciation of the very simple things in life. It's due to him that although I love to try new flavours, my favourite ice cream will always be handmade bourbon vanilla - and in the same vein, he's responsible for my willingness to travel at least 50 km for good handmade ice cream. He also taught me how to properly panfry a whole trout so that no fishy smell gets into the house or the meat.

From various Tibetan monks who have been great friends: momos, timo, cheese, dhalmo, sweet tea, butter tea, and how to make a chili sauce so hot that you weep when you sniff it.

Both Mom and StepDad are responsible for my attitude that most recipes are gentle suggestions, not meant to be taken literally. In my house the recipe books are springboards, and we let the contents of the fridge dictate what actually happens. This often means that we have one-offs for dinner and that we can't always remember what made that dish so dang tasty - coconut and banana beef being one good example. We make this regularly, but it never turns out quite as good as the night I invented it - I think we might never have bought the kind of bananas I used again, because they were horrible on the fruit salads. The two of them are also ingredient perfectionists, and I'm sure that I have inherited this since I refuse to include anything in any recipe if it's even marginally questionable.

Looking back at that, I'm pretty blessed!

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Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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Nothing. We ate out 4-5 times a week and got food delivered or got take out the rest of the time. :angry:

Im from a pretty small town originally so the restaurants weren't particularly good either.

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  • 5 years later...

I learned how to appreciate the smell of coffee, from my Dad.  Every morning started off with a freshly-brewed (usually from a percolator) pot of strong coffee, and it smelled wonderful.  (Sadly, I didn't come to love the taste of coffee until years later, when I picked up a caffeine habit in college...)  Also, on weekends, he made pancakes from scratch, or french toast, or scrambled eggs.  My Mom made bacon, in a big cast iron skillet.  In that same skillet, she made pan fried steak, pork chops, fried catfish with hush puppies, or fried chicken, or cornbread.  I learned to love food, good food, from their adventures in the kitchen.  I especially remember holiday meals, like Thanksgiving, where the skillet also played a major role.  My Mom filled it with butter and onions and celery, and my Dad toasted several loaves of sandwich bread, which made its way into the big speckled enamel roaster, to be broken up into bite-size pieces by me and my siblings.  We also sorted cranberries, and watched as giblet stock was prepared, and a huge 30-plus pound turkey was prepared for its eventual fate.  I continue these rituals to this day, and even though they are both gone from this life, I connect with them each time I make one of these meals.

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I learned absolutely nothing about cooking from my Mom (who was the homemaker).  I detested doing anything in the kitchen, though I was made to set the table, peel potatoes, wash dishes, etc.

The, once I was living on my own in my own apartment, it was necessary that I learn how to cook something!

I actually had to ask my friend's Mom how to make mashed potatoes.  The first real dish I made for myself was meatloaf and, boy, was I proud.  That began my love of cooking and learning about cooking!  And I've never tired of it.

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I feel kind of comforted to discover that so many of us learned nothing from our parents - I thought it was just me.

 

I've told this story before, but I hope it bears repetition in a different context. My late father was of a generation and attitude that kitchens were where women did things and food was the stuff which had better be on the table when he got home. If you have seen the movie of the Color Purple where Mr. tries to cook for Shug Avery then you know my father, except he was white and Scottish. Actually, Mr. was better than my father - he could find the kitchen. I seriously doubt my father stepped into the kitchen more than twice in his life and both times were by accident.

My mother, whom I love dearly, was useless in the kitchen. She is now nearing 90 and was of the generation that grew up in wartime, food rationing Britain and never learned to cook. My grandmother wasn't gong to let her experiment or take chances on her burning or otherwise spoiling the dinner. If that happened, there would be no dinner. You couldn't run out and buy more.

 

So, what I really learned from my parents was that there had to be a better way to do this cooking lark.

Fortunately, I found that through a childhood sweetheart and her father who cooked me the best meal I have ever eaten in my life. A simple plain omelette. I didn't know that eggs weren't meant to taste and feel like rubber.  I didn't know food could be enjoyable! Then he taught me how to do it.

So, I slowly began to learn. Fish doesn't need to be hard and chewy. Vegetables don't need to be grey mush. Steaks don't need to be shoe leather. By the time I was 10 years old, I had taken over the kitchen and retired my grateful mother. I would rush home from school and cook dinner for the family. It still wasn't great but much better than my mother's and she agreed. My father didn't notice.

At times since, my standards have slipped (1960s, university student days). Then bounced back (marriage, fatherhood, responsibility). Cycles of life. But, I like to think the average has improved over the years. I still look forward to getting home from work and into the kitchen, even though it is now just me I'm cooking for.

 

And I can still cook a mean omelette.
 

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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At an early age, my mother taught me how to poach eggs in an egg poacher.  Slightly later, my grandmother taught me how to make an "egg in a hole."  That was cutting a hole in a piece of bread, dropping an egg in the hole, and frying the egg and bread together.  I still have "egg in a hole" frequently.

Edited by Cyberider (log)
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Fun to look back in this topic which started a number of years ago and see what folks wrote.  I wrote in 2011, five years ago and of course the past hasn't changed.  However I could add that I never taught our children how to cook and our daughter still doesn't cook and both our sons do, the youngest makes dinner every night for his wife and him.  :rolleyes:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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While my mother was a respectable cook, she was not an outstanding one. It was something she did because we had to eat, not because she loved to do it. Oddly, the one exception was sweets (odd because she was a severe Type 1 diabetic); she made petit fours for every wedding shower that happened, and batches and batches of candy at Christmas, popcorn balls for Halloween, and potato doughnuts whenever I could talk her into it. I still make candy every Christmas because it seems like the right thing to do.

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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I didn't really learn how to cook much from my parents - I never bothered to try. But when I moved out, I learned how to roast a whole chicken (and potatoes) and lived off that (leftovers in salads) for close to six months. After I got tired of it, I started discovering the different ways you can roast a chicken - by adding herbs and spices, and even changing up the method, then started sprouting out from there. 

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I was binge watching a Chef's Life and got to the episode where she makes chicken and rice with her mum. And then I thought about a recipe my Mum called "Chicken Lyonnaise" - we were pretty broke as a kid and Dad was out of work a lot but I remembered this as being a thing she made with the legs and wings from a  cheap chicken she roasted. This or coq au vin from a packet. I got curious and asked her. She also did an excellent lamb kidney dish which consisted of frying up onions, adding the gravy from Sunday roast, cooking the kidneys, serving with rice. Clearly very tasty since I can still remember it. Also below. 

 

Anyway. Have the recipe. 

 

"Although we talked about Chicken Lyonnaise, I’ve only just got round to reading the email.
 
Ingredients
Chicken legs, Bacon, Onions, Carrots, Mushrooms, Campbell’s condensed Mushroom Soup and Rice with a bay leaf and mixed herbs as required
Fry everything to brown.
Leave onions in pan and add rice, cook until translucent and add soup. Pour over other ingredients and cook for an hour until the soup has gone into the rice. Don’t let dry out.
 
Kidneys and rice is simply fry kidneys until cooked and brown, add some thick gravy and cook together to get juices combined. Cook rice in normal way. Pour /place kidneys on top.
 
See you soon.
Love Mum
xx"

 

Haven't tried it yet as still slightly boggled there seems to be no additional liquid in the soup. But will see how it goes! Mum is a big believer in bacon in anything savoury :)

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By rice she said a cup of rice, but this wouldn't be American cup measurements. This is probably half a mug of whatever thing she was measuring from in the cupboard. I'd probably start with half an American cup and go from there. 

 

I might pin her down and get her to make it. Possibly :)

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