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liuzhou

First Steps in Cooking

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Posted (edited)

A friend sent me these pictures yesterday. Her son's first steps into preparing a meal (aided by his grandmother). OK. Not technically "cooking", but we all started somewhere and the concentration as he builds his lunch and the joy on his face as he bites into his creation is inspirational.

 

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Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Adorable! Can you tell us more about what was in his sandwich creation? 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, MetsFan5 said:

Adorable! Can you tell us more about what was in his sandwich creation? 

 

It is sliced, spam-like, mechanically recovered, industrial pork sausage, cucumber, lettuce, and tomato. The bread will be sweet and cake-like.  Masterfully seasoned with some KFC tomato ketchup from purloined sachets. No salt, no pepper and no butter on the bread.

 

Very Chinese!

 

I'm told he wanted to make a hamburger, but Gran has no idea what a hamburger is and supplied the wrong ingredients. Didn't seem to bother him.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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That is what Grandmothers are for I guess.

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12 minutes ago, Darienne said:

That is what Grandmothers are for I guess.

 

Indeed. My earliest food memory is of my grandmother (maternal) in the kitchen, cooking.  I think I thought that was where she lived, just like I thought teachers lived in the school.

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First thing I can remember learning to cook was biscuits. And yes, from my grandmother.

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I vividly remember the first thing I cooked, even after almost 60 years. I will tell later, but a bit busy now getting ready for a trip in the morning. And I'd love to hear any other memories first.

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I was a teen in Upper Michigan and the heady aroma of Mom's fresh baked bread hit me as I came home from school.

It was so intoxicating!  She didn't make it often so it was a very special treat when she did.

It was the first thing I really ever wanted to learn to make.

I wasn't able to start learning until I married and got my first 4-½ qt. KA mixer.

I tried and tried but couldn't get the knack of kneading properly and for the right length of time; I had no one to teach me.

Only when I got my bigger KA mixer with a dough hook was I able to finally produce a loaf to be proud of.

I still get a rush when I have bread baking in my oven; it is just about the most satisfying thing I make.  And I still have that mixer.

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I've spoken on this one before...my Mother hated cooking.  And so she did as little as possible.  I recall the early TV dinners with distaste.  My poor Father never got to leave them behind.

 

My grandmothers were early gone.  But I do remember lighting the candles at my Mother's Mother's home once, although I had no idea what it  was about.  

 

One of my first cooking memories when married (far too young, alas):  I knew only Bisquik biscuits.  How would I know otherwise?  I had run out of Bisquik and it occurred to me that maybe you could just 'make' them.  I found a recipe in my one cookbook and was astonished at how wonderful my biscuits were (compared to my Mother's pucks).  I still love to whip up fresh biscuits and remember that day more than 58 years ago.  My husband taught me how to cook.  (Which, of course, means that he still interferes in my culinary processes.  Mixed blessing.)

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I had always, from the time I was big enough, "helped" in the kitchen. It might have been turning the crank on the sausage grinder, or fetching and carrying things, or stirring. I remember being convinced I was "making" teacakes when my grandmother would make the dough, roll it out, then put me on a stepstool and let me cut them out and put them on the cookie sheet.

 

As there were two adult women in the home (my mother and my grandmother), and they both cooked, I came a little late to the cook-by-myself process. I wanted to enter the biscuit making contest in 4-H Club when I was in 5th grade, and that's the first time I remember cooking biscuits start to finish by myself.

 

I learned a great deal about cooking from those two, but I didn't really cook a lot on my own until I lived on my own. There wasn't room in the kitchen!

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I always helped. Great grandma was the chief cook. Made her own soup noodles every week. Definately helped washing dishes while standing on a chair by the sink. But my first "solo" was making my way through the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook. The passion has only intensified over the years.  This one: Betty Crocker's New Boys and Girls Cookbook

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@heidih  my first cookbook was also the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls.  My next door neighbor and best friend also cooked our way through it.  Once we made lunch and dinner for both of our families.  I only remember the tuna melt on hot dog buns wrapped in wax paper and heated in the oven.  We also made the hot fudge pudding.  I still have the book and the friend some 50 years later.

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Posted (edited)

Oh and I handed the book (my old copy) to my son one summer. He needed to prove responsibility to a demanding father... He chose the bunny salad (the one with the canned pear halves). He walkd the mile to the grocery store, and learned to use a manual can opener. Many phone calls later he proudly presented it to his grandparents. I was at work, they took no pictures - grrrr.  Then I handed him Julia Child's Mastering the art of French Cooking Volume 2 and asked him to make baguettes. He did, they were good. We had family visiting so he got to share his success. Happy memories. He was maybe 10 or 11 at that time.


Edited by heidih (log)
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I don't remember the first thing I ever cooked :(  

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That Betty Crocker Boys & Girls Cookbook that @heidih mentioned was my first cookbook, too.  I remember making those bunny salads! 

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Mom would let me help prepare the salad for dinner. I was a tall child, and pretty well coordinated, so, just after I turned 4 she let me peel and slice carrots and cut up other salad items with a paring knife while standing on a chair. She also let me make my own toast for breakfast in exchange for teaching me how to set up the percolator so she could sleep in a little bit. Sometime in that year (I could read) I read some of her cookbooks and decided that I wanted to make potato leek soup, and she let me. That became my 'signature dish' for a couple of years. Of course, I had to clean up, too. I swept and mopped the kitchen, and did dishes more often than I was allowed to cook -at first. Then, both my mom and younger brother got really sick with strep and dad was out of town. So, I was left to my on devices in the kitchen for more than a week. I just started checking recipes against what was in the fridge and trying to make it. I made two complete dinners during that time, even though I was the only one able to eat them I tried serving mom and my brother on trays in bed. My father taught me to cook eggs later that year, and he made me a little bench to stand on in the kitchen.

 

Of course, my dad already had me pushing a manual lawnmower around the backyard and digging up dandelions at an early age, too. We weren't allowed to watch much TV, and all of my neighbors were adult empty-nesters so I didn't have any playmates outside of pre-school.

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My grandmother was cooking for us (Mom, Dad, me).  I remember very sketchy things from my childhood (like applying mustard to pork chops prior to frying) but those may be false memories.  I can not imagine buying proper pork chops in Soviet stores.  As a teenager, I did not value home cooking.  It was only after I had my son, that I became interested in making meals for him and for the rest of the family.  Thank god, my grandmother was still alive.   Her palate was amazing.  She would simply add a little bit of this or that to my dish and it would be perfect.   Hopefully my son will remember my meals fondly when I am no longer cooking (or worse).

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I was one of the kids with that Betty Crocker cookbook, and I do remember that "bunny salad"! I have a feeling the first thing I cooked was grilled cheese, since I can remember watching my Dad make them and studying his method. I think the first thing I may have made for the family (from that BC cookbook, I believe) was "cube steaks" which were tenderized (chuck maybe?) dredged in flour/S+P and pan fried.

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My mom was reading this topic and told me that my first cooking was spaghetti (my favorite food) at 8ish :)

 

I love my mom so much :) 

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My trip has been postponed, so I have time to add my own story. Some of this, but not all, I've mentioned on eG in other contexts.

 

My mother was born in France and when she was nine years old Hitler invaded. My grandfather worked for the French government in some mysterious category which I've never understood and nearly the whole family fled as he was almost certain to be shot if found. My mother was the youngest of 13 kids! 5 boys 8 girls. The boys, by then men, were in the army and so remained longer. All the girls other than the eldest left for Britain and relative safety. The eldest lived through the occupation under an assumed name and survived. In fact the whole family survived the war, unlike so many.

 

Once the war was over, most of the family's refugees scattered across the world. I have family on almost every continent. My grandparents returned to France. My mother, one sister and one brother remained in the UK. Now 90, my mother is the only one still alive.

 

Anyway, this all preamble to cooking. She grew up, from the age of nine in wartime England under strict rationing. Her mother did not allow her to learn to cook. Food was too scarce to be "practised on". If she messed up or even burned the dinner, it was all over. You couldn't rush out and buy more. So she never really learned to cook until she moved to Scotland and married my father.

 

He was of a generation or generations of men who wouldn't stoop so low as to cook and to this day I remain half convinced he didn't know our house had a kitchen, or where it was, or what happened there.  Food for him just arrived like storks bringing babies. I doubt he ever thought about it.

So, growing up, food to me was simply fuel. The height of mother's culinary skill was not actively poisoning us. Taste, texture, or appearance did not enter the equation.  Now, please don't think I am slandering my mother in public in any way. She happily admits to being the world's worst cook and a disgrace to her French heritage.

Then, I think it must have been 1959 or 1960, both my parents were struck by a flu epidemic. Real flu. Not a bit of a cold self-pityingly described as flu and, as the eldest offspring, it fell to me to keep my siblings' hunger at bay.  I vividly remember going shopping then running back and forward between the kitchen and my parents' bed room getting mumbled instructions and trying to carry them out.

 

I made a sort of mince and tatties, that Scottish gourmet classic. It was probably overcooked and under seasoned, if seasoned at all. I forget the details. Selective amnesia probably, but no one died. We survived until help arrived in the large shape of my father's ancient, widowed aunt, a terrifying woman who smelled of Victorian Scotland and mothballs.

I still didn't take up cooking properly until years later I met my first girlfriend and her father cooked me a meal that changed my life. He made a simple omelet and for the first time I discovered that food can taste good! It was sublime. As I've mentioned here before,  I still follow his technique meticulously. You could say that I suddenly and simultaneously found that girls had redeeming qualities after all and that food is even more fascinating. 

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How far away do your friends (from the photographs) live? If you can, I humbly suggest that at some point fairly soon, you cook an actual hamburger with Junior. -Just so he knows what a real one is supposed to taste like. (as opposed to most fast food places)

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Lisa Shock said:

How far away do your friends (from the photographs) live? If you can, I humbly suggest that at some point fairly soon, you cook an actual hamburger with Junior. -Just so he knows what a real one is supposed to taste like. (as opposed to most fast food places)

 

They live in the provincial capital, Nanning which is an hour and a half train ride away. I will be going there later this week to catch my plane to Vietnam, but won't have time to see them this trip.

Love your suggestion though and will do so at some time in the not too far future.


Edited by liuzhou typo (log)
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My mom died when I was 8, but before then, I "helped" in the kitchen. The first thing I really remember "helping" with was a fruit cocktail cake where you dump a can of fruit cocktail into probably a cake mix. Sneer all you like, but we considered this very good. I remember aspiring to assist in washing dishes since I was a tiny ignorant thing. My mom was a registered nurse, and very wary of pathogens and wanted the dishes washed properly. I was so proud the first time I was allowed to assist! Man, did that get old quickly. :|

 

The first thing I remember cooking completely on my own was an herbed Italian chicken dish. After the death of my mom and stepmom shortly after, we were three children living with my single dad who did not deign to enter the kitchen other than to give commands. I had learned to cook simple things like baked potatoes, bacon and eggs and Dad would grill steaks outside over charcoal. 

 

We had an elderly Italian couple, the Politos, across the dirt road we lived on in VT. Leah, the wife, was apparently barren and has always wanted children. Joe, the husband always ran us off if we were hanging around when he got home from work. Leah was our missing mother or maybe grandmother. We helped her with yard work. She taught me a lot of things about cooking and preserving. I remember canning her garden tomatoes in her basement canning kitchen.

 

I remember Leah bringing our family some baked chicken with parsley, basil and oregano she'd grown in her garden. (Us kids helped the old woman with garden chores, too.) The whole family loved this chicken, and I tried to recreate it later. It seemed browned and done, but when we cut into it, it was bloody, so back into the oven it went. It finally came out done and edible, but I remember crying over my initial failure. I also remember even my usually cruel father being tolerant and appreciate of my efforts for a change. I was about ten here.

 

Another memory is when I lived with my grandparents when I was thirteen. I'd left home by then, and my paternal grandparents took me in. By this time, I'd been cooking for my dad and two siblings for a while and when he married my second step mom who came with a son, then I was cooking for six. I got sick of the abusive situation and landed on Grandma's doorstep for a while. I was her favorite.

 

At first, Grandpa did all the cooking because, Grandma, who was the cook in the family, was the victim of a stroke and bedridden. One day, after the big chicken butchering where all the extended family cooperated to slaughter and process about 200 chickens grown on the property, I decided I wanted some good fried chicken. First thing I did was scrub out the kitchen sinks where Grandpa had been spitting his snuff. Well, he immediately started back up fouling the sinks, and I kept scrubbing them out, and gently pointed out the coffee cans, he could use for this purpose. One of my cousins asked why I didn't just forbid him to spit in the sinks. I figured that wasn't my place. I persisted scrubbing and he persisted spitting. I'm not sure if someone else spoke to him, but finally, he quit spitting disgusting brown snuff residue into the sinks.

 

That day, I got a free range chicken out of the deep freeze to thaw. When it came dinner time, I took it upon myself to put some flour, salt and pepper into a plastic bag to shake and coat the chicken. Grandpa was adamant that it wasn't enough flour and that I would fail. It's only because Grandma intervened that I continued on and dropped the coated chicken pieces into a couple of ancient cast iron skillets full of hot oil. Grandpa was amazed, and said I was right, that it was plenty of flour and that more was just a waste.

 

I was the cook and Grandma in Grandpa's kitchen after that day with not much more interest except requests for certain things.

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I don't remember the first thing I made.  I cooked/baked/"helped" all through out my childhood and growing up.  I have pictures of me in my own chef hat and apron at a young age.  I remember making cut out cookies for "Santa".  I remember dumping ingredients in when my mom said to for anything.  I loved being the measurer of items.  When we were older (and my father was actually working), we got home after school and usually had something that needed to be started for dinner.  

 

Cooking was just always there.  To the point that I didn't understand why my friend's mom didn't cook.  They ate take out every night.  No exaggeration.  I didn't know there were people that did that.  There were people that didn't know how to make chocolate chip cookies.  I remember showing her how to do it in either middle or high school.  My mom eventually bought her a Betty Crocker beginner cookbook because she wanted to cook.  Now, she has her own family and cooks all the time.

 

I love reading all of these experiences!!

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