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Early cooking memories....

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1 Early cooking memories.... on Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:10 am

bethk

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Michelle shared a memory about cooking with her father and mother in another thread and it got me to thinking.....

What are some of YOUR first memories about when you began cooking, whether for yourself or your family?

I'm sure I've mentioned that many of my first 'cooking' moments and memories involve my Grandma ~ she was always my 'hero' and her love and caring have shaped my life for as long as I can remember. My most treasured cooking 'things' are her recipe cards/wooden boxes and many church and Grange cookbooks I got from her ~ I passed them down to DD#1 and nothing I love more than to open up one of those recipe boxes and see Grandma's familiar handwriting.....it's like she's with me still.

My mom was not as much an influence as my dad. Mom worked as a 'kitchen helper' in wealthy family homes in her hometown when she graduated from high school and before she married. So when I 'cooked' with her she relegated me the jobs SHE had been assigned by the head cook ~ peeling vegetables and washing the dishes and pots as she did the cooking. She didn't like to be interrupted when she was in the kitchen, and, most probably was because she didn't have the time or patience for a messy child.

My dad, on the other hand, was much more open about cooking WITH me. He allowed me to learn by reading a recipe and then letting me do the 'fun stuff' ~ cracking eggs, measuring, mixing, etc. ~ and he did the 'dangerous' stuff with knives and the stovetop or oven. The first recipe I ever remember making with him (and we made it a LOT) was bread pudding. Eight slices of Wonder white bread got spread with butter (or, in our case, Imperial margarine). Four slices were crammed together in a square Pyrex baking dish, sprinkled with cinnamon & sugar and raisins and then topped with the other four slices of buttered bread. Then a custard of eggs, milk and sugar was poured over and allowed to sit until absorbed. Finally, it was baked until puffy and brown. I can still smell it as it came out of the oven!

Dad was also the one to teach me to follow a recipe carefully. One time we wanted to make pumpkin pie. We used Grandma's recipe, a family favorite. The recipe was enough to make three pies...so we managed to produce 3 decent crusts. Dad and I mixed the canned pumpkin with the eggs, spices and hot milk and got all the pies filled and into the oven without spilling all over. But something didn't look right and after about 20 minutes of baking Dad checked the pies....he put a knife in the edge of the custard to test and he took a taste......YUCK! We had forgotten to add the sugar! Good Grief ~ how did THAT happen??? So, we tried to sprinkle the brown & white sugar on top and stir it into the half baked pies. Needless to say, that was the worst pie disaster we had ever experienced. We finished baking them off and the family tried to eat the pies but the center was cloying sweet and the part near the outside crust was AWFUL! But, as I said, that little disaster taught me to always follow the directions.

2 Re: Early cooking memories.... on Wed Aug 10, 2016 4:39 am

Crybaby

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Wow, Beth, I sure did enjoy reading that!

I smiled at your recognition that your mom probably assigned you the tasks SHE had been assigned as a helper. I wondered if you understood that when you were young or if you realized it as an adult. Your mom probably didn't view cooking with the same joy or interest you did, though, as she most likely viewed it as "work."

It was nice to read about you and your dad cooking together, too. Was the grandma who meant so much to you HIS mother or your maternal grandma? I know what you mean about seeing her handwriting, as I feel that same way when I run across something in my mom's hand, though it's not usually recipes.

I laughed at you and your dad and the sugarless pumpkin pies. Sometimes a lesson like that early in life saves you from making similar, or much bigger, mistakes down the line. Brian was fascinated by mis en place[i] when he finally realized what I was doing. Though he smoked and grilled food for years (and he's really [i]extremely good at both), for years I handled all the preparation of the food to be grilled and/or smoked. He didn't involve himself in that part but I was lucky anyway, as he not only liked grilling and smoking stuff, he was darn good at it. We know guys that don't do a single thing in the kitchen or even outside on the grill, even something as helpful as catching a few dirty pans on a day like Thanksgiving.

It was fun for both of us when he got interested in prepping the food he was going to cook and, of course, it eventually led to him trying his hand cooking on the stovetop. I think it started when he wanted to get something on the smoker while I was at work (probably those freaking smoked turkeys we made as gifts every Christmas) rather than wait for me to come home to do it.

Since he always wanted a "recipe" for something when he began cooking, even for the myriad things you cook without recipes, it made me start keeping a steno pad and pen by the stove when I made something, as I'd jot down what I was doing and approximate measurements for something (e.g., two onions, chopped) I made regularly. Then I'd type up a rough "recipe" for it and print it out for him. I was also into computer billboards (primarily cooking echoes) back before the Internet, and some people needed a "recipe" for everything, so my jotting things down helped there, too.

You made me laugh, Beth, when you said your dad let you do the fun things, as Brian has his list in his mind of what is the fun part of cooking and what is a BLEEP job. He used to say I gave him the latter more often than the former. I'd explain to him that the dish didn't NEED to be stirred the entire time it cooked, as he equates stirring with a fun job! Opening cans and getting down things from the pot rack aren't half as fun as stirring, you understand...

I'd love to hear about when others of you began cooking, even if it wasn't when you were a child.

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