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More CH demographics

Okay, we've pretty much covered what we all do for a living,and that still seems to be coming up after about 2 years?

New questions and I'll go first. How old are you and when did your food loving gene awaken?

I am 59, I think I got into food as soon as I graduated from baby foods. Air Force brat and while born in S. AZ. in a border town good Mexican was an early experience. Moving to Japan in early childhood and having parents who always encouraged us to try new things, I could get into it easily. Funny though, my sister who was 18 mos. younger only liked plain and mainly white food. I think I wanted to cook before I could reach the countertop.

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  1. I am 36, born in San Diego CA with ex-pat Grandparents that lived in Mexico and I would spend some summers with them and I basically spent my days in the markets and food stalls discovering new taste treats and the ladies there loved feeding the white haired "gringa"....sooo lucky! In my early twenties kind of fell into chain mode but then got into the wine business at 27 and have been an avid foodie ever since!

    1. I'm 64. I grew up in South Carolina. We lived with my grandmother when I was little. She was the cook - and an excellent one. I started hanging out in the kitchen with her when I was 5 or 6 years old. I've been cooking ever since. Being the oldest grandson, I was a favorite of hers & she loved having me in the kitchen. My regret is not having a record of her recipes. Her spoon bread was incredible. I've tried other recipes since, but haven't found anything that comes close. Maybe it's one of those false memory things - not really as good as you remember it being.

      11 Replies
      1. re: rfneid

        hipquest is right, my mom and I make spoonbread, each a little differently.I discovered the old Sarah Rutledge recipe for Awendaw reprinted in Hoppin' John Taylor's cookbook a number of years ago. It is a spoonbread that incorporates grits. It is special and I use Anson Mills grits, from Columbia, SC to make the Awendaw on special occasions.

        1. re: Candy

          Candy, if you would ever like to try another brand of grits I suggest Nora Mill in Helen, GA. Their speckled grits are my favorite. I actually prefer them to Anson Mills but I do love Anson Mills.

          1. re: Candy

            Candy -I've made the Rutledge recipe from HJ's cookbook also, & found it delicious. I think I have probably idealized Granma's spoonbread beyond the possibility of equaling it, so I suppose I should just enjoy the Rutledge Awendaw. Columbia is my hometown. I left in the early 60's, but returned a few years ago for the first high school reunion I'd ever been to. I took the opportunity to stock up on Anson Mills grits. They do set the standard. Hipquest - I remember the wonderful produce growing up in Columbia. There was a man with a horse & wagon that came through the neighborhood weekly. The wagon had tiered bins on each side filled with fresh produce from his farm. It was a sad day when he gave it up. There was a huge farmers market in downtown Columbia. My mother, grandmother, aunt & cousins used to go every fall & buy a variety of produce - okra, butter beans, green bean, etc. Then we'd all spend the rest of the day shelling beans, blanching things & getting everything ready for the huge freezer chest we had. It was not until I moved the the SF Bay Area that I found produce like that again.

            1. re: rfneid

              When I lived in Savannah, Starland Dairies still had horse drawn dairy wagons. The wagon was chilled by block ice. The driver would often let us hitch a ride to the next park. What fun!

              1. re: rfneid

                rfneid, I just returned from SF. We were there last week when it went from freezing to heat wave. You live in a beautiful place but as I've gotten older I've learned to appreciate "yearning". Y'all have some lovely vegetables but not close to what we get "in season". That juicy, meaty tomato we get in the summer is incomparable; watermelon ripened on the vine OH MY GOD; sweet Queen corn, yum!

                Sorry, can you tell I'm ready for summer?

                We'll be back in the SF Bay area in mid-fall, I can't wait! The hashbrowns at Sears are still calling to me.

                1. re: hipquest

                  Sears Fine Food, mmm, it's just not Saturday if a member of the blue rinse set doesn't fall out by the door...

                  1. re: hill food

                    It certainly does not help that demographic that a mani/pedi salon as well as BofA atms are located right by the "line".

                  2. re: hipquest

                    I was born in the SF bay area (over 50 years ago) and after 10 years in Houston Texas as a young child came back (to Oakland, CA) ...with a few brief and not so brief soujorns to places like Mexico City, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and the Sacramento area I keep coming back to the bay area. As the name implies now live in the City (SF)...but I do have to say, I understand what you mean about the produce in season. Despite the incredible produce, the amazing farms, and all the rest here in the bay area, the best tomato I ever tasted was from a small farm outside of Pittsburgh, of all places....

                    1. re: susancinsf

                      as for when the food loving gene awakened: I think it has always been there, encouraged by my parents. My mother was not a good cook, but she loved to travel and was somewhat adventurous in her willingness to meet people and try experiences from all walks of life, and my father appreciated (appreciates) good food and wine. Sunday nights were for going out to dinner, and that usually meant some type of 'ethnic' food: Chinese, Mexican, bbq...plus my grandmother was a wonderful (Lativian Jewish) cook (my theory is that she never let my mother into the kitchen and thus the cooking ability skipped a generation).

                      In college I was very into backpacking and took a series of summer jobs cooking for back country trail maintenence crews in National Parks including Yosemite and Kings Canyon, working my way up to head cook. Nothing like having to cook with no refridgeration and no oven to teach one a few practical skills in the 'kitchen'. :-)

                      These days I don't cook much...too busy with work, and when I am not working, love to travel, often to scuba locations (had to give up the backpacking when my knees started to complain too much. Scuba gives one all of the sensation and quiet of being in the wilderness, with very little of the gravity :-)). Hoping for an early retirement so I can get back into cooking, and more diving!

                      1. re: susancinsf

                        Well, my personal demographics you just read, as I was born on the same date and at the same place as Susan :-)

                        And although I never was a backpacker's cook, I did work one summer in college as assistant cook and chief dishwasher at a family camp in the Sierra....although we had electricity AND refrigeration. We also had a wonderful cook who confessed to me the first day that he was working at "this stupid place" because he had a problem with booze and therefore had difficulty keeping a job...but the camp put up with him because his food was so good. And it was good. His first order of duty was to teach me some of his favorite recipes so that I could help out on the days he wasn't quite up to getting up....I still have some of those recipes in my head. It was simple, basic stuff that you would expect at that kind of place...but very good. I still use his potato salad recipe. And he made wonderful biscuits. (Come to think of it, I haven't made biscuits in a long time....maybe its time to dredge that recipe out of my brain...).

                        The other thing that affected my chowhound tendencies was that I married a man from halfway around the world...and of an ethnicity whose cuisine I knew little about. Its been a great 24 or so years' adventure learning his food loves and teaching him a few of my own......

                    2. re: hipquest

                      Hipquest - You're dead on about the tomatoes. I've had good tomatoes - even real good - but not what I'd consider superb tomatoes since leaving the south. In addition to growing up in SC, I lived in Arkansas for about 14 years before moving to CA in 1986. I had a small (20 acre) farm in the Ozarks & grew superb tomatoes - as well as other produce. My wife is tired of hearing about the damn tomatoes.

              2. I'm 39 and can't remember a time I did not love food and the dining experience. I'm from a small town in Georgia and grew up with the most wonderful produce, fresh meat and fresh milk (nothing tastes better on Fruit Loops!) All of the women in my family were/are excellent cooks.

                To rfneid: Good Spoon bread is so different but the same from cook to cook I doubt you will ever find any as good as what you remember but you can have fun trying!

                1. I’m 58, third generation Japanese-American from Fresno, California. The extended family had what were in the 50s and 60s high-tech and resource extravagant peach farms--and lower tech, lower resource-using orange farms.

                  Mom and the (maternal) aunts were all great, great cooks—conversant in many, many of the world’s cuisines (in spite of losing everything when sent to the concentration camps in WWII). Japanese, Chinese, Swedish, Filipino, Italian, German, “American”, Mexican, Armenian, Basque, and more were their cuisines.

                  Our own back yard produced asparagus, Japanese pears, kumquats, oranges, pomegranates, grapes and grape leaves, grapefruit, pecans, walnuts, and more. Mom and dad were gatherers—clams, watercress, abalone, roadside fruit trees—and canners, preservers.

                  I grew up hunting; but as I’ve gotten into geezerhood, I’ve become an avid fisherman and preparer of all things fish and seafood.

                  My father’s side from Hawaii (and Peru and Brasil) were also great cooks and eaters. One cousin had a restaurant in Japan Town, San Francisco, another did the Dai Ichi places in Fresno, another a US Coast Guard cook followed by a lifetime after of good, professional food!

                  Long ago, my first wife was a great cook and we entertained a lot. After farm labor and after being a short-order A&W, a baker, a Forest Service engineer, and grad school followed by living and working everywhere (as an agricultural scientist), I’ve done more and more cooking throughout my next several wives (all from different continents and ethnic backgrounds) and long and short term relationships over the years in Asia, East Africa, and Latin America. I’ve added Lao, Thai, Indian, Pakistani, Khmer, Viet, Ethiopian, Malagasy, French, and more Mexican, Filipino, and so on.

                  My aunts and cousins were and are better cooks—but I’ve added a few new tricks, some new ingredients, and more than anyone’s share of food experiences.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Sam ,when you recently dredged up the lyrics from an antique Manfred Mann song (do-wa-diddy...) I pegged you at 57- close.
                    I'm 55, a danish-American wasp bachelor with friends who are mostly jewish, italian, and mexican, and I'm cursed by a weakness for german women.
                    15 jobs, 17 homes (not all at once) in 11 states + Mexico +Turks & Caicos; quasi-retired the last 5. An unplanned peripatetic life.
                    I still can't cook in as well as I eat out, but C'hound has helped a lot.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Sam, I can't think of anyone less "geezerish" on the board. What a fascinating background you have - such riches of experience and of course, good food.

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Wow, Sam. Impressive. 58 and you've got buns and abs of steel? ; )

                        Ok. Here's my story. I'm a Korean-American, in my third decade and born and raised in NYC.

                        I was the pickiest pain-in-the-ass child. Until my parents discovered pizza, Mc Donalds and White Castle at the age of 3, I only ate noodles with anchovy broth and drank formula and milk. They never forced me to eat anything but encouraged me and used positive reinforcement. My palate widened and I got interested in food.

                        In my very early years, we ate a lot of "American" food, or what Korean parents thought American food was. As my dad was already residing in the States before he met my mom, my mom took those classes a lot of military wives took to learn how to make spaghetti and meatballs and mac and cheese because that's what people are supposed to eat in America. So I was very familiar with hamburgers, hot dogs as well as Korean food. And as my maternal grandmother was from Japan, we also had some Japanese food as well. I liked what most Americans would consider "exotic" dishes such as tripe, geoduck and fish eggs. And I developed a love of desserts as my mom liked to bake, making desserts like cream puffs and coconut rum cake with fruit. I still couldn't eat a lot of Korean cuisine as I was still scared of red pepper spice (I think a lot of kids have this phobia). I did have an interest in food back then. There used to be this cabinet next to the sink that would open up like a lid on a toaster oven. I spent many hours standing on that lid watching my mom prep and cook. Loved to watch her clean Maryland blue crabs and hack them up for a Korean casserole (she made a non-spicy version for me). And that's where I learned a lot of my cooking techniques.

                        When I hit my school years, my mom ended up meeting a lot of my classmates' parents and got out of the house as she reentered the workforce; her cooking repertoire expanded as a result of it. We had a lot of Middle Eastern food as my mom was really good friends with an Egyptian woman and Iranian woman. Til this day, I have a problem eating stuffed grape leaves at restaurants because we always cooked it fresh from leaves straight off the vine, not brined in a jar. We would sneak into my school's grounds where grapes grew. I hated doing that as I was paranoid of getting caught. Also grew up with some Chinese, Mexican (not just Taco Bell or Ortega, though we did some of that as well), Filipino, Vietnamese and Indian food. And as my dad's favorite cuisine was Italian-American, we had a lot of that too. Oh, and who can forget Spam? Spam was a big part of our diets. The funniest thing is I hated kimchi until I was an adult. Korean people always used to tell me that I wasn't a real Korean because I didn't eat it. Now I like it but am really picky about it -- it has to be fermented just right. Strangely, my mom (who HAD to eat kimchi every day lost her appetite for it when she was pregnant with me).

                        As I got older, my parents got all granola on me (especially after my dad's heart attack). So no more lasagne, no more baklava, no more General Tso's, no more tonkatsu (except for special occasions like birthdays). Hello kale juice and brown rice. We ended up eating a lot more Korean cuisine as it is relatively healthy, and they adapted the non-healthy ones to suit their needs. Not the happiest time of my life culinarily speaking. But the good part was we had an organic garden (on our relatively small front yard and backyard in Queens, NY) and had really fresh vegetables and herbs. It pains me now because these vegetables tasted a lot better than the stuff I get even in the farmers markets.

                        But I'm very grateful to them today for instilling some of those habits. I'm more of a moderate person than my parents were. I don't go to the extreme that they did but most of what I eat tends to be on the healthy side. I started cooking as a kid, not because I was forced to but because I wanted to. Started off with simpler dishes such as mashed potatoes. My parents liked to sleep in on Saturday mornings but I needed to watch my cartoons. So I would rise up early, make some mashed potatoes and curl up next to the TV eating it while watching Superfriends and Smurfs. My mashed potato technique is a bit more refined today then when I was seven (I used to use a fork back then as my parents were too cheap to buy a masher). At some point, my mom encouraged me to go to cooking school (before it was considered glamorous like today) but I don't think I ever wanted to do this as a career -- just as a hobby. Sometimes I flirt with the idea of going to cooking school, but also know that I'm not the type of person who can stand 10 hours on my feet chopping vegetables (I can be lazy). As my sister said, I liked the "glory job." When we used to cook together -- she was the prep bitch and I did the actual cooking. We always fought for the glory job, but as I was older, I usually won.

                        I do think there is some sort of food gene involved. My mother was always into cooking and food -- collecting recipes, watching food shows, talking to her friends about food. My dad really didn't cook a whole bunch until my mom started working. He would then cook simple dishes like miso-glazed fish. After my mom passed away, he actually got into cooking a lot more (though only healthy cooking). But his daen jang jigae (Korean soy bean casserole) rivals any restaurant's and my grandmother's. My sister, though, didn't inherit the gene. She likes food to a point, but doesn't really care about it. I asked her a hypothetical question once -- if you can lose one sense, which one would it be. Her response was the sense of taste!

                        I married a Chinese-American guy who definitely has the food gene going on in his family. He comes from a family that owned a few Chinese restaurants and was always into food (eating it as opposed to cooking it). He is not into the "ethnic" cuisines as much as I am, preferring to eat more Western European food (and, of course, Chinese). But we've both introduced each other to new experiences and have shared them together. We actually have very different interests -- he loves Formula 1 and poker and never reaches his target heart rate zone. But we both share the love of food and definitely plays a role in our bond together.

                      2. I am 51 (I must have been tired when I posted mid fifties in another thread) and am an AMM [Average American Mix - (White - German/English/Irish with some Native American - Cherokee/Blackfoot and African American thrown in).
                        Born in Denver CO. Lived at times in Missouri and California while growing up.

                        I have always loved food and started cooking at about eight or nine. I have always been an "experimental" cook, looking at different things and wondering how they would taste together.

                        Both of my parents were good, but limited, cooks. They stayed with food they were comfortable with, my father mainly meat (lots of wild game) and potato and my mother with some Southern CA border foods.

                        Joined the Air Force at 17 to escape an ugly family situation and discovered the wonders (I wonder what that is?) of military "chow". Sent to Missouri where my first wife's family introduced me to squirrel, coon, and other "Ozark" cuisine. That marriage dissolved and I was ready to leave the service.

                        Sent kicking and screaming to Korea in my last year of a 6 year hitch, and my world changed forever. I fell in love with the country, people, and food, - and met a truly wonderful, beautiful, young Korean lady. I returned to the states, took 45 days leave to go back and marry that young lady, re-enlisted and was immediately sent back to Korea.

                        Throughout the rest of my military career I spent more time in Korea with some short visits to Japan, the Philippines (several times), England, and Saudi Arabia. I found wonderful food in each (and some not so wonderful).

                        Retired from the Air Force after twenty years and was in the right place and time to buy a Korean Restaurant. Owned and operated that successfully for 13 years with my wife (She being the brains and skill behind the operation).

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: hannaone

                          Midnight chow at the flight line chow hall at McConnell... no civilian contracts - all GI run. Few and far between, but when it wasn't always about delivering the lowest cost meal, the ingredients themselves were often quite good, and a good cook could do some nice things. Grilled steak is the same on a chow hall griddle as on a teppan - it's just up to the cook.

                          I turned down Kadena in Okinawa in my last year of a second hitch - lost my tech stripe number. I've often wondered what would have happened if I stayed in. I know that if they had put me on the mainland, at Yokota, I would probably have stayed in - but by then, I had kids, and I knew how bad the brat schools were, and didn't want them to go through all that.

                          Where's your restaurant? (Not asking you to advertise on CH, just curious.)

                          1. re: applehome

                            Since I no longer own the restaurant - It was in the Spokane Wa area.

                            Yes, there was some very good food in the mess halls. Just not in basic where they had to feed so many, and with the cooks often in tech school themselves and just learning the trade.

                            Being stationed in different places was a great way to learn about other cultures and their cuisine. One or more years in a country is much better for that than a short vacation.

                        2. I'm 51, Canadian white male, born in Montreal, but raised mostly in Toronto. When I was moved into my new school in 1962 in suburban Toronto, here was the make-up of the school - 250 students (approx.), 2 of which were Japanese, 1 of which was Chinese, and zero Indian/African/SE Asian/South American. Of the white students, the major bifurcation was were you Catholic or Protestant? In the former case, you were almost certainly of Italian descent; in the latter, almost definitely British. In my instance, 3 of my 4 grandparents were born in England.

                          Dinner at their homes was depressingly similar - over-cooked roast beef or mutton, grey pork chops or roasts, although my paternal grandmother actually did make a pretty good turkey for Thanksgiving. The "name" restaurants in Toronto generally offered the same things - over-cooked roasts, steaks, some fish (usually drowned in a sauce), and gasp - lobster.

                          Luckily, my father served in the Royal Canadian Navy, and visited Europe and the Far East on various tours. There, his taste buds expanded, and when he married my mom, he introduced her to new finds. I remember, as a teen, my mom confessing to me that until she met my dad, she had never had spaghetti, pizza, or Chinese food.

                          They didn't make the same mistake with us. Toronto had a "dinner of the month" club in the 60's, where you got two "buy one, get one free" coupons for various places around the city. This allowed my dad to take us all out (2 boys, I girl) for the cost of three dinners, and the spots that opted for this program were usually not the "name" restaurants, but newer, more ethnic places such as Italian, Chinese, Greek, etc., although Le Provencal and La Chaumiere ( now closed, but much admired French restos of the time were included).

                          I thought my parents had a quite sensible policy - take a small portion of something new, try a bite, and if you don't like it, discreetly push it aside. For example, La Chaumiere was famous for its 40-item appetizer trolley, which they would bring up tableside, and allow you to select a plateful. On my dad's advice, I tried snails in garlic butter - something I would never have done on my own - and have loved them ever since. I was probably seven at the time. (My younger brother, a little less adventurous, and to be fair, only 4-5 years at the time, became famous for asking "Did I have this before? Did I like it?")

                          The two Japanese girls I referred to earlier lived in the next house to us. Their parents would annually host a New's Year Eve party where they would serve what, to 1960's Toronto, were incredibly exotic - miso soup, suninomo salads, sushi, teriyaki, dumplings, etc. Besides them, we were the only family on the street that actually ate Chinese food (take-out - we didn't know how to cook it!). Of course, this was what my (Chinese) wife refers to as Canadian-Chinese - S&S chicken balls, wonton soup, fried rice, egg rolls, etc. - but it was wonderfully exotic to us. My mom and I used to secretly snack on leftover (and cold) Cantonese chow mein.

                          Having a cottage about 50 miles south of Montreal helped too. Authentic Quebec patates frites put every other french fry in North America to shame - and let's not get started on poutine! Montreal smoked meat, foie gras, duck breast, tourtiere, tarte au sucre, not to mention the locally prepared sausages and other specialties of the region.

                          We were deposited at the cottage on July 1, the day after school ended, and picked up on the Monday before Labour Day. My dad was still working in Toronto, and we only had one car, so he'd come down every Friday night, and Saturday was shopping day. We'd head first to Henryville, where the local baker made the same hot glazed doughnuts that made Krispy Kreme famous. We had to get there early though - he'd be sold out by 9:30. Then to Sabrevois, where the local butcher made his own fantastic sausages. I still remember breakfasts of big rounds of his "summer sausage" fried with eggs and toast of that great Henryville bread - simple, but awesome. From Sabrevois, a trip down the highway with stops at various produce stands, and finally, a stop at the tiny, local supermarket in Venise for staples like ketchup, mustard, etc. Dairy wasn't a problem - the milkman came every morning, dropping off two glass bottles with the little tin foil caps. A few years later, when my mom did get a car, we expanded our horizons, and found artisan cheese and bread makers in the area that also gave me an appreciation for the local nature of food, and the difference between food from the heart and food from the factory.

                          Then, I met my wife, and she opened my eyes to all kinds of Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino foods that I'd never heard of before. Hot-and-sour soup, lechon, sashimi, tom yang soup, bi-bim-bap, calderete, and dim sum - things I'd never heard of, let alone never tried.

                          Now, I'm proud to say, my two daughters have fairly eclectic tastes. The older one is more adventurous, and is interested in cooking, while the younger, while more conservative in meals, is an avid assistant baker. Are they completely immune to North American cuisine? Nope - they still like McNuggets, fast food burgers, chain pizza, and Popeye's fried chicken. But at least they try stuff - on a recent Mediterranean cruise, they got to try paella in Spain, moussaka on Mykonos, pasta in Rome, and so on. They might not have liked everything they tried, but at least they're willing to give things a shot. And I think that's the most important attribute to developing real CH's!

                          And I'm certain if my dad hadn't been in the RCN, I would have ended up like a lot of my friends - no sense of adventure, no sense of variety (according to my mom, her mom made the same meals every night of the week - the only difference was whether it was roast lamb or roast beef on Sunday, and what leftovers would be served on Monday), and no appreciation of how many options there are. Luckily, today, Toronto is chock-full of immigrants and ethnic cuisine, so my kids get to experience the best the world has to offer. Bon appetit, everyone!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: KevinB

                            So across the border in to Plattsburgh or just short of?

                            1. re: Candy

                              We were right on the tip of Lake Champlain, about 1 mile north of the border.

                              Honestly, when we went to the States, we would go to Swanton or St. Alban's most of the time; sometimes we'd branch out to Rouses Point. Plattsburgh was nearly as far as Montreal, and if we wanted to visit the city, we'd go to Montreal; Dad knew where everything was there. Watched a lot of WPTZ-TV though!

                              But as a kid, I loved going to the US grocery stores in Vermont - there were so many brands of chocolate bars, candies, pop, etc. that we just didn't get in Canada. Faygo Redpop, Clark and Heath bars, Teaberry gum - these were all great treats for us. Even today, my wife likes to go to Buffalo periodically to shop, not because the prices are necessarily better, but she just thinks the selection is more varied.

                              1. re: KevinB

                                Used to be an AFB there. It is how I ended up there, gong to college and marrying there too. My DH loved tea berry gum. I never have bene a gum person

                                1. re: KevinB

                                  My sister's inlaws live in St. Catherines and love going to Buffalo to shop. They'll often bring an extra vehicle to carry their spoils home - esp paper goods which they say are much less expensive.

                            2. I'm 25. I grew up in a foodie family, so it was natural for me, although I did go through a picky period more out of contrariness than anything else when I was a kid. Both of my parents are excellent and adventurous cooks and avid restaurant-goers, and took us along as soon as we learned our restaurant manners. We lived in Europe for a couple of years, which killed all fondness I ever had for Wonder Bread and McDonalds and the like, and then in Houston where we profited from the wide variety of ethnic restos.

                              I got into cooking through baking; when my parents split up Mom wasn't around to make cookies, so if I wanted some I had to make them myself. So I did, and then cakes and pies and profiteroles and creme brulee. My parents taught us the basic skills young and roped us into prep labor early, but I didn't do much full-meal cooking until I got my own kitchen after college. I'm getting better all the time, and now saving my pennies has me doing things even my parents don't do, like making my own stock.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mordacity

                                As a person who also grew up part of the time in Europe, I can attest to the opposite regarding wonderbread: Although I can't say I developed a taste for it I envied all my friends who had bread they could roll into balls. When I was in the US, I felt such the oddball with my foods.

                                ETA: Had lots of good food as a child thanks to my rearing. But as a small child (5 and older) my favourite food was wild board paté. Treyf, I know, but so good. Clearly, moving to the states provided shocks beyond the language issues as people would proudly state their distaste for such goodies.

                              2. I'm 66 (do I win a prize?) I think I was breast fed as an infant, and it's commonly known mother's milk is one of nature's richest sources of free glutamates. Therefore, I grew up liking tasty food, especially if it has MSG in it. I suspect umami is just the Japanese rendering for "Ooh, mommy!"

                                No, seriously, it was those Michigan Dogs on Bouyea Bakery New England Rolls that started me on the way to where I am now, a member of Generation XXL, Candy.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Xiao Yang

                                  You gave me and my DH a laugh! Oh if I could still get the original Bouyea Bakery Michigan rolls. BTW my very first serious boyfriend, about '65 was the heir to the Bouyea bakery in Plattsburgh, NY. Unfortunately the proper bun is no longer made.He sold the company out and the big national decided the market was too small to accommodate the specialized demand.

                                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                                    "I'm 66 (do I win a prize?)" Nope. I do. 'Nuff said.

                                    I was born into a family whose main focus in life was living large, having fun, and eating well. It was a wonderful, crazy, musical life for all of us. Our Italian gardener made sure we had everything we needed to keep our heritage alive in the kitchen and on the table. Both paternal and maternal realtives were fabulous cooks...made everything from scratch from delicate pastries to impossibly complicated stuffed/rolled/marinated roasts and pastas. My foray into the kitchen began when I was about 5 years old with the sad happenstance of trying to help mother mix a birthday cake but dropping the whole thing on the floor as she was about to pour it into the baking pan. It's probably a good thing that I don't remember what happened next. Obviously I blocked it forever...

                                    It's been an exciting and interesting culinary journey from that misadventure to the present. Discovering new cuisines, experimenting with different ingredients, growing various vegetables not found in markets....all an expression of love for those with whom we want to share what we find enjoyable. I love to cook. And, surprisingly, those I cook for like what I cook. I do too. That's the best part.

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      Reading your passionate words about cooking Italian is always as soothing as listening to classical music. Those at your Sunday table are lucky ones.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        Thank you Veggo. I must tell you that your Chimichurri sauce is now a staple here. With a slight reduction of garlic .......

                                  2. 36 here, German born and bred. Grew up near Cologne (Bonn, the old capital if anyone remembers...). Parents divorced when I was 2, grew up with mom, who always made stuff that I liked. Can't remember her forcing me to eat anything ever. I have fond memories of taking an evening bath and her placing a tray on the tub with Abendbrot = dark bread topped with cheese or pistachio mortadella (still one of my major weaknesses when in Germany), cut up cukes and quartered tomatoes, and some hering salald with red beets (not homemade, but good!).

                                    Can't say that mom was/is an adventurous cook, but we'd have liver, kidneys, brains and all kinds of things that were pretty regular fare in Germany. She made a killer chicken noodle soup (hey -- what mom doesn't?). She had to learn to cook at a young age -- got married at the age of 18 and had to "feed" my dad back in the days. She begged her MIL for her beef tongue in madeira sauce recipe which my dad loved and I still crave...

                                    I am probably a better cook than my mom ("no, mom -- tomatoes don't go in the fridge EVER *sigh*) at this point, but I still make a version of her salad dressing.

                                    My dad was more of the bachelor cook kinda a type, canned (chicken noodle mostly) soup and all, though he was very proud of the few 'riffs' he would do on canned stuff....

                                    One of his culinarily questionable inventions was adding matjes (salt-cured herring filets) to cucumber salad "because that way, you don't need extra salt". Yea, salty it was :-D

                                    I have always found food to be pleasurable and exciting. I didn't cook a lot in my 20s, cause cooking for yerself at that age is a waste of time... so many other things to do. Plus, when you're single, it's hard to justify/work up the effort.

                                    One of the joys of being married is making dinner for your loved one. It is one of my greatest pleasures, and I generally put thought and effort into it. When we go out to eat, we always try to order different stuff and then either switch half-way or share bites.

                                    I also, from a relatively young age, say, 14, have been into going to restaurants. Special occasions like grandma's b-day would always be a reason to go to a fancy place, and I loved the whole experience, and trying new foods. Had my first sweetbreads at the tender age of 12 and never looked back.

                                    Ah... so much food, so little time '-)

                                    1. I'm 21. I'd like to argue that my CH conditioning began when my mother insisted on making baby food from scratch, but my 'food-loving gene' probably awakened when I had to cook for myself as a teenager. Since I was the most ravenous person in the house -- at all hours of day and night -- I was told that the 'extra' meals (besides breakfast, lunch, dinner) would be my responsibility. I learned to cook most of the same things mom cooked, which was much easier after years of serving prep labor and even just doing homework in the kitchen while the cooking happened.

                                      My family's very traditional Chinese, so the men never did any cooking. My (older) brother called me from college to ask how to make ramen, the kind that comes in a styrofoam cup (i.e., with the directions to boil water right on the label)! It makes me so proud to hear my mom ask whether I'll make some non-Chinese recipes for her.

                                      Now that I finally have my own 'kitchenette' in college, it's been very interesting to cook with different materials than the ones available at home, but I've also realized how good I had it -- vegetables/herbs were always washed and ready, the kitchen here is shared by five other suitemates who don't share my views on cleanliness, and there was definitely a lot more counter space. At the same time, I've never had so much freedom to buy my own ingredients and test out non-Chinese food: Italian, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Spanish, and lately, a few basic Jewish recipes (I grew up in NY, spent a week in Cuba and six months in Spain, and am dating a Puerto Rican/Polish Jew). I'm still a beginner, but I love learning about food and cuisine...I'm headed to law school next year and the first thing I thought to check was the food scene in the surrounding neighborhoods. Long live CH!

                                      1. I'm almost 40 and was raised in and around DC. All 4 of my grandparents were from Ireland. I grew up on boiled salty meat and potatoes. Green veggies were boiled until grey. Onion and salt were our "spices." My chowish tendencies started in college. I was working in a Cal-Mex restaurant and was fascinated by what the cooks (mostly from Mexico and El Salvador) made for themselves. It was so different from what we were serving customers, and so damned tasty!

                                        1. Wow -- I love everyones' stories. How very interesting each of you are!

                                          Me, 34 y.o. native North Carolinian from the mountains and living in Raleigh. I spent many weekends with my paternal grandmother growing up and she was a fantastic, wonderful cook and home entertainer. Grew her own herbs and veggies year in and out. Very traditional in her cuisine, but sometimes would surprise me with recipes she brought back from her travels.

                                          Grandmamma was an insomniac, and I would often wake up in the middle of the night to find her baking. She taught me so much, and I will always be grateful to her and cherish those memories. Baking is still my favorite form of cooking, but I have to say I have been pretty proud of my repertoire expansion in recent years (still not a very good griller, but anything else....) and a large part of my culinary challenges come from Chowhound!

                                          1. I'm 28, female, from Montreal and recently married. I think the foodie thing happened as a result of being inspired by my father in law who is obsessed with food/wine pairing. His knowledge of wine made me want to learn about it too, and from there, a love and appreciation of food developed.

                                            Unlike a lot of Chowhounders, I am not a cook and don't even try. But I am a pretty voracious taster and will gleefully squander an insane amount of cash on food on a pretty regular basis. Thankfully my husband is a bit of a cook and so I do get to eat pretty great homemade food on a pretty regular basis.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Aspiring Foodie

                                              Aspiring Foodie, I am relieved at your words. I thought I might be the only CH that didn't like to cook. I am the shame of my mother and cousins, as they remind me all the time...even tho I can make bread from scratch, caramel icing, jambalaya, and a few other good items. My mother, who is a great cook says, "if you like people, you have to be a good cook." She is right, but it just doesn't come naturally to me. But I sure like to pick out recipes and have others cook for me! And I love to eat. Oh, I am 51, grew up in Ohio, and then escaped to new orleans for college (present owner of Commanders Palace was in my class, and I did a stint for K-Paul). I am a cultural anthropologist and i teach health / nutrition/food to immigrants and refugees.

                                            2. I"m 35. Growing up, food at home was run-of-the-mill, but my grandfather had a dazzling garden, so we always ate well at his house. When I got my own apartment, he brought me boxes of produce, which I devoured.

                                              I've always loved to cook, but I think my culinary epiphany was on Christmas evening 1996 when I went to a friend's apartment where we had leftovers from her parents' holiday party. She had hummus that one of her father's coworkers had made, and it was unlike anything I had ever tasted.

                                              1. I just turned 38 a few weeks ago, and growing up, I wasen't a real foodie. (not like now, anyways!) My Grandmother (who raised me) was an excellent cook, if a bit unadventerous in home cooking. (Chinese and Mexican were her only adventerous cuisines, and she's enjoy going out for them, not making at home) She was a good baker, and her specialty was English trifle. Such a rich, decadent dessert!

                                                I became a CH'er from a boyfriend's mother and father. They were from Italy, and Luisa was a mind-blowingly great cook. Nothing scared her, and she opened my eyes to what GREAT food is/can be. She grew her own veggies, made everything from scratch. She would drive 20 miles away, to shop at special places she really loved. She was a Chowhound, before I knew what they were! Her husband gave me very wise insight, on going out to eat. He told me: "Never order out, what you can make at home!" I allways remember that. Luisa was fond of game, and I tried my very first rabbit-dish from her. I was a bit taken aback, at the cut-up rabbit, braised in red-wine. It does NOT look anything like chicken! I ate it, and was edjucated. I never knew how good rabbit was! I went home to Grandma, to tell her about my new discovery. Come to find out, Grandma RAISED rabbits for eating in the Depression, and hated everything to do with them! Feeding them, cleaning up after them, and eating them! Therefore..She never made it for the family, hence my total ignorace. I still tease here about it now.

                                                So, I really became a Hound at around age 21-22 yrs old.

                                                1. I am 43 years old ( but my 44th is in May - Yay for me for making it so far!:-) ) I didn't appreciate my background until later, i.e., post-adolescence. My growing up was all game (yep, I've gutted all manner of same) and garden veggies and locally-grown everything(including beef, pork, chicken), then my late growing up was overseas (Finland) with all sorts of new-yet-not-new flavors and approaches. Despite cooking all through my childhood, I never really appreciated all that I had until early college years. Whow!. How things change! Despite my Mom making some really icky mid-century popular prepared food stuff, I was never really prepared for the truly awful. Or worse, completely commercial. Got it in college.

                                                  I started cooking again, very quickly. Have never stopped. I now have kids that cook ( 20 and 15), and enjoy it. We cook everything from Midewestern comfort to Asian dim sum, barbeque to Ethiopian wats, biryiani to hashed browns.

                                                  I don't know that I can cite a time when I became what we want to call a "Chowhound," but I do know that I have always wanted to explore good food, from all cultures, and make it (University: history and fine arts majors). Intellectually, it's far to fine a topic to let lie. Physically, it's far too great a pleasure, Sociologically, it's much too fine a glue. Economically, it's...well, really...everything.


                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: cayjohan

                                                    For a fascinating and wonderfully written account of how one of America's greatest food artists discovered good chow, read 'My Life in France' by Julia Child. It was published in 2006.

                                                    1. re: ThaiNut

                                                      Yep, ThaiNut - fantastic book. On my shelf!


                                                  2. I am 43 and am a native of Richmond, VA. My Mom was not a good cook or a foodie, but I had two wonderful Aunts who made glorious southern food, were good bakers and had patience with their inqusitive niece. My father wasn't a foodie either, but somehow both of my brothers and I are. My Dad died when I was 10 and Mom essentially closed the kitchen which meant we ate out every night. Not fast food or chains typically, but independent places of various price points and cuisines. While Mom was less than adventerous, she was very supportive and encouraging of my growing curiousity and love of food. Later my middle brother (who was now an adult) moved back home and for his "board" he made us dinner every night and he would act like he was on a cooking show and I was his audience. We also watched Julia Child and The Frugal Gourmet and he also would take me to various food tasting events locally, etc. I was 13 or 14 at the time. And food has been my passion ever since.

                                                    1. I'm 53. I was born in Norfolk, VA right before my Dad left the Navy, and have lived most of my life in Milwaukee (with a few brief periods in other cities) since. I always loved what I thought was good food, but I'm certain that I did not know what that was until I went to college. There are a few things from childhood that still rank today as some of the best things I have ever eaten (my grandmother's fork-mark cookies and Mom's roast tongue and also her marinated flank steak), but looking back, I was pretty clueless.

                                                      My food 'thunderbolt' moment came in the early 70s. America was establishing ties with "Red China", and a the first Schezwan and Hunan Chinese restaurants opened in my area. The sudden realization that Chinese food was NOT all chop suey, chow mein, and fried rice was my turning point. I was suddenly adventurous enough to learn that not all Italian food involved tomato sauce (one of my most hated and feared childhood encounters), not all barbeque invloved sauce that was just like catsup, not all cheese was bright yellow-orange square slices that fit so perfectly on that piece of Wonder bread, that there were breads other than Wonder and challah, even something as simple as the fact that not all fish had to be somehow rendered into breaded squares and sticks before it could be eaten!

                                                      So as peculiar as it may be, I have Richard Nixon to thank for my current gourmand status.

                                                      1. I'm 47, born and bred in Indiana, mostly in and around Indianapolis, but also lived for 5 years in Evansville.

                                                        I wasn't even remotely into food until I met Mr CF. I didn't cook (Mr CF said 'please don't') until we had our first 2 children and I realised I had to feed them. It was a bit of a "Holey Moley!!" moment. I didn't want my boys to grow up like I had (foodwise), and so I went on a mission - I learned how to cook, started reading magazines and cook books and experimenting with ingredients. I used to call the boys 'my guinea pigs', if something was enjoyed, we kept the recipe. If we didn't like it, the recipe got tossed.

                                                        I was talking to our youngest son about this last week, he said that he was really glad that he and his brothers had been exposed to so many different foods - though he hated that dish I made with the peanut sauce... ;-)

                                                        It was the magazines - specifically Food and Wine and Gourmet - that really got me going. We were starting to travel (mostly business conferences) and I found restaurants in those magazines that I wanted to try. And so we did... and we haven't looked back!

                                                        I think because of all of this - the magazines, cook books and trying new restaurants - I'm an adventurous cook and an avid foodie.

                                                        1. I am 49 and I've lived my whole life about 30 miles west of Boston. My mother was the cook and very competent, but not particularly adventurous. Plenty good enough so that I was a pretty chubby kid for a long time :-). I wasn't exposed to much else as I was an only child of parents that didn't socialize, only ate at a very limited number of local restaurants, and had no relatives in the US.

                                                          My ex was even less inclined to try new or different things. Americanized chinese food was about as far out as he would ever go, generally he was more into hot dogs and beans, peanut butter sandwiches, pork chops smothered in Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, Kraft mac and cheese (but I do love that myself - oops), Burger King, that type of thing.

                                                          So until I was about 30 I really had not gotten 'into' food much. Then I met my wonderful husband and wow - what a difference. I remember on our first vacation together, he took me to a Japanese restaurant and ordered sake and sushi. I told him I'd try it (still trying to impress of course) but if I couldn't deal with it would he be able to finish it? Well when he tells this story today he makes it sound like he had to arm-wrestle me to get at any of the food. (And he ordered stuff like urchin and eel - not California rolls!) A few weeks later he surprised me with cream of cauliflower soup that he made from scratch - heavenly. Wasn't long before I was eating things even he wasn't up for, like skate and soft shell crab and quail eggs.

                                                          So my turning point was a bit later than a lof of CHers, but I'm so glad it happened because in hindsight I wonder how much deliciousness I could have missed out on!

                                                          1. 24, originally from the REAL Western Maryland, the other side of the continental divide (if you are from there you really are more from Pittsburg and WV, than MD, but that's another rant).

                                                            I think I got the foodie gene without even knowing. My family are all great cooks, mostly Southern from VA and WV, my Mom baked and cooked mostly from scratch. I grew up on a beef farm and we would barter for other animals. I also had an amish nanny starting at 9 months old, so... needless to say there was some good food there.

                                                            I was the seven year old that like salads with dry blue and vinagarette, knew that a petite filet was good stuff, and was pretty much loving lots of food, including McDonald's chicken nugget obsession at probably age 3, but hey who doesn't like a chicken nugget now and again.

                                                            Where I grew up there isn't a lot of food diversity, but we would travel and drive a lot for good food and to shop and go to plays and I would try new stuff. One of my favorite places then was New Orleans I ate at Commander's Palace, NOLA, Cafe Du Monde, Central Grocery... that was great. I am still navigating my way through some of the different asian and south pacific food as that wasn't available and my parents didn't tend to eat that, except for the home cooked american-chinese my Mom learned in group cooking classes.

                                                            Now I make it a goal to try out new places and cook new things all the time. But I am glad I started young. I have had milk right out of a cow and real butter and wow, I have lived a good life.

                                                            1. I just turned 36, am of English/Irish/Scottish descent and was born and raised in rural eastern Canada. My mom was (and still is!) a great home cook but meals were simple and basic - meat, veg, potatoes, dessert. On rare occasions, we would have something 'exotic' like spaghetti or lasagne. We had a pretty large garden when I was young and my mom would have me run out to pick whatever we were having for dinner. What I would give to have access to produce that fresh now! I always loved food but had no particular interest in cooking when I was very young. However, when I was around 10 or 11, I started watching episodes of 'Dinner at Julia's' with Julia Child on PBS and was fascinated. When I was 18, I moved to Montreal and my true culinary awakening really began. I slowly learned how to cook and began to learn about the cuisines of other cultures. When I moved to Toronto seven years later, I was introduced to an even broader range of cuisines. I love that there is always something new to learn about the world of food and every time I travel somewhere or meet someone new, it broadens my culinary horizons.

                                                              1. I'm 25, born in Chicago of mixed Asian heritage but with the Filipino love of good food and good times dominating. True to my roots, I grew up on a steady diet of falafel, fried chicken, biryani, fish and chips, brain masala, gumbo, lumpia, rotis, pan de sal, Wonderbread and always rice! I grew up buying paletas in our Puerto Rican barrio before moving a Korean neighborhood where I would snack on kimbap after school. A lack of halal foods made fast food a very boring excursion and thus very rare. My adventurous, but culinarily lacking mother ensured that her children would be exposed to a vast array of quality cuisines instead, as we toured restaurants and unearthed inspiring flavors to bring home.

                                                                Grandparents, however, were content to eat Filipino food until the cows came home and brought seeds that would ensure a copious supply of Asian produce (thanks to a grandson's summer toil). I was raised on tomatoes that tasted bright and summery; long beans that snapped like castanets; chilis that provided flavor with heat and delicious greens with their leaves. I grew up knowing the flavors of winter, spring, summer and fall. Food was never taken for granted and I was taught to appreciate the hard work that brought dinner to my plate and be grateful for all that I had. I picked my first crop as a toddler, killed my first fowl in grade school, cooked my first Thanksigiving at 12.

                                                                The lean period of college turned my cooking hobby into a necessary skill as I struggled to turn the cheapest cuts of meat and saddest, limp produce into meals that wouldn't just exacerbate my homesickness. Necessity taught me to cure my own bacon, butcher my own meat and appreciate the thrifty foodways of the past. I became a master of home economy and as I reached into the arsenal of spices brought from home to recreate the satisfaction of family meals, I developed my own style of cooking layering Levantine styles upon Oriental traditions with Indian inflections. I learned the beauty of complex favors without sacrificing my appreciation for simplicity. And never losing my wonder at trying something new.

                                                                1. I'm 38, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba to Korean immigrants (that's Canada BTW). My mother was and is an outstanding cook, and the rest of the family her willing subjects. I was born to eat. I recall being willing to try anything and everything. I loved my vegetables and liver and spleen and crab and all sorts of Korean specialties, so I wasn't a hard child to feed. However, I hated green onions, onions and green and red peppers, so I would spend a lot of time picking them out of my food, then happily eat the rest of my lukewarm meal. I have since learned to love peppers and onions, but the green onion aversion lives on. My mother can't understand how I could be Korean.

                                                                  When you are a kid, you don't know how good you had it until you leave the house. I used to be bored by the marvelous Korean food my parents cooked, and craved mashed potatoes and turkey and exotic food like Jello. I started cooking very early so that I could eat things like lasagna (blame it on Garfield). As soon as I was somewhat independent (able to take a bus on my own) I started to search out new food experiences like sushi, curries, goulash, daubes and tofu fa. When I finally moved out of the house and started a demanding school schedule, the one hobby I maintained was cooking and wine tasting. Now that I am older and away from my mother's table, I am realizing how lucky I was to grow up eating such wonderful food, and am in the process of rediscovering my cultural kitchen. It has been really great to learn recipes and techniques from my mum, and I enjoy the time we spend together eating, shopping and cooking. My dad and my hubbie are accomplices. It makes for some pretty fun times!

                                                                  1. I'm 23, from Boston. I learned how to cook (or at least feed myself) growing up, but didn't really get into it until a year or two ago. Ironically, I've learned to cook because I started a cooking website and knowing how to cook is apparently a prerequisite. That's how I became a professional web developer too. Life's funny =)

                                                                    1. Just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying this thread! It's a real delight to hear how each of you has come to your love of food. I hope we continue to get more stories from new contributors, and thanks, Candy, for starting this discussion!

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: KevinB

                                                                        Just as we couldn't figure out gender or ethnicity in some cases, the ages of certain posters has been surprising and illuminating.

                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                          I thought it might be. I think the original Chow mag. was targeted at those under 40. I thought it might be interesting to find out from the users and participants to find out where the real age demographic exists. Seems like most of us geezers are in the majority. I don't have any issue with the younger set and am teaching a few under 30's the ins and outs of food prep. As a Home Ec.Ed. major and very little being given life/home schools given much shrift in our schools. I was curious.

                                                                          1. re: Candy

                                                                            Keep in mind, the posters replying to this thread are self-selected, so it may not be a true representation of the ages of the Chowhound posters at large. In fact, I'd venture to say that in general only the most active posters/readers visit this board; many never leave their regional boards, or may have been happy to say what they do for a living (note how that thread took off), but are loath to give up more "personal" info.

                                                                            FWIW, I'm 39 and live in the SF Bay Area. I grew up here, went to college not far away, continued to live in this area, then moved to and lived in NYC for 10 years, and moved back to CA bit under three years ago. I'll try to dredge up a wonderful thread from years ago where people talked at length about how/why they became chowhounds. A few of those old-timers are still around, but it's great reading regardless.

                                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                              Agreed. Funny how a lot of people didn't think twice about saying what they do for a living but were hesitant to leave more personal info like age (including me). Ok -- I'm 34 and will be 35 this year.

                                                                              I think I read somewhere that either the average or the median age of posters was 33 or 34 -- though I'm not sure how they arrived at that statistic.

                                                                      2. I'm 37 and was brought up in Sheffield (an industrial town in the North of England). My mother always cooked, but she was pretty conservative and I grew up eating overcooked roasts, shepherd's pie and the like. The most exotic thing we had was spaghetti bolognaise, made with powdered tomato soup! She was (and still is) an excellent baker, and we always had home-made desserts like rhubarb crumble, apple pie, bakewell tart etc.

                                                                        Both my grandmothers were terrible cooks - we always had fish and chips at my maternal grandmother's, although she made great bread and butter (there is an art to getting really thin slices of bread and butter, believe it or not!). My grandfather was incredibly picky, and would eat only a limited repertoire of dishes, including tripe, cherries and crab claws! He did, however, have an allotment and in the summer we would get an endless supply of cucumber, tomatoes and kidney beans.

                                                                        I didn't really start getting into food until I discovered a talent for languages in my teens, which took me to France on several occasions. I used to stay with a family, and the mother was the most incredibly traditional French cook. They had been farmers, and we'd have three course meals twice a day, including lots of meat, cheese, salad and fresh bread. It was the first time I'd had vinaigrette on a salad, rather than salad cream, and I developed a real passion, which I still have, for a simple green salad served with the cheese course. I think I probably put on weight over those summers!

                                                                        As I've got older, my passion for food had grown and grown, and now it's pretty much an obsession! I'm an enthusiastic and pretty competent home cook, and I spend hours researching the best restaurants. Pretty much your average chowhound really.

                                                                        1. 36 here. Lived in all areas of NY state...from Long Island to Buffalo. Mom was a basic cook. Steak 3x a week, roasted chicken 3x a week (both served with white rice, baked potatoes, or boxed mac and cheese) and take out chinese or pizza on the weekend. Canned soup, iceburg lettuce in the salad....desserts were baked from Betty Crocker with frosting from the can. A "big night out" would be at the local Italian joint where we would have chicken parm and pasta. In other words.....dull, boring, and easy meals.

                                                                          ----side bar: since I have moved out, my mom has delved into more exciting meals, not gourmet, but she at least buys jarred pesto and cheese other than Velveeta

                                                                          I am not a cook, but I will experiment if inspired.... However, I LOVE to eat out! I will try any food once and enjoy everything from greasy spoons to four stars dining experiences. I will not waste calories on fast food and convenince foods and tend to eat uber-healthy, but will trample whoever is in my way for an amazing dessert.

                                                                          I think having a "sheltered" eating childhood has inspired me to be more outgoing with my eating choices. If I do not recognize something on a menu, it gives me inspiration to try it! Food TV, cooking shows, and food publications (magazines and books) are my hobbies and chowhound is one of the few message boards I read religously.

                                                                          Yes, I occassionally "give in" to an oreo instead of going to the local bakery or have a bowl of Cookie Crisp instead of slow-cooked oatmeal, but on the whole, I live to eat!

                                                                          1. I am 59, a first generation Chinese American born male and raise in the San Francisco Bay Area. My parents came from the Canton (their spelling) and settle in the Bay Area. As a family we love to eat and both my parents were great cooks and as kid I help out. A Uncle was chef/owner of his own place and trained a lot of us to cook. He trained not by a recipe book but by teaching us that is should smell like this, look like this and taste like this. Here are the ingredients to make it so.

                                                                            My wife and I love to eat out and enjoy great food. But as in any family kids came along and we could go out as much due to kids not sitting still and money was shorter with extra mouths to feed. My FIL was a cook at many local eateries and cooked Western food. So we put our knowledge together and cook a lot at home.

                                                                            As the kids got older we returned to eating out and I was able to train one son to copy dishes we eat out at home.

                                                                            My other son think the two of us are out of our mind about food. He eats Pizza Hut. I think the hospital switch kids on me.

                                                                            My love of food take me on a yearly trip to Vancouver to enjoy the Chinese food there.

                                                                            My funniest story to share was a chance meeting of KK at Blue Sky in Belmont. We both said I though you were a woman.

                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                            1. re: yimster

                                                                              KK's not a woman? I was sure she (he?) was just from his (her?) posts.....it is funny how people don't always match our mental images of them....

                                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                Yes, he is a he. Funny he was sure I was a she too.

                                                                                I think it is the detail some of us have in food. But I know that little KK is a she, does that count.

                                                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                  I thought KK was a she too, until he started cross-posting some items on Yelp and I found out what his first name was.

                                                                                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                                                                                    Not only is gender is hard to pick out, same with nationality are hard to pick up too.

                                                                                    Last week we were discussing a past poster and my fellow hound was shocked to find out he was not Chinese.

                                                                                    So it is hard to tell.

                                                                                    1. re: yimster

                                                                                      maybe the late poster had a Chinese stomach.

                                                                              2. Wow. It's so fun to read the backgrounds of people whose posts I regularly read! I'm 33, and I grew up eating mostly Japanese food. I grew up in NJ. My parents were not adventurous about food, so growing up, I was exposed mostly to Japanese food, Chinese food and Korean food. They never ventured into Vietnamese, Indian, Thai, etc., but I think part of it might also be because of availability. I don't remember seeing many ethnic restaurants in NJ back in the 80s. They would also do Italian, but that's hardly adventurous.

                                                                                Although my parents weren't adventurous as far as trying other nationalities' foods are concerned, they did like high quality food, and both are great cooks. (Disclaimer: I also happen to think that my parents' cooking is the best food, so anything I say here might be biased. :))

                                                                                I mean, I grew up eating Wonder Bread, but I don't remember them buying much processed foods or even canned or frozen foods. I remember begging for chef boyardee for example, b/c the commercials made it look so good, but neither of them were into that stuff, so we didn't have it in the house.

                                                                                I was surrounded by the most unadventurous friends when it came to eating out, so my chowhounding tendencies didn't come out till I was in grad school and I moved to the Bay Area. Actually, I take that back. I had really good Indian friends who introduced me to dosas, uttapams and other great Indian food in college. That planted a seed and started getting me curious about other cuisines. But noone even ate sushi or had heard of Pho. But this is NJ, and where I grew up, it was very monolithic and I'd say even racist.

                                                                                I also got more food exposure when I did a year abroad in Japan. My classmates were much more adventurous about food, so I got to try Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, etc.

                                                                                Then I came out here (Bay Area) for grad school. I think this is where I mostly developed my chowish tendencies. People are much more open-minded about trying various foods here.

                                                                                Also, in terms of cooking, people in this area are spoiled. There are so many many yummy veggies and fresh ingredients and ethnic markets in this area. I mean, it's gotten to a point where curry leaves have now become "emergency staples" in my kitchen. So the fresh ingredients and variety, combined with my becoming an "adult" and having to cook for myself-- I started trying various veggies in different recipes, etc.

                                                                                Ironically, my parents, who never used to eat more than 4 different types of cuisines, whether it's because they have moved back to Japan or because of old(er) age, have become more adventurous about trying different non-East-Asian cuisines.

                                                                                1. I am 30, F. Grew up in Turkey and Northern Cyprus, lived in a number of states in the US and now residing in Montreal. Most people in my family are ridiculously bad cooks, and they are proud of this. They also almost never went to restaurants; my dad hated waiting for his meal. Dinner at our house consisted of boiled rice (either overcooked or too raw, never ever right), sauteed chicken breast or twice cooked pounded steak (pound it very thin, cook it until well done, repeat to make sure that it rivals an army boot in terms of toughness). Mom cooked some other stuff occasionally, but it took the poor woman a few days to make green beans once, so we asked her to take it easy. These days, when I visit home they never welcome me with elaborate dinners like my other friends' families prepare. Usually, our neighbors feed me. Once, my hairdresser fed me. But I know my parents still love me, they just don't show it through food.

                                                                                  I am much of an anomaly in my whole family. Noone I know has any interest in food. While some of them are "eaters", they are not curious chowhounds that live to eat, nor they go outside their comfort zones. My parents are known to eat the exact same breakfast wherever in the world they go, even if it takes a 2 hour drive to get a block of feta that they like. They occasionally question where I came from, and what they did wrong to make me become the food obsessed person I am. Perhaps it is reverse psychology?

                                                                                  But I also remember having to feed myself after school during the high calorie consuming puberty years. So my relationship to food perhaps started out of necessity. Since there was literally nothing in our fridge except for lettuce, chicken or thinly pounded steak, I had to take care of myself somehow. An avid reader, I remember going through the only cookbook that my mom ever had. Then slowly, during junior high, I started trying some of the recipes instead of getting food from the corner stores. My parents started getting panicked about the things I put in front of them, but they were happy that I wasn't smoking or doing drugs like my peers did. My subversions were tolerable and mostly benight. But I think I freaked my mom out most when I asked her to bring some beets to make some bortsch. I was 15. She brought some beet greens, but not the roots, because greens were what she has known as beets. I never bothered to make bortsch again. Still, these days, I never crave for a steak, my relationship with chicken is just recently improved. And more importantly, I realized that rice could taste wonderful. I know that I will never share any "heirloom recipe" with my friends, but oh well they are my family and I am their freak of nature.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: emerilcantcook

                                                                                    Your first paragraph above is absolutely hilarious!

                                                                                  2. Okay. Come September, I will turn 75. I'm reminding everyone that 75 is traditionally celebrated with diamonds. <sigh> I may get a lot of decks of cards.

                                                                                    My mother's most notable cooking came on holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, with roast turkey and more trimmings than most people can imagine. Always a minimum of 20 people at the dining room table, and possibly a few kids in the kitchen. The most mouth watering of those memories is her yeast rolls, made from scratch. The aroma not only premeated the house but the entire neighborhood. I bake a lot of bread, and it always smells good, but nothing like hers. I think it's because I can't find cake yeast. Butter melting into a steaming fresh yeast roll unfolds in my memory like a warm blanket on a cold winter night.

                                                                                    Other than superb holiday meals, I cant say my mom's cooking was all that memorable. A lot of pasta dishes. For me, pasta is nearly always forgetable. My mother did like bizarre recipes. I've shared that here before. She's been dead a decade, RIP, and I still haven't forgiven her for kidnapping my Grand Marnier basted Christmas goose and turning the poor thing into goose tacos. Yeah. Strange food.

                                                                                    Before television invaded family life, families used to gather together around the kitchen table and meal time meant talking and eating, eating and talking. Conviviality. But it also meant the cook had a whoooooole lot of power. It meant the cook determined when the family gathered. My mother kept her power to herself, but freely used me as her dishwasher. In all of history, man has never come up with anything more disgusting than pre-detergemt dishwater (yucky soap!) that has cooled and congealed with spaghetti sauce floating in it. God, I love dishwashers!

                                                                                    When I maried the first time, my cooking skills were... ummmm.... "negligible." But I will say my first husband was a saint when it came to eating anything I cooked with gusto and appreciation. He ate things I'd cooked that I wouldn't take a second bite of!

                                                                                    After a year and a half of marriage, he joined the Air Force, and we moved to Adana, Turkey, in 1957. The first thing a neighbor warned me of was not to do my own shopping, at least for meat. There was no commissary on base, and we had to buy all food on the local economy. Refrigeration had not yet reached the butcher shops of Adana. So I hired a housekeeper to shop and... well, as long as she was hanging around, why not have her keep house and peel me a few grapes? '-)

                                                                                    When I had to go to Ankara for a week or so, my best jewelry, my best designer dress, and my housekeeper vanished! A dear Turkish friend who owned the top four restaurants in town showed up at my door with an "older" woman in tow. I invited them in, and Sureya explained that Fatma had been his executive chef for twenty years, but had been nagging him about going into private service for about three years. She was the only licensed female chef in the country at that time (maybe ever, for all I know), and was fully accomplished in classic French and Ottoman/Byzantine cuisine. So for three years, six days a week, I attended a very private cooking school. It was also at a time when a confluence of circumstances put the very best of foods and ingredients within easy reach. Black Sea beluga. Fresh yogurt that only required setting out a bowl of milk because the bacteria were in the air. Produce not to be believed. And sea food! I've seen lobsters smaller than some of the Mediterannean shrimp we had. Those weren't "golden" years. They were pure platinum!

                                                                                    But there was another side to the coin as well. We were in Turkey for the first "Beirut Crisis." Then there was a little matter of a friend who happened to be a pilot being shot down in his U2 over the Soviet Union. Sure as hell ruined his day, let me tell you! Then there was a coup overthrowing the Turkish Government our last year there. It was a lot scarier for my mother reading about all of it in the San Diego newspapers than it was for us living through it.

                                                                                    Not too long after we returned to the states, some cook named "Julia Child" came on TV. I loved watching to see if she made any mistakes. I'm happy to say, only on Saturday Night Live.

                                                                                    The sixties were the last golden days of haute cuisine. We lived in Las Vegas, in the glory days of great chefs without great celebrety, just truly great food. I was distressed over the arrival of nouvelle cuisine. I still think of it as a sundae without a cherry on top and no whipped cream.

                                                                                    I divorced and remarried in the early-to-mid seventies. I've mentioned here before that my second husband was a scuba diver, and we lived free from the sea. Oooooo! The critters I have eaten!

                                                                                    Today my cooking is pretty laid back. I rarely use recipes, but just improvise, based on ingredients at hand. My dishes are less "haute" than they used to be as I've slacked off on cream and such, but I still use only three cooking fats: butter, olive and peanut oils. Well, with a little occasional animal fat. For the most part, I do things from scratch. Salad dressings, marinades, breads. Make my own English muffins most of the time. On the other hand, for example, today I bought a bag of frozen mac and cheese from Sams Club, that you nuke a cupfull at a time. Hey, everybody deserves a little lazy now and then! '-)

                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                      Caroline1, your C.V. makes me smile, wide. Sounds like a wonderful attitude!


                                                                                      1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                        Bless your heart! You know, if you don't die, life just keeps happening to you so you may as well relax and enjoy it. '-)

                                                                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                        Incirlik AB in Adana in 1957... wow. I can't imagine how primitive that must have been. I was assigned to Diyarbakir in 1973, and went through Incirlik to in-process. We also came back there for all our medical care - I had 4 wisdom teeth removed there... not the greatest memories. In fact, I have few good memories of Turkey. I was there during the Yom-Kippur war, 60 miles from the Syrian border - we were on alert - just waiting for the Islamic Turkish oskers that were guarding us, to turn and attack us.

                                                                                        One outstanding food memory, though, is ekmet, the big sourdough bread. In Diyarbakir, the military bus would drop us off and pick us up at a downtown corner where there was a bakery with a brick oven. The first thing I did was to go in and buy a loaf of ekmet for a turkish lira - about 25 cents. I would break it in half and eat the crumb by the handful - the crust was almost too hard to eat. I would just walk around the bazaar area, eating ekmet, taking photos, maybe buying a hand-worked silver trinket or a hand-hammered copper plate. The beggar kids would surround you almost immediately, asking for everything from money to cigarettes. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to buy or ingest anything that wasn't cooked, boiled or canned - the entire year I was there, cholera was rampant. Chai was ok, thankfully. On the way back, I'd buy another loaf or two of ekmet for the barracks.

                                                                                        I did get to go to Ankara a couple of times, and it was a much different place. The hotel I stayed at always provided a nice continental breakfast with one of the best, creamy goat cheeses I've ever had. Also the best coffee I'd ever had until then.

                                                                                        1. re: applehome

                                                                                          I loved Turkey! But when I lived there, there was only a dispensary on base, and when I came down with hepatitis I had to be med-evacked to Anakara! All of the (very limited) base housing was trailers, mostly brought in for the U-2 pilots. That was the first time I saw "on demand" water heaters, which are just now becoming popular in the U.S. Tell me how modern we are! And when Kruschev threatened to hit Incirlik with an H-Bomb after Frank Powers was shot down, I was one of the original pack who agreed to meet at Ground Zero with catchers mits, and the first one to blink was the official loser, Hey, you gotta do something to relieve the stress! Don't know what happened to my catcher's mit.

                                                                                          You know, someone could make a bloody fortune importing Turkish bread! And I could go for a couple of kilos of street kebabs! Did you try them? Lamb folded into a pida (pita in the rest of the world) with paper-thin slices of red onions, heavy on the mint leaves, and a generous dolop of cacik, the Turkish tzatziki. Absolutely incredible! And the native wine was pretty darned good too! Oh, and did you ever try the "lady finger" chiles? God, it's hard to talk when the blisters on your tongue are covered with Bandaids!

                                                                                          Primitive? Wellllll... But what a great experience to live that way! There were probably way under 100 actual automobiles in Adana when I arrived in '57, and most of those were taxis. Meaning the primary transportation was horse drawn carriages (arabas) which isn't a bad way to travel! You planned your time accordingly, and relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. All the benefits of a horse and carriage without the maintenance problems. Did you know a flock of a gazillion sheep being driven to market on an asphalt street just outside your window sounds exactly like rain?

                                                                                          The ice cream!!! The most incredible was the apricot. I've never had anything close to it since, and god knows I've tried. And the watermelons! Smaller than a bowling ball, but the flavor was so intense and sweet. But small as the watermelons were, the cabbages went the opposite direction. First time I sent my housekeeper to buy cabbage, I wasn't smart enough to tell her to buy a miniature. The poor lady had to have the araba driver help her carry it into the house! HUGE! Very close to three feet in diameter. You coud wrap whole animals in the leaves.

                                                                                          Have you seen Adana lately? HUGE! With a 6 minaret mosque and a big fat lah-dee-dah Hilton! But the bridge across the Seyhan is still in daily use. Those Romans knew how to build things! A few years ago I seriously considered moving back, then I Googled "Adana" on the web... <sigh> It's just like California. I can't go back because it's all paved over and built on! So where the hell is this "time travel" science keeps talking about?

                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                            Gads, Caroline1...will you be my mom?

                                                                                            Love your posts. And I don't say that lightly.


                                                                                            1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                              Sure! Well, as long as you promise not to trry to stick me in a rest home... '-)

                                                                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                              Wow Caroline1 and Applehome - I loved reading your posts about Turkey - very cool....

                                                                                              1. re: moh

                                                                                                Thanks. I think applehome got more mileage out of the Air Force than we did. <sigh>

                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                  Certainly not as far as Turkey goes. I was too young - that was my first assignment out of Tech School. I don't mean to put anyone else down as far as age goes, but for me, I had to be somewhat more mature before I could really begin to see how lucky I was to be able to explore the places and the tastes I ran into. I was ready for Germany. But in Turkey, I wish I had eaten more kabobs, gotten off base more - tried to make more Turkish friends, or taken advantage of the few I did have.

                                                                                                  Aside from my specialty, I took a 2nd job working in the BX for a Turkish manager, Sehim-bei (Mr. Sam). He invited me home for dinner with his wife and kids several times and I never went - I kick myself every time I think about it. I guess I was just too afraid, listening to the scuttlebutt about diseases, GI's getting beat up, etc.. But a family visit, with a man I trusted and respected - that would have been such a wonderful experience. Every time I see Bourdain on his show, eating as a guest of a local family, I get soooo jealous!

                                                                                        2. I'm a 50-year-old married woman, born and raised in the NY Metro Area, now living back in NYC after 13 years in Philadelphia. My mother's notion of dinner was some sort of protein with some sort of frozen potatoes (tater tots were a favorite) and pickles that passed for vegetables. Saturday nights were TV dinners. Her mother was a traditional Jewish cook and I still crave almost anything she made. My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, if asked what we were having for dinner, replied "meat." Didn't really matter what kind, because it all tasted the same once it hit the plate. My husband was raised a WASP in suburban New Jersey by a mother who didn't cook well. Their version of ethnic food was Chung King chow mein from the can.

                                                                                          My husband and I are both adventurous eaters. Our first date was at a Korean restaurant. I love to cook anything, love to taste new foods, and love to eat out. I read cookbooks for fun. Exploring Jackson Heights, Queens, cuisine by cuisine is our newest favorite pasttime. We have two 20-something-year-old daughters who are also adventurous eaters. The older one spent a year living in Oaxaca and has introduced us to yet more fabulous food.

                                                                                          Love this thread!

                                                                                          1. Allright, A little Puppy here! I'm 27 and Born and Bred in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. My mom was a good cook, she would make different ethnic foods but also here expertise Dutch food..... The old days.. *sigh* My dad is the Fancy Cook. He did cooking school and is in the Wine Business. He would cook the 'special' dinners, Christmas, Dinner Parties, etc... He would write a menu a few days prior to the evnt and would take me shopping and I would be his little helper for the day. It was nice, because I got to experience home cooking and the little more fancy stuff.
                                                                                            Of course Dad was very happy when I went to study Hotel Management. When I had to choose Front or Back of the House, I jumped for it and chose cooking. I loved it but was a little crazy from time to time, haha!
                                                                                            For my internship from School I got send to work at a Country Club on Long Island. After finishing school I went back to the Club for 18 months and met DH, who was at the time a Cook at the same Club.
                                                                                            Currently we are living in Florida and doing a lot of Cooking. When we go out to dinner we are like 2 food critics,haha! We're still both in the Biz, so we enjoy our precious time together with eating... Eating is very important on our days off (as we don't get to eat a whole lot when at work.... :( )
                                                                                            I love to browse through asian, indian or any 'different' markets and try new products and spices....
                                                                                            ooooooh, Food.....*sigh* gotta love it.... :)

                                                                                            (Funny, whenever I am at a restaurant I always wonder if there are any CH near me... haha)

                                                                                            1. 39, F here and holding-I am starting to have issues! I grew up in Pittsburgh eating bland meat and potato meals nightly. My mom's spice cabinet consisted of salt, pepper and cinnamon. She hated any kind of onion and garlic. My German grandmother was worse. She is known for her "American Spaghetti" which consisted of boiled noodles topped with warmed ketchup or tomato paste. She won't touch onions or garlic either. My dad comes from and irish background. He also loathes onions and garlic. Could be an ethnic thing? His dad started his miltary career as a cook on a submarine in WWII and was a fantastic cook. I have fond memories of his fabulous thanksgivings with his homemade stuffing and gravy, he also made the best navy bean soup.

                                                                                              I was always fascinated by different foods. But my earliest memories are of baking with my mom and still my favorite thing to do. One thing my mom could do well was chocolate chip cookies. Hence my obsession.

                                                                                              FWIW,My first job was at McDonald's.LOL. It did make me want to learn to cook. In college I took food science as my major and my food world exploded. My favorite class was International cuisine with our favrite professor Rich at the helm. Each team picked a country and in the lab, we would pick several dishes from that country and have the other students make them. I explored so many different cuisines through that class. It really awakened my foodie gene. Funny, the country we picked was France-my least favorite. One thing we made was Coq au vie? and it really didn't make an impression on me. We probably picked the wrong things to make (although the crepes were great!). I recently bought Julia's MAstering the Art... and someday I will crack that book and try something.
                                                                                              So I am trying. I love to tackle a new recipe and I enjoy watching my friends and family enjoy my cooking. This weekend I am making homemade lasagna with lots of garlic and onions. (I still have an adversion to raw onions-definately a gene thing). Thanks for the thread Candy! Enjoy learning more about everybody!

                                                                                              1. I'm 55, am of Scottish Irish Cherokee Indian heritage and was born in Jacksonville, Florida. My mother was from Georgia and Daddy was born in North Carolina so my food influences were most definitely Southern from the beginning. Born and bred Southerners know that everything in life revolves around food - birthdays, weddings, funerals, church, family reunions, or just the fact that it's Friday! My mother is a good comfort food cook. We had greens, great northern beans, cornbread, fried chicken (fried in a cast iron frying pan, not a deep-fryer), lots of rice, real mashed potatoes, pole beans cooked with pork fat, casseroles and those fruity creamy salads that are every color in the rainbow. I have come a long way in my food appreciation, having learned to love asparagus and avocado, just two things we never had at home growing up. But I still love the old southern cooking every once in awhile.
                                                                                                Now my grandchildren are growing up in Texas and Oregon, so they're going to have an even broader menu to learn to love!

                                                                                                1. Fun thread!
                                                                                                  I am 31 years old, female. I was born in the Dominican Republic but grew up in the NY Metro area from the age of 3. I grew up eating mostly Dominican food (rice and beans, plantains, sancocho etc). But my mom has always loved Italian food and growing up in North/Central NJ there were plenty of influences. We usually had some sort of non-Dominican dish about twice a week.
                                                                                                  I was a very picky eater as a kid and was still a bit particular until I was in my mid 20s..... didn't eat tomatoes, mushrooms, cheeses that were not mozzarella and or cheddar etc. I also didn't grow up eating seafood because Mom is very allergic.
                                                                                                  I used to watch lots of cooking shows and I read lots of cookbooks and eventually became annoyed with myself for being such a picky eater and in around the age of 25 I just decided to dive in and eat new things.
                                                                                                  The only thing I am still delving into is seafood. I have already conquered my fear of most fish (the fact that my FIL is a captain in Montauk and brings home very very fresh fish, kinda helps). I still won't eat clams, lobster, or crab, but I did have oysters while at Chez Panisse recently and I did not keel over.
                                                                                                  I still won't do offal and I am still struggling with stronger tasting fish.

                                                                                                  1. Candy, Sam and all....I'm not the oldest to post, but am right up there (67) and have been a chowhounder reader/poster for years but hardly ever on this board. (Mine is Texas/Austin) I love the fact that so many of us are ready, willing and mostly able to cook for our loves....both loved ones and the love of cooking. Too much fun. Like another poster said, I'll drive miles and miles to get a specific needed for some dish I've never tried before. I'm a pretty good cook and as DH says, absolutely fearless in the kitchen. My chowhoundish ways began as a 4th grader in Southeast Texas when mom said, "Honey, you need to know this, so you're going to plan, shop for, prepare, serve, and clean up a meal each week." This was for a family of 5. I've never looked back and am sooooooo glad of it and thankful to her. Now, with just two of us, each meal is a breeze and most are a delight. My real fun is when I can arrange for 10 or 12 to be together to eat something I've had joy in preparing. Thanks to all for sharing the tales.

                                                                                                    1. I'll be 38 in June. My favorite foods as a kid revolved around Hawaiian Punch, Nestle Quik, Oscar Mayer bologna, peanut butter on Wonder bread sandwiches and Count Chocula cereal. Ahh, the 70's :).

                                                                                                      Mom and Grandma are both top notch cooks, but neither had much patience for teaching me the basics of cooking. It took the Mom and Grandma of my ninth grade boyfriend to really awaken my food loving gene. They were both straight off the boat from Italy and, appaled at my lack of experience in the kitchen, decided it was their duty to educate me. They showed me everything. How to make a proper antipasto, how to make proper meat sauce, how to make pasta, how to stuff pasta, how to cook pasta, how to make fish, how and when to serve each course....little did I know how lucky I was to have these two ladies share their knowledge with me. They also forced me (have you ever tried to say 'no' to an old Italian woman?--It ain't happenin', sweetheart) to try things I never would have tried on my own like calamari and scungilli. I think of them fondly to this day.

                                                                                                      1. 45, grew up in MO of German, Scotch-Irish, English heritage. Mom was a Home Ec teacher of the 3-squares era, who preferred sewing to cooking, not adventurous. Dad always had a garden: blackberries, raspberries, tomatoes, bell peppers (always eaten green), onions, lettuce, asparagus (quickly became "trees"), cucumbers, strawberries, etc. (At his memorial service we gave away Armenian cucumbers to those who wanted them from the abundance of his garden). As kids we helped in the kitchen...cake from mix, cookies (I ate a lot of the dough raw), tuna casserole, meatloaf, fried chicken, etc. I was a notoriously slow, picky eater as a child.
                                                                                                        Lived in Asuncion, Paraguay (not known for it's cuisine) as an exchange student (AFS '80-'81). Then lived in CO, OK, TX, CA, WA, and now MA. Went vegetarian and then vegan (15+ years ago) for health reasons after Dad's heart attack, then all other reasons made sense. (Sister also went vegan and runs a vegan CSA, brothers are still omnivores.) Went wheat-free then gluten-free for health reasons.
                                                                                                        Began exploring food more as a veg'an, much more adventurous now. Married an even longer term vegan (about 30 years) who's a great cook. (We met through www.veggiedate.org !) We're remodeling the kitchen, in part to make more bookcase space for our tower of cookbooks...

                                                                                                        1. Travel certainly broadens the mind, but this thread makes it obvious that it also enhances the palate. Perhaps that goes hand-in-hand - certainly, you have to have at least a semi-adventurous mindset - be willing to try new things - but the exposure to so many new and wonderful foods and ways to prepare foods is certainly a catalyst in developing not only a wide range of tastes, but a penchant for deliciousness and quality foods.

                                                                                                          I see a lot of brats and GI's in the thread. In my case, it was both. My Jewish father grew up in NYC. He joined the Army during WWII, ate bacon, got stationed first in Korea and then after the war, in Japan, where he met my mother. In Japan, my father was a bon-vivant, living on a GS-13 salary as if he were king (the opposite of what Japan became after 1964) - we had servants, we had take out sushi and unagi-don any time we felt like it. We were the rich Americans living on the hill - some of the local places kept bike delivery boys just because we would order things. He drove many miles to and from work - we hardly ever saw him during the week, as he got going before we woke, and came home after we went to sleep - but it wasn't all work. He knew every single sushi joint and yakitori bar along the dirt road from Tachikawa to Hodogaya, and they all knew him.

                                                                                                          My mom's family owned property in Yokosuka - rice paddies, back then, with the ancestral home built into the hillside bound by bamboo - it was an annual rite to hunt takenoko on the hill. The old house is still there, it's just now surrounded by asphalt instead of rice paddies. Cooking was always central to their life. I remember my Obachan cooking in the dirt floor kitchen area. It was all washoku – seemingly simple dishes made from the freshest ingredients.

                                                                                                          My Japanese mother and Jewish father certainly gave me a love of food growing up, but being stationed in Germany after I joined the Air Force during the Vietnam war, really helped me understand how variety and quality played into deliciousness. I was at the right age to be presented with so many delicious and different foods, beers, and wines. I learned to differentiate between the tasteless beers I hated and had grown up with, and what beer was really all about. My landlords were bakers and the metzger (butcher/sausage maker) was across the street – fresh bread and incredible sausages became normal fare. I found that there were so many versions of everything, but quality ingredients and a process without shortcuts were consistent requirements for deliciousness. We would often drive the back roads between our mountaintop site in the Black Forest to our main support base in Stuttgart - and as my father had done so many years ago in Japan, I found all the great places, from schnitzel stands to rathauses that served a local beer with a schinkenbrot and a kleinsalat, to a trout farm that served a grilled trout and a bottle of the local for 2 DM (less than a buck). Our hang-out was a tanz-bar called Dscho's Kukuhsuhr (Joe's Cuckoo clock). At a time when anti-American feelings were quite high, Joe, who had escaped from East Germany with the help of US soldiers, loved all Americans, GI or not. He fed us and gave us all kinds of strange schnopps to try. His gulaschsoup was the best in the Schwarzwald, and his schmalzbrot was guaranteed to keep you from getting drunk (that never worked), but also was so salty that it kept you drinking (that worked).

                                                                                                          Getting stationed in Oklahoma and marrying into a local family exposed me to a whole new set of food culture. I had never had a taco outside of Taco Bell before, nor beans and cornbread, nor okra. Not only did I get into local fare for the south and southwest, but they got me into car and RV camping across the US, eventually ending up owning a class A motorhome, which we've taken across the US several times. Whether eating baloney in Waldo, Ohio, cue in North Carolina and Memphis, fresh stone crabs claws in Orlando, or fresh dungeness crab on the beach in Oregon, driving from food to food remains my preferred way of travel.

                                                                                                          Moving up Corporate America's pecking order allowed me to indulge in all kinds of expense-stretching exercises. I got to travel back to Japan, as well as visit major food cities from LA to Paris. From Peter Luger's to Izakayas in NYC, my expensive tastes were well known - even as my bosses admonished me, they always came to me for recommendations. That lasted until a couple of years ago, when I was downsized. Now, at 55, I've got to get off my butt and start anew. Maybe I'll sell the RV - anyone want to buy a vehicle that gets 13 mpg on a good day, downhill, with the wind behind your back?

                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: applehome

                                                                                                            I love you. What was your AF classification and job? Keep the RV. Someday you can just park it on the perfect spot.

                                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                              Thanks, Sam. You know you're going to have to write a book, right? I was a 304x0 - Radio Relay - installed and maintained microwave and tropo-scatter radio, long distance telecommunications equipment. Lots of mountaintop assignments.

                                                                                                              Like this:

                                                                                                            2. re: applehome

                                                                                                              Or become a full-timer and find a way to follow the food! I did that for several years in a 1970's Airstream - have kitchen, will travel! I miss it - the perfect combo of nesting and travel-lust. Spending time working in different areas allows a chance to see and taste that is different than what even a well researched vacation allows. I wish Chowhound had existed then - it would have been an even more amazing journey!

                                                                                                            3. I am a happy 44 yr old, living in the Bay Area, after moving here from Poland at age 20.
                                                                                                              The women on my father's side of the family were absolutely the most wonderful cooks (with a touch of Armenian heritage). The cakes and roasts my grandmother and great grandmother were out of this world! I started cooking at 14, when my mom went to the hospital for a month and somebody had to take care of house. I always enjoyed cooking and probably always will. I absolutely love discovering new cuisines, plan my trips around it, and I am not afraid to try making some dishes I haven't even tasted before :-)))))

                                                                                                              1. 21 here and in a tie for the distinction of being the youngest thus far.
                                                                                                                I was born and raised in Evansville, IN. Food was never really a priority in our house. With 5 children all within 5 years of eachother, there was not a whole lot of time for my mother to spend in the kitchen. I remember lots of bologna...
                                                                                                                At 18 I moved to West Palm Beach, FL with a much older fiancee. As a full time house-fiancee I felt it my duty to learn how to cook for him whatever he desired. I had always enjoyed good food, but never gave it a lot of thought. When I began trying to teach myself to cook, I stumbled upon this board and an obsession was born. I became a voracious reader of all books food related and began slowly seeking out new cuisines in the WPB area as well as trying more and more complicated recipes at home. I was fortunate enough to experience the best that the east coast of Florida had to offer before moving on to Fort Myers, FL and Gulf Coast restaurants and cuisine. Unfortunately my relationship deteriorated, but my skills continued to improve and my interest continued growing.
                                                                                                                While dining out one night in Ft. Myers I met an incredible man who, though on a short leave, was in the Air Force and stationed in Germany. Living abroad and experiencing all of the different ethnic cuisines had developed in him a tremendous appreciation of good food. We really bonded over that. In January he started his new assignment at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, I went to visit him there, he proposed, and we were married two weeks later on Feb. 29. I am truly enjoying living in this area where there is a good mix of creole, cajun, and southern cooking as well as tremendous seafood. I am also enjoying cooking for a man who has the most voracious appetite I've ever witnessed and who takes pride in my skills in the kitchen. I've only been here a short time, but his entire chapel staff now has the expectation of my food at each of their staff meetings and they are very appreciative of the work I put into it. I love being a housewife and take pride in providing my husband and people around us with not only sustenance, but really good healthy food and also having knowledge of everything I put before them.
                                                                                                                It probably sounds like an overstatement, but this site sent me in an entirely different direction. Not only did it spark my interest and provide me with a new hobby, one I love, but the knowledge I gained here has enabled me to make healthier choices, develop my own more wholesome recipes, and lose 50 pounds as a result Not only am I healthier, but I've had the opportunity to do a bit of modeling, which enabled me to travel and try even more food =). CH is also quite a lot of fun.
                                                                                                                My main interest is converting really good food, a lot of which can be quite fattening, into lighter, but still just as tasty versions. My husband and I are both quite health concious as are most of the people we are around in the AF. I've also been doing quite a bit of traveling alongside my husband for his work and both he and I have an interest in seeking out the best of regional cuisine so that is quite a lot of fun. Life is really really good. Some people may think of cooking three square meals a day as some sort of torture, but I really relish now having that opportunity.
                                                                                                                Coincidentally, since I became so interested in food, my Mom sort of picked up an interest. There is now typically not a slice of bologna to be found when I visit home.

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                                                                  Congratulations and good for you!


                                                                                                                  1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                                                                    I had gotten the impression that you were much older. Now I see why. Congratulations on being light years ahead of the curve!

                                                                                                                  2. oh.. I'm not worthy after reading your posts however I am awed and grateful to be a part of such experiences. Me, 37 growing up in Northern Ontario where we boiled the heck out of everything. Met my spouse who is 1st generation chinese and was exposed to the greatness of food. We love to explore food together and are particularly interested in low cost ethinic diner/family restaurant fare. Fine dining is very much enjoyed provided the food is top notch - too often you pay inflated prices for sub standard fare. That is me and thank you for making me feel welcome.

                                                                                                                    1. I am 26. The gastronome in me was "turned on" at 9 years old. I remember my mom pan searing some octopus in olive oil, and we gave it a squeeze of lemon and ate it with bakery fresh italian bread. I thought it was the coolest thing we could possibly eat for dinner. I'm not sure if her cooking changed after that point, or if it was always a bit on the adventurous side. After that, I remember enjoying my food so much more.

                                                                                                                      1. I'll play. I am 58 born and raised and still in Boston. I am a late bloomer in many respects. Chow was very basic when I was growing up. My parents both worked in their business ( long before it was fashionable or really acceptable for Moms to work). My memories of dinner are quick lasagna made with cottage cheese, beef stew, loose hamburger sauteed and served over mashed potatoes and with peas ( frozen) My Mom made a mean corn chowder and my Dad was very good at frying sandwich steak. Although once when my Mom needed surgery and he was left to his own devices he tried to fry canned tuna.. we ate at HoJo's alot. I was married for a minute when I was very young and divorced and focused on my career being alone for 20+ years. I cooked family Holiday dinners for Mom Dad Aunts Uncles and any refugees that needed a seat at a Holiday table. Not haute cuisine but usually a 12 lb roast beef , 10 lbs of roasted potatoes and various and sundry veggies . Tasty but pretty benign . To this day I can't seem to successfully make a meal for 1 or 2 people on the rare occasions that I cook ...always enough for 6 or 8. I do make a good tuna salad, excel at burgers and have a signature meatloaf . My awakening was when I was courted and eventually married my Husband 13 years ago . He is an attorney but an accomplished Chef. His Mom once told me that he started watching Julia when he was 9 and she walked out of the kitchen when he was 11 never to return . Until we met I thought there were 3 kinds of wine , red ,white and pink and I confess to nuking velvetta to pour over elbows for dinner many nights in a row. I think to impress me when we first got together, he took me to every high end and secret gem restaurant in Boston on successive nights for a month. I had my first risotto at his hands ( he fed me risotto for dinner and made risotto cakes the next day ) and as we speak he is waiting for the pizza dough to rise so he can grille me pizza over a woodburning cooking fireplace we had built in the kitchen of our beach house. A fortunate woman I am.... I have gone from very basic meat and potatoes , refusing to eat anything green , thinking celery sticks with cream cheese was exotic to offal, bluefin, the best home made bolognese on the face of Mother Earth and veal stew that would make you cry....life is good

                                                                                                                        1. 42 y/o Mother-of-five Australian Nurse. Adopted at birth into a family of the worst cooks. Ever. My Mum's "go-to" recipe holds the dubious honour of being pulled from Chow Hound for being so bad. As recently as yesterday, my Mum made **ahem** risotto for
                                                                                                                          Mother's Day. When I am Empress of the Universe, she will be charged with Crimes Against Arborio.

                                                                                                                          I love her, but she is simply the world's worst cook.

                                                                                                                          Saving grace was as a 5 y/o sneaking through the back fence to watch the next door neighbour, Mrs Arstoni ,cook all manner of wicked Italian stuff.

                                                                                                                          Father was a businessman, and my childhood was spent travelling O/S.. ate in Japan, Thailand, Egypt, all over Europe.

                                                                                                                          Knew I was the cuckoo in the nest when I eschewed the buffet breakfasts in the hotels in which we stayed, for congee and pho.

                                                                                                                          I relax by cooking. I find it incredibly Zen. I'd rather cook than almost do anything else.

                                                                                                                          I shop for food the way some women shop for shoes.

                                                                                                                          Married 1st time to Mr Charisma By-pass, who's Mum was an AMAZING cook and encouraged me to find my own way in the kitchen. Ditched him, kept the MIL and finally married hubs #2, AKA Furry, who's idea of a hot night in is making gow gee's together. We have a large porn collection that we close the curtains and watch furtively together.... every episode of Kylie Kwong, The Cook and the Chef, Hairy Bikers, Two Fat Ladies et al.

                                                                                                                          We have a rich fantasy life, which revolves around Eurolec ovens, Jamon Iberica, Bruny Bay oysters and Le Crueset.

                                                                                                                          Got 5 kids, one of which has the potential to be an even more obsessive foodie than I am. That somehow makes me prouder than the one doing the double degree in Law/Political science, but who cannot boil water.

                                                                                                                          I think about food approx 123 times a day, which is WAY more than the average teen male thinks about sex.

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: purple goddess

                                                                                                                            Thank you. Your response sent me off to work this AM with a smile on my face.