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Mom's Chowhound annoyances

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Pat i. Nov 9, 2001 06:29 AM

What are some of the food related things that your mom did that drove you nuts?

My mom for example would always:

store the peanut butter in the fridge.

Being an Italian immigrant, she put parsley and garlic in every amercian dish we begged her to make - hamburgers, Meatloaf (I love the american kind), fried chicken (which was never really fried but breaded and baked.

She always screwing up the turkey and mash potatoes. Since she makes these dishes are not Italian, they don't warrant the care and attention that go into everything else she makes.

Refuse to buy bottle stoppers. Instead she used to put pieces of aluminum foil over the mouth of soda bottles. The soda went flat in ten minutes.

As a kid, I would have to beg her for a swanson TV dinner (fried chicken, mixed veggies, mash potatoes and apple cobbler with the requisite three pieces of carrot in it). When I finally got one she would take it out of the aluminum dish and put it on a plate, completely ruining the TV dinner experience.

  1. l
    LynnKane Nov 9, 2001 07:11 AM

    Where do I start?!?! What did Mom do?? :-)

    ---passing by those small, deliciously flavored containers, then buying the gallon size of the most tasteless ice cream "because they had a wonderful sale on it."

    ---Ketchup on spaghetti for that "special Italian touch."

    --As Woody Allen said "deflavoring chicken" in boiling water.

    --Like you--not enough TV dinners. Rats!

    --vegetables cooked to such puplike texture, you could use them for spackle.

    --having to take lunch to school, rather than buy something deliciously gloppy from the cafeteria

    --spices used so anemically as to be barely there at all.

    --fresh squeezed orange juice with the revolting "pulp" left in it. (I don't care if it WAS the best part!)

    Alas, I could go on. However--I will say my Mom had a few good dishes, which we forced her to make over and over again.

    15 Replies
    1. re: LynnKane
      s
      Simon Majumdar Nov 9, 2001 07:53 AM

      My mother was, and indeed still is the most estimable of mothers and a fine cook to boot. She (despite being welsh and therefore having all genetic disposition to not eating lard removed ) is an expert at Bengali cooking ( having been married to one for 45 years )

      However, like all mums she has a great knack of doing things just that little bit wrong and causing many a cringe

      1) Shouting out in a restaurant that she liked it "well hung" and then, when she realised that the place had gone quiet and everybody had heard, she dug the hole just that bit deeper by addressing everyone in earshot and adding "my meat, I mean"

      2) The one ( and only ) time I was brave enough to bring a girlfriend home to meet my parents, my mother made a delicious but boney bengali mustard fish. For a poor young yorkshire lass brought up on pie and chips, the sight of the fish, eyes and all peering out of the soupy jhol was just too much and she promptly had to be excused to go and throw up.

      3) She used the same pan to make my weekend morning treat of bacon and eggs that she had used to make the turmeric rich vegetable curry. There is no explaining to an eight year old that bacon and eggs ( and indeed tomatoes ) are "meant to be yellow"

      And don't get me started on my Father and his "secret ingredients"

      S

      1. re: Simon Majumdar
        p
        Pat Hammond Nov 9, 2001 08:32 AM

        Enjoyed your post immensely. And since I relate more to being the "mum" than being the put-upon-kid, it made me cringe a bit too. I'm just grateful that my own grown children haven't gotten wind of this thread.
        Pat

        1. re: Pat Hammond
          f
          fatboy Nov 9, 2001 11:55 AM

          My mom used to pressure-cook everything. I mean everything. She had a whole set of those aluminum pressure cookers. One day, after a fishing trip, I brought home some fresh squid- just caught that day- and guess how she cooked it!

          I just saw an infomercial bringing back pressure-cookers. I hope they fail.

          1. re: fatboy
            r
            rossi Nov 9, 2001 02:22 PM

            My mother tried to poison us with a stew she called "hot dish". Elbow macaroni, boiled to the consistency of mashed potato, covered with unseasoned browned hamburger and a can of stewed tomatoes. Bland and revoltingly ugly dish.

            1. re: rossi
              l
              lucia Nov 9, 2001 03:43 PM

              Looks like the mums are getting all the bad press here. How 'bout a dad who's a charcoal miser. You could leave a shrimp on the grill for 30 minutes and it would still be transparent. The burgers were alive.

              1. re: lucia
                s
                Susan Nov 21, 2001 01:42 PM

                I had the opposite problem. As a kid I never knew that
                hamburgers could be moist and juicy. Dad always
                grilled them 'til they were black. I grew up thinking
                burned was the same as well-done. Took me years to
                learn to love medium rare and I cry to think of all
                the steaks I ruined before I saw the light :-)

              2. re: rossi
                s
                spellweaver16 Mar 17, 2008 07:52 PM

                That's called goulash in my family. *shudder* Only a whole lot of garlic could ever save it.

            2. re: Pat Hammond
              grayelf Apr 6, 2008 12:06 AM

              What Pat H said! Simon M, your post brought me to tears of mixed laughter and empathy, even though no one in my family is Bengali and I've never had mustard fish. My mum's trick was to try to substitute and pass off the "unusual" ingredient, then later revealing said ingredient to a chorus of groans and having to be excused to follow your poor girlfriend's example :-).

          2. re: LynnKane
            Azizeh Barjesteh Mar 17, 2008 07:11 PM

            I was really lucky growing up. My mom was a fantastic cook and baker. She owned her own restaurant and bakery over the years. 20 years since they've seen her, and her old friends still talk about her food when she comes up in conversation. She passed away this past November, suddenly. One of my major regrets is not getting all of her recipes. I'm 26, she was only 56, so I thought there was a lot more time. I'm not sure what good it would have done, though. She just had a talent for food and didn't need recipes. We could come up with any kind of request and she just knew how to make it, even if she never had before. Amazing.
            I do remember that she was an avid margarine user, and I ADORE real butter. I guess that's my only complaint. :)

            1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh
              hill food Mar 17, 2008 07:25 PM

              I'm sorry to hear that. your pain prob. still feels quite new.

              I've often envied people with memories like yours (not that I would exchange my own for anything).

              sometimes margarine is indeed better (well works better) than butter or shortening but only experimentation and experience will inform you.

              1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh
                vvvindaloo Mar 17, 2008 08:10 PM

                I am sorry for your loss, Azizeh.
                What wonderful, comforting memories you must have of your mother and her cooking. And such a great legacy she left to you and your family.

                1. re: vvvindaloo
                  Azizeh Barjesteh Mar 17, 2008 08:56 PM

                  Thank you, VVV and Hill. It is still quite new and pretty awful, but I think that she left me with enough memories to last a lifetime. And, of course, i will do my best to recreate the dishes I remember. :)

                2. re: Azizeh Barjesteh
                  Mawrter Apr 5, 2008 08:21 PM

                  Azizeh, I'm *very* sorry for your loss. Best wishes.

                  1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh
                    Miss Needle Apr 5, 2008 09:31 PM

                    So sorry for your loss. My mom also died suddenly around the same age so I know how difficult it can be. Like you, I thought I would have more time to learn all her recipes and cooking techniques. Luckily I got hold of her battered, stained hand-written recipe book. Even though I can't really read it (her Korean writing was absolutely illegible), I keep it because it's my connection to her.

                    My own complaint of my mom was that her cooking was way too healthy. She didn't believe in heating oil at all. (Thank goodness this happened as I got older -- I did have some years of normal eating). So everything was stir-fried in water with oil added in towards the end. Still, what I wouldn't do to have a taste of her cooking again.

                    1. re: Miss Needle
                      Azizeh Barjesteh Apr 6, 2008 01:16 AM

                      Thank you, all of you, for your kind words :)

                3. c
                  Colin Harris Nov 9, 2001 07:37 AM

                  She would never allow us to eat every last scrap of bread the minute it finished baking.

                  At birthdays, she would always relight the candles at least six times, thus holding us up from guzzling the cake.

                  She was very particular about the amount of salt in the water used to boil potatoes. When I started cooking she would surreptiously taste the water when she thought I wasn't looking.

                  1. p
                    pat hammond Nov 9, 2001 08:20 AM

                    Not allowing my dad to do more of the cooking! pat

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pat hammond
                      c
                      Celery Nov 10, 2001 09:44 PM

                      Mom was a pretty good cook - it was Dad we had to worry about. He loved making chili (well tomato sauce and kidney beans with ground beef and as much cayenne as possible) - it was a point of pride on how long it took the first person in the family to run to the kleenex box!

                      Then there was the time he decided he'd make beef tongue. He boiled and boiled it and then served it with canned peaches - it was the only thing he didn't make us sit there and finish. Even he couldn't eat it!

                    2. v
                      Vital Information Nov 9, 2001 09:02 AM

                      Great topic!

                      My mom's a very good cook too, and in a way, this thread should be reserved to those with good cooking moms. Afterall, otherwise, it's just piling on, but then again, do not let me limit anyone...

                      So, as I was saying, my mom could cook, but there were certain tics to her routine:

                      - she would never fry french fries, she'd always cook them in the oven (of course now that the kids have moved away, she makes real fries)

                      - she could never bother to make "normal" cookies, she'd just spread the dough along the pan and call them bar cookies

                      - bundt cake, bunt cake, bunt cake - for 18 years

                      And, one endearing eating memory that has nothing to do with her cooking: when her and dad were going out and we got a special burger king treat, she'd want to sample my whopper.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Vital Information
                        p
                        Pat I. Nov 9, 2001 09:17 AM

                        To add to the Italian American Hypocrisy, my parents would not even try anything remotely american. Unless it was approved by the Bensonhurst Tribunal of Annoying
                        Houswives. My dad hates chinese food but he'll eat pepper steak and pork fried rice. My mother loves Whoppers. her annoying habit would be to eat all the loose fries from the bottom of the bag.

                      2. s
                        Scagnetti Nov 9, 2001 09:33 AM

                        I am a great lover of hot dogs. Knowing this, my mother would try and make them at home. Her idea was to boil the heck out of them until the ends split, put the dog on a piece of folded over white bread (how 'bout a bun Ma!) and then put sopping wet sauerkraut and mustard over the whole thing. What a mess!

                        My mother couldn't stand refrigerated butter so she would always leave a stick out at room temperature even in the summer. Puddles would form in the dish.

                        She didn't like to throw anything away. When she would make veal cutlets or anything that required an egg dip she wouldn't throw away the used eggs. Instead, she would take the egg dip with floating bodies in it from the meat and make scrambled eggs. The cooked eggs always had a strange tint.

                        16 Replies
                        1. re: Scagnetti
                          p
                          PAt I Nov 9, 2001 09:42 AM

                          YES! The overboiled hotdog on white bread! My mom did (does) the same thing! What about refusing to take you to Mcdonald's...insisting that she could make a better burger...and she put this softball sized of ground beef (cooked in olive oil) on white bread - white would immediatly turn red from all the juices/ I used to desperately pile more slices on. I feltt like I was dealing with a cut artey rather than a burger!

                          1. re: PAt I
                            chefschickie Mar 17, 2008 08:23 PM

                            "Better than McDonalds?!?!?!" haha, sorry reminded me of the Eddie Murphy skit......

                            1. re: chefschickie
                              t
                              TomDel Mar 18, 2008 07:51 AM

                              The “Welfare Burger” with peppers and onions right? That was a funny bit.

                              1. re: TomDel
                                chefschickie Mar 18, 2008 07:19 PM

                                "There are no peppers in Mc Donalds!" haha and the Wonder Bread... Gotta love it!

                          2. re: Scagnetti
                            c
                            Carolyn Tillie Nov 9, 2001 09:48 AM

                            My mom's solution the Hot Dog problem was different than yours: thinking to make it a game for us, she would bake them in pans of cornbread. We had to try and cut them apart in a way to find a whole hot dog. Weird, huh?

                            Now on that butter thing...I have ALWAYS left my butter out of the refrigerator (it spreads easier on toast when it is not cold) but I have never seen a puddle!?!?! What kind of butter forms a puddle (other than melted butter?). I'm confused...

                            1. re: Carolyn Tillie
                              i
                              ironmom Nov 9, 2001 10:32 AM

                              Your kitchen must not get as hot as mine, especially in the summer. Some days the butter melts down into a pile of mayonnaise-like goo, like when it approaches 90 degrees outside.

                              1. re: Carolyn Tillie
                                s
                                Scagnetti Nov 9, 2001 10:43 AM

                                "What kind of butter forms a puddle (other than melted butter?). I'm confused..."

                                Try Land O'Lakes Sweet Cream Salted Butter in a small hot kitchen in a Brooklyn apartment in the middle of August.

                                1. re: Carolyn Tillie
                                  KaimukiMan Apr 6, 2008 10:59 AM

                                  I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. A hot spell there is when the temperature exceeds 75 degrees, I could never figure out why there was a butter keeper in refrigerators. Now I live in Honolulu, the butter has to be in the fridge year round. I have to say, its easy to make clarified butter. Just put it in a covered container and put it on top of the fridge for a couple of hours.

                                2. re: Scagnetti
                                  g
                                  galleygirl Nov 12, 2001 11:05 AM

                                  I'll go you one better...My mother would take the leftover egg dip(from cutlets, etc...) mix it with the leftover breadcrumbs, and fry them into "pancakes" for a "treat"...And I used to eat them...

                                  1. re: galleygirl
                                    m
                                    Maria Nov 12, 2001 02:53 PM

                                    Oh my God!

                                    I am laughing here...I do the same thing. :-)

                                    1. re: Maria
                                      g
                                      galleygirl Nov 12, 2001 03:11 PM

                                      Okay, and I admit it; I LIKED them...

                                      1. re: galleygirl
                                        t
                                        torty Mar 17, 2008 06:18 PM

                                        My stepmother does the same thing with the egg-wash from things like schnitzel. These greasy flat pancakes- just not to waste the battering stuff.....Have learned to just toss them after saying thank y ou.

                                        1. re: torty
                                          hill food Mar 17, 2008 07:00 PM

                                          (an all-purpose response borrowed from a Southern friend's Nana)

                                          "My but that was wonderful. Thank you but I just could not have another"

                                        2. re: galleygirl
                                          p
                                          paprkutr Mar 17, 2008 09:06 PM

                                          My mom did that too, and I still do when I am making veal cutlets an schnitzel. Everyone still loves them

                                      2. re: galleygirl
                                        PartyGirl43 Mar 18, 2008 06:47 PM

                                        OMG!! My Mom did this too...and I would eat them. Wow this brought back alot of memories. Did she do hers on an electric counter-top skillet?

                                        1. re: PartyGirl43
                                          hill food Mar 19, 2008 12:14 AM

                                          electric skillets are one item that are sorely missed in this age.

                                    2. l
                                      Liana Nov 9, 2001 10:27 AM

                                      My mom was a pretty good cook, and I loved most of her food. Where she would get into trouble, was when she tried to "experiment".

                                      My brownie troop in first grade was a victim of one such experiment. At every meeting someone's parent had to make a snack, and every single week it was either chocolate chip cookies or brownies. When it was my turn, my mom (being a big hippie at the time) decided to make this hideous organic cobbler-like thing, that had nuts and berries and who knows what else. No one even took one bite, and I found the entire troop having a food fight with it after the meeting in the school yard outside (it was very dense and made for a great projectile).

                                      We had a bunch left over, and decided to take it to the lake to try to feed the ducks. Even the ducks wouldn't eat it. It was really sad.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Liana
                                        b
                                        Brandon Nelson Nov 13, 2001 11:11 PM

                                        Yes!

                                        When I was a kid we had this little beagle/mutt named Nelly. This dog was a walking garbage disposal, she would eat anything. EXCEPT this grisly pilaf my mother made one evening. We laugh about it to this day.

                                        Chow!!!

                                        1. re: Liana
                                          starlady Mar 18, 2008 08:22 PM

                                          My mother used to make Rice Krispie treats with not enought marshmallows so when they set my father had to practically Chisel them out of the pan!!!!!
                                          I couldn't eat them after I lost my front teeth! Until they grew back in LOL. I was reduced to gnawing on them, it was very sad to watch.

                                          1. re: starlady
                                            hill food Mar 19, 2008 12:16 AM

                                            Dickensian in a Scooby-Doo/Garanimal sort of way.

                                          2. re: Liana
                                            m
                                            mordacity Apr 5, 2008 08:32 PM

                                            My preschool did the rotating snack thing, and one time my mother decided to prove her superior taste and parenting skills by bringing cherry-filled crepes with whipped cream. (Can you tell I was her first child?) There were no problems in getting them eaten, but we got horrible staining cherry juice all over everything. I think she stuck to brownies after that.

                                          3. s
                                            Smokey Nov 9, 2001 11:42 AM

                                            My mother, being a child of the Depression, alwys tried to get maximum value for her food dollar. To this end, she would keep two loaves of bread in a rotation so one could be used for sandwiches - fresher - and the other for toast - less fresh. It took me years to figure out why I liked restaurant toast better that what I got at home.

                                            1. g
                                              Gastronomos Nov 9, 2001 12:08 PM

                                              My mom is a wonderful cook. She does very well with many good dishes, both Greek and "American".
                                              There are some things she made that did not, and still don't, sit well with me.

                                              Scrambled eggs with too much parmesan cheese then cooked very well and brown to the hardness of concrete. Scrambled eggs and parmesan cheese, well, not for me.

                                              Scrambled eggs with coctail franks. I never liked hot dogs, never will.(Although the occassional charcoal grilled with a case of buds...)

                                              My dad was the "gourmet" of the house. He often made some awesome dishes that turn up on a menu here and there where I go. He was a chef in one of his careers and loved to make a snack for an evening of TV or something. The problem is in what he calls "grilled cheese". It is a VERY CRUSTY loaf of Italian bread cut in half and sliced in half topped with american cheese, brands don't exist in his world, and BROILED in the oven. To a child, a LARGE hunk of HOT bread with MOLTEN cheese is almost impossible to handle let alone eat. (Molten cheese with a skin on top to fool you. The inside is molten and HOT! And will slide out at the moment you try to take a bite!)

                                              ALL his sandwiches consist of the same VERY CRUSTY loaf of Italian bread cut in half and sliced in half and topped with the spiciest, smelliest, sharpest anything he chooses to like. Never cut off the rock hard ends. Never use deli turkey(too bland). Never compromise on the extreme thickness of sliced meats and veggies in the sandwich. Tomatoes are at least 2" thick. And a sandwich ALWAYS has tomatoes. No mustard, mayo, or anything of the like, ever.

                                              I like my grilled cheese pan fried in a pound of butter on white bread with only one or two slices of cheese, depending on if it's a snack or a meal,lol.

                                              12 Replies
                                              1. re: Gastronomos
                                                v
                                                Vital Information Nov 9, 2001 12:38 PM

                                                Your remarks about scrambled eggs reminded me of my mom's egg attempts too.

                                                She always started out making an "omelette", but it always ended up as scrambled eggs with cheese.

                                                On the other hand, she would make jelly omelette's, anyone else ever have those?

                                                VI

                                                1. re: Vital Information
                                                  i
                                                  ironmom Nov 9, 2001 01:22 PM

                                                  My mom used to make scrambled eggs with grated Cheddar, rosemary and bacon bits in it, and we loved it. I don't think it would sit well in my stomach now, I need my cheese barely heated. (A boyfriend was really insulted when I asked him to stop frying large quantities of cheese in my eggs, as it was upsetting my stomach.)

                                                  It was my dad who made the jelly omelets. They were the only thing he ever cooked.

                                                  1. re: ironmom
                                                    c
                                                    ChrisKC Nov 9, 2001 02:19 PM

                                                    OK so what is a jelly omelet. Doesn't sound appealing. My mom was a great cook. Boiled beef though was one thing I couldn't stand. She also doesn't like garlic, so never cooked with it. I didn't know what I was missing then!

                                                    1. re: ChrisKC
                                                      i
                                                      ironmom Nov 9, 2001 03:00 PM

                                                      My father would heat up the griddle, butter it, and pour the beaten egg on it in a giant rectangle. Since it was thin, you didn't need to turn it over to cook both sides. Then he would spread jelly in the middle, and fold over both sides.

                                                      I haven't had it since I was a kid, but I think it would be better with a bit of sour cream, too, and powdered sugar on it.

                                                      1. re: ironmom
                                                        c
                                                        Caitlin McGrath Nov 10, 2001 01:26 PM

                                                        My mom cooked us jelly omelets (well, she called them jam omelets, which is what they were) for breakfast on weekdays when I was young. Hers were thin and round, rolled up in a cylinder, usually with strawberry or plum jam. Only way I've ever been able to eat eggs with somethibg sweet, save for matzoh brei.

                                                        I can't think of any annoyances in my mom's cooking, something she is very good at. My dad went through a regrettable phase in the late 70s of "roasting" chickens in the microwave.

                                                        1. re: ironmom
                                                          o
                                                          Olympia Jane Nov 12, 2001 01:43 AM

                                                          A blintz by any other name, hold the milk and flour?

                                                          1. re: Olympia Jane
                                                            i
                                                            ironmom Nov 12, 2001 06:56 AM

                                                            Are blintzes made with jelly only? I'm just curious here, as blintzes are not part of my experience.

                                                            1. re: ironmom
                                                              o
                                                              Olympia Jane Nov 12, 2001 02:16 PM

                                                              Blintzes are typically either filled with strawberry jam or jelly,or sugared blueberries, and/or a sweet cheese filling, made by blending farmer's cheese, a bit of cream cheese, a tablespoon of sugar, dash of vanilla and orange zest. Sour cream topping is pretty common with blintz...

                                                              1. re: Olympia Jane
                                                                s
                                                                Suzanne Fass Nov 14, 2001 02:19 PM

                                                                I grew up on my mother's little square cheese blintzes, lightly browned in butter -- heaven, especially with a little jelly on top -- and to me the epitome of blintzhood. But the first time I have the spinach blintzes at Teresa's, I thought they were pretty damn good, too.

                                                          2. re: ironmom
                                                            p
                                                            pat i Nov 12, 2001 03:08 PM

                                                            I got one for ya - when I was really young - like 4 or 5, my grandmother used to feed me a raw egg mixed with
                                                            Nestle's chocolate mix...the powdered stuff.

                                                        2. re: ironmom
                                                          s
                                                          Scagnetti Nov 9, 2001 02:43 PM

                                                          Ever try jelly on top of a grilled cheese sandwich? Mmmmmmmm

                                                        3. re: Vital Information
                                                          s
                                                          susan blair Nov 9, 2001 06:35 PM

                                                          One time and one time only. Combining two threads here, I had my first and last jelly omelet at Grisons Steak House on Van Ness (now Harris' I think) as a child. We had spent all day in the car and I was crabby and didn't want anything on the menu. Thinking to please a child, they suggested they could whip me up a jelly omelet. Horrible thing. As you can see, I have never forgotten it.

                                                      2. a
                                                        AliceJ Nov 9, 2001 01:41 PM

                                                        My mother NEVER frosted her sponge cakes! We begged, but she ignored our pleas. We had to eat them naked. I suppose sponge cakes are supposed to be unfrosted -- but that brings me to the core of the problem. They were the ONLY cakes she baked! Thank goodness, our annual store-bought birthday cakes had frosting. The other frustration of childhood was not being allowed to get ice-pops when the Good Humor Man came around. Only regular ice-cream or the occasional creamsicle. She explained that there was more nutrition in these than in ice-pops. All over the neighborhood, other mom's were letting their kids' health go to hell in a handbasket - but, not ours, nope! Lol!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: AliceJ
                                                          v
                                                          Vital Information Nov 9, 2001 02:13 PM

                                                          This threads bring back so many memories!

                                                          My mom too, had a thing against frosting!!

                                                          That is why we always had the bundt cake with the packaged "glaze"

                                                          1. re: AliceJ
                                                            chef chicklet Mar 18, 2008 09:16 AM

                                                            AliceJ, my mom had a few things that she could bake well. The time she made a cake and "experimented" with the food colorings is especially funny to me.
                                                            We got a cake once that was battleship gray. The awful color on cake was more than we could take. Trying to sell us on eating it, she likened it to the fact that my Dad was an ex-Navy man. eeek!

                                                          2. e
                                                            Elaine(Snutteplutten) Nov 9, 2001 04:21 PM

                                                            Poor Mom. She's getting a bad rap here today. I have to say that the "annoyances" of my youth probably made me the Chowhound I am today and I bet a lot of us on this site could tell similar stories.... i.e.,

                                                            It was really annoying that Mom only let us eat things like Kraft mac-n-cheese, TV dinners, or processed snacks on incredibly rare special occasions. It was also annoying that, unlike other kids, we couldn't watch TV or bring reading material to the table. Instead, the entire family sat down every night to home cooked meals that broke free from the hideous (over)cooking Mom had learned from her Mom, and instead enthusiastically incorporated new trends in cooking from Julia Child through woks and Moosewood to Tuscan, and increasingly, as Mom got older and more experienced, had an incredible delicious rarely-missing style all her own.

                                                            It was incredibly annoying that we weren't allowed to have soda in the house (except with pizza). Instead, we had to share my parents' wine with dinner. Horrors.

                                                            It was unbelievably annoying that unlike all my friends, we were NEVER once taken to a McDonalds, a Pizza Hut or (my personal fantasy as a kid) Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips. Instead, my parents would take us to strange ethnic holes in the wall and I would feel "weird" b/c we didn't look like everyone else there...

                                                            It was beyond annoying, and downright oppressive, when Mom went back to work full time, and each of us kids got a "night" when we were responsible for preparing a, needless to say, real dinner for the family. Of course, those quickly became my favorite nights of the week...

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: Elaine(Snutteplutten)
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                                                              zora Nov 9, 2001 09:10 PM

                                                              Mom's only food-faults were a fondness for canned vegetables, and broiled chicken with garlic salt on it every Friday evening for years. Otherwise, she was a great cook.

                                                              We usually had three-course family meals, with a starter of salad, homemade soup or chopped chicken liver, or tomato juice, a main dish with sides (pot roast, brisket, meat loaf, koteleten, lamb chops, broiled salmon or chicken) or a stew or chili or spaghetti or lasagna. Then dessert and tea. We were allowed to drink soda (after finishing our milk), occasional tv dinners in the foil tray, in front of the tv. We went out to asian, Mexican and other ethnic holes in the wall and also occasional fast food or coffee shop meals. The refrigerator and pantry were always well stocked with cheeses, deli sandwich meats, seeded rye, egg bread and bagel, crackers, cocktail snacks, smoked fish, sour cream and cottage cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh fruit, coffee cake, cookies and ice cream.

                                                              Nothing was required or forbidden. Deliciousness was sought out in traditional and well as novel sources. In short, if you want to know how to raise a chowhound, talk to my mother.

                                                              1. re: zora
                                                                s
                                                                Sues Nov 21, 2001 09:24 AM

                                                                zora, I think our mothers must be twins! Mom is a great cook, food was fun. We were encouraged to try all kinds of different foods (TV dinners included! LOL), not just the Scandivian foods the folks grew up with. All of us kids drew the line at lutefisk tho! The fridge was always full of interesting mustards, cheeses and meats. Bakery breads and crispbreads were always available, white, wheat and rye. I didn't know Dads were allowed to cook in a kitchen, only BBQing and camping in the great outdoors were the natural habitat for cooking men. When I was about 16 I think I broke my Mother's heart by telling her I would rather make my own breakfast. Ah, life was good.

                                                              2. re: Elaine(Snutteplutten)
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                                                                Pat i. Nov 12, 2001 05:56 AM

                                                                C'mon, lighten up. Geez.

                                                                1. re: Pat i.
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                                                                  Elaine(Snutteplutten) Nov 12, 2001 10:51 AM

                                                                  Sorry Pat, I was smiling to myself the whole time I was writing this - thinking about how my Mom annoyed the f*ck out of me during most of adolescence and how I'd do the same things to my kids now...Guess it wasn't "light" enough for you, but I'll work harder to fit in with your sensibility next time, if you'll clue me in on what it is. Why not just keep eating and take a break from criticizing others?

                                                                  1. re: Elaine(Snutteplutten)
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                                                                    Pat I. Nov 12, 2001 03:06 PM

                                                                    Hey I'm sorry too. I didn't me to start ranking on Mothers. I apologize for the misinterpretation. Both of my parents are Italian immigrants and fit your description exactly - except we were allowed a bit of 7-up with our wine. But Mcdonalds? Puleeze - never in a million years.

                                                                    I just thought you were going on a berkeley Alice waters type rant. Sorry

                                                              3. s
                                                                Suzanne Fass Nov 10, 2001 11:40 AM

                                                                This thread is fabulous!

                                                                My mother was at least interested in incorporating new stuff into the standard brisket, roast chicken, broiled fillet of sole litany. Only problem: once she learned about a new seasoning, she would try it in EVERYTHING. Once, eating a portion of ratatouille, I bit into a chunk of fresh ginger the size of a malted milk ball. Surprise!

                                                                But please, don't ask about the family disaster of stuffed cabbage with a sauce of grape jelly and Heinz chili sauce...

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Suzanne Fass
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                                                                  Dena Nov 10, 2001 04:39 PM

                                                                  "But please, don't ask about the family disaster of stuffed cabbage with a sauce of grape jelly and Heinz chili sauce..."

                                                                  But one of my mom's most popular party dishes (and now mine, requested by friends all the time) was meatballs cooked in that very combination! The recipe must have been in a magazine ad for Welch's or Heinz. Not sure I'd go for the stuffed cabbage, either, but honestly, it's great on cocktail-size meatballs. Really!

                                                                  1. re: Dena
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                                                                    LBQT Nov 10, 2001 05:25 PM

                                                                    And this goes along with the yellow mustard and apricot preserves sauce in which to simmer cocktail wienies or sliced hot dogs, to be speared by toothpick wielding party guests. I remember my mother having both the meatballs and the hot dogs at my 21st birthday party (and I don't care to share how many years ago that was!!) ;)

                                                                2. j
                                                                  Jennifer J Nov 10, 2001 05:38 PM

                                                                  My mom would put hot dogs in sushi rolls, no matter how hard I begged her not to. She refused to use olive oil because of the "horrible smell". She would boil squid for 30 minutes and serve it with ketchup. And after the health kick, we would not be able to eat pork, butter, cheese, cakes, cookies, pies, squid, shrimp and anything else that had flavor.

                                                                  1. b
                                                                    bryan Nov 11, 2001 08:33 PM

                                                                    Loved her dearly but she was NOT the cook in the family. Dad was far better yet they both had an afinity for well-done meat. And the weller the better. On a date, when I was around 18 or so, the gentleman ordered me a rare filet mignon. I was horrified. He said we can always get it cooked more if you don't like it. Once it was served I took a bite and gratefully said to him, "This is meat?"

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: bryan
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                                                                      galleygirl Nov 12, 2001 10:17 AM

                                                                      I LOVE that story!! Kinda reminds me of my first party at art school..The only wine we ever had at my parents house was Manischevitz, on Passover....Standing in line for wine at the party, they asked, "Red or white?" I couldn't believe it, "Wine comes in WHITE???" If I learned nothing else in art school.....

                                                                    2. b
                                                                      Brandon Nelson Nov 13, 2001 11:39 PM

                                                                      Ahhhh Mom...

                                                                      My mother's evolution as a cook has been nothing short of miraculous. There are afew quirks that I must share though.

                                                                      The infamous "clutch plate pie". My mother's first attempt at pecan pie. She took the instructions WAY to seriously. You know the line "bake until a knife comes out clean". My young mother assumed this meant dry to. She baked the hell out of that thing. Until, finally, she could not get the knife into the pie. Hard as a "clutch plate".

                                                                      My mother never allowed us white bread at home. Always whole wheat. I thank her now, but back then a PB&J on Wonder was my white whale. She also forbade child friendly (okay, sugar laden) cold cereal. Kix? Sure. Wheaties? O.K. Capn Crunch? PUT THAT BACK! Of course it would come as no surprise we weren't allowed gum that wasn't sugarless.

                                                                      I thank her today, but back then I was not pleased.

                                                                      Chow!!!

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Brandon Nelson
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                                                                        Pat W Nov 21, 2001 09:20 AM

                                                                        Both my parents had touchy stomachs when I was young (no doubt my behavior either caused or added to the problem, so I'm partly to blame) and my father was Irish, so the thinking was that food was safe and healthy as long as it was boiled. Boiled potatoes, boiled vegetables, boiled beef, boiled smoke-butt, boiled everything. And lots of boiled cabbage. I still remember the watery, semi-green liquid seeping into the mashed potatoes and everything else on my plate.

                                                                        The first thing I did when I left home was to pan-fry a steak and cook some home-made french fries, dripping with delicious grease. I still love french fries. I'll never forget the first time I tried a tangy pepper- I was 19! I was shocked, but I loved it.

                                                                        1. re: Brandon Nelson
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                                                                          Mary Nov 21, 2001 04:23 PM

                                                                          oh you poor things...at least you weren't (but maybe you were?) subjected to strange concoctions such as Okra Dobe, which is okra cooked in bread and tomatoes...

                                                                          or Chicken Mole...with a sauce that looks like chocolate but tastes like...well...you get the idea...

                                                                        2. hill food Mar 17, 2008 09:57 AM

                                                                          I was anemic as a very young child (as a 3 year-old I placed myself on the banana-only diet) so as a result she got into the habit of serving liver as often as possible. I developed a taste for it, my sisters never did and in some way never forgave me.

                                                                          Mom makes a really darn good pizza crust and sauce, but gets careless when it came to the cheese. at the time mozzarella wasn't very common in reg. grocery stores then and there, but Swiss came pre-sliced in just the right size to cover a rectangular cookie sheet with ease.

                                                                          yes, liver and swiss cheese pizza. She denies it to this day, but one sister will corroborate.

                                                                          Her meatloaf was interesting, good flavor, but others find the method odd (I love it) mix the ingredients in a large oven safe mixing bowl and pop it as is into the oven. it comes out crispy around the rim and almost raw in the middle - the texture of a regular loaf is too homogenous and consistent for me now.

                                                                          1. soypower Mar 17, 2008 03:45 PM

                                                                            my mom was a great cook, but sometimes...i had heart surgery when i was 16 and she and my dad were staying at the ronald macdonald house which has a communal kitchen for families of sick children...anyway, i had to be in the hospital for about a month after the surgery and would get these weird cravings. one day, i really wanted spaghetti and begged my mom to make or find me some. so she went to the kitchen and found some spaghetti o's and green peppers and made it into a sauce of sorts to put over spaghetti noodles...wow. i had to eat all of it and smile knowing that it wasn't easy for my mom to go out on her own and cook amongst a bunch of strangers...i couldn't eat spaghetti for almost a year after that and still can barely stomach peppers in my marinara...but gotta love mom for trying...

                                                                            also, when we were growing up we'd go to costco and get huge packs of polish sausages for costco hot dogs and if we didn't eat them fast enough, we'd start finding them in spaghetti, kimchee jigae, and sometimes sauteed w/ soy sauce, garlic and hot red bean paste...seems like it would taste good, but no, it didn't...

                                                                            1. im_nomad Mar 17, 2008 04:31 PM

                                                                              MY Mom's a great cook, so is my Dad. And even though we didn't have a whole lot of variety in our supermarkets (we never had fresh corn until later, and usually got a five point apple only at x-mas in my stocking....don't much remember eating salad greens either, well not anything green green anyway), we had a few unusual things on our menus that alot of kids in my town hadn't tried, like tacos, chili etc. We had a Navy base nearby and relatives who lived "away" who would share recipes i guess. I remember eating oil softened taco shells with fillings and undrained hamburger meat when the orange oil would run up your arm, but ohhhh those were good.

                                                                              One of my peeves was being made to eat fish, which i LOATHED as a child (oddly it's the only animal product i eat now...and really like it). It was probably stewed fish and potatoes sort of thing that i really didn't like, but i don't recall. I hated sitting in front of a plate of untouched fish when others had left the table. However, being the baby of the family, i wasn't forced to stay there very long ;).

                                                                              no sugary cereals.....rice crispies yes, corn flakes yes....very very occasionally a box of something like maybe honeycombs....but an awful lot of times it was those massive bags of puffed wheat packing material crap that would sit under the cupboards for years.

                                                                              When microwaves became popular and easily accessible, suddenly everything was being cooked or baked in the micro. However, this was also how my mother's microwave bread pudding recipe was born. I got this every time I was sick.

                                                                              I don't remember ever seeing a tv dinner when i was a kid, but didn't notice. I do remember eating those little frozen pot pies. Canned goods yes. Things made from canned goods, yes, like corned beef hash (aka bully beef hash), or some version of sloppy joes that was made with corned beef and ketchup and other stuff.

                                                                              1. r
                                                                                Rick Mar 17, 2008 06:12 PM

                                                                                My mom is actually an excellent cook but she cannot cook pork for the life of her! Every single time she over cooks it. She'll bake pork chops for an hour and a half. A few weeks ago she invited us all over for a surprise dinner. She's a really good cook so we were all excited for the meal. She made pork with some sort of sauce that she replicated from a restaurant. The sauce was excellent, the pork was dried out and tough!

                                                                                Im nomad's post reminded me of her tacos too. She would never put the hard shell tacos in the oven to crisp them up. I always told her they were stale not realizing they needed to be bakes. Years later turns out she knew but she didn't care for tacos so she didn't bake them!

                                                                                1. m
                                                                                  Meann Mar 17, 2008 07:09 PM

                                                                                  My mom's a good cook ... simple, straightforward, not very adventurous, but well done. But great googly moogly the things she does to knives! She was always convinced that sharp knives are dangerous, so all of hers (and she had some excellent old carbon steel ones [all of which I stole out of her kitchen years ago]) were dull as letter openers. That's how I once nearly cut my thumb off trying to make a sandwich. She has been known to strop a knife on the cement step outside the backdoor.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Meann
                                                                                    hill food Mar 17, 2008 07:32 PM

                                                                                    OMG that's sooo wrong, a dull knife is a dangerous one! what always freaked me knife-wise was the method of pulling the paring knife along a vegetable towards the palm rather than drawing away. I know, if you know what your doing...

                                                                                    couldn't watch.

                                                                                  2. j
                                                                                    joan828 Mar 17, 2008 08:04 PM

                                                                                    My mom was a great cook. My dad wasn't so bad either, except he loved Worcestershire sauce, in everything. Before Mom died she taught me many of her recipes, one of them being roast turkey and gravy. Well I made it and it didn't taste right, so I called her. She was taking a nap so I told Dad my problem. He said "Oh you forgot the Worcestershire sauce." It still didn't taste right so I called again the next day and got Mom. It turned out I was supposed to not simmer the turkey liver with the giblet gravy and use it for something else. Before I hung up I heard her yelling at Dad "You put Worcestshire sauce in MY turkey gravey????" and him saying "but honey it adds flavor" !

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: joan828
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                                                                                      chrissytine Mar 17, 2008 09:14 PM

                                                                                      My mother asked me to prepare a 4th of July party menu one summer when I was visiting home. It was to be a Southwestern theme with grilled flank steak. Mom was convinced the flank steak would be tough if it wasn't marinated, but I told her no, we'll cook it just right and slice it thin. The day before the party I made a lot of the food, then went out with friends. In the morning I found out she had marinated the steak in some kind of bottled teriyaki junk. It totally clashed with all the other flavors, I was furious and embarassed.
                                                                                      She STILL says "croysant."
                                                                                      She won't buy Kosher salt because it's twice as expensive as iodized. Yes, It's $1.25 more a pound Mom, bust out already!!

                                                                                    2. j
                                                                                      Janet from Richmond Mar 18, 2008 05:20 AM

                                                                                      This is a great thread. My Mom was not a good cook in general....the particular scary things were her salmon cakes (I have no idea what were in them aside from cheap canned salmon) and her meat loaf (put 2 pounds of ground beef in a loaf pan and bake...no seasonings or additions at all), and the peanut butter fudge she made every Christmas that was so hard that one time she dropped the pan and the fudge itself shattered. She also was among the Mom's who refused fast food, Kraft Mac and Cheese and the like as well as sugary cereals....only Cherrios, Shredded Wheat or Grape Nuts. However, she made PHENOMINAL fried chicken and homemade creamed corn.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond
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                                                                                        dolores Mar 18, 2008 05:59 AM

                                                                                        What a cool thread! My mother never put the PB in the fridge, I do that in an effort to eat less of it. It doesn't work.

                                                                                        Parsley and garlic -- ah yes, and I don't use parsley in my cooking. Nevertheless, her food was always outstanding. Had to be, my father didn't believe in eating out, except perhaps once a year. She had to cook 364 days a year!

                                                                                        But the TV dinners! They didn't make an appearance until my brother, who ate anything, came on the scene. My mother, who would buy me cake instead of forcing me to eat food (a pattern I continue to this day), bought him the TV dinners and I would watch him mix all three compartments into one big smooshy mess.

                                                                                        What good memories! Thanks, Pat.

                                                                                      2. Sam Fujisaka Mar 18, 2008 09:29 AM

                                                                                        My mom was a great cook and baker in all sorts of cuisines. Should've been a chef. We never had fast or pre-prepared or junk foods. The only weirdness was in reaction to having suffered through times of scarcity. After sugar prices zoomed up in the 70s she always had a big stash of sugar in one of the bedroom closets.

                                                                                        1. FoodieKat Mar 18, 2008 11:26 AM

                                                                                          My mom is quite a good cook, but she used to make spaghetti with sauce from a jar. Usually Ragu or Prego. Nothing wrong with that I guess, but to this day I still have a hard time eating spaghetti with store bought sauce. Luckily she uses Trader Joe's sauces now, which are much better-tasting IMO. My grandma was a great cook in her day too, but one thing she insisted on doing was virtually always using either canned or frozen vegetables in her cooking. She hardly ever used fresh vegetables. I never knew the gloriousness of fresh green beans or asparagus until I was an adult.

                                                                                          1. MsMaryMc Mar 18, 2008 01:02 PM

                                                                                            >What are some of the food related things that your mom did that drove you nuts?
                                                                                            >
                                                                                            >My mom for example would always:
                                                                                            >
                                                                                            >store the peanut butter in the fridge.

                                                                                            Could be worse...mine stored mayonnaise on the kitchen counter! I still don't know how I lived long enough to reach the age where I learned better and started putting it in the fridge myself.

                                                                                            The other thing was that she was a true old-school southern cook--which meant she cooked most things half to death. I never knew that roast beef came in a color besides gray until I left home. Green beans were boiled with a ham hock for at least 45 minutes or an hour. Once, when I went to visit her after I was grown, she was picking green beans out of her garden. I couldn't stand to see those exquisitely fresh beans cooked to mush, so I talked her into letting me cook them. I steamed them just al dente and served them with a little lemon juice. She thought they were raw and wouldn't let me cook them again in her kitchen.

                                                                                            On the other hand...Mom was a fabulous baker. There was always a tin of homemade cookies in the kitchen, and we never had store-bought cupcakes at my class parties! And my highest aspiration is to make pie crust as light and flaky and pretty as hers.

                                                                                            1. h
                                                                                              HillJ Mar 18, 2008 02:34 PM

                                                                                              Mom wasn't a big meal planner but even now, with all of us grown and out of her hair, she shops for 8 people instead of two; cooks everything she has in the freezer in one day and draws against those prepared meals until she needs to restock at the butcher...again she's cooking for two... and I can't say I have ever opened her refrig and not found miniscule amounts of leftover food "still good" in containers. The woman can't throw anything away...and I wouldn't change one think about her !

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: HillJ
                                                                                                hill food Mar 18, 2008 03:59 PM

                                                                                                HJ: On visits, I stay up late and start with the back of the fridge and leave the front "fresher" things so it's not too apparent. I'm frugal and think nothing of morphing leftovers into something new, but...

                                                                                                as an experiment I waited to see how long an already opened jar of pickled herring (discreetly marked so I knew it was the same) would stay - 3 years.

                                                                                                MsMMc: despite my Mom's (foibles?) she was also a great baker. her mayo thing went the other way though and we weren't allowed to use the mayo knife on anything else or vice versa. oh and gray roast beef - get this: roast it until it has a perfect crusty exterior with a beautiful dark pink interior with an amount of juice that is not too much or little. English pubs strive for such a Sunday roast.

                                                                                                Now, slice it up and throw it in a crock pot with either broth or BBQ sauce and cook it another 6 hours...

                                                                                                "oooh it's, it's great! I should have some more of that layered salad thanks, uncooked broccoli is so good for the digestion."

                                                                                                1. re: hill food
                                                                                                  m
                                                                                                  miss_bennet Mar 18, 2008 09:09 PM

                                                                                                  Two years ago we pulled rhubarb labelled "August 1967" out of my grandma's freezer. Seriously. We kept the lid as evidence. Even scarier: it didn't look entirely awful.

                                                                                                  1. re: miss_bennet
                                                                                                    hill food Mar 19, 2008 12:21 AM

                                                                                                    freezer burn is one thing, fuzz on mashed potatoes in the fridge is another.

                                                                                                    Rhubarb? prob. coulda made...

                                                                                                    ok I'm turning into her, I'll start hoarding cats or something next.

                                                                                              2. m
                                                                                                miss_bennet Mar 18, 2008 03:08 PM

                                                                                                My mom is an excellent cook. She grew up eating lots of vegetables (though apparently my grandma cooked them all to death), fish and game meat (because it was affordable). I have no idea how I go to eat pesto and enchiladas as a child when my friends were stuck with meat and potatoes. I guess my mom was open. We also ate a McDonald's every Staurday morning but never for lunch or dinner) and we ate pizza, chinese and fish and chips often. (We had Friday's out, usually.) I remember going to a fine dining restaurant when I was eleven. I think a lot of my Chowhound upbringing had to do with my father's influence.

                                                                                                That said, my mother had a habit of overcooking things:
                                                                                                Pasta (I taught her what 'al dente' meant when I started cooking spaghetti)
                                                                                                red meat (nothing but well done)
                                                                                                broccoli
                                                                                                boneless skinless chicken breasts (which I dislike to this day)

                                                                                                She also refused to buy sweetened cereal (we got to put sugar in our porridge, though) and mayonnaise (she loves Miracle Whip). She also refused to buy processed cheese, but neither my sisters nor I like it.

                                                                                                When I was eight, my sisters (then 11 and 12) and I were given the option of cooking twice a week, or doing the dishes twice a week. We all chose to cook. If we saw a recipe we wanted to make, my mom would buy the ingredients necessary (she went on a massive hunt for mirin when I was 12; it was unsuccessful). I remember making roast beef dinner when I was 8, and I "undercooked" the beef to medium rare. We never went back to well-done. Now that we're grown up, she gets university-aged exchange students, and she teaches them how to cook, as she taught us. I think she likes teaches people to cook as much as she loves to teach first grade.

                                                                                                My main regret is that she didn't teach me how to budget my food spending; she just taught me to love food, and love cooking it.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: miss_bennet
                                                                                                  c
                                                                                                  Canthespam Mar 18, 2008 05:49 PM

                                                                                                  My working single parent mother rarely had time to cook meals during the week. She was a good cook, but most of the week nights we had meat, chops, steak, and occasionally fish as that is what she had to eat when she went to restaurants. About once a month she would BROIL really thick pieces of liver until they were dry and charred. I had to dump catsup on it to make it even barely edible, and of course by then it was ice cold.

                                                                                                  She never trusted me to cook, even as a teenager, possibly because she thought I would mess up her kitchen or put something in that would kill us both. Or, maybe it was because I would often forget to turn the oven on after school (while she was still at work) to cook our Friday night roast. She would come home on her lunch hour and put in the cold oven, all set for me to just turn it on. OK so I wasn't the most reliable little kid, or teenager. I would have given anything to have a Swanson TV dinner or a chicken pot pie, but she was Kosher and so of course they weren't allowed in our house. Dessert unless there was company, was usually canned fruit or jello.

                                                                                                  She knew about fat and preservatives even before they had a name. We could never have squishy white bread or anything fried. Imagine being a grammar school kid back in the 50's with all of your sandwiches made on rye bread. (oh for those good old days). Being kosher, instead of milk, I had a thermos of hot tea with my meat lunches. I had many uncomfortable lunch hours on the schoolyard benches. A teacher even sent home a note telling her that tea was bad for a child and that I should have milk with my lunches. Oh boy was Mom pissed when she went to school to speak to that teacher.

                                                                                                  After school if I went to play with friends, their mothers would give us baloney on white bread, with gobs of mayo.... yum, yum, yum. I had to keep that a secret from my mother.

                                                                                                  Also, I had to eat for all of the starving war orphans. She would stand over the garbage can with leftovers and give me this spiel about how it was a sin to waste food and those poor little children were starving. WWII was over by then, but what did I know! I finally told her to send them the food, but that didn't stop her.

                                                                                                  Meat, including good steaks, and veggies could never been too well done. I think that she put veggies on the stove and the meat in the broiler and left to do errands, figuring that the longer they cooked the better they were. (OK, I'm exaggerating a little bit).

                                                                                                  Her saving grace was her weekend cooking, pasta sauces, stews, soups, comfort foods that took all day to cook. All we had was the small refrigerator freezer, so we could only save the wonderful leftovers for a few days. She was a fantastic baker - something she never taught me. Her holiday Honey Cake, mondel broit (sp) and lemon merringue pies were heaven and a legend in our family. Her blintzes, gefilte fish, and chopped liver were the things that dreams are made of.

                                                                                                2. s
                                                                                                  sueatmo Mar 18, 2008 05:38 PM

                                                                                                  What a fun thread! My mother was the first of our acquaintances to make pizza, using plain yellow cheese and hot roll mix. We ate a lot of jello. Salad might be a wedge of iceberg with a little Miracle Whip on top, or a half of a canned peach with a little grated cheese. We ate those pot pies in foil pie pans, which we loved. When we asked for any advertised food or treats, we were invariably told "we can't afford it." We did not eat out much.

                                                                                                  I guess the thing that I felt was wrong, wrong, wrong was her jar or can of bacon drippings sitting on the stove. It looked awful, and I don't think she ever used the stuff for seasoning. I don't know why she kept it. And she couldn't get the hang of a 2 layer cake. Never did. And I never did either!

                                                                                                  Btw, I refrigerate peanut butter because what I buy is all-natural.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: sueatmo
                                                                                                    hill food Mar 18, 2008 05:59 PM

                                                                                                    or even more special, the half a canned Cling peach (is that redundant?) filled with cottage cheese and a dollop of miracle whip.

                                                                                                    can of rendered fat? I do that but I keep it in the fridge. duck, chicken, pork, beef. a little goes a long way.

                                                                                                    the folks said it was because:
                                                                                                    1. you don't put animal fat down the drain (clogs) - ok.
                                                                                                    2. growing up during WWII one saved it for the "effort" - 30 years later, but ok.

                                                                                                    in fact it is excellent as an accent. it's already rendered, so it doesn't really go bad (occasional observation is required)

                                                                                                  2. j
                                                                                                    Judith Mar 18, 2008 07:47 PM

                                                                                                    My grandmothers were both great cooks, but my mother couldn't cook. But to give my mother some credit, she invented her own weight management system, using a kitchen scale, a book on nutrition, and a lot of raw vegetables, and went from chubby to slim in her early thirties and stayed that way her whole life. Also, she was way ahead of her time on questions of nutrition and functional foods . . . in her old age, when she couldn't stand the side effects of blood pressure meds, she successfully managed her blood pressure with a salt free diet and mixture of garlic, parsley and onions. If she'd been entrepreneurial and if she could have made any of her weird concoctions tasty, she could have made a fortune. Sometimes when I eat steamed carrots and lo-fat cottage cheese for lunch, I have to laugh. People say I'm a pretty good cook, but when nobody else is around, I morph into my mother's daughter :-)

                                                                                                    1. t
                                                                                                      torty Mar 18, 2008 08:41 PM

                                                                                                      Mom was a great cook but there was that time... Christmas eve- I had brought over a homemade duck pate in a cuter than cute terra cotta duck dish with homemade toasts. She was to supply her always wonderful vegetable soup with chewy dumplings. Well, the soup got served and looked like it had an awful lot of course ground pepper on it. No, not pepper- bugs from the cauliflower. She insisted they were not bugs. We saw legs. Admittedly, I have the same kind of denial reflex about my own cooking.

                                                                                                      1. r
                                                                                                        Rene Erm Mar 18, 2008 08:52 PM

                                                                                                        Love this thread. My mom, back in the 60's, was a good but unadventurous cook. My dad was from Estonia, so we managed to get eastern European stuff in San Francisco from time to time. Lots of meatloaf, burgers, hamburger helper, etc. All "regular" but all good. However, she would throw cut potatoes, carrots, onions, browned porkchops in a dutch oven, pour in campbells cream of mushroom and ... voila, out came a masterpiece every time.

                                                                                                        1. m
                                                                                                          Muskrat Mar 18, 2008 09:17 PM

                                                                                                          My mother was a pretty good cook.

                                                                                                          BUT

                                                                                                          One vegetable I could never tolerate was Brussels sprouts. She seemed to serve them once or more a week, regardless. Just to spite me, I think. I still can barely look at them.

                                                                                                          She had a recipe for tarragon chicken she liked; I hated. On a special night, she'd serve it with Brussels sprouts.

                                                                                                          She hand-made mayonnaise, that I found delicious -- I'd eat it right out of the jar if she wasn't looking. And once I'd grown up and left home, she refused to give me the recipe.

                                                                                                          One day, I brought a girl home to meet the parents. I made a big deal about the mayonnaise, hoping that she could persuade my mother to part with the recipe. Diner was served, and out came the mayonnaise -- we'd eat it on artichokes, among other uses. Felice took a taste, savored it for a second, and turned to me. "Tastes just like Miracle Whip."

                                                                                                          I've never tried Miracle Whip, fearing that Felice would be right and the illusion of my mother's wonderful recipe would be burst.

                                                                                                          On the other hand, when I was quite young, my mother taught me to make a chocolate cake, from scratch. Lots of inncentive there; and, while I never went on to become a fancy cook, I was never afraid to try. Bless her for that.

                                                                                                          1. g
                                                                                                            gryphonskeeper Apr 6, 2008 07:50 AM

                                                                                                            We grew up poor, very poor. So mom was extremely frugal with her cooking. Meat was on Sunday only, and usually chicken. Fried rice, every day made with broken pieces of spaghetti and rice fried in a pan and water added.
                                                                                                            If it was on sale, and she had a coupon for it, that is what we ate.

                                                                                                            But I think the most annoying thing was by far, making soup out of every damn carcass left over from Sunday’s meat dinner, the worst of it being PEA SOUP! I would see a Ham (usually only at Easter time because ham was expensive) and I would cry! Not because of the ham, but what would be for dinner then next 4-5 days... PEA SOUP! She would make a huge lobster pot of it, and we would eat soup for days upon end, and we were never allowed to leave the table without eating everything in front of us. I remember many nights staring into that green sludge crying, wishing I would fall ill and be unable to eat the soup. The worst day of my life was a day when my mom came home from the market about a week after Easter, when I thought I would be safe for another year. With 4 hams exclaiming "They were marked down to $2 each"! She beamed with glee at saving all that money, and promptly put them in the freezer. I think that night I wanted to jump off a roof somewhere and end my suffering. To this day if I even see pea soup on a menu I cringe.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: gryphonskeeper
                                                                                                              c
                                                                                                              comestina Apr 6, 2008 11:24 AM

                                                                                                              That's so interesting because I had almost the opposite experience growing up. My mother was ahead of the curve on healthy eating, and even though we certainly weren't rich she never bought groceries frugally. All the other kids "got" to have twinkies, squishy white bread, koolaid, processed cheese, etc. We had wheat bread, and the only white ever allowed was Arnold's or Pepperidge Farm. Every thing she bought was good quality honest food, and no junk. I absolutely hated it! I felt so deprived and jealous of the other "normal kids". After I left home I spent a couple of years exploring the joys of Miracle Whip, Velveeta, Little Debbie, soda pop--the whole gamut of over-processed foods. I've finally come full circle and appreciate now what I didn't at the time. Your mom's soup sounds pretty good to me.

                                                                                                              I still love raspberry zingers, though.

                                                                                                              1. re: comestina
                                                                                                                g
                                                                                                                gryphonskeeper Apr 6, 2008 12:01 PM

                                                                                                                I loved the chicken soups, turkey soups, and beef stews. They were wonderful! In fact her chicken soup to this day is something I look back fondly on. I never had twinkees or zingers and the only time I ever had potato chips were on birthdays. But that pea soup was awful! Super thick green goop with mushy overcooked carrots and port fat. {{{{{shudder}}}}}.

                                                                                                                I still remember the first time I went to a friends house and opened her refrigerator and saw tons of snack foods and packaged meats, I thought she was the richest person I knew... lol

                                                                                                            2. j
                                                                                                              jcattles Apr 6, 2008 10:41 AM

                                                                                                              My mom has alwasy been an excellent cook. But, she could never master pancakes. They would be perfect around the edges and raw in the middle. Dinner always had to be started right after she got home from work and dishes always had to be done immediately after dinner. Now that she's older, she hates when anyone "helps' in the kitchen. One day my sister was making hamburgers and boy she couldn't do one thing right, finally she gave up and let my mom finish, which made mom happy. Oh and if anyone else wants to cook Thanksgiving dinner, she gets pissy. (of course she makes it better than any of us, but we still like to tease her that we want to cook. Some things we never out grow :) )

                                                                                                              1. diablo Apr 6, 2008 11:10 AM

                                                                                                                My mother was always on a quest to get me to eat healthier on the sly ala Jessica Seinfeld's 'Deceptively Delicious'. The lengths she went to were sometimes unbelieveable. One time that comes to mind is when she painstakingly hollowed out french fries and re-stuffed them with spinach puree. Talk about scarring a kid for life. I took one bite and started screaming in horror!

                                                                                                                She also tried to pass off liver and onions as steak. I might have been young, but even then I knew that weren't no steak :)

                                                                                                                1. a
                                                                                                                  Al_Pal Apr 6, 2008 11:42 AM

                                                                                                                  This thread is awesome!

                                                                                                                  My mom truly is a wonderful cook, but I'd have to say that her main fault in the kitchen is that she freezes EVERYTHING IMMEDIATELY. She would bring bread home, and it would go straight into the freezer (I've since gotten her to at least let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple days before it goes into the freezer). She has a whole compartment in the freezer devoted to various kinds of frozen nuts, all of the girl scout cookies are in there (just TRY eating a frozen samoa), as well as the little bags of microwave popcorn. Her freezer is such a jungle that she doesn't even know what's in it anymore, and when I finally made her clean it out a few months ago, we found items dating back to 2002!

                                                                                                                  My dad's a bit of a different story - great on the grill, but not so much in the kitchen. We still laugh about the time he made boxed brownies (that call for a MAXIMUM of four ingredients) and managed to forget the eggs. They came out about half an inch thick and rock hard.

                                                                                                                  1. p
                                                                                                                    pengcast Apr 6, 2008 06:36 PM

                                                                                                                    I, too, had a wonderful cook for a mom. She was inventive and curious to try new things and really tried hard to get us to appreciate all kinds of different foods. We lived in a very small prairie town more than 100 miles from a city with a decent grocery store. The only store in our town often only had the most basic of fresh veg. I don't know how old I was when I had fresh mushrooms or asparagus for the first time. And yet she managed to turn us into great cooks and major foodies. i don't think I really appreciated her until I met my mother -in-law who could not cook anything that did not require washing done with milk.

                                                                                                                    Now I get to take her along on business trips so that she can try great food all over the world, and it hardly begins to pay her back.

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