As I’ve moved on to “healthier” eating, and started getting organic produce boxes in which you never know what you’re going to get week to week, I appreciate more and more that my mother had me helping in the kitchen since I was a baby.
I can’t believe how many people I’ve met - adult people in their 20’s and beyond - who don’t know how to cook. I always ask them, “don’t you have a mom? Or some kind of parent? How did you grow up?” I never get a satisfactory answer, really. It’s usually something about their mom or parent figure not cooking or not letting them near the kitchen.
My step-sister was 15 when she moved from her mom’s house to ours. She wanted to help me and my mom bake cookies. We never considered that she would need basic training in the kitchen at that age. (I’m 8 months older.) When she opened the oven to get the sheet of cookies out, she had no oven mitt, but that didn’t even matter because the heat of the oven in her face scared her and she ran away to her bedroom. Never mind the lack of hand protection. She really had no idea that a 400 degree oven would be hot like that!
So I guess if she hadn’t moved in with us, maybe she still would only be boiling stuff and reheating microwave dinners 25 years later!
I just surprised myself with a cabbage/beet/rhubarb/apple/orange salad that turned out so very good. If Mom hadn’t taught me about prepping food, putting stuff that might not “match” in a bowl, and not being afraid to add a dash of this or a little of that without a recipe, I never would have put this together.
Well, my parents always said. Give a man a fish, you’ve fed him for one day. Give him eighty take out menus and he’s set for life.
Well, I certainly haven’t deleted GrubHub from my bookmarks. I think that’s about 185 menus!
I can cook because my mom couldn’t, and also worked second shift, so I had to cook dinner for the whole family every night from age 12. So, thanks, Mom? At least I’m an excellent cook now, so there’s that. Oh, and if I can add, tonight I’m making beef stroganoff (from tenderloin!)… mmmm.
My parents are both excellent cooks and were always “showing me how” and giving me tips on this or that. However the first meal I learned to make and serve, start to finish (chicken parmesan) was taught to me by my older brother*. Thanks bro!
*who took little interest in the kitchen until my parents made the deal that whoever cooks didn’t have to do dishes. He hates dishes!
My mother did not enjoy cooking. She had no love for it at all, and actively seemed to hate it. Where was I going to pick up a love of cooking?
I taught myself to cook in my twenties but I still don’t love it or anything. It’s just a chore. I do love to bake things though - much more precise, I find.
In this regard, I’m in your camp! My mom seemed to hate cooking. Dinner was at 5PM every night. But it was often at least 4PM before she had decided what she was making. And she never prepped stuff she bought at the grocery store. Five pound roll of ground beef? Freeze the whole thing, as is, then curse my Dad for not being able to hack-saw off two pounds of it for her to make dinner. Four-pound package of chicken parts? Freeze the whole thing and curse, well, someone, for her not being able to take off just enough to make dinner. Plus, to her, ‘cooking vegetables’ meant boiling them to death. I grew up thinking I hated veggies. Didn’t find out until salad bars became popular (years later) that I love a lot of veggies, but raw or lightly steamed.
This is where we differ. I don’t like baking, because of the precision. I’d much rather cook something where it’s a ‘palmfull’ of this or a ‘pinch’ of that, or whatever. I don’t even own a set of measuring cups/spoons!
The year I got married, my MIL gave me the Good Housekeeping Cookbook for Christmas (a little more than a month after my marriage). I loved it because it assumed no prior knowledge. Whereas I’d read many recipes that called for ‘blanching’ (what the hell is that??) or ‘folding in’ (and what the hell is that??) this cookbook defined everything, and even gave me a fool-proof method for hard boiled eggs! This, of course, was in the days before all this info was available on the 'net!
Over time, I discovered I liked cooking. I liked figuring out which seasonings/spices/herbs went best with which dish. Etc. Some years later, I started watching the ‘realistic’ cooking shows on Food Network, and today, I’m a pretty decent cook. Not great, but pretty decent.
I also thank my mom for teaching me to cook. While I didn’t get a love of cooking from her (she claims that we sucked the joy out of cooking because someone always complained), she made sure I knew the basics. Thanks to that, I feel much more comfortable with experimenting. Through the experimentation, I have gained a love for it (which my children will suck from me some day ).
Then this is great news (in the future) for my wife and I! We have been having our daughter cook one night a week now for the last 2-3 months. Every meal she has made has been damn good–all simple but all good. We knew too many people who didn’t know how to cook, so we vowed she wouldn’t get out of our house without knowing how to survive. She is 14 1/2 now.
The meal she made last night was awesome! Ravioli, sauted mushrooms and shallots, then all mixed with a Pesto Sauce. Side salad (awesome side salad by the way). Fantastic meal. I was very proud of her!
It is also very satisfying to see her actually eager to be in the kitchen now. She was nervous/afraid before but now she realizes that it really isn’t that difficult.
I thank my late grandmother.
My mom always loved to cook, but didn’t really want help in the kitchen. When I was 10, my grandmother came to live at our house. Without a washer and dryer at home, this meant that Mom had to go to the laundromat two nights a week to wash for her family that included four kids, an invalid mother and a husband who got dirty for a living.
Enter Granny and me. As the oldest kid at home, I took over the cooking on those evenings, with my blind grandmother sitting at the table giving instruction. I learned to cook old school style, making mistakes along the way (ask my dad about my first try at fried chicken ).
I like to cook when there’s someone here to eat with me, don’t really mind it when there isn’t and truly enjoy baking.
I thank my mother too!
I was a bit of a klutz in the kitchen initially, but mum persevered, insisted I help out in the kitchen, even though I hated it as a kid, but by my late teens, I actively enjoyed cooking and picked up recipes via osmosis. Then I went to college and realized that college cafeteria food was awful. And so, based on what I remembered from home, and lots of frantic phonecalls to mum along the lines of “mum! am in the kitchen, trying to make x. I’ve got this far, what do I do now??”, I started doing a lot more cooking. And then I started experimenting, and incorporating ideas, and using recipe books and modifying them, and now I’m the sort of cook who can look in the fridge, throw something together and get appreciative noises from everyone! I enjoy being creative in the kitchen, and I don’t think there’s anything quite as relaxing as making a home cooked meal. I love baking, even though I can’t eat much of what I bake (although my co-workers are glad!).
Best compliment ever? I was at home. Dad had been at work in the morning, and would be coming home at 2, mum was at work from noon. By the time dad came home, I had a fresh chicken curry on the table. After dinner, dad asked who made it. Told him that I did. He refused to believe me and insisted mum had made it before she left for work. Didn’t believe me till mum got home and put him straight.
My parents didn’t teach me a LOT of kitchen skills (they taught me basics and some general recipes), but they did instill adventurous tastes and a love for fruits and veggies. What amazes me about my friends is not only how many can’t cook, but how many are very picky and/or have no appreciation for higher quality ingredients.
I’m so glad I ended up with a partner that feels (almost) the same way I do about food. I think our only difference is he’s way more of a quality snob, but I’m more willing to try anything.
Neither of my parents ever taught me to cook, but home cooking was always around growing up (we ate out maybe twice a year), and gender roles played no part in who did the cooking. Mom and dad both cooked equally–it mostly depended on who was working what shift. My mom had a traditional straight-from-the-Polish-cookbook approach to cooking (until she memorized all the recipes), while my father was more the experimental type, cribbing his recipes from the Frugal Gourmet, Louisiana Kitchen, and those cooking shows of yesteryear, and always adjusting this or that ingredient.
I pretty much taught myself how to cook, partly in college, but mostly when I was in my 20s, living on my own in a foreign country with foods that actually go in and out of season. So, out of necessity, I learned to cook with a wide range of ingredients. Anyhow, what I did learn from my parents is my mother’s respect for her traditional ethnic foods and following a recipe to the letter with my father’s more eclectic tastes and constant (often haphazard) tinkering with ingredients, spices, etc. My own approach is an amalgam of the two: I tend not to work strictly from recipes, but I like to respect tradition and understand that tradition before I make changes. And if I do make changes, I am making them for a reason. My father’s approach is a lot more, um, random.
So, despite them not ever explicitly teaching me how to cook, my passion for cooking stems from watching them cook, I grew up with the notion that cooking is a necessary skill for both men and women to learn, and my approach to cooking is very much informed by their disparate styles.
My mom never set out to teach me to cook. We never did the “let’s spend time in the kitchen together” thing or the “let’s learn to cook by you making dinner thing”…but I somehow learned a lot about cooking from my mom and I am amazed at her wealth of knowledge.
I worked in a restaurant for like 5 years and I learned a lot. I also learn a lot from Alton Brown. Heck, I give my parents cooking advice sometimes. In my mind, I’m really comfortable in the kitchen.
But for some reason, every time I go to cook something more complicated than spaghetti, I have to call my mom either before or after. I’m 31 years old! Before, to get some advice (usually I am missing an ingredient and need to make concessions) or after, to tell her how I messed up.
Funny enough, I had two friends over the other day to bake. Usually the two of them get together and bake, they’ve done it a lot. I thought I was going to be a total n00b around them. But I ended up totally pwning the session and showing them some great techniques.
I totally called my mom afterwards
I was born in the 50s.
My mom made a point of teaching me the basics. Intimidated but always interested, I had the occasional failures but the successes encouraged me.
A well-crafted cheeseburger is a beautiful thing, but both my parents made sure that we kids knew there is a world of cuisine out there.
Everyone else had a pool in their backyard, my dad kept a kitchen garden.
Mom was feeding 5 people on one income, including my picky-eater brother, so she needed to be practical, but she tried to have fun in the kitchen, too.
We all watched Julia Child’s cooking show. I also remember my mom’s enthusiasm for Italian food. She taught me how to make fettucini Alfredo before it was so well known (let alone known as heart attack on a plate.)
My parents would have loved to see their grandson, my eldest, living (and cooking!) in Paris. Both he and his brother will occasionally call or email about certain food preparations, but they certainly know their way around a kitchen.
One of the very few good things about having a Mom who couldn’t do as much as she wanted is that I learned to cook. If she could have, she would have been one of those mothers who don’t let their children do anything except where required by Discipline: I might have been required to help her cook, but would never have learned why you, oh, use flour-then-egg for certain fishes but egg-then-breadcrumbs for others.
And now I’ve even learned how to cook veggies! (She overcooks them. Waaaaay over.)
I too am a self-taught cook; my mother died when I was little and what little I remember of her cooking wasn’t good. I do remember pork chops fried very, very hard. My father had three dishes: chili, baked beans, and macaroni and cheese that he would always pour canned tomatoes into no matter how much we begged him not to. So I learned to cook.
My aunt did teach me a few things, but I don’t do things her way at all anymore (I use a roux for gravy instead of shaking up flour and water in a jar; I use a ricer for mashed potatoes instead of a hand masher.)
It’s all out of books.
I never cooked as a kid/teen. My stepfather did all the cooking, as my mother was both incredibly busy (medical school/residency) and terrible at it. My stepfather was a very good cook, for the most part, although he never used recipes at all.
I learned to cook in my first college apartment, which was half an old house and actually had a pretty awesome kitchen. If I wanted to eat well and not spend a fortune (that I didn’t have) I had to learn to cook with ingredients on sale. I started with recipes and then moved on to winging it. I still prefer to use recipes, if only because I’m pretty sure it’ll turn out, but every now and then I’ll experiment. Cooking is now one of my favorite hobbies.
I don’t remember my mother ever actually teaching me to cook, but I picked up a lot of things just by osmosis as I was growing up. She and my father did a lot of entertaining, so she was always putting together complicated meals for dinner parties. When I got married I knew the basics, and I could certainly cook well enough to keep the family fed, but a lot of it was prepared food and box mixes like Hamburger Helper.
I really have to thank my daughter for inspiring me to cook with more fresh and healthy ingredients. A few years ago she started watching the Food Network, and got me to watch some of the shows along with her. Before long we were cooking some of the recipes we saw on those shows, and it really opened my eyes to the creative possibilities in the kitchen.
My husband hasn’t really appreciated my new-found cooking skills - he’s really a meat and potatoes kind of guy. When I tell him we’re having something new for dinner, he just cringes, but the rest of the family really enjoys the tastier things I’m making these days. Even my mother is impressed!
To teach a child (aged 13 or so) about money, I gave her the week’s food money and said she was in charge of the kitchen.
After 3 days she said, “I got it, Mom.” However the week wasn’t up:)
With son, he had favourite foods the rest of us weren’t too keen on. I told him, “The cook makes the meal plan,” which got him interested in being the ‘chef’. And we only had to endure creamed corn etc maybe 2-3 times a year!
Family holiday meals were taken by us in turn - I would sit in the kitchen and chat, and help if asked, but the kids did the cooking by themselves. By the time they were 14-15 they didn’t need me, even to suggest pre-prepping or advise re: timing.
Both my children married spouses who were non-cooks. Daughter taught her husband, who now does most of the cooking at their home. Son took on the job of kitchen dude and is the chief cook and bottle washer at his home.
My work is over:)