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Your culinary history?

I'm very curious about the history, location, culture of many of the people who post on here. When i read things, i notice some names pop up quite a bit, but I'd like to know where you're coming from, in any sense of the phrase. Share as much or as little as you'd like. I hope this will let us all understand each other more.

I'm pretty much just a young guy from TX who would hate to be thought of as a guy from TX. My mom was a decent cook in the utilitarian sense, but she made the best sandwich sourdough bread, ever. My desire to replicate that led to my culinary adventures. A reasonable amount of travel has opened me up to different styles and flavors, although I'll pretty much eat anything drenched in salsa, in true Tex-Mex style. I don't cook for others enough to feel like a very proficient cook, but I think I'm at least creative.

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  1. I'm new to posting on this site . I'm a 40 something female from the burbs of Milwaukee. I have traveled extensively. My interest in cooking began in cooking around 11 or 12. Neither of my parents have great culinary skills. My Mom's best meal is chili. Her wierdest combination for supper was pancakes and tuna fish. I guess that came from our Catholic upbringing.

    My friends have called me the Martha Stewart of the Midwest, which I don't like. I like to think that I am a little more avant- garde. I read cookbooks like other people read novels. I very rarely follow the recipe exactly when it comes to cooking, baking is another story.
    I love to entertain. I have no problems trying a new recipe out on my guests. I really can't remember a time that one really failed. If it did flowing wine helped us to forget.

      1. re: mpalmer6c

        I'm a 29 year old professional female from St Paul, MN. I was a latch key kid growing up so I, along with my sisters, often had to watch over ourselves. Mom and dad aren't the greatest of cooks either (everything was from a box) - but they have say, 2 dishes each that they are the best at. And when they did cook - they actually baked. I myself, over the years, took it upon myself to learn to cook because I envied friend's moms who got to stay at home and made everything from scratch.

        Since it is just myself and a boyfriend, I tend to make everything from scratch and so are a lot of the things I make for my cocktail and dinner parties. I love food network, I rarely buy cookbooks anymore - I either print free ones from epicurious or food network, and you can't help but love church cookbooks.

      2. I'm an old (51) gal who grew up with a dad who loved to cook for fun. He worked on Wall Street in a pressure cooker job, and cooking was his form of relaxation on the weekends. We always had a big, open kitchen and many of my memories take place in those kitchens, where the phone was ringing for one of us kids, the dogs slept on the floor (or the sofa) and music played while Dad cooked. He still loves to cook, and is especially strong in the sauce and stew department. He is a huge seafood lover, so early on we were introduced to raw oysters, littlenecks, boiled lobsters served with nothing but butter and lemon, and smoked salmon. We also went out to some really fine places over the years in Fairfield County CT, where I grew up, New York, Nantucket (ages ago), Newport RI and abroad. Holidays were important for the quality and quantity of the food. Since starting my own family, we have been lucky enough to live in some east coast resort areas that have some great food, and I got to know a lot of the owners over the years. I also was lucky enough to write some restaurant reviews. In addition to dating some serious food lovers (that's another topic), I have really enjoyed experimenting with cooking. I also love going out to eat with friends and family. The experience of enjoying a good meal is part of it for me. So the environment and the company are key. I avoid pretentious, overpriced places with an attitude but am really happy paying some serious $ if the food is excellent. When I travel, I love to go out and try new things.(Costa Rica had some REALLY fine food and wine on a recent visit.) I have one daughter who is now a vegan and who adores to cook and another who would not be able to boil you an egg if you asked her to, but we all love being together for good meals, wherever they are. I no longer eat any red meat, avoid sugar, white flour and most dairy (no more butter, even), and try to buy my food at the local co-op or farmer's market. To me, there is a lot of satisfaction in knowing where the eggs and tomatoes come from. Back to work.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mvi

          I'm a 50-year-old who graduated from Cornell, decided to go for a law degree, and at the last minute, changed my mind and went to culinary instead. I was 27 when that happened, so I guess I've been in the career for over 20 years, first as a pastry chef, then working for a distibutor. Now I cater parties. I loved cooking all my life, first starting when I was 12, and today I still love it.

        2. Hi Mr. young guy from Texas, you sound charming. I"m kind of new here and really enjoy the site. People are friendly and helpful. I'm originally from South Dakota and grew up in the 60's with a stay-at-home mom who was an excellent cook ala' midwest simple cuisine. Those were the times in that area where chow mein hot dishes were considered ethnic. We had pizza for the first time out of a box by Chef Boy ar Dee, does anybody remember those?! I live close to the Pacific in Oregon and like to cook with local seafood and veggies, but I still have a fondness for comfort food with a midwest twist. If you have the desire for culinary adventures, your proficiency producing them will follow naturally with experience. When I cook for others, I always have a plan and 50% done before their arrival, my favorite is a seafood salad in the fridge and a cheese/fruit/bread plate for cocktails before dinner. Living4fun, I'm the same with cookbooks for novels...have you tried the Best American Recipes series?
          Very readable...the editors choose the top picks from internet, newspaper, magazine and book sources.

          1. 53 Yo from Boston area. My mom was an ok- if unimaginative cook. But I do cut her some slack, as she did not use boxes or frozen- and was cooking three meals every day for 10 people. My grandfather was a baker, and my grandmother was a wonderful cook. They lived in the same house as us, and I remember longs days making grape jelly, stews, bread. Going blueberry picking with my grandfather and coming home to make wonderful pies and cakes.
            Traveled extensively in Asia and Europe, and loved trying local foods, and hole in the wall places. In my late 20's, I dated a man who had lived in France for a few years and learned so much about cooking and wines. We used to have great dinner parties, and did lots of travelling together..
            Now I am a suburbanite ( never thought that would happen!), with a large extended family. And most of them love good food. Spend most Sundays either serving old favorites, or trying new recipes on them.

            1. I'm 28 and live in the Baltimore suburbs. I grew up in Florida, so my main culinary influences as a child were Southern and Caribbean, which is now fancifully called "Floribbean." In high school, I was in an international program, so many of my friends were from all over the world and I was able to try a wide variety of foods.

              I have a degree in Food Science and love to cook. My mom got her degrees in Home Economics and Elementary Ed, so she had me in the kitchen about as soon as I could walk. Unfortunately for me, I married someone who is a bit of a picky eater and doesn't think much of some of my Cuban-inspired creations.

              1. I'm 28, Canadian Chinese but my parents were born and raised in South Africa. They've always been gastronomically outgoing and interested in food (my mother made samosas for an indian deli when i was a kid) and because of this I'm also pretty outgoing foodwise. Growing up we ate english roasts, marmite, scones etc as well as lots of chinese food.
                I also watched PBS cooking shows (the Galloping Gourmet, Wok with Yan, Julia, Nathalie Dupree, Marianne Esposito, Pasquale's Kitchen, the frugal gourmet...i could go on forever...) from 2-7 pm most Saturdays of my childhood.
                Now I don't watch that much FoodTV but I'm an avid homecook and foodie, always looking for something new, and addicted to food blogs. My dream would be to have a little bakery.

                1 Reply
                1. re: chocabot

                  Cool eclectic background. I'll bet you had some great, interesting meals growing up (marmite aside...;-) ). Did your mom combine foods from different countries (chinese w/ a south african twist?)?

                2. I'm 42 and have lived in Virginia most of my life (I spent 5 years in NC during the late 80's and early 90's). My Mom was not a good cook and was pretty uninspired though she made the best fried chicken and taught me the art of roux and gravies. My Dad died when I was 10 and Mom closed the kitchen and we ate out virtually every night from that point on. That was where my love for food really kicked it. My brother is a phenominal cook and 12 years older than me and would instruct me (much like a cooking show) when I was a child and teen and made me watch Julia Child and The Frugal Gourmet.

                  I love good food, and I love when I make something fabulous but unfortunately most of my cooking efforts are average at best and not worth the trouble (though I make good gravy<g>).

                  1. I'm a young gal from New York, and I've also lived in Texas for a stint.

                    My Mom was an English cook growing up, even though she was born in NJ. That is to say, she cooked everything meat well-done, used no seasonings (salt only, thank you!), and our starches were potatoes with butter, rice, or pasta and butter. We'd eat raw carrots and cabbage, and that was about it for veggies. The only cheese she would buy was Velveeta, and until I was about 9, I didn't know there was any other kind of cheese besides that.(oy) She's also really protective about cooking for some reason.
                    My Dad is Chinese, and immigrated over here for college. He's never really been able to cook, but thankfully he'll eat anything and pushed new food on people (something I didn't really appreciate until now). He's a busy professional and usually gets healthy take-out.

                    Traveling to Texas was a fun culinary experience. I was in my teens - which means new friends and food adventures. I started liking chain restaurants, but then switched to more mom and pop fare.
                    I came back to NY for college, and live in Albany now. I met my fiance and he really was the person who has introduced me to SO much in my food experiences. I could barely cook when I met him, and now I can make you baked brie, gulab jamun, roast chicken, etc. I also blame him for my serious sushi addiction.

                    Now I will eat anything once, and usually a second time :)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: yumcha

                      RE: eating anything once. I think I'm more likely to eat something bad twice, just to give it another shot, whereas with something good I just say, "ok, it's good, lets move on."

                    2. I'm 66, mostly-retired graphic artist, the cook in my family of two. Mrs. O is used to that as her dad's always had the same job in her family. I grew up poor in the Midwest, with a mom who aspired to better food than we could afford but who did pretty well with what she had. Being in a small farming town with our own backyard garden, and a grandpa in the next town whose side-lot was a small truck farm, helped a lot. My other grandpa didn't garden, but he sure could cook, and coming from a large family of German Mennonite farmers he had the background for it. (After a spell of being an OTR truckdriver during WW2, he also had accumulated an encyclopedic knowledge of the best roadfood spots in Illinois and Indiana, and was a devoted connoisseur of that cuisine, a trait I am happy to say I've inherited.) Gardening grandpa's wife was also a good cook of the semi-southern fry-everything-in-lard style, while my other grandma boiled vegetables out of a can and could ruin a hot dog, but was an angelically gifted baker. My dad had I think an unrealized genius for cooking - when he was forced to, he'd go into the kitchen, fumble around and cuss a lot, then emerge with something butt-ugly but delicious he'd just sort of invented. Left strictly to his own devices he's make himself grilled peanut-butter and cheese sandwiches...

                      Can't think of any one outstanding revelatory flash in my chowish life, though plenty of smaller ones - sharing Grandpa Kuntz's smoked oysters at 10 or thereabouts, raw oysters later on, pizza in my early teens, sushi...using a charcoal grill for the first time to cook a whole salmon for the first time...discovering even more ways to eat tripe in France, Italy and Rosemead, CA...coming to realize that to me recipes had become for the most part advisories and inspiration, rather than essential to any cooking process. Oh, and stumbling into Chowhound. All good.

                      1. Hello

                        28 yr old female, married, baby due any day now, raised in CT and over the past 10 years i've lived all over the northeast with five years spent in manhattan.

                        My folks were kids of farmers, as are most of my family, so they were raised on the land with everything always made from scratch. As a kid, I was fed much the same way. My mom cooked constantly, every meal from scratch, and I didn't even know what mcdonalds was until I 6, and even then I couldn't understand why people wanted to eat there. (REAL hamburgers weren't gray and covered in slime.) I grew up loving veggies and meats and anything else my mom put in front of me. We also spent a ton of time in Maine and Rhode Island clamming and crabbing and buying lobsters off the docks for clam bakes so seafood is a passion of mine.

                        I got into cooking really young because it was always something I did with my mom and grandmother. The choas of the kitchen during the holiday dinners was frustrating, but a wonderful thing. We made meals that would easily feed 20 when we were only 8. And my mom was always "trying something new" so our meals always had flair. But there was one rule: things had to be fresh. No canned stuff, no box stuff...fresh ingredients only. Like on the farm...

                        When I moved out at 18 and found myself a starving college kid my diet did take a turn for the worse, but when i could afford to, I'd make a feast for all of my other starving college friends. I'll admit, shamefully, that kraft mac and cheese and ramen made its way into my pantry there for a few years but I still ate better than most kids my age because I was willing to cook.

                        Around 21 I began having health problems. Lots of them. From acid reflux, to IBS, to skin rashes, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, fatigue, insomnia, fainting... the list goes on. Doctors were stumped and I became a guinea pig for whatever prescription they felt like giving me. Years passed, I felt worse, docs were still stumped, and my always lean frame piled on an unsightly 30 pounds.

                        It was then that I made a life changing decision to only eat organic foods. I read book after book about natural healing and living whole foods and decided it couldn't hurt to give it a try. Western medicine couldn't help me, maybe the hippie stuff would do the trick. I donated everything in my kitchen to a homeless shelter and replaced everything with organic versions. I threw away all of my medications and syntheic beauty products. I bought every kind of whole foods/natural/organic cookbook I could find because using some of the natural products takes getting used to. I did this 100%. If it was manmade or processed in any way, it didn't make it into the house.

                        Long story short, I found myslef healed of everything, skinny again, and feeling better than I ever remembered in as little as three months and since then there has been no turning back.

                        My cooking skills had to get sharp though becuse with the new lifestyle, I had to cook almost 100% of what I ate myself. That meant leaning how to make bread, pasta, ice cream, salsa..all of those things you would normally just buy, I had to learn to make. But with some practice, I learned. I aslo had to learn how to substitute ingredients, such as white flour, in some dishes that I loved without sacrificing flavor. The result has been some mighty tasty, but healthy, food!

                        Four years later I feel healthy and strong, I'm lean and mean, and I've never eaten more delicious food in my life! I live for food now. I'm lucky enough to currently be in a position where I can devote a huge patrt of my day to hunting down ingredients and making elaborate dishes on a daily basis. My husband loves it too. he was also having some serious health problems, but with the new diet, he's cured. AND 20 lbs lighter!

                        Anyhow, I love CH because I find it inspiring to chat with others who love food, enjoy cooking, and love talking about food and cooking! lol

                        1. Just turned 25 year old Chinese Japanese American born in Southern California. My cooking leaves much to be desired (probably due to the whole young bachelor mentality that I fully embrace) and at this point I'm more prone to follow directions than try to experiment. I think I'm spoiled because I have parents who are very food-oriented: my mom grew up in a Chinatown butcher shop and my dad was raised in a restaurant in Honolulu. My dad's easily the head chef of our family and though he focuses on comfort foods like meatloaf, teriyaki, 7+ ingredient fried rice, curries, stews and the like, he also does nice stuff with fish and some more delicate ingredients. His penchant for packing a lot of flavor into his food is something I admire and try to imitate; there's rarely subtlety of any kind happening with us. My mom's no slouch either, though she only cooks for New Years. She'll spend 4 to 5 days in the kitchen making spareribs, korean chicken wings, tempura, Chinese chicken salad, waffle dogs, and my favorite macaroni and cheese of all time to feed up the up to 100 people that hit our house on Jan 1st.

                          I've spent 8 months in Japan, living with 3 different families and sampling food from Saitama to Okinawa (still need to hit Hokkaido), settling on ramen as my favorite. as well as trying as many different foods as I could in this hotbed of culinary activity known as So Cal. We regularly visit Hawaii to visit my dad's side, but I get my loco moco, kalua pig, lau lau, poke and spam fixes whenever I can. I've been through the south and tried Waffle Houses and eaten in boutique-ish chocolate shops in San Fran. I'm a sucker for a good soup, crave carbs (ramen, corn tortillas, pasta, sourdough, whatever), like spicy foods more than not, and will try cheese on almost anything. I'm off to Amsterdam and Italy to try new foods for the next week and a half, then to Chicago for the first time and hopefully that'll help expand my palette.

                          Domestic goals: Pizza in NY, cheesesteak in Philly, a huge steak in Texas
                          Int'l goals: Korean BBQ in Korea, Guinness Brewery (does this count?)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: MeAndroo

                            the brewery totally counts, but please make sure you get a pint at a pub outside of the tourist area too. That's when Guinness is at its best for sure.

                          2. 43, Live in Saint Paul, MN. Grew up in northern Minnesota with a hunter Dad (lots of grouse, pheasant, venison) and a gardener Mom (every fresh thing imaginable, but my summers were spent weeding and my autumns were spent digging potatoes and turnips and beets!). The surrounding farms were good for sides of beef, whole hogs, chickens and fresh (fresh!) eggs. I didn't know than how spoiled I was.

                            Started cooking in kindergarten and never stopped, as there were meals to be made, along with produce to be canned/pickled/frozen/otherwise preserved. Mom was a great basic cook, and Dad made wonderful pancakes. Started making full dinner meals around age ten, as my Mom started working an afternoon shift at her job.

                            Spent a year as an exchange student in Europe, then college and marriage brought me back to the Continent for a six-month backpacking tour. It was all very instructive vis-a-vis culinary aspirations.

                            From young mother to the (fast forward) parent of a college student, I have always cooked from my roots (food: fresh and having passed through as few hands as possible), from my travels (I feel reasonably proficient in a more than a few ethnic cuisines, and capable in quite a few others), and have cooked to expand the food horizons and aspirations of my family (my college aged son cooks well for himself, and my teenaged daughter is hot on the heels of that example).

                            My library has more books about - what would you call it? - "culinary anthropology" than it does recipe books. We enjoy the cooking that comes, impromptu, from a trip to the farmers' market more than a pre-fab menu from an entertaining magazine. We buy meats that have been handled as little as possible and are local. We seek out new flavors, but for the least amount of money (we are *far* from affluent). We have seriously well-used pans, pots and utensils, because almost all of our meals are at home.

                            I said earlier that I didn't know how spoiled I was as a child. I do now, and am grateful for that culinary history. And, I'm trying to pay it forward.

                            1. Okay. I'm 38 years old and live in a small town in Iowa. I grew up in southeastern Kansas. Ethnically, like a lot of white Americans, we're a ormal mixture of Anglo subcultures (English, Scot, Welsh, maybe some Swiss and Scandinavian thrown in for good measure--and my sister's new baby's birth father is Hispanic, so that adds a new dimension).

                              My dad bought a cafeteria in our town when the original owner wanted to retire. "Urban renewal" was in progress at the time (early 1970s) and they were going to tear down my grandpa's little store and wholesale poultry operation to put in a hotel right on the new highway. So my grandpa bought a little piece of land around the corner from the cafeteria and built a new store, and connected it to the cafeteria--you went through the back doors of the store and down a ramp, and you were in the cafeteria kitchen. This made it possible to have a hot and cold deli in the store where people could carry out the salads and pies and some hot dishes from the cafeteria, along with my grandpa's fried chicken, which was so good it ran KFC out of town at one point. When I was old enough I worked in the cafeteria in various jobs. We always ate there on Sundays after church.

                              One of my great grandmothers on my dad's side had a little restaurant when my dad was little. (This was the mother of my grandpa who had the store.) One of my great grandfathers on my mom's side had a butcher shop. He was apparently a bit of a reprobate in private (alcoholic with a bit of a temper; we're not sure he ever hit anyone but he was known occasionally to throw things) but I've heard stories about how he "carried" a lot of families through the Depression, allowing them to "charge" food they couldn't afford to pay for even though he knew they'd never be able to pay him back. So even though they had this store, they never made any money.

                              My mom's a good, basic cook (more adventurous now since she's been on a bit of a health kick the last couple of years), and they have a garden. She doesn't do a lot of baking. When I was a kid she made cookies--one of my earliest memories is of her giving me a little measuring cup with three or four chocolate chips in it for me to snack on while she made chocolate chip cookies--and when I was a little older she got into cake decorating for a brief period. But she doesn't do pies, really. I learned how to make pie from my paternal grandma, also an extremely good cook. (She used to win the prize in the newspaper's annual recipe contest so often that they finally made her a judge so others would have the chance. Judging day was a very nice day to be at Grandma's because she'd cook all this stuff and we'd all try it and give our opinions.)

                              One thing my mom didn't used to do very well was spaghetti sauce. So when I was in junior high I decided to try, and ended up getting the job. I would come home from school now and then, drop my book bag and jacket on the deacon's bench by the front door, and go in the kitchen and make cookies.

                              We ate out pretty regularly, either "American food" or Mexican or Chinese, mostly, with the occasional pilgrimage over to Arkansas for square (homemade) spaghetti in Tontitown. There wasn't a McDonald's in our town until I was ten years old, although we did have A&W and Sonic drive-ins. That meant the closest McDonald's was some distance away, and we almost never ate there because, in my dad's immortal words which I catch myself repeating with alarming regularity, "I didn't drive all this way to eat at McDonald's."

                              Now, where we're at today: My sister is, at 35 years old, finally learning how to cook. But she would dearly love to have a restaurant someday, and my dad thinks he wants to get back into it (guess he's forgotten, after being out of it for 20 years, how much he hated it when he first bought the cafeteria). I have a cousin who's a chef and if my sister ever does open a restaurant--she's an accountant--I'm sure she'll want him to run the kitchen. I have no desire to go back into the restaurant business but would love to be in a position where I can teach people how to cook good food. (My husband's grandson is with us again for awhile this summer and immediately fell back into the role of my sous-chef and general assistant in the kitchen. Last summer the first day he was here I taught him how to make white sauce for mac & cheese from scratch.) We have a smoker in the backyard and have a good time putting stuff in it. My husband has introduced me to foods I never would eat and I've done the same for him.

                              Interesting bit of trivia: The Icee was invented in my hometown.

                              1. I'm in my mid-thirties, born and raised in New York City. My father was from North Korea and my mom was from S. Korea. I grew up in a household where my mom did most of the cooking. She took some cooking classes on "American" cuisine in South Korea before she came to America (I'm thinking this was more on the lines of what you saw on Discovery Channel's "Seoul Mates"). She was always interested in food and trying different recipes. Living in New York, she had friends from various ethnic backgrounds, which meant experimenting with different cuisines from an early age. I would stand up on a stool and watch her kill and cut up crabs for a Korean crab stew with fermented bean paste or watch her stuff dolmades or make coconut cake with bourbon fruit topping. My dad ended up doing some cooking later on in my life. He actually makes the best miso-glazed mackerel and Korean soybean paste casserole. As my dad was North Korean, I think I inherited his love for noodles (I prefer it over rice).

                                I try to be balanced in my eating. The majority of time, I eat healthy, organic, home-prepared food. However, I also splurge once in a while -- dark chocolate, foie gras, fries, etc.

                                I'm incredibly lucky to be living in NYC where there are so many options available. (I do envy San Francisco for their kick-ass farmers market, though). I would probably get bored eating the same types of food on a daily basis.

                                1. I'm a 39 yr old California Bay Area native who is now living in Atlanta. Now that I am gone, I realize how lucky I was to live around not only great, great produce but a real forward-thinking spirit when it came to food (oh, and of course, all the wine and the food that the wine culture has produced).

                                  Grandma was Mexican and I learned a lot from watching her make tortillas and tamales, fidello, menudo, caldo de pollo, and the hottest hot sauce on earth. My other Grandma was from Arkansas and she fried a mean chicken. She also made things like fried potatoes with gravy, pickled okra, apple butter and she would eat cornbread crumbled up in a glass of milk. All in all, quite a varied culinary childhood.

                                  Its only recently, at my advanced age, that I have learned I can cook ANYTHING by following a recipe. I love food, and cooking for others is my way to express love.

                                  1. I'm late 40's, female. My mom, although mostly homemade old fashion cooking, did llike to be creative in the kitchen. My favorite memory meal as a kid was mushrooms on open toast with butter in the cap. My Dad graduated from college when I was 2 so we didn't have $$ back then, but he went up the ladder (one company) became partner and very successful. Grew up mostly in New England but he got transferred to New Orleans - lived there for 7 years before moving back to New England on my own. Once we no longer rubbed two nickles together, my parents exposed us to many different foods/restaurants/travel. Best experience was my first job in the restaurant industry just outside New Orleans working for a wonderful man - Chris K from La Provence (fabulous restaurant - one of the top chefs in La.). Sadly he just passed away but his restaurant today is still as successful as it was in 1975. Because of him, I've loved cooking, dining, passion for food, etc. I've loved the restaurant industry since then, although my career path took me other places. I'm now self employed and own a business not related to food but I feel it calling me - soon. I have an idea that I've mulled around for about a year, maybe soon. It's always there........... (for now it's always my hobby). My son is now 30, has surpassed any & all skills I have of cooking/food, is a fabulous budding chef in Paris. He just embarked on a venture and dream that is taking off very nicely.

                                    1. I'm fairly new to this board as well. Mid-40's, originally from Cleveland, now living in Memphis. Everyone in my family is/was a really good cook. I can recall shucking corn and shelling peas as early as 4yrs old, and started cooking at around age 7. My first dishes were cassaroles (copies of Stouffers Tomato/Mac/Beef and Lasagna).
                                      My family was kind of adventerous in terms of cooking; I can recall my grandfather and his half-brothers going up to Maine and bringing back coolers of lobsters, and throwing a lobster/champagne feast (me, 5yrs old, at his elbow so he could show me how to hold the claw-cracker). My dad...loved grilling. He'd make up a new bbq sauce every other week in the summer. Mom, she'd do a little of it all; I recall her making egg rolls for parties, and teaching me to make sauerbraten (she'd spent 2yrs in Germany during college) when I was about...11. About 3 yrs ago, she surprised me for my birthday, and did a complete Danish-style smorgasbord...truly divine!!!

                                      Now, I'm getting to be very portion/calorie conscience, as I'm significantly overweight, so I'm looking for healthier versions of what I've cooked in the past (which ain't easy in the land of holy 'que and fried catfish!!), as well as just new tastes in general.

                                      1. There seems to be some common themes here, how sweet :)
                                        Both sides of my family are extremely involved in food. My maternal side has had a small town butcher/grocery in New England for almost 200 years. The meat from "the store" as we call it, is the best I've ever had. The beef is properly aged, and even the cold cuts taste better. My grandfather (old-family Irish/English) ran this store along with his brothers. The town is on the coast, and all my life I've had great seafood, particularly clams and lobster. Many events included a raw bar or clam bake (a most delicious way of cooking seafood!). My grandmother who was Polish and quite cosmopolitan (they met in Germany during the war) made the most incredible cakes, blintzes, latkes, guompkes (stuffed cabbage),fried chicken cooked in sour cream and cream of mushroom soup, and many other delcious and very heavy foods. Just to make pancakes, she put a stick of butter into the batter as well as both butter and oil in the cast iron pan she cooked them in. She used to buy smoked whitefish, polish rye bread, and pickled red cabbage from the city. Most of my aunts and uncles grew up to be involved in the food business in one way or another. One aunt runs a successful gourmet wholesale food business, she would bring lamb "lollipops," and good pate to holidays. not to mention lots of desserts with real whip cream.
                                        My mother herself worked as a caterer part time in Manhattan, and later got her degree in culinary arts. While we lived in the city, she took me to all kinds of restaurants. My fondest memories are of Indian food on 6th st (our neighborhood back then) and take-out Chinese. Apparently we had dim sum back then, though I have no memory of that. It must be why I love it so much now. At home mom made only non-processed foods, some things were imaginative like her 5-spice pork, but she worked and was a single mom, so usually it was along the lines of stir fries or meatloaf.
                                        My dad's side is the complete opposite but maybe even more focused on food. My paternal grandmother is from Bari, my grandfather is from Naples. My grandmother hates the red-sauce way of cooking and makes lots of bean and legume soups, roasted vegetables, simple vegetable casseroles, and plain fish or white meat. She is a very good Italian cook, no butter, no mayo, mozzarella cheese only occasionally, but she thinks she's not because she doesn't cook like Neopolitans. Everything she makes, though somewhat plain, is deliciious and somehow never repetitive. After breakfast is the time to plan out the next 4 meals, which may be open to debate throughout the day. Balance in terms of types of foods, amount, and appropriateness to our later activities are all considered thoroughly. They are lucky enough to have easy access to good vegetables and fruit in Florida. They eat fruit at every meal, and have a large lunch at 12. I am lucky enough to see them about 2x a year, so her well-developed cooking style has influenced me the most. This type of cooking also goes over better on my stomach than meat or dairy-heavy meals.
                                        My dad was obviously influences by his mother's cooking. He has been single most of his life and in fact does the cooking for his wife now. He makes some great pasta dishes like linguine with clam sauce - truly no clam sauce comes close to his in its taste and simplicity. Of course the most important ingredient is clams straight from the clamdigger. My dad's also in to any kind of meditteranean or middle-eastern cooking. If its garlic and olive oil based, he'll cook from it. Particularly if it involves plain yoghurt. He eats healthier than most americans, lots of salads, fruit, and beans. Meat a few times a week at most.
                                        I lived in NY with my mother when I was young, then in New England on the coast, then in Europe after high school where I had to cook for myself. In college I knew lots of international people and was exposed to some different foods through them, later I moved back to NY and became a chowhound in earnest. Now I live in the "shallow south" as I call it, and partake of biscuits at every opportunity. I might not be able to get good prosciutto or stracchino here, but I can get very good canadian bacon smoked nearby, which makes a great carbonara.

                                        1. 24, male, grew up in Duluth, MN, but now reside in scorching Phoenix, AZ. By birth, Finnish/French Canadian, but I don't hold any culinary ties to either. My mom was always a very mediocre cook while I was growing up, so I never was introduced to any exotic foods until we moved to AZ (unless you consider lukefisk exotic, ack). My earliest food memory is watching Jeff Smith on Frugal Gourmet on PBS and thinking "why doesn't mom do this?".

                                          At witts-end, I told my mother my senior year of high school, "if you buy, i'll cook". And so it began - Food Network watching, recipe-hoarding, etc. I bought a generic French cookbook and began making leek/onion tarts, onion soup, you name it. Now, 6 years later, I'm a fairly proficient in the kitchen and invite my family over every possible holiday to avoid the standard chicken, burgers or "hotdish" (see: casserole). I enjoy eating out, but prefer cooking for my girlfriend at home while putting together my own wine pairings (at retail prices).

                                          1. Swedish/Irish background. Mom was a good, but not great cook (oddly enough, became much more adventurous after we all left home).

                                            My "revelatory" moments:
                                            1. First time eating Chinese spinach and ginger in Taiwan. I had NO IDEA veggies could taste so interesting. The mix of the spinach and the clean bite of the ginger. I recall eating an entire orders' worth.
                                            2. Ginger and clam soup. My MiL made it for me. It is incredibly simple: Mattchsticked ginger, salt, water and in the shell clams. Simple but amazing. I had never had shellfish that was not fried or buttered. You justt asted...ocean. really great, clean ocean.
                                            3. A leg of lamb I had at a friends house when I was in high school. I had not had lamb before, much less one studded with garlic. seemed truly amazing and exotic at the time. His (Iranian) mom loved my reactio to it.
                                            4. Lockhart TX: All of it. Inspitred me to go out and get a charcoal grill.

                                            How I cook: Lots and lots of Bittman, some Alfred Portale (try the 5 Spice duck in the book Gotham), a little bit of Hamersley, but really moving more towards Nigel Slater. Great, simple, easy recipes.
                                            What I am most interested in: Trying to cook using more local ingredients. I like the idea of shopping weekly at Farmer's Markets. Supporting small farms has a real appeal to me, especially if they are working with heirloom vegetables. I like the idea of slow food as well, but I think restricting yourself exclusively to one region is a little too limiting. I like mangoes in Winter too much : ).

                                            1. I've often wondered about this too, and figured that a lot of CH's eating habits probably came from past experiences, whether family related or locale. Thanks for the post.

                                              I'm Chinese-American, mom a fantastic cook & allowed us to help out in kitchen. We also had to fend for ourselves after school sometimes so got early practice making weird pseudo-american food or other things we craved. Have always been friends with people who like to eat - college and after - it's always been a huge bonding experience so that continues to have an impact on why i like to eat/cook. I've lived all over the US: west/east coasts, midwest. Have also spent a number of years in Asia, and in retrospect, living abroad during and after college was big on exposing me to a lot of different food and ingredients. I traveled all over SE Asia and East Asia and basically ate my way through all the countries I visited. I also lived with people from other countries (notably a french woman) and learned to cook a few things that were standard for them but totally new to me. I've been to Europe a few times and ate great food but it was the years in Asia - I guess when I was learning to cook - that really did it.

                                              So I guess my mom is responsible for starting my love of food, friends and travels are the reason I became adventurous & sought out new food, and then the food is responsible for me now wanting to try recreate similar meals in the kitchen as well. Vicious circle.

                                              1. 33yrs old.

                                                Grew up in the NW suburbs of Philadelphia. Mom's side of the family are full-blown PA Dutch. Dad's is German/Scottish/Cherokee. Got all of my cooking influence from Mom and her side.
                                                Mom and Dad have belonged to a gourmet group for 30 years. It's expanded my mom's cooking repertoire into things she probably wouldn't have ever tried making before. My dad has always been an adventurous eater, liking all sorts of ethnic foods. I remember when I was small (under 10), he took me to work in the city one day, and when lunch rolled around, we ended up doing Dim Sum in Chinatown.
                                                Mom was a stay-at-home-have-dinner-on-the-table-every-night kind of mom. I started helping with the basics as a small kid, mixing and baking. I used to stand at the kitchen sink on a chair, playing and calling myself "Junior Childs". As I moved into my teens, I started watching Mom more closely, then she would have me take over and cook a few recipes for dinner.
                                                I learned a lot of cooking techniques from Mom, but really started getting into watching cooking shows, reading cookbooks like novels and experimenting with flavors in my early 20's. Over the years, I've expanded my horizons into attempts at ethnic cooking, along with making up some of my own recipes. My mom declares that I've surpassed her in ability. I used to disagree, but now that I think about it...I have. She's a recipe cook, not good at improv. I can look at a recipe and change it around to suit my needs.
                                                Ten years ago, my dad got into bread making. He's perfected it over the years, and has inspired me to try to do the same. I just wish I had more time, because there is nothing more perfect than a loaf of bread, still warm and yeasty from the oven.
                                                My cooking and eating style is extremely variable. I'll cook basic PA Dutch staples, then the next night make something Thai or Indian. I honestly love to cook and I have my folks to thank for that.

                                                1. My mother was Jewish Askenazi but born in Palestine. She wasn't the greatest cook but liked fish, salads and veggies. We were not afraid of garlic. We were latchkey children so did most of the dinner cooking. Her mother was an expert at baking breads, cakes and made some awfully good pickles. My stepmother was from Canada, with some French background and was an excellent cook, and entertained a lot. She loved Julia Child. When I was in first grade, we moved to Kingston Jamaica for 6 years, when my mother decided that the abundance of lobster was enough to motivate her to give up being Kosher. We then moved to Miami , where friends were Cuban, Italian and from cracker land in Georgia. I went to college at UCLA, and had roommates who were Chinese and Japanese. Also spent a few years in North Carolina which convinced me that I was not interested in white bread, pimento cheese, and overcooked vegetables as a culinary style. I was lucky enough to travel to France quite a bit in the 1980s and got to sample a lot of regional cusine as well as the beginnings of nouvelle cuisine. I am still lliving in LA & exploit friends and coworkers who come from countries around the world. We had lots of pot lucks at work, and I like to go to Korean restaurants with my golf buddy who also brings me all kinds of snacks. I pretty much like anything although stay away from diner food which bores me and reminds me of North Carolina. I like to cook with seasonal produce especially if it is from my backyard or someone elses.

                                                  1. Both my parents are from the same v. small town in Southwestern PA, where, as far as I could tell as a child spending time there, a lot of cooking energy was focused on jello salads. That said, my paternal grandmother made amazing orange cookies and and sticky buns - as well as a ham loaf that we denigrated as children in various childish ways, but which, as a adult, I came to quite like. My father grew up never eating fish, but has some unpleasant memories of hunting game. My maternal grandparents were excellent cooks and bakers, had a vegetable garden, canned and pickled, and would, apparently, spend entire weekends dedicated to food preparation (when same were not dedicated to alcohol consumption). My mother studied home economics in college, but did not graduate. She became an excellent home cook, and as she and my father, and then our family, started to live abroad, first in Latin America, then Asia and Europe, would incorporate some local dishes into her repetoire. However, canned cream of mushroom soup was still a staple in curried shrimp and beef strogonoff. We would eat out probably twice a week, and my parents often took us to "high end" restaurants with them when visitors were in town, which I think expanded our "palates" and taught us how to behave properly.

                                                    I enjoyed cooking as a child - experimenting with various Bisquick recipes, and becoming an expert on making Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. In college, I would often recreate my grandfather's spaghetti sauce recipe, which I can assure you bears no resemblence to any traditional Italian recipe, but was delicious. I also in college cooked Thanksgiving dinner, pies and all, for 20. But, it wasn't until I moved to Manhattan in my early 20s, and decided to really teach myself how to cook, that I think I became a good cook. Using Julia Child's "The Way to Cook", and Marcella's "The Essentials of Italian Cooking", I was on my way. I was also inspired by Laurie Colwin, which doesn't mean that the first time I roasted a chicken, I didn't roast it upside down, and then wonder where the breast meat was! When I met my husband - who loves to eat - I became even more determined to learn how to cook. After we married, I frequently hosted six course meals at our home in Miami, with ingredients I'd flown in etc. Now, in our tiny Manhattan kitchen, ten years later, I still love to cook, but have become somewhat more low key, given the constraints of said kitchen. Meals tend to be served family style etc. But, I've moved beyond European cooking to Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Middle Eastern, etc. I used to bake a lot more - and love to bake - buche de Noel is a favorite - but do so much less now. Fortunately, living in NYC gives me ready access to ingredients, so experimenting with new cuisines is relatively easy! As is going out for dinner when I just don't feel like cooking!

                                                    Edit - Oh, and for what it is worth, I'm newly 40, married, no kids - which makes day long cooking extravaganzas possible!

                                                    1. My mother was a brilliant cook and she entertained a lot. My father would often choose to bring foreign business clients and colleagues to our house for dinner, instead of taking them to a restaurant.

                                                      We also always had semi-formal family dinners on Sundays. So I was lucky, I got to eat gourmet food from the very beginning of my life.

                                                      I lived in Europe during my childhood and youth. I speak, read and write (pretty) fluently in 3 languages and hobble along in 3 more. (serious hobbling = virtually no chance to practice in years).

                                                      When I was a young teenager, I wound up getting a summer job in a mansion (in a neighboring country) where I cooked (as part of a small team) everything from the breakfast (including the bread & buns) to the dinner. And when the host family entertained, I took part in cooking those dinners, too. -And in hand washing all the dishes afterward, together with the lady of the house. On other days, I -among other things- helped with the potato fields, the herb garden, and helped clear one field from stones.

                                                      No, I am (unfortunately) not a professional chef.

                                                      My husband and I cook a lot. Nowadays we find that we often, instead of going to a restaurant, prefer staying at home, cooking our own meals and choosing a beautiful wine from our own wine cellar. We also entertain, but do not take it too seriously. Fun is the key word. And good wines.

                                                      P.S. Btw.:51 is NOT old. I should know!