Adorable isn’t she? That’s a picture of my friend Yvonne as a little girl. Not only was she hooked on chocolate at an early age, but on cooking as well. I share this with you along with quite a few posts from wonderful friends and friends of friends who decided to share with me on my Facebook and Twitter pages their own short story of how they learned to cook and who taught them. I loved reading the answers and would love very much for the rest of you to share as well. I found myself so drawn in by these individual journeys. How we learned to cook is truly an intimate window into our makings as the adults we are today.
My mother didn’t teach me to cook at all, which is a shame because the woman made a different meal for each and every day while I was growing up. All of them! Different! She’s never been predisposed to reflecting on her inner processes so when I would ask her, just how it is she would do it, she could never really say. Somewhere along the way I think I just picked up the basics and did my fair share of Betty Crocker box baking in my early to mid teens. It wasn’t until I moved out on my own and had my very own kitchen that I began to experiment and revel in the fact that it was all mine – the space, the food choices, and of course the cook books. Cooking is still an incredible learning process for me, and I use books, cooking shows and yes, blogs to continue the practice. Here are what the respondents to my question on Facebook and Twitter shared. Also, the amazing Dania Katz from Edible Hawaii Magazine asked her Facebook friends as well, and those answers are also included here. I thank each of you for sharing your stories!
*Kim Forni* I decided if I wanted food cooked the way I wanted it, I needed to make it myself.
*Steven Muirhead* I taught myself 🙂
*Yvonne Moore* All the wimin in my family. At a very young age I cracked all the egg’s, assisted in measuring all ingredients which still is greatly influenced by all these wimin as a dab of this and a pinch of that go into my dishes. Kneading and braiding Challa was core. Beating the eggs while it baked to brush over it when it cooled to make it glisten was the glitter of the heart shaped braided Challa.
*Lori Ferrara* My dad and grandmother. Started by peeling vegetables, putting in the ingredients like they told me and stirring the sauce. Oh and I can’t forget my dad teaching me how to clean fish.
*Dania Katz* The year was 1971. My father had just passed away, suddenly. After the funeral my mom said that I was in charge of shopping, cooking and the kitchen. I was 10 years old and rose to the occasion. Have been cooking ever since. I had a copy of The Joy of Cooking and still use the same cook book.
*Lenette Scorcelletti* My lovely picture perfect Grandmother – from German doughy dishes and Shepard’s Pie to Goulash (our style of course). The list goes on and on. Don’t forget she grew up in the depression so we canned EVERYTHING. Which I love to do know. Peaches, pears, jams, jellies, pickles, sweet and sour pickles, rhubarb pie and endless delicious deserts. I was always a part of her cooking – I was an only child and she made me feel like I was her little helper with my little apron that she made. You totally just made me cry! One of the best times was picking blackberries and elderberries in Stockton from my other grandmothers home and come home all scratched and hurting, then hearing the mason jars pop as they boiled. YUM Oh yeah Homemade ice cream and toppings – not from a machine either – my gramps did it old school style; a bucket ice and salt.
*Tracie Jones* I learned to cook side by side with my mom. Growing up we didn’t have a lot but we had delicious, exquisite meals and I’ll always remember them. Some of my favorite memories of my childhood are helping my mom plan menus, gather ingredients and put it all together in a masterpiece that we got to consume together. Amazing community spirit and family time.
*Mridu Khullar Relph* My mother tried unsuccessfully for years, but I was eventually taught how to cook Indian food by my British husband!
*Shelly Clark Dusing* My wonderful husband and I learned together through trial and error. Quite a few errors!
*Anni Daulter* I learned most of my conscious cooking skills and awareness at Tassajara Zen Center. You know that yummy place Elena. Ring a gong before touching food, wash hands in reverence, cut and prep food in a silent awareness, mix together love and volia! Delicious food! A zen master once told me, Tassajara is a deep drink… and so is life… every part of the drink has meaning… just notice! Happy Cooking all.
*Jennifer Gligoric* Well I know my sister would say “by watching her” but honestly, I never paid attention. I learned by good ole’ fashion desperation, either cook something palatable or starve. This has mutated into me being the ultimate “30 min of less” type of cook and so pretty much everything I make can be whipped up in half an hour. I rely heavily on those refrigerator fresh herb tubes and “gasp” frozen veggies picked at their prime (trust me, there are some real good ones out there that do keep their nutritional value and flavor). Oh and Ken’s SteakHouse light raspberry walnut vinegrette (I can drink this) over spinach with strawberries and pumpkin seeds (which Randalls has this MASSIVE pack, shelled right now for only $3.99 OMG so yummy).
*Calamity Sam* I learned most of the basics from watching my mom, dad, and grandparents, but when you end up alone in a studio apartment, in a new city, and massive time between college classes, the kitchen becomes a Laboratory! I was an experimental freak and taught myself how to prepare simple and really yummy meals! (and when you’re cooking for yourself, you’re not afraid of messing it up!) 🙂
*Edward Sargent* In the beginning, my mom. Later, cooking shows on PBS.
*Julia Dittwiler* My mom taught me how to cook. I guess it’s our Colombian way of seasoning that makes the food so good. After learning how to season I started to experiment and now have my own thing going.
*Jacque Goodman* I taught myself when I became a vegetarian, with the help of Sarah Kramer’s books 🙂
*Kameshwari Kate* I was encouraged by my mother to try my hand at baking cookies and making bread before I was ten years old. My Grandma Halper taught me Austrian styles of baking. She involved my senses in bringing food preparation to life. From my Grandma’s guidance, I continued to learn to cook, by experimenting with texture, touch, and taste. It remains my main cooking methodology.
*Judith Russell* My mom and my home economics teacher, back in the day when there was a cooking and sewing class taught in the seventh grade.
*@Jalove* My mom made us 3 girls alternate Sunday dinner when I was 6th grade. My dish was chopped steak. Oh also.though girl scouts. After I had my son, my mom supervised me while I produced a thanksgiving dinner, just like she would do it. Also, my stepdad was a chef in Kawjaline at the old Iao Valley resturaunt, in the early 70’s and Lahaina Broiler.
*Melanie Boudar* My mother taught me at age 9 to make soup stock with beef bones and fresh vegetables( and alphabet macaroni). I still make that same soup 47 years later!
*Michele Hiebert* I learned to cook by being in the kitchen with my mom and learning everything she knew from her mom. When mom went back to work when I was 12, I took over the bulk of the meal preparation, as she would get home too late to cook dinner. Now I go to cooking classes as a fun, social way of spending time while learning great new recipes!
*Jeannie Wenger* I left home at 16 and knew nothing! I got the Joy of Cooking and absorbed the technique. Later Betty Crocker and the Sunset series, comparing similar recipe techniques. My cookbook collection is now ridiculous, I read at least 4 food mags each month. I am a pretty good cook (*blush*) and enjoy it immensely. You can read about a few of my epic goofs at my food blog by following my link. (name)
*Marianne Schultz* I learned to cook on a flat top griddle working at a 19 stool drugstore lunch counter, did everything from buying the food at the little grocery down the street to cooking, serving, doing dishes and being an ear for everyone and their daily issues.
*Lisa Jaffe Hubbell* My mom, a bit, but mostly by reading a lot of recipes and trial and error. It’s one of those skills where no matter how good you are, there’s always something new to learn.
*Virginia Lacker* Love the question! I learned to cook working in vegetarian restaurants when I was younger. It was years before I could make a pot of soup less than 5 gallons. It just never looked like enough. I read cookbooks for enjoyment and inspiration but I seem unable to follow a recipe without alteration. Nowadays my inspiration comes mostly from the fabulous fresh ingredients themselves. The mango WANTS to marry the coconut!
Thank you all so much for sharing. I loved every single one of these answers and invite you all to continue the story telling in the comments below, and please, if you haven’t already shared, do so. How did you learn to cook? Who taught you?