HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Something Mom made that you loved, only later to discovery it was made "incorrectly"?

Was there a dish (or two maybe) that Mom (or Dad) made for you as a toddler growing up that you grew quite fond of but later realized it was made "incorrectly"?

For example ... my Mom made me spaghetti w/marina sauce consisting of soy sauce, hoison sauce and tomato paste. And the noodles weren't the Italian (or American) pasta variety, but the dried Chinese noodles.

It was really quite good and it wasn't until about the middle of grade school did I realize this wasn't what "spaghetti" was all about.

And you?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Maybe hers was a Chinese version of spaghetti?

    1. I can't imagine what your spaghetti tasted like, salty, sweetish and tomato-ey all in one. My mother made lots of stuff which wasn't the standard version, but I wouldn't call it incorrect, just different. She never understood turkey stuffing. She tried the recipes with bread and just didn't like them (I don't either). So she developed an Asian stuffing based on ground pork and veal with water chestnuts, black mushrooms and soy with lots of ground white pepper. We all loved it, it tasted a lot better than the turkey. But was it wrong? I don't think so.

      1. I grew up in the 50s and my mom served the family "chili con carne" that had no chili powder in it at all. It was ground beef with sauteed onions, garlic, celery, green peppers, canned kidney beans, canned tomatoes, and condensed tomato soup. I loved it then and continue to make it now, to serve with elbow macaroni, shells or bowties. But imagine my surprise when, as a young adult, I had chili con carne at a restaurant for the first time and discovered what she had left out. I still prefer "Mildred's Chili."

        1. My mom's baked custard always separated and I was well into college before I realized that custard should not have that curdled look.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Velma

            My Mom always made “hard sauce” to go with the purchased plum pudding at Christmas. After she died (when I was 20), I took over the cooking of holiday meals, and proudly made a recipe for hard sauce from a reputable cook book. It was delicious, but nothing like what my mother made.

            Years later, I was working as a sous chef in a French Restaurant and curdled a batch of creme anglaise...which, had it been heavily spiked with brandy, would have been a dead ringer for my Mom's “hard sauce”.

          2. My dad is Scottish so I grew up with the traditional British style Sunday roast. It always consisted of either roast pork with aplesauce or roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, and "roasted potatoes".

            The roasted potatoes were done in the deep fryer so there was nothing roasted about them!


            1. My mom's "chili" had plenty of chili powder (Mexene, always!), but it was always added after the rest of what was really just hamburger-and-tomato soup was already cooked. It also usually included celery and bell pepper. We'd add lots of Mexene at the table and wonder why it didn't improve much. It was not until I was well into my thirties that I learned about browning the chil*E* (please!) powder with the meat, and cooking the dish as a thickish beef stew.

              1. I always thought that you ate roast with ketchup thanks to my mom and her all day roast, guess it had something to do with her raising 5 kids. She would throw the meat in a pot add carrots and potatoes a little water and then leave for the day, once we all got home it would be a dried up mess, but we all ate it. Now I cannot manage to eat a roast (even a good one) without a little ketchup.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Jfields

                  It breaks my heart when my husband slathers ketchup all over my delicious juicy meatloaf. (Beef, veal, pork, homegrown herbs, etc)

                  His mom was a terrible cook, and it probably was like shoe leather. Mine needs no embellishment, but I've learned not to protest or we end up fighting at the dinner table over ketchup!

                  (It still hurts my feelings, though. Am I being silly?)

                  1. re: toodie jane

                    Not at all... but as the poster says, it's probably not a commentary on your own cooking, but his own issues. I've been there and often have to remind myself that in life, you really have to pick your battles. :/


                    1. re: toodie jane

                      That depends on what behavior you're trying to change.

                      If it's his blind slathering of ketchup over anything and everything, then no, you're not being silly. Insist that he must take a bite of any food first _before_ adding ketchup. After that first bite he can then add as much or as little ketchup as he likes.

                      If it's just the meatloaf he does this to, then you've got your answer to whether he considers your meatloaf as delicious.

                      1. re: The Ranger

                        For some people, meat loaf goes with ketchup the way a hamburger does. If it's just your meatloaf, don't be insulted.

                        1. re: fara

                          yes, it's just the meatloaf. He says "sorry but I grew up with ketchup on meatloaf." Yeah, because his mom's HAD to be disguised. I guess I have to come to grips that I do not live with (and feed) a chowhound. Like dommy! says, chose your batttles. This isn't one!

                          1. re: fara

                            I agree. My mom's meatloaf is out of this world but I HAVE to eat it with ketchup. I would feel like it's missing something without it!

                            Then again, this is coming from the gal who just posted on the Condiment Addicts Thread. I put A1 on my steak, too!

                    2. Years ago, my mom picked up a recipe for a (now, as I discover, somewhat French) recipe for napa cabbage baked with crisped bacon and dried shrimp in a creamy sauce.

                      It was always a favorite party dish, but only made on very special occassions because it required a lot of arm power to mix a lot of milk into flour and butter and beat out all the inevitable lumps.

                      Turns out what mom needed was a whisk. I mentioned this to her the last time she had me going at the roux and milk with a wooden spoon. Her response? "A whisk is a pain to clean" (versus the 20 minutes it took to make the dish her way).

                      1. I grew up in the 50's and 60's and we usually had a roast for Sunday dinner. Then we would have leftover roast at least 2 more times that week. The third time we ate the meat from the roast mom would make what she called 'chop suey'. She would cook whatever meat she could pick off the bone, cook it with any leftover gravy, bean sprouts, and onions. She served it over rice with soy sauce and we thought we were eating Chinese food. Didn't discover otherwise until the 70's!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: jackrugby

                          Have it with noodles and it sounds like beef lo mein to me!

                          1. re: chocolatetartguy

                            I forgot to mention she would serve it with those crunchy noodles made by 'Chung King'(?). Also, nothing was stir fried,it was cooked down so the onions and bean sprouts were 'nice and tender'.

                        2. mom used campbell's golden mushroom soup and canned mushroom stems and pieces as the sauce base for her version of chicken marsala. i liked it, but thinking about it now makes me shudder and go blech.

                          1. My very Mexican mom made Chow Mein from Ramen Noodles... they were SO good too! :)


                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Dommy

                              I'd be really curious to see that recipe ...

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Basically, in a big dutch oven, my mother would stir fry chicken in soy sauce, celery and carrots. Then, she would dump on a couple of cubes of ramen noodles (top ramen was a favorite) and a bit of water and covered to steam so they became 'noodley' and then when all the water evaporated, dump more soy sauce in to stir fry the noodles a bit.


                                1. re: Dommy

                                  I must admit, that has a certain gastronomic appeal ...

                                  I remember eating ramen noodles straight out of the plastic/cellophane baggie (no water, no boiling). Just pour in the MSG packet, crack the deep-fried ramen noodles, shake and ... voila! Asian "potato chips" at your service.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    I've just heard of this. My child wanted to do this and I wouldn't let him.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      <LOL> I remember doing that in the school yard. I grew up in a rural village of 1200, and they local grocery didn't sell ramen noodles, so the only way to get them was through a popular girl, Gloria, whose Dad lived in the city. So eating raw ramen noodles was a status thing.

                                      Thanks for the reminder--in hindsight, it's hilarious!

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        There's a Korean snack food which is exactly what you just described-dried ramen noodles that you bust in the bag onto which you pour the flavor packet. It's called "Bu-sha, Bu-sha" (sp?). which literally translates to crack/bust. My young nieces love this stuff-insist on eating them at the movies (lots looks from other patrons initially). It drives me a little nuts that some corporate food monster co-opted something so simple and is making money off of it. We were always admonished for eating our ramen raw as kids-my mother was convinced that we'd get worms.

                                2. Does it count if it was something my dad made? My mom usually did all the cooking growing up, except on weekends, when Mom had to work and Dad watch me and my brother. My father is from India, and he would sometimes try to make scrambled eggs for breakfast on the weekends, but he undercooked them so much, they were more like egg mush than scrambled eggs. My mom's were fluffy and big. At first his eggs made me sick, but after a while, I started to develop a craving for them, and even taught myself how to make them. Funny how those things work out, huh?

                                  1. Mom was a good cook, but she had quite the predilection for margarine and cake mix. Since I won't allow margarine in my house, and yellow cake mix is not my idea of a baking prerequisite, it's tough to reproduce her baking results ... Best example I can think of since Mom was a home ec major and so we did things by the book. Whenever I made white sauce, I pulled out one of her old textbooks for the proportions ... nowadays I hardly measure anything.

                                    1. My mom was a fabulous cook: even though we were poor immigrants, she always made delicious Chinese food from scratch every day. My dad, on the other hand, made us "spaghetti" of Chinese noodles, ketchup and mayo! As kids, we loved that as much as mom's cooking!

                                      1. My Sainted Mother(tm)'s trademark dish was beef stroganoff. She'd brown flank steak in lard with IMO mixed in at the end, then served over Uncle Ben's rice. I'd gobble down plate-after-plate of this ambrosia. Imagine my surprise the first time I discovered a restaurant serving filet over hand-made noodles.

                                        My father was a Texas transplant in the People's [Demokratic] Republic of Califoria. Being an accomplished cook, he'd make all sorts of awesome dishes involving chilis (the trinity -- Jalapeno, Serano, Anaheim), chili-no-beans, enchiladas, red-eyed gravy, buscuits, fried chicken, etc. I'd heard a "pop" in the kitchen and went to investigate only to find he'd invited Puff-n-Fresh to dinner for the biscuits. He'd been subbing them on the sly since my 5th birthday... "Y'all didn't know the difference so I stopped makin' em." I learned of the importance of tasting food from that point forward.

                                        1. My dad was a big casserole fan and as a result my mom made a lot of "back of the box" type of recipes.

                                          I recall a beef stroganoff made with Campbell's cream of mushroom soup. Same with her Sweedish meatballs. I loved those dishes when I was little, but like The Ranger posted above, things weren't quite the same when I ordered those dishes at a restaurant.

                                          1. I experienced the reverse growing up. My mom was a bit of a hippie. We had a huge garden and she ran a food co-op with some of her friends. As a kid, I was always annoyed that mac and cheese at our house was white (made from scratch with local cheddar). Green spaghetti (fresh basil pesto from the yard, no less) was a staple, and there was ALWAYS a fresh green salad with house-made vinaigrette. Lentil soup, minestrone, polenta, all are favorites from home.

                                            Imagine my surprise when some of these staples of my home started showing up in "nouvelle" cuisine in the '80s and '90s! Now that I'm a "grown-up" I realize how lucky we were in our food. At the time I just wished we were normal.

                                            Mmmm, I think I'll make some green spaghetti for dinner!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: monday

                                              that's what i would call pesto as a kid: green "sketti", yellow sketti was linguine w/clam sauce, and red sketti with tomato sauce.

                                            2. my mom's "refried beans" - bascially kidney beans and tomato paste mashed together, with onions garlic and spices depending on her mood. Thinner than refried beans. I still love these with rice, ultimate comfort food. And I make a thicker version with fresh-roasted cumin and call it bean dip.

                                              1. My mom was a very good cook as well, but her Jambalaya contained Cook's ham steak and cooked tiny bay shrimp. Probably because back in L.A., the valley specifically in the '60's, she didn't know where to get andouille, or probably didn't know what it was. It wasn't until my 20's did I learn what components actually made up this dish.

                                                She also made 'Chicken and Dumplings'. Her 'dumplings' were spaetzle, not breading topped on a casserole. Her version was Chicken Paprikash, the Hungarian version, but that's what we called it. Not exactly correct.

                                                1. This thread is great. I've always considered my mom to be a good cook but it wasn't until I was older that I realized how little seasoning/spice she used when cooking. Here are a few examples:

                                                  "Irish" tacos - just plain old ground beef, shreded cheddar cheese, ice berg lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream. We'd add mild Ortega taco sauce and onions on special occasions for "kick." Ha!

                                                  Chili - Ground beef, onions, canned tomato and kidney beans. I don't recall much chili powder, really.

                                                  Sloppy Joes - ground beef and nothing much more than ketchup and maybe onions. GOD we worshipped the stuff, though.

                                                  (Ground beef seems to be a theme here.)

                                                  And then there were the few things she cooked in an odd manner:
                                                  Scrambled Eggs - I don't think I knew until college that you could make these in a pan on the stove! She always microwaved them. They were always MUCH fluffier than what I'd get in a restaurant.

                                                  Cube Steak - To this day I'm not a big fan because she always overcooked the hell out of it. Recently, my boyfriend cooked up a few and they were tender and moist. I don't think I ever knew cube steak could be eaten plain and not drenched in some sauce or another to aid in swallowing.

                                                  Those are just a few examples for this thread. To the opposite end, I'd qualify her pineapple souffle, all-day pot roast with potatoes and carrots, split pea soup and chicken barley soup as some of the best stuff on the planet. I still love it when she cooks for me!

                                                  1. Oh, this thread is too funny.

                                                    I'd have to say gravy. She ALWAYS made it with Bisto (not sure if you have that in the U.S., but it's a cornstarch based poultry or beef flavoured thickener for making gravy).

                                                    I'll never forget the first Thanksgiving at her house when she asked me to make the gravy and instead of reaching for a box of Bisto I started it out by making a roux... I thought she was going to faint. What made me giggle was while the gravy was simmering, and she thought I wasn't looking, she tipped some Bisto into the pot!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Olivia

                                                      Oh, God, Bisto! My English step-dad introduced us to Bisto 40 years ago! His mum would bring it over in her suitcase when she came over and you would have thought she was smuggling truffles! My parents still use this stuff (dad is a really accomplished home cook)and swear that the old powdered stuff (harder to find) is better than the new granulated!

                                                    2. My dad makes the best carbonara (that I remember, anyways, since I've been veg for 10 years). But it took me years to realize that the eggs aren't normally allowed to scramble... Somehow the custardy version seems wrong.

                                                      1. spaghetti sauce made from Campbell's Tomato soup.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: toodie jane

                                                          And this is how we made in 8th grade home ec class. I was so appalled even back then, my mom used to use hot Italian sauage/beef and knew Progresso was superior. I ended up taking more beef and spices off the supply table to try to doctor it up.

                                                        2. Growing up, Mom made the cheesecake recipe on the back of the lemon Jello box. It was basically lemon jello whipped with some Philly cream cheese and sugar and dusted with grahm cracker crumbs. It actually jiggled like jello! I loved it so. I was probably in my teens before I learned the difference between a true, densely-rich cheesecake and the Jello imposter. But even thinking about it now, I'm nostalgic for that 60s'-era treat.

                                                          1. My mother always made grilled cheese sandwiches with of course cheese and brown sugar. When I got married my husband requested a grilled cheese so I made one for him, he about died. Funny enough my children loves them and doesn't like them regular.

                                                            1. After Thanksgiving my grandma would always make turkey chow mein. As best I can remember, it involved a lot of turkey scraps and celery and was served over those crunchy chow mein noodles. Possibly there was some La Choy soy sauce involved, though I wouldn't swear on it.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                                This is such an enjoyable thread. I was raised on a farm in the 40-50s and we raised our own beef, hogs, chickens, etc. Had fresh milk, cream, butter along with the best steaks, chops, chicken, ducks and fresh vegetables a person could hope for but I never appreciated it until I was an adult living away from home and having to buy my own.

                                                                Anyway, I grew up knowing that when making a sandwich, you take two slices of homemade bread and slather each slice with butter. No matter what followed as sandwich filling.

                                                                To this day I butter each slice of bread ---- no matter what follows. My cousins think the same way and one cousin's husband here in CA asked me how to make a sandwich (like on a quiz show). When I responded, he was shocked because that's the way his wife makes it and he thought we were both crazy. Seems his family took two slices of bread and put on the Pb&J i.e. WITHOUT butter.

                                                                Mom was a terrific cook. I don't recall anything I hated or find especially odd, except parsnips (homegrown of course). Stunk up the whole house. Can only tolerate them now raw only, but they were one of Dad's favs so we had them all winter long.

                                                                Now, I love Thai, Vietnamese and many other culturally different foods than what I grew up with - haven't met a food I dislike.

                                                                1. re: eartha

                                                                  Oh, that evokes memories of my favorite meal as a young child: bacon butter sandwiches made with white bread with the crust cut off, cut into four triangles. It's amazing I still have a heart beat. . . .

                                                              2. I'll reprise my mother's startling version of garlic bread here (I already wrote about this on the recipes-you've-never-heard-of-outside-your-family thread). We lived in Arkansas, and wild garlic grew in our yard. She would take slices of Wonder bread, spread it with margarine and the squashed wild garlic, wrap it in foil and heat it in the oven. Not too bad so far, other than the Wonder bread? The really interesting part comes after we put it on the table -- we spread it with grape jelly. Actually it tasted pretty good (in the same family as garlic ice cream, perhaps?) but I have no interest in trying it now.

                                                                Sarah C