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First Steps in Cooking and Eating


liuzhou

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I'm pretty sure the first thing I made for myself as a young 'un was porridge for breakfast, almost certainly from rolled oats (though porridge was a staple and we also had Cream of Wheat and the multigrain Red River and Vita-B brands as part of our regular rotation, so it might have been one of those). Frying my own small trout, fresh-caught from the local streams, was almost certainly the second thing.

 

My mom was never fond of cooking, but executed simple, traditional meals well enough. My father was more adventurous - he'd read about something like polenta, and decide to play around with it - but he was at sea a lot when I was young. There were plenty of good cooks and bakers on both sides of my family, but they fell decidedly into the "homestyle traditional" category.

 

My first real look at a more sophisticated approach to food came in 8th grade, when I met my lifelong best friend. His parents were both German, though his father was raised and educated in England during and after the war (they were part-Jewish). His mother was and is an exceptional cook and baker, though much slowed by arthritis, fused spine, hip transplants, scoliosis, etc. Coming from a household where "salad" was shredded iceberg with tomato wedges and bottled dressing, eating something totally left-field like her herring salad was a memorable experience. I also had my first experience of slow-cooked sauerkraut (with multiple pork products) at her house, which remains one of my favorite cold-weather meals and a staple in my house. 

 

My mom always baked bread when I was growing up, so I felt a real imperative to start baking my own when I left home at 15. I'd watched her often enough, so I just bought the ingredients and gave it a go. I knew she put shortening in the warm water before adding the flour, but I couldn't remember how much...so I threw in a cup of it. Let me tell you, that bread was well and truly shortened! It was dense but certainly edible, so after clearing up the amount of fat required on my next phone call home (a tablespoon or so...) my next batch turned out better. Over the intervening years I made pretty much every mistake it's possible to make while bread-baking, but never stopped. It feels strange to think it's been just about 40 years now. 

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“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Here is the son of another friend rolling his first rice noodle roll (肠粉 Mandarin: cháng fěn; Cantonese: chéungfán). He needs to work on it a bit, but is clearly pleased with himself.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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  • 2 months later...

... and another, younger,  kid mastering his wok skills.  I reckon he has cracked it!

 

 

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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  • 1 year later...

A friend sent me this picture today. Her daughter, not yet two, has decided to make a career in the culinary arts. Here is her first effort.

 

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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  • 2 months later...

Yet another friend's daughter, not yet three-years-old, making jiaozi dumplings.

 

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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It wasn't the first food memory I had, but certainly the most vivid.

 

My dad was in the hospital, and mom was holding down the fort. Taking care of the kids, working a full day, shopping and cooking for us at night. As a stupid kid, I didn't realize how serious the situation was - dad had been in the hospital for weeks, and we were just told, "he'll be fine". Watching mom getting more and more tired, I got up and started cooking breakfast and lunch to take to work for her.

 

I made a mess, of course. I had no idea what I was doing, and I'm pretty sure the food was both burnt and raw when I finished. She ate every crumb and told me it was delicious.

Edited by tomishungry (log)
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  • 11 months later...

This is a dear friend's daughter in a seafood restaurant for the first time for a celebratory Mid-Autumn Festival dinner with her family. She chooses the food from the tanks then examines her selction with obvious delight!

She really is a bright spark. Bi-lingual in Chinese and English. Her mother is an English teacher; her father a police officer. She plays piano and paints way beyond her years. And endlessly curious about the world she finds herself in. She isn't 5 years old, yet.

 

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Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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  • 2 weeks later...

My dear friend J's son attempting the chopstick challenge.

 

 

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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  • 2 years later...

School wasn't like this in my day. We never had cooking lessons in primary school; girls had lessons from the age of 13 or 14. 

 

This looks like fun. Pancake faces.

 

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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I baked our family's weekly supply of cookies from about the age of ten.  I loved making them and as time moved along, I broadened my baking to include things like bars, loaf cakes etc. but not yeast products.  Back in the day, we took home economics in grade nine.  The thing I remember doing is canning tomatoes and that was the first thing I ever "cooked".

 

 My mom was a good cook but never taught me how to cook, and I never thought to ask.  I remember the first meal I ever cooked when first married were pork chops.  I burned them.  By trial and error I taught myself how to cook.  My MIL was Lebanese and taught me how to make stuffed grape leaves and pita bread, thus piquing my interest in bread.  I enjoy cooking but I would still rather bake.

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Seeing the pancakes and reading @ElsieD's comment reminded me that my first regular cooking job was to make the pancakes and sausage for our Sunday breakfast after church, also probably around 10 years old. Took me a while to get the whole thing down as the egg whites had to be separated, whipped and folded in to the rest of the batter.  I moved on to cookies, simple cakes and quick breads but the pancakes were my regular job. 

Other than that, my mom didn't want anyone in the kitchen when she was cooking and never wanted my "help."  The kitchen was quite small so I certainly would have been in the way but I think it was more that she was very thrifty and feared I might do something wrong and waste food.  Also on the thrift side, she might not have wanted anyone to see how carefully she trimmed off wilt-y or discolored bits to maximize what was left to eat.  Wish I could ask her about that now! 

 

 

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I learned basics, I guess, through osmosis in my mother's kitchen.

 

What I will never forget was the first meal I cooked for my husband.    Just back from honeymoon, first apartment.   Failed to check the oven before starting.    Beef roast, popovers, apple pie.    Took "hours" to cook the pie, then roast.    But finally got oven up to temp.    Put popover pan on top rack -> gorgeous, extravagantly tall popovers...whose tops got sheared off when removed from the oven.    Those were the days of easy forgiveness.

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eGullet member #80.

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The first meal my mother cooked for my father was roast chicken. Back then, chickens were plucked, but not completely. Not only did she leave whatever feathers were on it, but she neglected to note that the cavity had paper-wrapped liver and giblets inside. She tried to learn to cook, but never really overcame her trepidations. My nephews, her grandsons, always loved her chicken and rice dishes. But to be fair, their mother was a weird health freak and cooked dreadful food for them. Would you serve umeboshi plums to a ten year old for whom a burger and fries was the apex of exotic? The older nephew grew up to be a restaurateur, and the younger one has broad enthusiastic tastes. He adores my cooking! He's married into an Italian family and his father-in-law is a master of the seven fishes feast.

 

Ya never know. My own daughter never wanted to learn anything from me and she's rather a slapdash cook. I forgive her, since she has twin toddler girls and works full time. When we visit, my husband and I do a lot of cooking to help out. Their kitchen is small and poorly stocked, with lousy choices for pots and pans. I would gladly buy them all kinds of equipment, but they claim they don't need anything. In my opinion they need almost everything. 

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I was another who had a mother who didn't like help in the kitchen, so if I ever learned anything about cooking from her, it was merely by observing from afar. I married at 18 and my poor ex-husband suffered through a few horrid meals (Hamburger Helper!!!) before someone gifted me a BH&G cookbook. And thankfully, we lived near enough to both families to go home for plenty of meals often. 

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Deb

Liberty, MO

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BH&G?

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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One of my granddaughters first words was 'olive', her favourite food at a very young age.

 

Not something many kids would choose those as a favourite, I guess.

 

She is now the mother of two year old twins, one of whom is following in her culinary footsteps. 

 

But then I've met kids in China whose favourites are things I would never have imagined. Snails and chillies stand out. And durian.

 

 

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

A terrible thing is ignorance, the source of endless human woes, spreading a mist over facts, obscuring truth, and casting a gloom upon the individual life. - Lucian of Samosata (born 120, died after 180 CE)

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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I wanted nothing to do with anything happening in the kitchen as I grew up and my mother allowed it, only making me set the table or peel potatoes and, of course, wash the dishes.

As a result, I knew nothing when I moved into my first apartment.

I remember calling my friend's mom to ask how to make mashed potatoes.

That was for the first meal I ever made to go with a meatloaf.  I'm sure it was dreadful but it made me proud.  After that I ready to learn.

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On 3/13/2024 at 6:51 AM, Maison Rustique said:

I was another who had a mother who didn't like help in the kitchen, so if I ever learned anything about cooking from her, it was merely by observing from afar. I married at 18 and my poor ex-husband suffered through a few horrid meals (Hamburger Helper!!!) before someone gifted me a BH&G cookbook. And thankfully, we lived near enough to both families to go home for plenty of meals often. 

The BHG cookbooks were a godsend for me, basically teaching me how to cook as a beginner.

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On 3/13/2024 at 6:05 AM, liuzhou said:

One of my granddaughters first words was 'olive', her favourite food at a very young age.

 

Not something many kids would choose those as a favourite, I guess.

 

She is now the mother of two year old twins, one of whom is following in her culinary footsteps. 

 

But then I've met kids in China whose favourites are things I would never have imagined. Snails and chillies stand out. And durian.

 

 

Strange as it may seem, I know two women who potty trained their toddlers with olives. 

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I had to unlearn several things my mother taught me, although she didn't teach me much. But then she had some strange ideas across the board. I taught myself to cook when living in NM. All of a sudden I was just into it. 

 

To this day I regret not being more flexible and tolerant about cooking with my daughter. So her resistance to my habits was partly being excluded in the first place, and then later, just resistance in general. Now she appreciates my cooking way more, since my husband and I come to visit and shop and cook for her family. With a full-time job, two toddler twins and a food-finicky husband she has a lot going on. There are surprising things her husband just won't touch. Although he will eat very spicy Hunan take out. Long ago I learned it's futile to try and understand food phobias, even mine. Okay, especially mine.

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