"I used to cook omelets for my daughter. Super tiny little-chopped cucumber, spinach, and MUSHROOMS (which are considered to be the biggest enemy by my daughter and the healthiest by me) are secretly wrapped up in the gorgeous egg skin together with fried rice, and then, of course, that omnipotent ketchup!
Isn't it cute, healthy and child-friendly?
Am I smart?
My daughter, 4 years old then, happily ran to my masterpiece, taking a big spoon...
The spoon stopped on its way.
'It SMELLS like MUSHROOM."
Her calm voice continued, 'I like the omelet grandma made.'
She always knew her mom was a bad cook.
"When my mother asked what my dad what he was making on the stove.
The ingredients scattered on the counter were frozen peas, artificial bacon bits, cream of mushroom soup, cheddar cheese, and egg noodles. It all went into the same pot.
'David,' she said. 'What is that?'
Offended, he snapped back, 'It doesn't need a name!'
Indescribable would be a generous term for dinner."
"I love my father, I really do. God bless his soul.
But Dad really didn't know how to BBQ when I was younger.
Now, we're talking the days when propane grills didn't exist. Your BBQ was this round 'bowlish' thingy with tri-pod legs, sometimes there was a windscreen on the back.
Dad would get a drink, would get the charcoal briquettes, load up the BBQ and would liberally soak them with starter fluid. Just when you thought there was enough starter fluid, Dad would put more, cause we need to start the BBQ. Then, we would all stand back, and Dad would throw lit matches at the charcoal.
Then: WOOF! The HUGE gout of flame would leap from the briquettes.
Within 5 minutes the flames would be out. Dad would invert the starter fluid bottle and would squirt the liquid onto the briquettes. From a distance, of course, safety first.
Sometimes, we got a smaller woof, other times, the liquid would extinguish whatever briquettes were starting to lite and he would throw matches at the BBQ again.
So now we're hungry. The BBQ isn't exactly ready, but it's GOT to be time to put the steaks on the grill right?
Dad would put the steaks on. Then he would flip them...and flip them...and flip them. Douse with BBQ sauce. Have another drink. Followed by more steak flipping. More sauce. Tell a story or sing a sea shanty. More flipping, sauce and of course, another drink.
Total time, about 30 minutes or more. The steaks have moved BEYOND extra well done. Oh and the briquettes, they're about ready to have the meat put on the BBQ now.
You would eat this charred and burnt piece of meat. This was a lot of chewing for a small lad. I really didn't enjoy Dad's steaks. My jaws were so sore at the end.
I dearly love my Dad. Did it taste like steak?
Alex, I will take: What does BBQ Starter Fluid taste like for $1000. What is, my father's BBQ'ed steaks? That's correct! You just won Final Jeopardy!
Basically, I grew to HATE steaks. Hot Dogs and Hamburgers were also burnt and tasted like BBQ starter fluid. Let's try something new, like toasting the hot dog or hamburger buns on the BBQ. Great, now they taste like BBQ starter fluid too!
Move forward to today. I've been BBQ'ing for a number of years now. I got a hankering to get a charcoal grill. It was on sale at Canadian Tire. I am super excited. We do NOT use starter fluid, nor do we use self-starting briquettes. Nope, I got a briquette chimney that I got at the dollar store for $4. Put some paper towel in the bottom, fill up the chimney with briquettes and light the paper towel. Within 10 minutes the briquettes are white. Dump them into the tray, put the cast iron grates in place. Wait another 10 minutes for them to heat up. Start with the veggie kebabs. After they are cooked, put them in the warming tray (built into the BBQ) and put the steaks (or whatever) on the grill. Within 10 minutes the steaks are plated and were eating the BEST steaks ever.
Dad passed away April of 2016. I wished that he was still here so that he could have a Prime Rib Steak cooked CORRECTLY on charcoal. I LOVE YOU DAD, but you really couldn't cook back in the day."
"My parents married when my mother was a month away from turning 17 years old and my father was 21. They didn't realize it at the time (though they were suspicious), but my mom was pregnant with me when the nuptials happened. My maternal grandmother was a single parent of 8 children and worked nights so she often made a casserole and left instructions for my mom to put the casserole in the oven at whatever temperature for however long. So when she married my father, she thought she could cook. She couldn't. And my maternal grandmother wasn't much help and not a good cook, either.
I thought, as a child, that mom was a really good cook, much better than my grandmothers. Of course, this was back in the days when people regularly bought boxed meal starters like Hamburger Helper and boxed side dishes like Betty Crocker scalloped potatoes and au gratin potatoes and canned goods were staples in our pantry. I had never had a green bean or a mushroom or corn that didn't come out of a can or jar. Even potatoes were rarely made from a fresh potato. Rice dishes often came in a box, too, including things like Rice-a-Roni. Our biscuits and pancakes came from a box of Bisquik. Ingredients like onions and garlic could be found in powdered form. Everyone cooked this way, not just my family. This was the 1970's and 1980's and our way of cooking wasn't all that unusual. But my mom's cooking hasn't changed much...my daughter doesn't understand how I could say she was ever a good cook and I get it because her cooking really hasn't changed, but my palate has.
When I moved out on my own around my early 20's, I remember taking one of my mom's go-to recipes and 'elevating' it. I thought I was so clever, using fresh mushrooms instead of canned and real onions and garlic instead of powdered. It was much tastier. Now I buy very few things in cans or even frozen. I can't tell you the last time I had Hamburger Helper (probably about 26 years ago) or those Betty Crocker potatoes (longer than 26 years ago). I know the difference between cooking something from scratch and heating something up. I've even started using recipes to replicate things like green bean casserole without using any convenience ingredients. That's right, no cream of mushroom soup."
"The first day I had a bite of real roast beef I realized my mom was not the greatest cook.
When I was a kid, I always hated 'roast beef day' (this was before we lived 'on the farm,' and things went bad).
Mom would cook a roast by putting it in a pan, and then cooking it at 350 degrees. For three hours. Not a trace of pink would be left in it anywhere. It had a thick crust on it. The inside was kind of like shoe leather. She'd serve that with heated up canned peas, or maybe some canned spinach (both boiled for 10 minutes!). Worst was the canned beets --- just getting a bite near my mouth would make me nauseous.
I always thought, 'Man, adult food is terrible. Maybe something happens to you when you go through puberty, and all of a sudden this stuff must taste great.' I couldn't imagine what bizarre biological process must happen in puberty to change your taste buds, but it had to be true. Why else would people willingly eat this crap, I thought. Roast beef! Yuck! The only thing I could imagine that was worse was steak. That was like chewing burnt rubber. And peas? Let's not go there.
I pretty much went through life like this. During college, I got a job at a steakhouse. One of the things we cooked was Prime Rib. Basically, it was a big slab of roast beef, and we only cooked it for 55 minutes, not three hours. Something wasn't right. I learned that beef could be cooked different ways. Most people ate it cooked 'medium' or 'medium rare.' A few like 'medium well.' I learned that what my mother cooked was 'Extra well done.'
I tried a piece of the prime rib cooked medium. It was absolutely the best beef I had ever tasted. And Peas? We only served fresh peas. I tried them --- Wow! No wonder people eat peas, they taste great! And fresh spinach, fried with butter! I'm in heaven!
From that point on, I was a firm believer that you had to cook food right. When I had my own family, I introduced my kids to 'Medium Rare' ribeyes, and they loved them. It was quite funny to sit down with a 6 and 8-year-old and see the look on the waitresses face' when she would expect them to order a hotdog or nuggets, and instead get they said, 'I'll have a ribeye cooked medium rare' order (they would share).
So, now I happily love 'Roast Beef Day' at our house. And I love fresh cooked spinach and fresh cooked peas.
But I still hate beets. That food is NOT allowed in my house."
"I learned my parents weren't the best cooks when I got a scholarship to study for a year in Japan. I was a high school student and the deal involved lodging with a local family while attending school there. My host family lived in a humble house in an upper-middle-class suburb of Tokyo - nothing lavish by any means. But there was nothing humble or ordinary about what arrived at the dinner table every night..oh my!
Going back though, for a little context...
I was raised in a small town in regional Australia, somewhere near but nowhere near both Sydney and Melbourne. Now, let's be honest: Australia is not known for its culinary prowess. But country Australia in the 1980s? Well, you're pretty much looking at a steady succession of BBQs with tomato sauce, white bread and something that may or may not pass for a salad depending on whether you classify cheese as a vegetable.
To keep things varied you'll get the odd casserole here and there, and let's not forget the good ol' bowls of spaghetti bolognese (affectionately called 'spag bol'). Which could be fine, I guess, if well executed. The problem is, Europe's a pretty long swim from Australia and in an era when international travel was pretty darn expensive, it was essentially like a game of culinary Chinese whispers. Needless to say, it didn't end well.
My mother was young when she had me, so she hadn't had a lot of time to hone her craft. Her zest for exploration and creativity meant that with the exception of BBQ and takeaway nights, we pretty much never ate the same dish twice, which probably sounds ok on the face of it, but this also meant that nothing was ever perfected. To make matters worse, in an effort to keep us all healthy she refused to use any salt. I'll repeat that: no salt in the house, folks! Ponder on that for a moment.
My father was the self-appointed BBQ chef. Australian men view their prowess at the grill as a measure of their masculinity. Unfortunately for us, a 'manly' meat was a meat that was well cooked. Like, really well cooked. And a reminder: no salt in the house. Dad has his secret stash but the friction it caused with Mum meant it was out of the question for us.
So anyway, here I was, 16 years old and heading to sushi land. Great! People were asking me how I was going to cope with the food - what, with all that funny raw stuff they eat. I had no idea but it wasn't going to stop me from going.
The food, it turned out, was the least of my worries.
How do I say this? Wow. Just, wow.
My host mother made the most amazing lunchboxes of such intricacy that I felt guilty for even eating them. They really did make the simple Aussie sandwich (or 'sanga' as we like to call them) look like something designed for the pet dog.
Dinners were generally a massive spread of all sorts of things I'd never heard of, but every single dish I tried instantly became a new favourite.
Even the freaking pumpkin tasted great. No, let me rephrase that - the pumpkin was especially great! So great that when it was nearly time to return back to kangaroo land it was the first thing I asked my host mother how to make.
The other thing that struck me about how the Japanese eat was that a lot of their meals are highly participatory in nature. Mum prepares all the ingredients and they are placed on the dinner table together with the implements needed to combine them, whether that be a sushi mat, a hotplate, or a gas burner. The family then literally makes it themselves. I found this mode of interaction with food so new and stimulating - no macho meat men here; this was real food, eaten slowly and thoughtfully. It really helps bring a new dimension to the food you are consuming.
After getting back to Australia I moved out of home into my own apartment (nothing to do with the food) and not long after wound up dating a Japanese chef, who fortunately decided to stick around for the long haul. So from very humble culinary beginnings, I've ended up being absolutely spoiled in the food department - host mothers, cheffy husbands - really, I can't complain.
So no offense to Mum or to Dad either for that matter. They did their very best given their cultural background and experience (or lack thereof) and for that, I am forever grateful. But it was Japan that really opened my eyes to the possibilities of food and thanks to that experience, eating well remains a big part of my life today."
"My mum worked overseas (in Hong Kong) when I was young, and she only came back when I was around 10 years old. So my memories of her cooking started there. It didn't take very long for my sister and I to realize that she could not cook.
First of all, she would 'perfect' a dish (just edible enough), and cook it every single day for months. It took a while for us to realize that this wasn't the norm in other families, but in the meantime, we ate the same thing every day for quite a long time.
Once that was no longer a viable option (we threatened an uprising), she started alternating between a few of her favorite and self-invented recipes. The thing is: my mum is adventurous but she lacks the skills to pull it off. She attempts to use all sorts of combinations of ingredients that would never be used together by others. Middle-aged women sometimes like to send each other chain messages or pictures of things like the 'Top 10 Foods that Prevents Cancer,' and somehow, my mum would think it entirely reasonable to try and put ALL 10 OF THEM in one meal. Obviously, that didn't work out.
Then she decided to become a vegetarian, so food at home became vegetarian food. Because she couldn't cook, the food we ate every day became like the free vegetarian food they give out at temples. No offense to people who eat that, but there's a reason why it's not popular anywhere else! Sometimes I would just forego her cooking and eat rice with soy sauce (because no one can mess up rice).
Just to give you an example of her masterpieces: we would have mayo-cucumber sandwiches (with some mock-meat thing) to bring to school for lunch. Does anyone even like that? And she did that for half a year! Mum, I love you with all my heart, and I'm grateful for all that you have done for us, but you can't cook."
"Once I turned 21, I realized my mother was an awful cook.
Growing up, I knew that if I decided not to eat my mothers 'meatloaf,' or 'Ragu spaghetti,' I would be cast a stone and considered ungrateful. I was also told, 'If you don't eat now, you aren't getting anything else.' I had to acquire a taste to mom's cooking because I did not want to start up an argument in the house I would not be able to finish.
After a while, I became normalized to the canned foods and processed meats from the grocery store, and pre-made peppers my mom would routinely throw into the egg white omelet for breakfast (gross). The menu is similar to the likes of cafeteria food you might get in a hospital.
I thought this was normal because everyone's mother can cook right? I was wrong, and I was definitely wrong when I brought my girlfriend over and she gagged after eating some of my mother's favorite meatball recipe. Unfortunately, I sided with my significant other in this case. On the label of my mom's favorite sausage packet, it said it's 'teriyaki and pineapple,' but it comes with neither of the two. All it is is meat wrapped in sugar in what tastes like 'pineapple.' This is what she served to not only to my girlfriend but to the rest of the family during the holidays for 2-3 years straight.
After my significant other mentioned something to me about my mother and her cooking skills, it was an enlightening moment. I realized my mom had no creative sense in the kitchen, and when it came to cooking breakfast and dinner, she made what was 'quickest' and 'convenient' for her and served it.
Today, I now have deviated away from my mother's cooking completely. She just can't cook, and her cooking skills have stayed stagnant since the early '90s.
I still have vivid images of me eating my mother's spaghetti as a child, and vomiting it right back out less than an hour later."
"It took me until college, really.
I wasn't ever a picky eater, and my parents were way more than fine with me not eating ('You'll eat what's in front of you' mentality). So tuna casserole with those crunchy canned onions on top, beef stroganoff a la Hamburger Helper, taco salad, or Lean Cuisine frozen meals it was. My mom used only margarine and tended to cook meat to death.
I do think my mom tried her best (what with being in one of the most abusive marriages I've heard of), and my grandma never had time to cook because she was a working single mom with 3 children.
So it all cascaded to me just eating at my sorority house for 2 years. My first year after I dropped the sorority I felt myself at the edge of a dangerous cliff -- no friends, no meal plan, all alone in college. Heck, I'll learn how to cook, I said. And I did, I really truly did. Cook with the good stuff too. I rode my bike to the local grocers and to a nearby Farmer's market on Thursdays and another market on Saturdays if there was anything I had forgotten.
At one point I was buying 100% local and almost joined the local co-op. I made all sorts of food -- Italian, Greek, Mediterranean, Southern in the summer with all of the sweet fruit in season, then African in the fall with all of the root vegetables available. I even made my own broth from scratch with chicken feet. I baked all sorts of goods from scratch (my favorite being local strawberry brownies).
For dinner, I handmade dinner rolls. I made homemade yogurt from a local farm's pasteurized milk. My whole eating life was slow, whimsical, comforting and challenging.
Most importantly, I learned about good ingredients and how to maintain a good kitchen - what kitchen supplies you absolutely need, and what supplies you can forget or go cheap on. I built up a good spice cabinet.
All of it was terribly fun."
"My mother is very health-conscious and I grew up with messages how important balanced, nutritional meals are. I did not particularly like the nutritional meals she served me, however, because my mother is extremely impatient and has a very practical, efficient and economic approach to everything she does. She is extremely active and an extrovert, she has a gazillion hobbies and she is friends with the whole town, and engaged in politics, and has a successful career, and during my teenage years random adults would come up to me and tell me how much they admired her and her enthusiastic spirit and her sharp-witted mind (and I'd wonder how the heck they knew my mother, but after a while I'd just shrug and accept she had a finger in every pie). The downside is, if you're busy with so many activities, you spend less attention on the individual things you do, especially if it's just a tedious chore.
My mother never enjoyed being a homemaker, she enjoys being where all the action is way too much, she wants to make important decisions, she wants responsibility, she wants to contribute her skills and experience to society. Nevertheless, she had three children, and sexist double standards in society shoved the responsibility of being a caregiver and a homemaker onto her. So she did perform household chores, and she never neglected her children, but she did them in a rushed way. For instance, she'd go grocery shopping and she'd bring only half of what she intended to buy because if she didn't find an item at first sight she'd lack the patience to browse the shelves and look for it or ask the staff.
So she did cook, but she cooked because she needed to get food on the table, and nothing more. She didn't serve any fast food because she valued health too much. She'd serve ingredients that make up a balanced meal, according to the food pyramid, but she'd prepare them in a way that made them just barely edible - anything else would have been an unnecessary effort. She served mostly bland, overcooked vegetables - and as I'm very picky with texture and I hate the slimy texture many overcooked vegetables have, I concluded I didn't like vegetables when it was mostly an issue of preparation methods. She didn't use any spices or seasonings or sauces or anything to spice up the food. She didn't experiment with food, she never tried any new recipes or new ingredients.
My father, in contrast, is the opposite of my mother, but he wasn't expected to be a homemaker. He worked longer hours than my mother, and his cooking was restricted to weekends when he had some spare time. He cooked as a leisure, not to get food on the table, whereas my mother cooked every day just for practical reasons. My father is a quality cook, my mother is a quantity cook.
So I did eat some tasty meals on weekends, however, I wasn't introduced to the variety of tasty meals until I took an interest in cooking myself, because although my father enjoys cooking, he's not interested in experimenting and learning.
In hindsight, I think that instead of resorting to junk food as a teenager just to eat something else than what my mother cooked, I should have taken an interest in cooking and learned some good recipes much earlier. I should have taken over the entire responsibility to bring food to the table in my family, and I should have bought the groceries and cooked meals for everyone myself."
"My mom was an amazing lady. She was widowed with five boys, and made the conscious decision to raise us by herself, her way, rather than remarry (until we were all grown).
The only problem was, she was a bit of a germaphobe. She generally cooked the life out of most food, because she was deathly afraid that undercooking anything would leave germs.
Consequently, growing up, I thought I wasn't very fond of beef.
The truth turned out to be that I wasn't fond of beef which had been cooked to death.
Now I cook, and order, all beef with a nice, healthy, juicy amount of red-pink."
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