Well, would you look at that? Countless kids discover their parents were actually the problem. They were bad cooks. Content has been edited for clarity.
“When I went off to university I had never lived away from home before and had grown up on my Mom’s home cooking.
I moved into a very large dormitory nicknamed ‘The Zoo.’ It had a very large cafeteria staffed by old ladies in white smocks and hair-nets.
For dinner the first night, we were served roasted chicken. I took my tray of food to the seating area and joined my fellow scholars, who had arrived from far and wide, with various upbringings and food traditions.
Everyone else at the table was saying, ‘Eew, this chicken is so gross, let’s get Swiss Chalet.’ Which was just take-out chicken.
The chicken was over-cooked, from sitting in the warming pans for maybe an hour. It was rubbery and salty, yet still somehow tasteless, with bland side dishes.
But I loved it. I even went back for seconds. My mom’s chicken was sometimes burnt, or sometimes still red-pink inside. It was never the same twice, and usually hard to eat. I had just gotten used to it.
The next night it was hamburgers. Again, it was over-cooked from sitting in the warming trays, and salty, with a side-order of bland. Everyone hated it, but I wanted more. And fries, too. I was in heaven.
At home, burgers were often cheap, nitrate-injected pucks of non-meat filler, and either too pink or too black to eat. There was lots of ketchup, mustard, and relish needed to get it down. That was just normal for me.
The next night we had lasagna. It was a similar story.
The night after that we had tacos and burritos. Everyone had the same reactions. Everyone else hated it while I loved it.
This went on at every meal, all week.
Then Tuesday night came around again, and it was roasted chicken again and cooked exactly the same way as before. Exactly the same.
The next night, burgers again. And it was cooked just the same again. And fries again.
That was when I realized it was going to be the same seven dishes, on the same nights of the week. And they were going to be cooked exactly the same way, every single time.
And it was going to be that way, for the next eight months.
Everyone else was disgusted.
But I was so happy, I nearly cried, right there at the cafeteria table, in front of my new friends. Because this was the best food I had been getting in my whole 19 years.
And that was when I realized my Mom was a terrible cook!”
In The Cooker
“I noticed my mom was a terrible cook on the first day I had a bite of real roast beef.
When I was a kid, I always hated ‘roast beef day. This was before we lived ‘on the farm’, and things went bad.
My mom would cook a roast by putting it in a pan, and then cooking it at 350 degrees. For three hours. There wasn’t a trace of pink that would be left in it anywhere. It had a thick crust on it. The inside was kind of like shoe leather. She had served that with heated-up canned peas, or maybe some canned spinach. Both was boiled for ten minutes. The worst was the canned beets. Just getting a bite near my mouth would make me nauseated.
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 stuff, I thought. Roast beef. Yuck. The only thing I could imagine that was worse was steak. It 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 in different ways. Most people ate it cooked medium or medium rare. A few liked it medium well. I learned 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. Yeah, it had pink in it. But man it was tasty. And peas? We only served fresh peas. I tried them. Wow! No wonder people ate peas. They tasted great. And fresh spinach, fried with butter. I was in heaven.
From that point on, I was a firm believer 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 six and eight-year-old (they’re much older now), and see the look on the waitresses face when she would expect them to order a hotdog or nuggets, and instead got the ‘I’ll have a ribeye cooked medium rare’ order “
Just A Little Salt
“I think I realized my parents were bad cooks before I got married. I wanted to cook and learned more than it was necessary because I was a young person on my own caring for my younger sibling. Every time I visited someone’s house for dinner, there was always some new dish that was wonderful or a familiar one that was cooked in a much better way.
Back in the 1970s, my mom was a single parent with two jobs. She was always short on time, so nearly everything was store-bought cans. From canned spinach, canned peas, canned carrots, peas, and even canned lima beans. And, oh God, as a ‘treat’ we had canned asparagus. Suffice to say, I didn’t like many veggies back then. Sandwiches were Wonder bread and slices of American processed cheese. I actually dreaded sandwiches by that point. Dinner was usually Hamburger Helper. So I thought most of it was due to the time and the era she grew up in because when she could spend some time cooking she made a great chuck steak or Swedish meatballs.
Her mother grew up in Britain so they always overcooked meat and underseasoned it as well. The leg of lamb we had every Easter was always overdone with just that sweet, bright green mint jelly stuff. I genuinely believed, as a kid, that because Jesus suffered, that was why we were eating this terrible stuff.
Her mince pie? There was not a hint of spices or dried fruit. She prided herself on making everything from scratch including the pastry. The meat filling? She literally boiled ground beef with onion and added salt and pepper. That was the filling.
So, fast forward a few years when was I cooking for my sibling and me, a French co-worker invited me to dinner and cooked rare lamb spiked with fresh garlic and fresh rosemary. Fresh asparagus cooked just enough draped in Hollandaise sauce. And it was so artful looking.
I was absolutely transformed.”
Taste Of Heaven
When I got my first taste of good, old-fashioned institutional food I was at cheerleading camp, at age of 16. I was held for a week on a college campus. The camp shared the cafeteria with the cheerleaders, and the food was run-of-the-mill institutional. I couldn’t get enough of their food. They had vegetables that were green, not grey. As a weight-conscious teen, I used to eat vegetables all the time, even though I couldn’t stand them, or so I thought. I actually didn’t even recognize zucchini as the same vegetable. It looked and tasted so different.
They had bread that didn’t have that whiff of mold. My parents didn’t make bread, but they bought it on sale and loathed throwing it away before it was consumed.
Their tabasco sauce wasn’t brown. My parents never, ever, ever, to this day, threw away condiments.
The camp had meat that actually was seasoned and salted. My mom didn’t believe in tasting the food she cooked, because of the calories. And she didn’t add salt ever because of her heart disease. And their never throw away condiments rule applied to most seasonings, too.
The cookies, cakes, and pies weren’t rock-hard. My parents had whole wheat flour and additions like brewers yeast were tricky for the amateur cook, especially one who didn’t taste anything.
Camp had milk that wasn’t slightly curdled or off-tasting.
The best part was we had unlimited portions. Food, at least the expensive or edible stuff, was always doled out in tiny portions in our house. We had six people in the family, and for some reason, a stingy food budget. My parents had an entire basement they kept locked, where they stored the freshly-purchased stuff, and in it a locked cabinet where they stored the even more desirable stuff like peanut butter and chocolate chips.
I must have gained five pounds that week. I couldn’t believe food could be so consistently good. All while my campmates were complaining about how they missed their home-cooked meals. Ha.
I was actually happy to get away from the camp kitchen. I was already worried about my weight and I realized if I was able to eat like this all the time, I would get too fat for my tastes.
Writing this now, it occured to me that it may not have been a case of my parents being bad cooks, so much as they were overly restrictive about food. They were still the same way. They still have the locked cabinet even though their youngest child is 44 years old, and they still have the same exact same condiments they had in the 1980s.
I also realize that this food restriction may have had something to do with my relationship with food. As an adult, I was also prone to buying expired products for reduced prices. I forced myself to eat not-so-palatable foods rather than throw them away. I wouldn’t eat moldy-tasting stuff. However, I sometimes drank iffy milk.
A Reason To Celebrate
“My realization came during Friendsgiving.
Thanksgiving had always been a massive affair at my house growing up. My parents would wake up at like three in the darn morning to start slow roasting the turkey and ironing a tablecloth the size of a football field.
I had always been brainwashed to assume if a dinner table has more than one fork, that was an indicator of quality. I also assumed turkey was supposed to be dry and flavorless. And the ritual bird I had been eating annually had in fact been the optimal iteration of it.
However, that wasn’t the case.
Fast forward to some November on a Tuesday in college years ago. One of my friends had made a meal for a small group of maybe six to eight people. The turkey was incredible. I mean, juicy, flavorful, perfect. I was stunned.
I asked them, ‘How did you make this turkey? What’s your secret??’
My friend replied, ‘I followed the directions on the package?’
Apparently, if you cooked a turkey for less than eight hours, it came out less dry.”
“We always knew mom was not a great cook. If we ever had any doubt, Thanksgiving and Christmas would eliminate any lingering doubts. Mom was never able to bake a turkey. She was able to burn the outside while leaving the inside under-cooked.
Growing up in Kansas City, we ate mainly beef. Kansas City was the main stockyard in the country then. My dad would call the butcher and order half a cow. A few weeks later, they would go pick up the meat and bring it home. We had a large chest freezer they would put the meat in. The problem was they would put it all in groups. All the ground beef was put in together. All the roasts were together. And so forth. My mom would reach in and grab from the same pile until it was gone and then moved on to the next pile. We would have roast night after night for weeks at a time.
My mom was capable of making roast that had no taste. It was chewy, tough, and bland.
After we all grew up and moved into our own homes, my mom would call and invite us to dinner. We would all ask what she was having. If she said roast, we all had excuses as to why we couldn’t go.
Mom figured out what we were doing and finally got to the point she would say, ‘I’m not telling you. Show up and find out.’
When I moved in with mom and dad to help out the terms were mom was not going to be allowed to cook. Either I cooked for everyone or I cooked my own meals.”
No More Trips
“It was probably at the age of ten when I got fed up of waiting for people to make me food, and started cooking myself.
It took me another few years to realize no one had gone to the hospital since I took over the kitchen. When we were little my mum, myself, and my sister were in the hospital often. We would get salmonella, gastroenteritis, anything, you name it. One of us has had it. Funnily enough, it stopped when I took charge.
My dad’s a good cook though. Thankfully.
I was not pretending I was a great cook, but at least my food wasn’t toxic. Recently, when I had the time and I was only cooking for myself. Since then I had experimented with different spices and stuff, and I rather enjoy it. I think I’m improving.”
“After I went to college for my mom, and then after my mom died for my dad.
I don’t actually think they are/were bad cooks, maybe average, but my mom was an extremely lazy cook.
I realized one day when I came home from college that the only reason my mom cooked average food was that I would complain as a child if it were bland, and repetitive, and it would be the same meal three days in a row.
Neither of my two brothers was like me. They were happy to eat the same meal for days on end and are easy to please. One of them was a very picky eater who sometimes hated new things and mostly ate junk food.
I came home for Thanksgiving break after having been gone for three months straight. To my horror, I found my mom was now cooking potstickers and top ramen for dinner every day.
After getting potstickers two days straight, I complained.
And my mom said, ‘This is crazy.’
I said, ‘Mom potstickers are a snack!’
And she exclaimed, ‘But we like potstickers!’
I made spaghetti with Ragu the next day. During Christmas break, she made top ramen with a stinky hardboiled egg thrown in two days in a row until I complained. Then she made chicken three days in a row after that. She did not believe me at first when I told her she had made the same meal three days in a row.
It was like I was in college eating fancy and then coming home to stereotypical college food.
It might have been partly due to her memory going because her Geodon was no longer working. It did seem like she wasn’t remembering things like she used to. She and my siblings were all very lazy though, even when she was normal.
She did make good Spaghetti and pasta dishes like Cream of Mushroom soup or macaroni noodles. She even made a homemade Lasagna that was awesome once. But then she stopped while I was in college and made extremely lazy bland things.
Before my mom died, my dad would cook occasionally. After she died he basically stopped cooking and we all started eating out more often. Sometimes he complained we were spending so much money eating out, but then he took us out to dinner the next day.”
“My parents were mean but kept bragging all day about how they were the best cooks in the world. I found their food quite enjoyable, the people who came to visit me all found my parent’s food better than their parent’s food. The fateful day comes when my mother sits me down and tells me I have to learn how to cook. Me being 10, scared of the flames from a gas cooker was told to all on my own make spaghetti bolognese with minced meat.
Sure it took quite a bit of effort, I made lots of mistakes, and seeing meat made me sick but i did like eating it, except into the sauce goes the accidental sugar, wanted to add a little bit turned out a tid too much, namely about three to four tablespoons. Worried but enticed by how good it was smelling i continued. My parents found out and asked me to throw it away, that i had ruined the dish and that I would be sick eating it. I was extremely sad this being my first dish, either way, I decided to put it to plate and I said I would eat it. I had added all the perfect spices to my own recipe. Well, I took a bite. I was amazed, the most delicious thing I had ever eaten on my first try. I ate at least three plates, and my parents were surprised thinking I had childish tastes. From there on I continued cooking my own meals and realized how much better they were than my parent’s meals…
I would like to say I was a good cook but the truth was, my parents are just bad and I knew how to satisfy myself.”
“My mom was a terrific cook. It was my mother-in-law who was a terrible cook. When she was hosting a brunch for all the relatives to meet me after our out-of-town wedding, one of them saw me at the stove.
She threw her arms around me and said, ‘When we saw you, we thought, oh, thank God Andrea’s not cooking!’
When I first met my husband, he insisted there were certain foods he refused to eat because of the way his mother cooked them. So I ‘renamed them. Pot roast became ‘Italian-braised beef.
When he said it was delicious, I would tell him, ‘It’s pot roast.’
He wouldn’t eat the mushroom soup I added to stew beef in the crock pot. So I ran it through the blender to chop up the mushrooms beforehand. He had never wised up. I introduced him to swordfish, salmon, flounder, and cod as well. They would only be eaten as fish sticks.
I also converted him from eating his steaks cooked medium-well to medium-rare or rare.
‘I never knew why anyone ever made such a fuss over the prime rib,’ he told me, after having it rare for the first time instead of well done.”
A Turn Of Events
“When I ate a brussel sprout prepared by my friend it was then I knew my mother couldn’t cook.
I was familiar with hating brussels sprouts, which wasn’t unusual. I remember being forced to complete a plate of this sour material once I had been about eight years of age. My moms and dad wouldn’t want to me to leave the table without completing it. Therefore, I sat indeed there for one hour, sobbing, mouth saturated in sprouts because I could not get myself to ingest it. My mother also took an image of the event. It looked rather ugly and was a well-known image in my household. After an hour, she decided I wasn’t planning to finish them, and I had been therefore pleased I possibly could eventually leave. Following this, I didn’t consume another brussels sprout until I became 22.
My roomie enjoyed cooking, and she had those sprouts most likely two times monthly. We quite often ate together, but she knew we hated all of them. I recently couldn’t realize why anybody would force those balls of bitterness upon themselves. One day, I do believe it had been within the spring, I was extremely well-humored and I made a decision to simply take a gamble. I ate the brussels sprouts, expecting the worst, and was in for a huge surprise.
I didn’t want to spit it out. They certainly were never as awful as you expected. They weren’t fantastic either, but still, it had been something I possibly could really consume. From this minute on, I made a decision to give exactly what we disliked as a kid another try because realized my mom truly didn’t know how to cook. And recently she started to like preparing much more and she definitely wanted to improve her women abilities at age 49. And it worked.”
The Both Of You
“I always knew my dad was a terrible cook. My mom used to work shifts working in a care home, so when she did nights my dad cooked, and I dreaded those days. I remember once when I was about 12 or 13, my dad tried to make a chicken curry and asked whether the curry sauce was made of ketchup or gravy. I said neither, but he was convinced it was one of them. He made it with gravy as a base and put curry powder in it. I had two mouthfuls of it and couldn’t eat it. I threw it away and bought my dinner from the Chinese takeaway in town.
I realized my mom was a bad cook when I moved out. Growing up, we didn’t often eat out. When we did, it tasted better than my mom’s cooking. But then restaurant food always did. I knew my mom always lacked imagination with cooking but thought the food she cooked, often bland and tasteless, was just how food was unless it was in a restaurant.
When I moved out and started cooking for myself I used online recipes for a lot of things. I had learned the basics of cooking from my mom but wanted to try different foods. I was a fan of curries and spicy food, so I went more in that direction. But even cooking foods I had eaten a lot as a kid, it was just much better than what my mom did.
When I met my first girlfriend after moving out, now my wife, I realized even more how bad my mom’s cooking was. My mom had never, ever used seasoning on anything. Not even putting salt on a beef joint or a chicken before roasting it. She said you could put salt on it when it was cooked and on your plate. Basically, my mom cooked food in the style that a lot of old people did. Back then, I guess everything was overcooked as they were worried about food poisoning.
For New Year’s Day that had just gone, I had my parents and my wife’s mom around our house and I made a beef stew. It was one of my specialties. The look on my dad’s face was priceless; he loved it, clearly a lot more than he liked my mom’s stew. I seasoned and browned the meat and used red spirits in cooking it. My mom just threw everything into a pot of boiling water for two hours or so.”