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Old 10-13-2007, 09:40 PM   #1
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Major influence?

I wonder if I am posting this in the wrong forum but...

I was wondering who you all would rank as the most important influence in your cooking? For me, it was my father, who taught me how to make SOS and subsequently a roux and a white sauce. You stir it one of two ways, according to him, both of his terms are probably inappropriately for me to say here... Oh yeah, also my mother, for her home grown vegetables... and Mike, who taught me how to flip eggs...


How's about you all?

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Old 10-13-2007, 09:53 PM   #2
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Gosh I'd have to say my most influential cooking person would have to be one of my next door neighbors, Kittie, when I was newly married in 1968. I'd been cooking for nearly 10 years at that time (began when I was about 8-years-old.) She was a Russian woman who could do almost anything. She made and tailored her husband's suits and was an awesome interior decorator. Her cooking skills were beyond belief.

She and I became fast friends and she shared recipes and cooking techniques with me. I still remember here tutorials and have stacks and stacks of the recipes she gave me. No joke. She would give me 2- and 3-inch stacks of handwritten recipes regularly. I still have them all (by now yellowed) and I will never cook all the delicious dishes that are promised by the recipe cards. Sadly, she's no longer with us. But if she was, she'd be cookin' up a storm. All delicious.

So, in answer to the OP's question...Kittie Strawson was my cooking mentor.
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Old 10-13-2007, 09:56 PM   #3
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My Mentor Master Chef Charles Jewell his protegee Tommy Brunson Who I worked under for Ten Years They were both true gentilen never swore or berated any body. If they had some thing to say to you they took you off to a private place and told you what for and that was the end of it. Both are in the big kitchen in the sky
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Old 10-13-2007, 10:13 PM   #4
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My grandmothers! And then Julia Childs, Jeff Smith and Graham Kerr.
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Old 10-14-2007, 12:03 AM   #5
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I was priviledged to learn how to cook from the best cook in the world. That, of course, was my mom. She was definitely the biggest influence on my cooking.

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Old 10-14-2007, 12:39 AM   #6
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I'm now learning to cook fairly late considering how many people I've been responsible for feeding for so many years. So far, my major influences have been my good friend and neighbor who took me under her wing and taught me several things I could reliably cook well. That spurred me on. Nothing like a few minor successes to kindle the fire. Second are the folks here at DC. It's amazing to be able to ask a question and have so many knowledgeable cooks willing to take the time to help. I can't express how much I appreciate that and what a difference it has made in my cooking.
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Old 10-14-2007, 12:43 AM   #7
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I would say Mom and Dad. They were not exceptional chefs. But both of them could navigate themselves about a kitchen. My sister and I were never actaully taught anything about cooking. We just wanted to be with our parents and so we hung out where they were. On Sundays and holidays that was in the kitchen. Even as tadpoles we wanted to help and so they let us, although I doubt when we were young we helped very much. But they praised us and let us do what we wanted.

Later on, when we ten or so, we started to cook ourselves. Mostly breakfasts on weekends - lots of pancakes - when the folks were still asleep and we were looking for something to do.

For some reason our parents trusted us in the kitchen and we took advantage of it, even having other kids in for breakfast.

Then we went on a French fry jag when we were twelve or so. Our ever patient Mom (Dad would be at work) would let us make the fries after school.

And then came other jags and Mom was fully supportive, which means she would buy the stuff but basically kept herself out of the procedure, letting us make our own mistakes and learn as a result.

That in essence was the way we were raised. They were there to help and guide us, and when push came to shove they were the ultimate law. But help they certainly did, I cannot tell you how many hours it took Dad to get me to understand algebra, but as long as we were doing OK they did not interfere.

Myabe they had learned that policy by raising our much older two brothers. Or perhaps it was just their inherent wisdom, I do not know. I do know I miss them.

But when in my life the poop seems to be hitting the rotating mechanical device, I sit back and ask myself 'What would the folks say?'. That process has helped me through a whole bunch of messes. I guess no one is never truly gone as long as their wisdom lives on.

As I got older it was people like Julia, Graham Kerr, and the Frug who fueled my love of the kitchen.

That's my simple tale.
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Old 10-14-2007, 12:53 AM   #8
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Aunt Dot, your folks sound great! I didn't let my older kids in the kitchen mostly because I had no idea what to do in there myself. But I did eventually realized this was a mistake and so my last 3 kids have always been encouraged to explore cooking in any way they chose. I know what you mean about jags - we've had Spam jags, grilled cheese sandwich jags, doctored up Ramen jags, brownie jags etc. I just make sure I get all the stuff they ask for and let them go. It's worked out really well and the 2 teen boys are pretty good cooks!
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Old 10-14-2007, 07:27 AM   #9
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I learned to cook very young, standing on a chair to reach the stove...oatmeal, or perhaps mashed potatoes. In either case they sometimes came out lumpy. By the time I was tall enough to throw away the chair I had the basics down. It was simple food. In the summer most of it came from a garden.

In my late twenties I met a Cajun gentleman. He'd grown up in poverty. He hunted, trapped, and fished, paddling his pirogue through the swamps and bayous of Southern Louisiana. This supplemented the food his mother received from a government assistance program. This is the first person I'd met who could turn cooking into an art form. He could paint too, mostly watercolors, mostly wildlife. Isn't that what makes a great chef - the artistry?

I'm just a cook who enjoys playing in the kitchen now and then.
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Old 10-14-2007, 07:39 AM   #10
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I'd have to say DH is my biggest influence - when we married, my cooking skills were very limited. There was a year when I was taking classes at the local university as well as working full-time and we ate frozen dinners most of that year. After that, I craved good home-cooked food so I taught myself to cook and then I discovered fresh herbs. With his encouragement, I started cooking and experimenting more and he was very supportive no matter how it turned out. It was his idea to buy me a good set of knives for Christmas about 15 years ago - I had no idea how much easier cooking would be with a good set of knives

And I'm sure some of my obsession with cooking comes from having inflammatory bowel disease - when there are certain foods you can't eat, you tend to obsess over it. Now, I have more cookbooks and clipped recipes than I can possibly use, but I keep buying more. Part of that is because I'm so curious about how cooking developed in different cultures, so I like cookbooks that go into the history of the area the cuisine is about.

So that's it in a nutshell
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Old 10-14-2007, 07:56 AM   #11
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It's a toss up between my Aunt Tessie and Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet. We weren't starving in my house, with my mother cooking..far from it. But, I knew my mother lacked the understanding of how certain foods could be prepared 'better' by changing the cooking method, or adding an herb, or just changing the cut of a vegetable. At 8 years old, I had a better understanding of food science than she did.
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Old 10-14-2007, 09:35 AM   #12
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My Grandmother, and mother of course, but the lions share of influence came from Bertha "Berta" Coleman, a creole lady of color from South Louisiana who worked as a cook in my home when I was a small child. She was "family" and continued to work for me part time until her death in 1984. Due to her age at the time, it was mostly just hanging out for a few hours a week. Washing a pot here and there, and relating old stories to the kids. She also fanned my fanny more times than my mother did I think of her often! Oh! she also introduced me to "Aunt Jane" our resident ghost, who still roams the house on occasions.
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Old 10-14-2007, 08:16 PM   #13
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Wow! There have been so many wonderful replies to my question, I feel like I should just let it go and read on...

But I can't help but mention my grandmother on my father's side, whom we call Mutte (little mother in German). She is an amazing person and an amazing cook. She has been to so many countries that I could only dream of going to. She is still around, in her mid eighties, and has macular degeneration, but will never give up on her NYT crosswords! Anyhow, she gave me a wonderful folder full of soup recipes from across the globe that I cherish (especially in the winter time). She also gave me my now stained and dogeared copy of Joy of Cooking... The greatest cookbook I've ever read.
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Old 10-14-2007, 10:00 PM   #14
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My own tastes, foods I enjoy. Thats what motivates and influences my cooking.
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Old 10-14-2007, 10:17 PM   #15
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A combination of things really. My first job at age 16 was in the dietary department of a general hospital. I learned about special diets. My mom and dad both cooked home style foods. From there I just made up my own recipes/tweaked their recipes, and used cookbooks. I too love the influences of Julia child, and Gram Kerr. I suppose some of my influence also came from catering when I was a young woman in my 20's.
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Old 10-15-2007, 04:05 AM   #16
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I started cooking for the family when I was in 7th grade.My mom worked with my dad in their dry cleaning business and I decided to try doing the evening meal on my own. I was given carte blanche and tried many different recipes. My parents encouraged and praised me from the beginning.
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Old 10-15-2007, 09:16 AM   #17
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I know my mother cooked every day but I don't know that she influenced me to cook. I moved out of the house when I was about 17 and certainly got by just fine. At around 19 or 20 I wanted to "expand" so I bought a cookbook and just started cooking from the recipes. Pretty soon you realize a few things from this recipe can be combined with that recipe and the bug got in me.
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Old 10-15-2007, 09:44 AM   #18
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I started out in the kitchen with my mom when I was 3, cutting out Christmas cookies. Once she discovered I was interested, she manufactured little tasks for me to do along with her. By the time I was 5, she employed me to stir the gravy for Sunday dinner while she did the myriad things that have to wait if you've the only pair of hands in the kitchen.

She really loved to cook for family and friends, and transmitted that love to me!

I probably would be just a good home cook without the influences of 2 extraordinary women... Julia Child -- I received Lastering 1 for Christmas the year it came out, and used that book to teach myself to "cook French." Later, when I lived in Boston, I was lucky to become a friend and colleague, and have the benefit of her personal words of wisdom. My mantra is hers... "All things in moderation." and Judith Dunbar Hines -- the chef with whom I learned to cook professionally. She is a talented chef and even more talented teacher. Currently she is the Culinary Coordinator for the City of Chicago. If you live near there, you should google her name and take some classes with her. A great woman and an great teacher!
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Old 10-15-2007, 06:26 PM   #19
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My largest cooking influence was both my parents. Neither of them came from homes where food was anything besides something you did to grow your kids. But when they married, they decided to enjoy food, and did their best to instill it in me. The best encouragement to good food is having a good audience for it. To this very day, when I go to visit my parents, the first thing I'm asked is what am I going to cook, and where are we going to eat. That is my biggest inspiration.
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