Grandma's (or Grandpa's) cooking always the best?

Had this discussion with Mr. Rilch, Friend, and Boss.

Boss said, “Grandma’s cooking is always the best.” His reasoning was that Grandma, with more years of experience and more time to hone her personal style, would always be a better cook than mom or aunts.

I say that that’s true in theory, but it’s not always the case when you factor in the aging process, rather than just superiority in age.

In our random sample, both our theories are supported.

One of Boss’s grandmothers was a superb cook right up until she died. The other still is. His mother was well instructed by her own (the one still living), so should be able to take up the reins when she passes on.

One of Mr. Rilch’s grandmothers was demented for much of the time he knew her, and was a lousy cook to begin with. His other grandma was a skilled cook, but has lived in a nursing home for the past ten years and consequently doesn’t cook for anyone. His mother was a good cook also, but since she closed her restaurant, can no longer face planning a menu or making anything from scratch. Not that I blame her.

On Friend’s maternal side, it was grandpa who did the cooking. He was terrific, until he became disabled. Didn’t cook any more; died a few years later. Other grandma liked to put on a real Norman Rockwell spread, but Friend says it didn’t taste as good as it looked.

One of my grandmothers had given up on cooking by the time I knew her. She had a condo with a tiny kitchen, and a fixed budget. The other had, right up until she went to a nursing home, great enthusiasm for cooking. Unfortunately, she was also senile, and prone to do things like let olive oil become rancid (besides using too much of it!) and serve from the same pot of gravy that had been standing, uncovered, all night. Her sister Rose was the genius cook in the family. She continued outdoing herself until she died. Her daughter (also now deceased) was able to do a fair imitation of her style, but the crucial element was missing. Ladies and gentlemen, write down your recipies for future generations! And not just the ingredient lists, either! Explain all the little nuances that make it what it is! Anyway, my mom seems to simply have given up on cooking, in much the same way MIL has. She just makes the bare bones of a meal while Sis and I quietly sneak in our contributions. I think we will take up the torch with a firm hand. (Unfortunately, there’s no one to take it up for: no kids for me and estranged ones for her.)

So what has been everyone else’s experience? Did you have one of those legendary grandparents, or were they sidetracked by finances/housing/mental acuity?

My grandmother was the best cook in my house growing up (maternal grandmother along with both parents), but that was because she never let anyone else in the kitchen to cook.

She was great at comfort food, especially grilled cheese sandwiches and a damn good baker, but as I got older I realized that she never used many spices in her cooking and started cooking so early that it wasn’t until I was living in a college dorm that I realized that dinner wasn’t supposed to be dried out.

My grandmother didn’t use too many written recipes. She also had asbestos hands. She could stick her hand in the oven and pull out the hottest dishes without using an oven mitt it seemed. Her hands always seemed rather leathery.

Neither of my grandmothers were very good in the kitchen. My maternal grandmother tended to overcook everything. And she used very little in the way of seasonings. My paternal grandmother was a terrible cook the few times I ate her cooking. I still remember a dinner of deep fried pork chops, mashed potatoes made with beet juice, not milk, baked apples, and of course beets. I learned deep fried pork chops don’t taste that good, mashed potatoes with beet juice and baked apples are nasty, and that beets themselves taste pretty good. My dad took the family out for banana splits to make up for the dinner his mother foisted upon us.

Some of it’s pure nostalgia for comfort food. But some home cooking was excellent by any standard. It kind of amuses me that the good stuff is finally becoming somewhat respected, and even (dare I say it?) trendy.

My grandmothers were both excellent cooks. One was a purely instinctive cook, trained by years of experience. The woman never measured anything in her life. She was frustrated and bewildered by that stuff. “You just add…enough; oh, cook it until it’s right.” She was in a wheelchair as long as I could remember but could effortlessly toss together biscuits that almost floated off a plate, the most succulent meat from cheap cuts, garden veggies somehow done just so… It made for great eating but a maddening puzzle to replicate.

The other was a bit more systematic but no less excellent. I have her hand-written recipes. But they’re all coded in a “common” knowledge time’s passed by. They’re little more than barefaced amounts, and even those are wonky. (A knob of butter?) The suave alchemy of putting them together are assumed. Those women were proud, respected homemakers. I suspect her ingredients were better in quality, if not variety, and I can only envy the time and respect she got for producing good food.

“The best” is hopelessy subjective, and I’d never give up the range of stuff my grandma’s never heard of, but for what they did…but for what they did, few could match 'em. I sure can’t.


My grandma, in her own words, “doesn’t cook”. She can turn out a respectable Thanksgiving meal, but aside from nostalgia it’s nothing spectacular. I love my grandmother dearly, but her everyday meals inspired me to become a vegetarian.

I’ve never seen my grandpa cook more than fried potatoes.

I cook, and my great-uncle cooks, but thats pretty much it for our family if you don’t count barbeque.

What makes my grandparents’ meals great is that they’re from poor immigrant families, who had to rely on cheap, homemade Italian meals to get by. So I’m learning to cook many wonderful, incredibly tasty meals that are very affordable (eggs, bread crumbs, corn meal, flour, chicken, etc). And they are the best!

Both my grandmothers make fantastic cookiees.

Paternal grandmother-lemon and apricot squares.

Maternal grandmother-spritz cookiees, kolatchies and pizelles.

My maternal grandmother didn’t like us kids much. She lived 2 miles away, in my hometown and I never ate a Grandma-baked cookie, not once. One of my mom’s threats was “Do you want to have grandma come and stay with you?”
My paternal grandmother lived far away and cooked things I didn’t like, but she loved me best of all the grandchildren----I looked just like her and she kept pictures of me at her bedside until the day she died.

My grandmother (bless her heart) is absolutely the worst cook in the universe. She has (and I am not kidding) burned jello. (Lest you doubt me, she forgot to add hot water, so she put it on the burner. And promptly forgot. And yes, she tried to gel it anyhow after scalding the bottom.) She doesn’t bake, either. Thank god…

My mother is an outstanding cook, and baker as well. She started cooking at a very young age, as did her siblings, in self-defense from Grandma.

My husband’s grandmother was evidentally a wonderful, Polish Old Country style cook, and baked pies, cookies, anything all the time. His mother gave me a book of her recipies for a wedding present, which I thought was the most touching, wonderful gift I could have received - until I realized that my husband now has these expectations that I can follow them to anywhere near the point she did… I’m trying.

Both my Grandmothers are great cooks.

Grandma makes wonderful spreads for Christmas/Thanksgiving and whatnot as well as regular everyday cooking. There was only a couple of things I didn’t like of her cooking… one is that cookies she puts way less sugar then the recipe calls for. Now I do this myself… with certain recipes. Some I can’t stand without the sugar or even just a little more then what Grandma puts in (like peanut butter cookies).

Nanna, I haven’t had the pleasure of her cooking too often as she lives on the other side of the country. She made this wonderful zuchinni soup once when we visited. She gave me the recipe (which she used to the letter) but mine was nothing like hers. I shall try again someday and maybe mine will be closer.

I can never quite duplicate most of their cooking… I can duplicate some recipes, but very few (hobo potatoes, lazy cabbage rolls, biscuits, scones, mincemeat etc)

Some of my aunts are pretty decent cooks. One or two can’t hold a candle to either Grandma, but I think their husbands cook. My Dad is the cook in the family… Mom can cook, but I can outdo her in a lot of things (not bragging, just the truth. She even tells me I cook some things better then she can herself. But she can bake better then me for the most part.) My brother isn’t much of a cook… he can bake really well though.

it just depends. For the most part, give me the right ingredients and I can toss together a good meal, almost as good as Grandma’s. But I’ll never quite match up to them.

My maternal grandmother is a great cook, although she has come up with some wrong numbers on occasion (the vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner comes to mind).

My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, couldn’t cook her way out of a wet paper bag. The meat had the same consistency as shoe leather. There was an awful lot of it, though.


My father’s mother died when he was nine, so I don’t know about her cooking skills.

My Gram, OTOH, lived across the street from us. (Mom’s mom.) She was from Scotland, and was a MARVELOUS cook…and an even BETTER baker.

Her cooking was nothing you could get away with today, though. She leaned heavily on the side of “if it tastes that good, how could it be BAD for you?” I am telling you, her macaroni and cheese was so good that my dad STILL talks about it. He calls it Cheese and Macaroni, though…and that is essentially what it was. LOTS of cheese…and she never used milk in her cooking, ohmyNO…you need CREAM to cook with. That milk is okay for drinking, but for cooking you need SUBSTANCE! :smiley: And speaking of milk…Gram used to shake her head over the fact that mom made us drink 2% milk. Only the REAL deal in HER house. And pot roast…I have NO idea what she did to THAT, but I am here to tell you…I have NEVER had any as good as what she made.

Then there was her Current Cake and her Shortbread. One day, when Gram was getting on in age, I decided I had better get her recipes for those two family favorites. Well, it turns out that Gram never USED recipes. I’m not kidding, she didn’t even use them for BAKING…now, I don’t use recipes to cook with either, but baking? I would no more attempt baking without a recipe than I would attempt to fly a plane without extensive training. Here is sort of how this went.

“Gram, I want you to teach me how to make Shortbread and Current Cake.”

“It’s easy, derrlin’ (trying to type a Scottish brogue is just …not possible) …just dump in the flour and the butter and then use your cutter thing to sort of chop it all up together until it FEELS right. You know, like…”

“Okay, Gram…how much flour and how much butter?”

“You’ll know, you just put in some flour and then cut in the butter until it FEELS right.”

“Um…Gram, where is the recipe?”

"Recipe? You don’t need a RECIPE for this, you just DO IT. You FEEL it, and you’ll know when there is enough butter. "

This was concerning the Shortbread…and the Current Cake episode didn’t go any better.

The best Shortbread, Current Cake , Cheese and Macaroni AND pot roast in the world became unobtainable when my Gram passed on.

When I was a kid I remember I used to always bitch at my mom; “Mom why can’t you make hamburger paties like grandma does?”

What I didn’t realize at the time was that grandma and grandpa used to grow their own cattle which ment they grew them without the help of growth hormones. This makes for a BIG difference in the taste. (a much better taste)

My mom tried to explain this to me several times when I was a kid, but to me, at the time, It just didn’t make sense. First off what the hell is a growth hormone and secondly why would that effect the taste?

I thought she was just trying to make up excuses for not being able to match grandma’s awesome hamburger paties.:smiley:

My paternal grandmother was the best cook at some things. Biscuits, cakes of all kinds, and fried chicken that could make you weep. On the other hand, she belonged to the school of Southern cooking that treats vegetables as the enemy–they must be mercilessly boiled into submission.

Neither of my (three) grandmothers could cook. In defense, my Step-dad and his older sister became pretty decent cooks, very young.
Mom’s mother could bake like nobody’s business, though.

Augh! I weep for you guys who tried to get the “instinct” recipes!

A few years ago, I asked my mom for her meatball recipe. How did she get them so soft and un-greasy? She sent very comprehensive instructions, which I followed to the letter, but they still didn’t come out the way I remembered them. It wasn’t until I went for a visit that I realized where I went wrong.

She cooks them in the gravy, instead of frying them in a skillet, as I’d been doing.


So crucial that to her, it was second nature, and not something that had to be mentioned.

Both my grandmothers died when I was 5 or so. I have no memories of their cooking (although I have a vivid memory of the gigantic solid chocolate bunny my paternal grandmother gave me the last time I saw her). My mother’s cooking always left something to be desired, so if her mother was much of a cook, she didn’t learn much from her.

Mr. Legend’s grandmother, on the other hand, was a fantastic cook. I had the pleasure of eating her food three times before she died, and it was always wonderful. She would always make an incredible amount and variety of fabulous foods, from salads to desserts, put it out on the table, and then say with a sigh, “It’s not fit to eat, but it’s what we have.” She was also eager to tell us that her cooking didn’t hold a candle to her own mother’s. Mr. Legend’s mother is also an impressive cook, but she’ll say the same thing - that nothing she makes can compare to her mother’s cooking. She taught me to cook, and while I can hold my own, I’m not nearly as good as she is. I figure that by the time my children’s children learn to cook, the food will be downright inedible.

Not a grandmother, but my dad made a cheesecake for dessert tonight that automatically qualifies him as “Best Dad EVAR”