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Old 08-15-2017, 11:46 AM   #1
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How Did You Get Your Start in the Kitchen?

After my trip into the baking world at age seven with a failed whoopee pie attempt, I kind of just gravitated to the baking world. I'm sure it was mostly because of my preference for something sweet at that age. I didn't get into cooking right away. But as my parents both worked, we children were called upon to start a meal for supper. There were a few fails. I remember making a chocolate cake for my father – his favorite. And as mother worked till 8 at the bank that night, I thought a pot of coffee would be a nice gesture. I put the cake on the back burner to cool and started the old stove top percolator on the front burner. Unfortunately, I turned on the back burner and burnt the heck out of the cake when I walked away from the kitchen. I wasn't familiar at that time with a rack for cooling baked goods. Live and learn.

By the time I was 15, I was old enough to work with 'work papers'. The local nursing home was hiring but I was too young to work with patients. Because I could boil water without burning it, they made me the evening cook and weekend fill in. It was intimidating to serve 60 patients a meal that would be palatable, but I worked with a menu. The day cook would prepare some things, or at least get them started. I always was unhappy to see egg salad on the menu. My day cook would boil them up but never chilled them. She would leave them to me to peel. I don't think that much of those eggs made it into the bowl. Large chunks of the white were discarded – stuck on the shell.

One weekend serving as the day cook, hot rolls were on the menu. I'd never seen them on the menu before, and having experienced bread making, I knew I was in trouble. I don't know if I ran home for the recipe, but I found myself making my oatmeal bread into rolls for 60 patients. I figured that if I doubled the batch I could eke out that number. In those days, we had a big Hobart mixer. I knew nothing about a bread hook and used the paddle that was in the machine. Did they have dough hooks back in the '60's? Well, it didn't work. I ended up with a strange mixture much like cake dough. There were no forming rolls out of that. Today, I might have been able to save it, but I slunk with that pan full of dough into the dish-washing room and forced it down the disposal. Then I wandered into the pantry. There was not enough bread to serve with dinner and I was in a pinch. It was then that I spied a 5-pound bag of hot roll mix on the shelf. oh.....

I continued to work there. Once I reached age 16 I graduated to a nurses aide position. I worked as an aide but sometimes as a cook, and stayed on all through high school and more as I went to nursing school. Summers and holidays from training, I was called upon to work in the kitchen. It was a nice change. I was able to provide aides and cooks with their summer vacations.

I learned the value of the clean-up. Called on the carpet only once was more than I wanted to take. It turned out to be from someone's midnight snack not from our evening meal. But I never received an apology from the boss for that calling down. It was another lesson learned. It was about how to treat those that work for you. Yes, live and learn.

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Old 08-15-2017, 01:23 PM   #2
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Single working mom. Been cooking complete meals since I was about 7 years old. Before that watching and helping with prep work, setting table and washing dishes.
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Old 08-15-2017, 01:43 PM   #3
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My mum is a horrible cook, not even goats will eat her bread. So it was either eat inedible food while dad worked away from the home or start cooking. My grandfather and my father are the two cooks that inspired me.

So I been cooking since I was 7 and always loved this.
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Old 08-15-2017, 01:59 PM   #4
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I was hungry once, there was kitchen and uncooked ingredients. To survive I had to cook.
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Old 08-15-2017, 02:32 PM   #5
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Necessity. I ate everything I made no matter how bad, which was the inspiration to improve really fast.
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Old 08-15-2017, 04:46 PM   #6
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My mom is an okay cook and she doesn't really enjoy it. And she doesn't have a lot of patience for teaching, so I didn't learn a whole lot from her. My dad cooked some, primarily grilling steak and making his mother's kielbasa and sauerkraut with beer.

After I married, I went to a class on cooking with herbs at a local horticultural center. It was a revelation. I had received a (typical for the time) pre-filled herb and spice rack as a wedding gift and had never really eaten fresh herbs before. That really changed my cooking. I came home with a bunch of recipes. DH attached some window boxes to the outside of our fire escape balcony and that was my first herb garden.

Then I acquired some good cookware and knives, took more classes, subscribed to Cooks Illustrated and learned a lot on my own. Also, I had my first major surgery in 2002 and recovered for six weeks at home, so I discovered the Food Network. It was much more about cooking then, so I learned a lot from the that, too. I'm fascinated by the chemistry of cooking and recently have started baking more.

Luckily, my DH not a very picky eater, so I make all kinds of things. It's so much fun
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Old 08-15-2017, 07:15 PM   #7
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My mom was an awesome cook, and my friends' mothers were as well. When I got my first apartment after graduating Princeton, I quickly realized that I needed to learn how to cook in the manner of which I was raised. The rest has been 30+ years of trying to replicate my the food of my youth, as well as the dishes I've eaten in restaurants that have piqued my interest.

Actually, this reminded me of a the very first thread that I ever started here:
When did you realize you were a foodie?

Oh, yeah, that was Princeton Driving School, btw... I couldn't hack college. Failed out in less than 2 years.
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Old 08-15-2017, 07:19 PM   #8
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My mom was a great cook and my dad was a chef. He often put me to work in the evenings after dinner typing up recipes he dictated to me off the top of his head.

After marriage and a couple of kids, I got the bug to cook, remembering my dad's efforts from a couple of decades before. I never got much chance to cook at home as my DW was possesive of the kitchen and I wasn't allowed (cooking was her "job"). I was limited to weekend pancakes for the kids.

Fast forward to divorce and living on my own again. I had to cook so I did. Watched a lot of TV cooking shows. Many thanks to Julia, Martin Yan, Justin Wilson, Jacques Pepin, Alton Brown, Emeril, et al. I have been refining my skills since then.

Now I cook all the meals for SO, GD and myself as well as for gatherings of friends and family.
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Old 08-15-2017, 09:16 PM   #9
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My mom was also a bad cook. Bland, and overcooked was her specialty.

I started cooking in college, because eating out wasn't in my budget working in a camera store after classes.

Later in life, I started to enjoy cooking as a creative endeavor. And, as I have said before, the day I learned mise en place was a cooking epiphany. I really started to try some pretty fancy dishes, and my success rate went way up. More success made it more fun, which led to more cooking.

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Old 08-15-2017, 10:14 PM   #10
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My mother contracted polio as a child. She wore a brace on her leg. A lot of days it was difficult for her to get up, walk, sit down over and over. So she would sit at the table prepping the food and tell me to add this, stir the pot, put a cover on it, etc. And it was all on a wood burning stove to start. When we had the farm, I learned all about canning at her side in the summer kitchen. I did all the 'cooking' under her direction, and she did all the prepping.

But she wasn't into baking that much. I used to ask her how to bake a cake, and other goodies. I would gather all the ingredients and follow her directions at her side while she watched what I was doing. Then the goodies went into that oven at just the right temperature. She taught me how to tell the temp just by putting my hand in the oven.

Then I got married to an Englishman who had trained at some of the most prestigious cooking academies in Europe. The only problem was he was used to cooking for a large amount of people at one time. So one day I asked him for directions on how to make an apple pie. Seasoning mostly. "Look in my little black book. There is a perfect recipe for apple pie in it."

2 bushels of apples, one cup of cinnamon, etc. You get the idea. He was of no help. But on the rare occasions he decided to cook for the family, I would stand at his side and watch. Even took some notes. But he worked so fast like you would when you are in a commercial kitchen, it was difficult to keep up with him.

Along came the kids and the family grew. I cooked the foods I had learned at my mothers side. For baking, my husband had the first edition of the Joy Of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. My son Spike now has it. I learned most of my baking skills from that book. I read it from cover to cover more than once. I am sure that book is worth some pretty pennies by now. But Spike will never part with it.

My mother taught me dishes she grew up with. Good hearty, rib sticking, New England foods. But after the farm was sold and we moved to the city, it was a community of Italian immigrants. All my girlfriends were Italian and whenever I would go to their homes, the grandmother (Nonni) would be cooking and would tell me all about what they were making and how. So I learned to add Italian cooking to my skills. Including desserts. Although I don't care for many of their desserts, my kids loved them. So I would rarely make them for special occasions.
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