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Thread: How did you learn to cook?

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    Best Ever Pool Runner Angry Birds Champion, Rancho Ice Racer Champion pikachu's Avatar
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    How did you learn to cook?

    Did you learn mostly from being taught by a family member? From reading cookbooks and experimenting with recipes? From watching cooking shows on tv? Something else? Have you ever been to culinary school or taken cooking classes?

    I learned some from my family. My mom cooked a bit but it was really her mom, my grandma, who was the good cook in the family. I don't think I'll ever be as good as my grandma but I'm already better than my mom! My mom didn't like to cook so she didn't try too hard.

    My mom liked to watch cooking shows while my sister and I were growing up, things like Julia Child, the Galloping Gourmet, Justin Wilson, etc. I continued watching cooking shows as I was learning to cook. I live in Florida but most of our cooking shows were on Georgia Public Television. I watched Yan Can Cook, Great Chefs of the West, Natalie Dupree, all of the cooking shows at that time. Years later when Food Network started, it became one of my favorite channels!

    My mom collected cookbooks and I have a pretty good collection myself. I also like to look up recipes online and experiment with ideas I come up with. I wanted to try making a caramal pear cheesecake once so I looked online for similar recipes and used that as a guide to creating my recipe. It came out ok but I think I used the wrong type of pears.

    I don't know that I'd ever want to go to a cooking academy but I wouldn't mind taking some local cooking classes, like at Publix. I have co-workers that have gone to a cake-decorating class. They really enjoyed it and found it useful so I might try that sometime.

    I'd say my cooking skills are 25% family-learned, 25% cookbook/cooking show learned, and 50% experimentation.

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    Vidiot 13 is a Winner Champion Poppy Fields's Avatar
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    Re: How did you learn to cook?

    Being the oldest daughter in a family of 11 kids, I was basically my momma's scullery maid. I learned early how to prep for the meals she prepared. By the time I was 15 or so, I could cook the everyday dishes she made for us. Although I don't often cook a lot of the Creole/Cajun dishes I grew up eating, I still use all the skills that cuisine taught me: like making great sauces and gravies, soups and stews, and adding a hint of heat to an entree without overpowering its layered flavors.

    As a young married woman, I had to learn to cook for 2 instead of 13 and I made a lot of mistakes. Thankfully, someone gave me the Good Housekeeping Cookbook as a shower present. It was my Bible - and it explained everything I needed to know from buying the ingredients to serving the dish properly. It wasn't until my mid-20's that I became avidly interested in cooking, mostly because I had some friends who were excellent and creative cooks. They taught me a lot. Maybe the most important thing I learned then was that there are only so many ways to cook any kind of food - and once you master them, a lot of the component ingredients fall into interchangeable categories. Next was learning to use unfamiliar spices and developing a palate.

    As a result, I found that I could not only cook anything I wanted to try but I could easily alter a recipe to suit my whims. I still enjoy cooking very much, love entertaining, and I am still learning all the time. Nothing pleases me more than feeding people, and them loving it. I no longer buy cookbooks, though. The Internet has made finding great recipes fun and easy!

    I would say that my culinary training was 50% learning from family/friends, 10% from reading, and 40% from experimentation.
    "Blessed is the lonesome pioneer." -- Judee Sill (1973, "There's a Rugged Road")

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    Best Ever Pool Runner Angry Birds Champion, Rancho Ice Racer Champion pikachu's Avatar
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    Re: How did you learn to cook?

    I think my mom used reverse psychology on my sister and I. She wouldn't allow us to help her in the kitchen. The most we could do was watch while she baked. She'd let us lick the spoon when she made cake or cookies and I loved to sit in front of the oven and watch things bake! We also go to help decorate sugar cookies for Christmas. She'd let us use the cookie cutters after she made and rolled out the dough, then we got to decorate them with frosting and sprinkles when they finished cooking. She didn't let us help her prepare meals and got very upset when we experimented in the kitchen without her (granted, we usually did leave a mess).

    I finally was allowed to cook when I was about 12. I started off cooking eggs. Fried eggs were tricky for me so I made scrambled eggs a lot. Then I moved up to muffins from mixes. After that, I moved more into trying recipes from cookbooks and cooking shows. For a while, my parents started budgeting money for me to use to make appetizers or desserts for them. Not all of my dishes turned out right but as I kept trying, more and more of them became successful. Gradually, I became a good cook.

    From what my nephew tells me, my sister turned out more like my mom. She knows how to make a limited number of items well but she doesn't experiment with new recipes much.

    I definitely think kids should be taught to cook early. It takes longer and can be messy but it's a good bonding activity for families and it will help them save money and be more independent in the future. I also think kids are more likely to eat food they helped prepare. I showed my nephew how to cut up a pineapple and that's one of the few fruits he still eats to this day.
    Last edited by pikachu; 02-16-2012 at 02:12 PM.

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    Vidiot 13 is a Winner Champion Poppy Fields's Avatar
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    Re: How did you learn to cook?

    I have to say that I wish I could make pretty pastries and cakes. Mine taste better than they present, and I would love to take a class in pastry cooking.
    "Blessed is the lonesome pioneer." -- Judee Sill (1973, "There's a Rugged Road")

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    FORT Fogey nennie's Avatar
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    Re: How did you learn to cook?

    I learned the basics from my mom and after I got married I started experimenting with dishes. I love making cakes. When there is a gathering of any kind they all come to my house because I cook.
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    FORT Fogey TripleGemini's Avatar
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    Re: How did you learn to cook?

    When I was 10, my mom went in the hospital to have her gall bladder out...and ended up being in the hospital for almost a year. So I learned to cook...fast. (I am the oldest.)

    She had already started teaching me some stuff, and even today I can whip a casserole or pot roast in no time ;-) Then my dad taught me to bake, and when I was in 7th and 8th grades (and probably later), I would spend my weekends baking...I just loved it.

    I started waitressing in college and eventually got a job at the "back of the house". I started in Salads, then to Desserts, then Fry station, then meat station, and finally sous chef. And then I ended up back at the "front of the house" as a hostess, assistant manager, and manager. And then that restaurant closed and I started something new :-)

    Now I watch cooking shows a lot (I started watching them when I was nursing my son because I refused to watch soap operas and not much else was on). And I own a lot of cookbooks, several on my Nook. The only "formal" instruction I had was in the kitchens I worked in, so that experience is a bit hit-or-miss, depending on what I'm making.

    So I'm probably 40% family, 35% restaurant, and 25% self-taught. (It's been 20+ years since I worked in a restaurant.)

    And I still love to cook and bake :-)

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    Wild thang Rattus's Avatar
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    Re: How did you learn to cook?

    Never did learn. Don't think there's much chance I will in the future.
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    Best Ever Pool Runner Angry Birds Champion, Rancho Ice Racer Champion pikachu's Avatar
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    Re: How did you learn to cook?

    Quote Originally Posted by TripleGemini View Post
    When I was 10, my mom went in the hospital to have her gall bladder out...and ended up being in the hospital for almost a year. So I learned to cook...fast. (I am the oldest.)
    ....
    So I'm probably 40% family, 35% restaurant, and 25% self-taught. (It's been 20+ years since I worked in a restaurant.)

    And I still love to cook and bake :-)
    Wow, what an interesting story! I love learning more about the people on this forum. It makes me appreciate your take on subjects when I have some idea of what your experiences are.

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    Re: How did you learn to cook?

    From the time I was 5 until I was 12 I would spend school holidays with my Nanna
    She was a crazy old fashioned woman who would be up at 5am every day to cook bread fresh for my pops breakfast (not that he ever seemed to appreciate it, and if I was her I would have told the old grump to buy it himself) and then spend the rest of the day baking cakes and biscuits for pop and for the other residents in the retirement village they lived in
    So she taught me how to bake as a way to keep me occupied and out of pops way while I was with them
    My father was a butcher so he taught me all about meat and the best way to cook it
    When I was 13 my parents divorced and my mother started working two jobs so I would cook dinner for everyone on the nights she was working, so she taught me how to cook. By then my passion for it had taken hold and I was already buying cook books so then I was able to subject my siblings to my concoctions. So I guess cook books taught me how to experiment and, on a few occassions, how not to experiment!

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    FORT Fogey Ellen's Avatar
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    Re: How did you learn to cook?

    I am the oldest of three kids. I remember helping my mom with cooking/prep work -- geez, probably since kindergarten or first grade. When I wanted an Easy-Bake oven, I instead was given Jiffy mixes and access to the real grown-up oven (with supervision at first, of course).

    Starting when I was eight or nine, my mom was in and out of the hospital a lot for a variety of health problems. So it became my job to cook for the family. I learned about cooking full meals through step-by-step instructions over the phone -- my mom on the phone in her hospital room, me on the phone with the long cord in the kitchen. For a little kid, it was cooking boot camp! But my creativity kicked in early, and it wasn't long before I improved on my mom's recipes. (And when she came home, I taught her my tricks...) Dad was impressed that I always had dinner ready when he got home from work (construction electrician). He was always mentally prepared to help fix dinner, but he never had to. I even made everyone's lunches for school/work.

    Gosh, I remember one of her hospital stays -- late July or early August in Wisconsin -- 90-something temperatures with 90-something humidity. I found the parts of an old table leaning against a wall in the basement -- cleaned it up and put it together. Then set up a little dining room in the basement, because we didn't have A/C, and the basement was the coolest room in the house. Blew my parents away... Am I proud? Damn straight!
    Last edited by Ellen; 02-17-2012 at 03:38 AM.
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