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Old 06-24-2006, 04:57 AM   #1
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Where/How did you learn to cook?

I was just wondering where or how others learned how to cook and how it affects the way you cook today. For me, it was NOT my mother. She could ruin something straight from a box. I did not learn a single cooking skill from her.

My first experience really cooking from scratch was right out of university. I moved to Moscow, Russia in the early 90's. NOTHING came in a box in that country!! What was I to do?? (The first week, I ate nothing but oranges... no cooking skills required!) I had no knife skills (I actually had only one poorly-sharpened paring knife) and I didn't know the first thing about how to build a meal from raw ingredients. A neighbor took me under her wing and taught me the basics of scratch cooking. Interestingly enough, like my in-laws in Turkey, she taught me to do most of their cutting right over the pot you are cooking in. It would be another 5 or 6 years before I had a cutting board and "real" knives. She also taught me the flavor benefits of a well-marbled piece of meat, how to eat a whole fish (that is, filet it as you eat is as opposed to cooking a filet) and how to get every bit of use out of every food purchased. I actually learned a lot more than that, but obviously I can't include everything. But it was a virtual stranger (who became a good neighbor and friend) that set me on this path.

What about you. What's your story about how your cooking passion started?

Life is too short to eat processed, artificially-colored, chemically-preserved, genetically-modified food. Or maybe that IS why life's too short.
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Old 06-24-2006, 05:10 AM   #2
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Well i think i grew up with a passion for cooking and food. My dad has a real passion for food and trying new stuff, he would always bring home new food that we hadnt tried before and he'd collect recipes n stuff. I used to look through his wardrobe lol and there was masses of cookbooks n when i had nothing to do, id sit and look through them. I remember once i was in tesco, i must have been about 8 or somthing, and i remember being in a baking aisle and pretending i have a bowl id pick stuff out from the aisle and 'add them to my bowl' lol. My mum was the main cook in the house and she'd let me help sometimes, like she'd ask me to stir or add something in. I also used to love watching cooking programmes! In nursery we used to bake cakes for everyones birthdays, and i used to be the main helper. As i grew older, i realised cooking was a serious hobby, and i did a years course on it. It was hard work but i thoroughly enjoyed it. Now i have holidays and i go mad with cooking, i cant go a day without cooking a dinner or a dessert or something proper. Pity is im very messy and mum goes nuts! lol
So as far as i can remember, food and cooking have been a big part of my memories and it was probably a lot because of my father that i have a passion for cooking. And im going to uni this year hopefully, to do food, nutrition and health. So ill be taking my passion further. :o)
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Old 06-24-2006, 07:38 AM   #3
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My mother. I wan't always under her feet like some kids, but, I did watch and pay attention most of the time. When I was first married, I could call her and ask questions. She always had an answer for me.
I really didn't do a lot of cooking until the last 10 years. I mostly bought the boxed and premade foods. I love it now.
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Old 06-24-2006, 07:42 AM   #4
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This is too funny, velochic. I thought my mother was the worlds worst cook, she had no interest in cooking, nutrition. meal planning, nothing. All three of us kids turned out with an above average interest in cooking. My interest in cooking started the day I left my parents' home. I lived in off campus housing and happily did the cooking for the housemates. I was drawn to whole grain, healthful, organic, made from scratch cooking ever since I started cooking in 1970. I explored other interests in college, but came back to nutrition later in life. One job I had was working for a federal government nutrition education program, where I worked in the homes of low income families teaching nutrition, gardening, shopping skills, etc. I was taught to teach the families the technique you mentioned of cutting vegetables with your hands directly over the pot.
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Old 06-24-2006, 08:14 AM   #5
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Both my grandmothers were wonderful cooks, as was my Mum. I learned from them. We also lived abroad a lot of my childhood and in some places had a cook. I watched those cooks...

Then when I left home, I was the only one in our flat who could cook, so I got more practice.

Then I moved into my own flat and cooked for dinner parties. I tried lots and lots of exotic recipes and used friends as guinea pigs.

Then I married.................

And all through my life I have been on cookery courses - including a month at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris, lots in Italy a couple in France, four or five in Eire and lots and lots here in the UK.

Food is a passion with me
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Old 06-24-2006, 08:20 AM   #6
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My mother, an Italian immigrant, often encouraged me to learn to cook. She cooked simple, delicious peasant meals but I didn't have time. I was too busy having a social life. When I got married, in 1960, I had to ask my mother in law how to make coffee and french fries. I ruined both. We ate a ton of steak and baked potatoes since that was all I knew how to cook and it occured to me (with my husband's prodding) that I either had to learn to make something else or we'd starve to death. My first meal was a disaster and that's when I decided I wanted to do something about it. As I began to cook better and better meals I developed a love for food, and a passion for cooking. That passion has grown and stayed with me for 46 years. My husband always commented that he thought I was the best cook ever, and I was. He died in November of last year and I still cook up a storm every once in awhile for my kids and thier families, but my meals now are very simple but still nutritous and very good. I've lost the passion for cooking, but not for the food. I often hear women say they don't cook at all. How do they eat? Who cooks if they don't? Does hubby come home from work and cook all the meals?
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Old 06-24-2006, 10:42 AM   #7
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My first cooking memories are helping Mom bake cookies or cake.... not much help but I got to lick out bowls and beaters ... and I couldn't help but pick up a few things along the way. Then after she and my biological father separated (a good thing), I often had to help out by getting dinner started before she got home from work. Just simple things like starting the potatoes boiling, or sticking an already prepped roast in the oven. That at least stimulated an interest in cooking, something that was fairly rare for a male child in the 50's.

After reaching adulthood, I mostly just taught myself gradually as necessity dictated, taking a stronger interest in it over the last 15 years or so. I've even taken a formal cooking class in classic techniques in the last couple of years, and plan to take more classes soon.
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Old 06-24-2006, 12:38 PM   #8
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Velochic and Beth, it is good to know that I was not the only one whose mother had no influence whatsoever in cooking. She didn't like me hanging about in the kitchen, I was always shooed away before I (as she imagined) set the fire on the kitchen wall or drop the knife on my barefoot. Not that she was such an exquisite cook either, rather, very often I had to put on a brave Oscar winning performance pretending to enjoy the "object" she fixed. (in her presence, refusing, or even complaining over her food was out of question.)

All through this I was always dreaming about being able to choose and prepare each meal just the way I liked.
And from the day one I left her household, my cooking adventure has begun, even though at that point I didn't even know how to boil a portion of spaghetti correctly. There have been more trials and errors than I can remember, but I really relished the fact that now, finally I had control over my own kitchen. I guess despite the kind of mother I had, I had this "hard core foodie" in my genes somewhere, as when I gained freedom, I just dived straight into preparing real food, instead of start buying fast food or prepackaged food.

I have taught myself, or my own experiences taught me, most of the basics, until I came to Italy 3+ years ago, then I got a thorough refinement in 101 of authentic Italian cooking by Cristiano, my companion.
I am still curious and eager to learn and discover something new, my journey through kitchen is still continuing and going strong.
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Old 06-24-2006, 12:40 PM   #9
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Where? Places like discusscooking.com

How? Listening to you folks.

If you had asked when? As we speak.
Calories count but their source counts too. Don't count calories; make every calorie count.
Dr. Chan Tat Hon (paraphrased)
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Old 06-24-2006, 02:20 PM   #10
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Mom was a firm believer in "cook with your kids." So I learned a lot there. I also learned from cooking with friends, and observing regional styles and methods. Of course Julia Child was our TV chef instructor, and I still find her books extremely helpful, as I do James Petersen's books. I also take culinary courses whenever I can for fun and skill building. I am going back to CIA this summer for yet another go!
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Old 06-25-2006, 11:19 AM   #11
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Like most, at home. I loved cooking and eating from day one. Both my parents grew up in households where cooking was a duty and eating is what you did to fuel your body, so Dad bought Mom a cookbook when they first married. Being a military family, mom learned to cook from French, German, and Japanese women. She enjoyed it and passed it on to me.

How it affects my cooking today is rather funny. I have three younger sisters and grew up cooking for six. I have no children, but still tend to cook for six. It works for us ... I'm a pro at storing single servings of the food I cook for the fridge or freezer. But any time I am cooking, four people could show up and have a good dinner!!

The other is ironic. I grew up in a family where, when we would go to a restaurant, Daddy would just point to some dishes on a foreign menu and we'd eat whatever arrived, then find out what it was. Now Mom and Dad don't adventure very far in food, but I learned it from them. I still have a love of different spices and foods, even though they do not any more!
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Old 06-25-2006, 11:27 AM   #12
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To add a hint to those who are just learning, a subscription to a cooking magazine costs about half the shelf price. If you have a friend who is also interested, it is so much the better. A friend and I were both pretty accomplished cooks who had lived overseas, but we used to take recipes from Gourmet or our cookbooks (both of us had large collections) and have ethnic feasts. Now I have a shut-in friend who loves different foods and I have a couple of friends who look forward to the next ethnic feast. We just did north African/mideast. It started because I read to these friends, and they'd never had Indian food before, and I was reading them a book about India. So we did that. Now it is a tradition
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Old 06-25-2006, 12:00 PM   #13
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Definetely from my mom and she had the ultimate teacher........my grandma. Plus, as a teenage, mom spent times in and out of the hospital during this time so it was up to me to put the meals on the table. Once I got out on my own I really got to try out all different sorts of recipes. Cooking for me is thearaputic.........it truely relaxes me. I love to see the look on my families faces as they enjoy the food.
Se non supporta il calore, vattene dalla cucina!
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Old 06-25-2006, 12:04 PM   #14
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My interest in cooking came from my interest in eating regularly and from my dad who was a chef.

I actually learned how to cook later in life by watching TV cooking shows and reading, followed by food forums.
"If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." -Carl Sagan
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Old 06-25-2006, 12:58 PM   #15
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Neither of us has and we are still learning.

We both, Mr. and Mrs Auntdot, just sort of grew up cooking.

Neither of our moms were particularly talented cooks, although they could both put out a credible meal.

But neither one particularly liked it.

And for reasons beyond both of our control, there came a time when we had to learn to put a meal on the table.

Then we got married and we both love food and cooking. If there is anything that we can say is a hobby it is cooking.

We have learned the little we know tharough books, TV, and the web, with the kindness of all of you.

Not an exciting tale, but thanks to y'all great folks on DC.
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Old 06-25-2006, 01:56 PM   #16
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Andy brings up the source of motivation.
Originally Posted by Andy M.
My interest in cooking came from my interest in eating regularly...
Mine stems from the same source but the urgency is intensified by the certain knowledge that no one else is going to cook for me.
Calories count but their source counts too. Don't count calories; make every calorie count.
Dr. Chan Tat Hon (paraphrased)
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Old 06-25-2006, 02:06 PM   #17
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I learned some things by watching my mother cook. She only cooked home style foods (chicken, pot roasts, etc), so much of what I have learned was self taught by cookbooks, watching cooking shows, and eventually food forums.
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Old 06-25-2006, 03:38 PM   #18
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I love cooking and I to follow under andy`s quote. My mother taught me
and after I grew up this girlfriend I had, she traveled in the military as a
housewife. she collected alot of recipes from all over. and with her
experences and the raising my mother gave me. she taught me how to can.
and i still love it today. I am also in the process of making a family cookbook.
one other thing that my mother taught me was to make a pot of soup
out of all the leftovers each week. we called the refrigerator soup.
I eat to live so I can live to eat
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Old 06-25-2006, 05:41 PM   #19
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My mom and dad both had recipes that were favorites of mine. They both seemed to enjoy cooking and both had dishes that I remember well and try to mimic. Since the onset of Food Network, I think that has helped me to fashion my craft and then lastly, but not least, the DC forum.

I am a self taught cook and continue to learn and expand on what I have learned by trying new ingredients and techniques.

Cooking is a passion for me and one of the things that I enjoy to do and often look forward to doing.

No professional training... just gut instinct and intuition. Sometimes it is great, other times it is a "what the heck was I thinking" scenario.

Great thread... thanks for asking!
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Old 06-25-2006, 07:47 PM   #20
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My freshman year after college, I was at home watching TV one day and there was an infomercial on this local tourist channel which featured many local restaurants, both with fine and casual dining. The infomercial was about 20-30 minutes long and every time I watched TV, I would flip back to that channel to see if they were playing it. It fascinated me because that was the first time that I really realized how much you could do with food, beit creation, innovation, and flavor. I wanted to learn how to make "Blackened Tuna with a Soy-Mustard Butter Sauce (Roy Yamaguchi)" or a "Ti Leaf Steamed Crimson Snapper (Onaga) with a Seaweed and Tomato Sauce (George Mavro)". Later that year, our cable company started showing FoodTV and I would always watch the Essence of Emeril, Molto Mario, Chef du Jour, etc. and I was able to learn more and more. That's pretty much when I decided that I wanted to be a chef. It's funny because some basic things that I learned from those shows stick with me till this day.
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