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What did you grow up eating? typical meal? (moved from Manhattan)

Just curious how some of you hounders (manhattan and elsewhere) were raised on what type of cuisine.

For example, i have a friend who's from Philly, and he had "bad american food like casseroles and processed stuff" which, according to him, "is why i'm not a foodie."

This seems to make sense as my friend simply "eats to make the hunger go away" which is a sad reason for eating, esp. if you live in NYC.

I believe that sometimes, if you grow up eating bad food, the opposite happens -- you can become a gourmand due to the bad memories of bad food.

based on my parent's culture, i was fed a mixture of chinese food, taiwanese dishes, and japanese food.

even though we were born here in the US, every day was chinese cuisine. Rice was a constant at every meal, no questions. My mom had to make a separate, even more authentic meal for my dad (i.e. more "weird" dishes).

However, this doesn't mean i had my share of american indulgences. outside of the home, i had every single type of "classic" american meal, snack, and fast food!

just curious,,,

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  1. Excellent question but perhaps not appropriate for the Manhattan chow board. i'll answer anyway.

    Fortunately for me, my parents were great, though not inventive, cooks and made everything, literally everything, from fresh, unprocessed things found at the dreary supermarket. Diet was heavy on rice, sauteed green leafy vegetables (which I hated), and a variety of other things, sometimes lobster, sometimes pork buns. My father is enthusiastic about cooking, and that's where I get my own interest.

    My mom made everything from scratch. I used to help her make wonton wrappers from scratch and would spend hours perched on a stool at the table spooning her meat and veggie mixture into the wrappers. Or, I'd be recruited to shell peas or shell shrimp. She made her own soy milk, which I hated. She also makes a mean salt and pepper pork chop.

    My dad is the more adventurous Food Network-loving cook in the family. I see the appreciation for fresh, seasonal ingredients and obsession with cooking without shortcuts as the only natural approach to making food. I try to do that today, when I occasionally cook.

    Then again, my parents never tried to limit my diet so I also grew up enthusiastically eating from every single fast food joint in my town, so I like my fried chicken and tacos. I'm surprised I didn't get coronary thrombosis at the age of 14.

    1. My folks had 4 kids, generally 5 years apart, me being the youngest. My father rarely cooked, perhaps only breakfasts. My mom was the typical (for the time) housewife - take care of the kids all day, making sure they eat lunch, then fire up the stove or oven to make sure supper was ready when dad got home from work.

      Lets see, 'chili con carne' served over rice or noodles to stretch it, boiled dinner, lotsa mashed potatoes as sides, an oriental dish about every two weeks, some type of large cut of meat (roast pork or beef or ham) about once a week, steak and cornbread every sunday (she'd make an extra cornbread for the bachelor 'old man' across the street).

      Summers, we'd have a barbecue once a week. Well not a true barbecue, since we didn't even know what that was at the time, but rather grilled stuff; cheap nights hot dogs or hamburgers. Other times, chops or steak.

      Italian style pasta or lasagna would frequently enter the rotation.

      I read somewhere that a typical household has less than 20 meals that are prepared regularly, just rotated for variety.
      I was skeptical at first, but gave it a count...I'm not as varied as I had thought...

      1. Japanese o-kazu was the most frequent: small amounts of meat and lots of vegetables, including asparagus from the patch in the yard, quick cooked in small amounts of liquid and served with quantities of rice. All other Japanese foods were common, but not necessarily everyday. All from scratch. Mom also cooked good Chinese, Mexican, and "American" and had a smattering of dishes from Armenian, Swedish, Filipino, German, Basque, and other traditions. Her cakes and cream puffs were famous. Dad grilled steaks or we had sukiyaki on Sunday afternoons. American holiday fare was all-American. Japanese holiday food was all Japanese. The family ate clams and abalone gathered at the coast. The cousins and I fished (trout) and hunted (dove, duck, pheasant). Almost all of the cousins on both sides learned from the aunts how to cook.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Pretty standard fare at my house, my Mom was a good cook but not terribly adventurous. Almost always protein, starch and veggie plate...baked chicken, broiled steak things like that. She alaways used fresh, never canned veggies and began throwing new things into the mix later in her life. She was a single, working Mother of 3 so she needed a lot of help and that is where my love for cooking started.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            ooh...cream puffs! home made cream puffs! I am soooo jealous...

            My mother had many wonderful qualities, but alas, cooking was not one of them. My poor father, probably thought he was going to be well-fed when he married her (my maternal grandmother was a FABULOUS cook. Unfortunately she lived about 2500 miles away in LA when we were growing up in Houston; at least I got to eat her food a bit more often once we moved back to the Bay Area at age ten for me or so)...anyway, sometimes I think cooking can skip a generation unless one is careful about passing it along to one's kids (I am a good cook and my daughter has become a very good one. My son, well, I tried...)

            but anyway, we typically had fairly traditional American meat and a (often frozen ) vegetable type of meals growing up. However, my mother didn't serve lots of starches, which she considered less healthy, and she was very careful about sweets and fats as well. Mostly unprocessed and low-fat, low carb foods. Sort of ahead of her time on the high protein, low carb type of diet, although she modified that later in life and started including more pasta in her meals after she took up long distance running at about age 50. But as a kid, pasta was a very occaisonal thing, Dinner might be roast chicken or flank steak (both overcooked), or perhaps hamburger patties (often without the bun) served with vegetables. In addition to meat and at least one vegetable, there would ALWAYS be a salad, usually iceberg lettuce, tomatoes in season or otherwise radishes, diced carrot, cucumber, perhaps green onion. I actually like iceberg lettuce now. Given the focus on 'healthy' foods desserts were fairly rare, though there was often ice milk (NOT ice cream!). If we had bread, it was whole wheat. Milk was non-fat. You get the picture, There was always fruit in the house which was available for dessert as an alternative to ice milk. Watermelon and stone fruit in the summer, apples in the winter. I still have the habit of having a bowl of fruit available.

            On Sunday evenings, she took a night off from cooking. My father never or rarely cooked, and Sunday nights we went out to eat. Interestingly, though she wasn't an adventurous cook, she and my father were fairly adventurous eaters, and Sunday night dinner was almost always at an 'ethnic' restaurant: often BBQ or Mexican when we lived in Texas, somewhere Chinese in Oakland's Chinatown when we moved back to California, followed by a trip to an ice cream shop for dessert. I think the eating in ethnic places may have started as a way to eat out less expensively (we were a family of five, six when my youngest sister came along), but they found they enjoyed the food and more informal atmosphere, as did my sisters and I, and kept up the pattern even when the budget would have allowed for more expensive dinners out.

            About once or twice a month my mother did make one dish I loved: it was a casserole of fresh brocolli, sliced hard boiled eggs and melted cheese. (maybe I was craving the fat in the cheese! :-)) She also made a pretty darn tasty braised beef tongue (my guess is that long cooking was a good thing with that particular dish), but unfortunately, it was only an occaisonal treat.

            We almost never had pork or bacon in the house (My mother was a non-observant Jew, though we certainly ate pork at those Chinese restaurants we went to). I can remember my father begging her without success to make pork chops (though why, who knows: I am sure she would have overcooked them :-( ). Honestly, though, thinking about it I am not sure that her reluctance to make pork was just based on her religious/cultural background: it was probably too 'fatty' for her....

            I don't remember much fish, but in the summer sometimes we went crabbing, though I remember the process of catching the crabs much more than the actual eating of them.

            Cake was something we only had on birthdays, and then it would probably be from a mix, or sometimes from the bakery....

            1. re: susancinsf

              lol......I LOVED that brocolli, cheese and egg thing too!! Maybe it was the fact that the brocolli was fresh...

              And I enjoyed the fact that there were always salads in our house. I used to be the big salad eater...my mother commented that when I went away to camp there was too much salad..

              And although as Susan has pointed out, although there wasn't a lot of fine cooking in our house, and the meats were usually overcooked, at least there were plenty of fruits and vegetables...and often good ones. My father liked to drive to some place in Texas to get the "best" watermelons every summer.

              And there was an emphasis on healthy foods; I think it came from our paternal grandfather. He was a "health food nut" before such a thing existed. I can still hear him arguing with some restaurant waiter about why they should only serve whole wheat bread. That and the fact that my grandmother was such a wonderful cook may have been reasons why most meals we had when visiting them were at home...:-)

              One thing I remember our mother serving that I still like today: rice (usually leftover but re-heated) served with honey and a bit of milk for breakfast. Maybe it was the sweetness of the honey. Sometimes I wonder if that wasn't a "go-to" dish for her when money was tight. (Breakfast was usually cold cereal, but NEVER anything with sugar...Raisin Bran was as sweet as we got....). Funny thing about the rice: My husband fondly remembers eating the exact same thing for breakfast when he was growing up...in India.

              1. re: janetofreno

                oops...Just realized an error that only Susan will catch, and the edit function is gone. The "health food nut" was our maternal grandfather. Our paternal grandfather died before we were born.....My post will make more sense referring to my grandmother the great cook if you realize that.....

                1. re: janetofreno

                  hehe, I almost mentioned the rice and honey as my second favorite dish after the brocolli! <bg>

              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                whenever my dad cooked (vietnamese) we always ate the lots of veggies small amount of protein (usually tofu and fish occasionally free range chicken or eggs) and rice (he inisted on brown) . my mum is italian so she cooked lots of grilled vegies and pasta, she was on the whole grain pasta trend way before it became more normal. she made great artichoke omlets, chicken soup, pasta that always had a tomato based sauce never cream or oil and roasted pigeon and chickens.
                but we travelled alot throughout my childhood we only came back to autralia full time last year, we lived in saudi arabia until i was four in a compound where my dad was the doctor and because of all the different cultures and the fact there was always a party going on we ate a large variety of different cuisines from middle eastern to ethiopian.
                after that we went back and forth to france until i was twelve and my mother slipped in a few rabbit stews and traditional french dishes now and then (and of course the restaurants ruled!)
                during my early teens my dad did locums everywhere indonesia, japan, all around britan and mexico so since we usually didn't have a kitchen a typical meal was seeking out a hidden restaurant i am so thankful i have been fortunate enough to expierience such a broad range of food from such a young age its why i love to cook now.

              3. A good question that I cannot answer adequately. My dad was a hunter so we tons of game but it was so poorly cooked by my dear Mom. She was a horrible cook (she hated it) so I believe that is one of the reasons I fell in love with cooking. Out of necessity! I took over the job at a very young age and began experimenting with game. We also lived on a farm so had access to fabulous pork, beef, ducks, geese, chickens, etc. We also had a huge garden so I learned a lot about veg. We also made our own fresh butter. I started to do all the preserving and canning when I was 12, sometimes canning 50 quarts of raspberries in one day!

                A typical meal would have been fried elk steak (extremely well done!) with plain boiled potatoes and unseasoned garden veg.

                Some dishes I recall were canned spinach with vinegar, awful beet borscht, overcooked elk, and so on. However, my Mom made (and still does) the best buns on the planet. Oh, and canned fresh chicken. Funny how that works! :) She now calls me nearly every day asking about a certain recipe or cooking technique or ingredient. I am so pleased that she has now developed an interest!

                2 Replies
                1. re: chefathome

                  I'm loving this thread, but what is canned fresh chicken?

                  1. re: Steamed Dumpling

                    Maybe it's canned at home, so it's canned 'fresh'?

                2. These are great stories and stir up lots of memories for me. I just wish people would add what part of the country, or world they grew up in. For instance, I grew up in the Boston area and we had regular meals like fried mackeral, or fishcakes and brown beans on Friday nights, but I don't think that would be typical in, say, Arizona, or Wisconsin. Thanks again for the wonderful writing.

                  1. I really grew up eating a lot of different types of food. My parents were Korean, and of course, we had Korean food. My mom's side is from Japan so we had that as well. But she also took those classes that a lot of military wives take in Korea to be more "American." So mac and cheese, steak, etc. were in our diet. And my mom had a lot of friends from different ethnicities so we grew up with a lot of different cuisines. And I suppose there was some fusion as well -- bologna rice roll-ups were quite the staple in our household.

                    1. My mother worked back in the 50s and 60s when everyone else's mother stayed home. She hated to cook, and my father worked swing shift, so when he was home in the afternoon he would make dinner. such as it was. both of my parents' parents had died when they were both in jr. high, so they did not come from a background of cooking at all.
                      Vegetables were almost always canned. I mean canned spinach, canned limas, canned corn, canned creamed corn (which I loved over mashed potatoes), canned peas, served unseasoned with butter.
                      Salad was iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes and miracle whip, which I hate to this day.
                      A typical dinner my father would make would be canned baked beans into which he would put brown and serve sausages and bake. Or boxed chef boy are dee spaghetti dinner. He made good peanut butter sandwiches, though. He would have been happy just to have a can of sardines with crackers, but none of us would touch it.
                      My mother made meatloaf, creamed peas on toast, creamed canned salmon on toast, pot roast, boiled dinner, pork chops, city chicken, tuna noodle casserole, canned ham. She made mashed potatoes or scalloped potatoes, although she did make oven potatoes with pot roast, now that I think of it, and baked potatoes once in a while. The two good meals I remember were her stuffed pork chops and her stffed turkey at thanksgiving.

                      There was an excellent pizza shop a block away where we ordered pizza, meatball sandwhiches, and sub sandwiches. there was a tasty freeze type place where we got cheeseburgers and fries. And we went out to dinner on most weekends at least once. My favorite meal was always fried chicken.

                      I do remember my mother had a friend who was Italian and I remember her spaghetti and her home made bread to this day as the best thing I had ever eaten. So exotic.

                      We never had chinese or japanese food ever. I never had chinese food until I was in college. What a revelation.
                      We never had mexican food, and when I was a senior in high school (after divorce and remarriage) our new family moved to southern California from Pennsylvania.

                      And the world openend up.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: laliz

                        My mother worked from the time I was born in the forties, and I certainly don't remember her for her cooking. My father wasn't around much so I think she was even less inspired to develop any skill in the kitchen than she might have been if we had been a functional family.

                        My grandparents owned a poultry market in NYC and we ate a lot of chicken, mostly boiled. I think nearly everything was boiled, except for a few things that were broiled. Regardless of the method, everything was wildly overcooked.

                        My mother was a little ahead of her time in one respect: She developed an interest in calorie counting and nutrition, so we did eat lots of vegetables, but they were boiled too.

                        There were little openings to other worlds: We had Chinese food for lunch when I had dance lessons on Saturdays. It was some kind of combo plate -- chow mein and an egg roll preceeded by egg drop or wonton soup. But it was something and I enjoyed it. My grandmother was a good cook. And I had a friend in junior high whose Italian grandfather cooked. He made pasta with scungilli and other things that were wonderful. He liked me because I was a good eater (little did he know how I avoided dinner at home) and I loved visiting her. When I got to college I got a job as a waitress, discovered lots of different foods and learned how they were made.

                        1. re: laliz

                          OMG ~~ I forgot spam. and I forgot TV Dinners. they were a regular at our house.

                          1. re: laliz

                            still reading and remembering more and more as I identify with others. Bread was always white Sunbeam; margarine, never butter; whole milk only and by the gallon, we had a milkman (and a bread man) deliver); cold cereal in summer, cream of wheat in winter; lunches were campbell soup with crackers or beefaroni; ice cream was always neapolitan; and we had fish sticks with frozen french fries weekly ~~ not with tartare sauce, ketchup only.

                            1. re: laliz

                              laliz...except for the cold cereal in the summer and the ice cream flavor (mom was a chocolate nut) this was my life too!

                        2. My parents are Japanese and like Japanese food, so we typically had Japanese food or Japanese-style _______. ______ ran the gamut, from Mabo dofu, a variety of Chinese dishes, to spaghetti meat sauce and hamburgers. Oh, and Japanese style kalbee, kimchee fried rice, kimchee hotpot, etc.

                          Rice was our staple grain.

                          My mom made almost everything from scratch (well, ok, not gyoza wrappers), so I never got to experience spaghetti-o's or Chef Boyardee, which I remember really wanting to try at the time. (Amazing the power of commercials!)

                          The one exception was Campbell's Soup. We did have a lot of that growing up, but usually when my dad was on a business trip. He was/is one of these had-to-have-miso-soup-daily types.

                          Although my mom did cook Western style food (spaghetti, stews), there are whole genres of food missing from my childhood--e.g.
                          -I don't think I ever had mashed potato till college.
                          -Ditto oatmeal. Now I eat it all the time in the wintertime.
                          -there are whole categories of grains I missed out on--couscous, quinoa, barley, bulgur, etc.
                          -as far as eating out is concerned, they were fairly unadventurous. Now in their old age, they've suddenly gone more "adventurous" on me, but the four cuisines we'd eat out while growing up were: Japanese (of course), Chinese, Korean, and Italian. (And McDonalds, but that doesn't really count as a cuisine. . .) So again, I didn't have my first Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Afghan, Ethiopian, Mexican, etc. till college. But I also grew up in a very monolithic neighborhood, so the non-adventurousness was pretty pervasive and not weird.

                          How has this affected what I eat/cook now? I feel like I've done a complete 180 in some senses, but I now appreciate the whole cook-from-scratch thing that my mom/dad used to do. I don't often use processed foods when cooking.

                          I love trying new cuisines probably b/c of my lack of exposure while growing up. I also tend to cook more western-style stuff, and now try out all of those grains that we didn't try while growing up. I wish I did cook more Japanese food, but I find it so much more time consuming, and then the recipes typically require sharing and having people over to get help eating it, but people never seem to like it as much as if I were to cook a flavorful eggplant stew/curry, etc, so for various reasons, I find myself rarely cooking it.

                          Now my brothers, who grew up eating the same foods I do-- one still lives at home, but is about to move out, and the other has been on his own for a year--neither of them cook.

                          1. These ARE interesting human interest stories.

                            I grew up in a small town (6500) just south of Montreal (1 500 000). My original post might show typical meals in my neighborhood growing up in the 60s and 70s.

                            Going through the posts got me thinking - more important to my formative years was not necessarily what we ate at home, but what we ate out.

                            After a night of partying, my folks would drag me outta bed, still in pajamas, and head to chinatown (ahhh, the unabashed days of drinking and driving...) where we'd eat crab with ginger and shallot or steamed whole walleye or sea snails in black bean.
                            I'd last maybe 45 minutes then fall asleep on two chairs put together.

                            Come summer, we'd travel somewhere along the eastern seabord from PEI to FLA. We'd gorge ourselves on PEI mussels, New Brunswick Lobsters (I ate nine 1 1/4 pounders at one sitting in a KOA campground when I was 15), Massachusetts clam bakes, bushels of Maryland crab, Virginia Beach boardwalk salt water taffee, South Carolina steamed shrimp, panhandle swamp oysters (a bushel in 1979 was $6), and Miami conch chowder.

                            I thought these experiences were par for the course, but as I grew up, I realized many kids were never more than 100 miles from home, let alone chinatown.

                            It was these experiences which led me to a life of travelling and experiencing new cuisines.

                            1. I'm in my early 30s and spent the first 12 years of my life in a very small town, then a midsized city, both in SW Ontario. Mom was raised on a farm, and my Grandma was/is a very good cook, so we ate well. In winter it was stews, chili, spaghetti or homemade mac and cheese, and roasts. Dinner was often meat/starch/veg of some sort. She also made amazing lasagna and other casseroles, and really good chicken or turkey noodle soup. In summer we always had fresh corn, picked our own strawberries, and other produce that was local. Summer meant grilling, so Dad got involved. We always had homemade baked goods all year as well. There'd be an emergency package of storebought cookies in the cupboard (usually Dare Fudge) but there were almost always homemade cookies, brownies, blondies, cake or pie (or all of the above) in the house as well. Our town had one (takeout) pizza place and one diner and we'd go once in a while, or to the city we eventually moved to. As life got busier and the family was pulled in different directions, convenience products popped up now and then (like frozen lasagna or pre-breaded chicken breasts) but now that it's an empty nest, when the kids come over for dinner, it's a big production, and I know my mom really enjoys cooking now--it's not a chore.

                              1. My mom is a fabulous cook..she's used to be a desert caterer, but funny enough, none of us were real desert people. Everyone would look forward (and still do!) to my parents dinner parties..
                                We had a staple of regular meals growing up including:
                                Shepards pie
                                Chickien paprika
                                homemade tomato sauce and 'tube pasta'
                                tuna casserole
                                my mom's "chicken"..(delicious breaded chicken breads made with Ritz crackers/parm cheese).
                                Curry with bananas on the side

                                1. Mom is Korean and dad is American/white from western Maryland. So I grew up with a lot of korean food and your standard american food. Typical meal was either homemade ragu sauce with noodles or rice with fried saury or mackerel and soy sauce pickles and kimchi. I LOVED fried oily fish growing up and still do to this day. Give me that over bland white fish. She also cooked a lot of japanese food and we ate that a lot when we went out to eat in San Francisco. We loved tonkatsu, soba, udon, kare raisu, etc. Since my dad grew up in western maryland my mom also makes good amish and mennonite style foods. She makes excellent pickled eggs and beets and the best meat loaf ever.

                                  Oh and growing up my mom had an italian friend who introduced her to a lot of new dishes so she made my sister and i pizzelle (WITH DRIED SEAWEED IN IT ONCE...GOD GROSS) and biscotti all the time.

                                  Now a days my mom still cooks a lot of korean food and a lot less american food. She's also hesitant when it comes to trying new things, but she does try it once in a while if i'm making something like Indian food or Vietnamese.

                                  1. The most memorable dish my mom used to make was a simple stew of green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, olive oil, a bit of parsley, and some sea salt and fresh cracked black bepper. If she had some stew meat, it went in the pot. Usually served with some crusty italian bread or rolls.

                                    1. I grew up in the '50s and '60s, and I have to say that my mother, while not a good cook, was a woman ahead of her time. Every dinner had to begin with either a salad, half a grapefruit, or a glass of V-8. The salads had to be made with Romaine lettuce, as my mother (rightfully) considered Iceberg lettuce to be nutritionally worthless, as well as tasteless.

                                      The entree was usually (pick one):

                                      Spaghetti & meatballs
                                      Liver & Onions
                                      Beef Stew (winter only)
                                      Pot Roast (winter only)
                                      Broiled Chicken
                                      Creamed Tuna on Toast (Her one quick meal when time was in short supply)
                                      Flank steak (VERY cheap in those days!)
                                      Broiled flounder fillet (on Fridays, when the fish was freshest)
                                      A Tuna Salad platter (summer only)

                                      The entree (with the exception of the Beef Stew and the Tuna Salad Platter) had to be accompanied by a green vegetable and either potatoes or rice. When I was a child, dessert was such a rare occurrence, that it was not to be expected.

                                      Clearly, the nutrition course that my mother took during her college education in the '20s must have made an impact on her, because she did manage to give us a very healthy diet, despite also holding down the costs as much as possible.

                                      1. I grew up in a small upstate NY town. My parents were both children of immigrants (Mom's side: Italian; Dad's: German), so we ate a lot what they copied from their parents. My mother was not an avid cook, but she was a good one and she cooked almost every day. We ate a lot of store-bought pasta [which we never called pasta - it was either generally referred to as macaroni or by its specific name], but always with homemade sauces. When I admitted to my family after I left for college that I sometimes bought jars of sauce at the store, they were aghast. I also remember my mother being traumatized when I returned from a friend's house and asked her to make the rice/chicken/cream of chicken soup casserole that my friend's mom had made.

                                        My Dad did not cook often, but when he did, it was a lot of german foods (sauerbraten, kartoffelkleis,etc.).

                                        Summers were for grilling and salads, and since my father loves to fish, we ate a lot of fish (usually bluefish).

                                        Also, both of my parents loved to bake during the Christmas holidays. They would begin baking right after Thanksgiving, and they probably together made well over 1000 cookies of various types (russian tea cakes, sugar cookies, lebkuchen, anise platz {sp?]). They gave most of them away in elaborate cookie platters to friends and family.

                                        Some of my favorite memories are of the holidays, baking with my mother while singing the oldies (WGY!), or of spending an entire Saturday frying eggplant.

                                        1. Single mom, a teacher (starting salary was below poverty line!) with two kids meant LOTS of chicken. Also stewed tomatoes canned in the summer (grown in our garden and purchased from big farms near us). Chickens came from FFA sale.

                                          My mom would put a cut-up roaster in cast iron skillet on a trivet, add sliced onions and garlic slivers, pour red wine over it and add some tarragon. We thought it was sooooo square and not like the cool frozen dinners our friends ate. We were so, so wrong. She'd also replace the wine with home-canned tomatoes. I absolutely hated it, but in retrospect, the tomatoes were like liquid sunshine and kept the chicken very moist.

                                          Also, never seen this anywhere else, pork chops baked in milk. The look of the dish was disgusting, but the taste was good, if a little bland.

                                          And practically everything was served with a dish of stewed tomatoes. And in the summer, cut up yellow squash in the tomatoes. Yeah, tomatoes were a big deal in the house.

                                          Oh and homemade bread and rolls. Funnily we never complained about not having store-bought bread...

                                          And just about every health food you could think of from a co-op formed by a bunch of other poor teachers. I shudder to think how many carob chips I had to endure.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: charlesbois

                                            The pork chops in milk sound like an adaptation of a traditional Italian dish of pork loin baked in milk. Hazan has a recipe for it which I've made and it's delicious.

                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                              aha that makes sense, my grandmother also cooked it for my grandfather, who was from Italy.

                                          2. Until I was ten, my family lived in Brooklyn in a neighborhood filled with close and distant relatives, all Italian and Italian-American. I don't have a lot of memories of dinners that were not typical Italian-American. In the mid-70's, my family followed the mass exodus out of the boroughs and into NJ. From then on, I think my mother felt she had to expose us to "American" food so we'd blend in. Holidays and special events were (and continue to be) traditional Italian-American fare but on weekdays we ate Chicken Chow Mein from the big can, lots of one-skillet dishes with pineapple and ham, stuffed peppers, Shake and Bake (swear) chicken, meatloaf. My dad grilled a lot when we were little but nothing much more than burgers, brats, London Broil. Typical stuff. We always had a tossed salad and iced tea alongside. Despite the fact that there were 7 of us, my parents took us out to eat often both in NYC and in NJ. And we took the station wagon over the bridges to B-lyn at least once a month to fill up on the good stuff.

                                            1. Grew up in small town MO in the 60s, 70s. Mom was a home ec major, who preferred sewing over cooking. Tuna casserole, fried chicken, roast w/potatoes and carrots, 'scrambled hamburger' (ground beef with canned pasta), TV dinners on the rare occasions when they went out, produce from the garden (green bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, blackberries, raspberries, asparagus, leaf lettuce, etc.) were standard fare.

                                              1. My mom was a miracle worker who could look in the fridge where me and my brothers saw nothing and suddenly she'd create a "feast". We were poor in central California and my mom sure knew how to stretch her food budget. One thing I remember was her "Sh!t on a Shingle". This was ground beef with chopped onions in a white milk gravy spooned over a piece of white toast. It was delicious! We also had a lot of Manwiches, chili and a beef and veggie stew my mom called Pilgrim Stew. It wasn't fancy, but it always tasted good. The only thing my dad ever cooked was spaghetti with italian sausage and canned sauce. Sometimes he got creative and added mushrooms. That was it. I do remember always loving the food in my house, and I think that's why I became a foodie.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: jenhen2

                                                  My mom's version of sh|t on a shingle was making a 'burnt flour gravy'. She'd brown hash meat in one pan and in another (she had a special pan for this), slowly burn flour. When the flour was between dark brown and black, she'd add the cooked hash meat, pan drippings, and water. Stir this into a slurry then into a thickened sauce. It was how HER mom used to make it and she, of course loved it.
                                                  Alas, I never liked it....
                                                  I sometimes make a chicken fried steak gravy of ground beef with milk and chicken stock, sounds like your version - it is indeed delicious!

                                                2. well my parents are Immigrants from India and was born and brought up in MD. raised in the Balt/Annapolis area.

                                                  I was raised vegetarian w/ eggs although I don't think vegetarians eat eggs in India. still mostly veg. my parents are Tamil Iyers (Brahmins) from Kerala for those of you that might be familiar with any of that. anyway american breakfast, cereal generally else bagels sometimes pancakes etc. lunch pbj, chips, fruit sometimes pizza I think this probably moved away from pbj a bit in HS but sadly my memory fails me. Dinner generally always Indian, think rasam, sambar, yougurt, broccoli, cabbage, buttermilk, rice, beans, chapati (roti) etc. hmm the pronunciations for some of the foods are complicated I'll just leave that off. didn't eat out a lot. ff to college and post college and eat out a lot even though I'm poor :). I regret not having a more baltimore/md eating experience growing up. still haven't eaten a crab. have had some crab cakes. had berger cookies at least after college. wasn't into restaurant exploration back then.

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                                                  1. re: vivinator

                                                    DH came from India to attend college at the tender age of 17 or 18...and the food aspect was the hardest part for him (He was a vegetarian as well). His English was pretty good, but he struggled with the food. He still remembers his first trip to the ballpark (DH's first apartment was right behind Wrigley Field; he is still cursed with a love of the Cubbies...). He was shocked to find that they served Dog, and it was Hot to boot!! (Months passed before someone clued him in, not that what was really in the dogs was much better..:-) He would "discover" one food at a time, and eat it for weeks. Tomato Soup is fairly common in India, and although their version is a little different than Campbell's, that and bread were a staple in his diet. At least it was cheap....

                                                    The original plan was for DH to live with his older sister and her family in Chicago while going to school. Then about a month after he arrived she learned that her husband was taking a job in San Francisco. She gave him a crash course in Indian cooking before she left, leaving him to find the afore-mentioned apartment. He rarely had time or energy while in college to cook her recipes, but he remembers them and fortunately often shares them with us today.....

                                                  2. actually not sure if all the vegetables were from my parents traditions back home for dinner like carrots but my mom made them.

                                                    lol anyone here raised on TV dinners or with a parent who wouldn't/couldn't cook?

                                                    Ironically the same kind of upbringing that caused me not to partake in a lot of american/balt/md food would make me a celeb amongst chowhounders.

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                                                    1. re: vivinator

                                                      Yes, that is mostly me. I grew up eating ChefBoyardee from cans, Velveeta slices, Wonder bread, canned baked beans (which I hated), and hot dogs. We did not have TV Dinners. I also ate cottage cheese and applesauce, mixed together, which I liked. In the summer I had lots of watermelon, which I was wild for, and for two weeks we could eat fresh-picked raspberries, which were heaven itself. When I went to a relatives house, I would consume lots and lots of vegetables of my own free accord, especially frozen spinach and raw carrots.

                                                      My mother did like to bake cookies and make fudge. I loved the fudge, especially. I ate by myself mostly, in the kitchen. This is why the foods seem designed for a child. On special occasions, we would eat together in the dining room, and then I would get a steak off the grill and a green vegetable. I still think of steak as my special occasion food, and I make it for my wedding anniversary most years.

                                                      Oh, my mother did like to bake tuna casserole from time to time (the kind with a can of soup in it). I liked that. Also, I ate out often, like pancakes for breakfast. I was usually required to order a hamburger when I was younger, but at one restaurant I was allowed to pick a shrimp cocktail. I loved that. It was so cool and zingy.

                                                      This is just the overall picture. It did vary throughout my childhood. I ate more frozen items as I got older, for example, and I lost the ChefBoyardee.

                                                    2. So very bad for you....We grew up having bacon and french fries for supper every Friday night at my Gram's.

                                                      1. After my parents split up, TV dinners were practically a nightly staple (on the good nights, that is). I still remember the ham, apple slices, peas and carrots and mashed potatoes as one of my favorites, right ahead of the fried chicken one that had the chocolate cake that cooked along with the dinner. I shudder today just thinking about those days. Another meal my mother would "prepare" was canned asparagus on buttered toast. She would also "make" Chef Boyardee warmed up and poured over white bread cut into squares. Dessert was usually Junket, chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. Those were the days!

                                                        1. What a great thread! My parents were from Massachussets and Rhode Island. I spent most of my years under 21 in Sea Cliff, a tiny town on Long Island. My mom was a stay-at-home and became more adventurous as she aged. I remember always a protein, veg, and starch...lots of broiled chicken, pot roast and Sunday dinners of lamb. My parents loved liver, but I hated it (still do) and each time they would have it I got to have my favorite, a Swanson's fried chicken dinner. In summer, my dad would always go to the butcher shop next to the train station in Glen Head and pick out a lovely London Broil for the barbeque...always charcoal in those days. When it got really hot, my mother would serve a "cold plate" for dinner...which consisted of perhaps shrimp salad, or sliced and rolled ham or bologna, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, potato salad and sliced avocados. We very rarely had rice in our house, always potatoes. In later years my parents loved to make tacos, with those hard shells right out of the box and the salty ground beef. Since I was an only child, and well behaved, I got to go out to dinner with them since I was five. My dad was a seafood fan, and would feed me raw oysters, clams, etc. Unfortunately I loved them and still do to this day...prices be damned! We lived in Iran for two years, and I became accustomed to eating beluga caviar with lemon, chopped onion and egg right out of the tin...it cost about 5 bucks in those days...that is a habit I can no longer afford!
                                                          My mom's go-to meals for dinner parties included packaged Noodles Romanoff (they were so good, can't find em anymore) and the afore mentioned London Broil, or an Herbed Chicken dish with Sauternes which I still make today. She also was a cookie baker, which I am not. She made these wonderful merangues with chocolate chips and nuts that would just melt in your mouth. Another meal that she made was New England Boiled dinner...with potatoes, cabbage, carrots and pork butt. After she died I wanted one so badly but didn't know what type of ham it was...after trial and error I found Frerich's smoked pork butt (Now that I live in Maryland It's Roses) and that was what she used to use. Thanks for trip down memory lane!

                                                          1. I grew up in the north of England in the seventies. My parents were working class, so they didn't have much money and our food reflected that. We ate a lot of chips (french fries) and a lot of mince (ground beef) and frozen peas. I still remember when we had a chip pan which would sit on the hob for weeks with congealed fat in it! We also had a roast dinner once a week - overcooked beef, lamb or chicken, always with Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes. My mother is the Queen of Yorkshire Puddings - they're huge and puffy and slightly soggy in the middle, just like they should be. We also would eat them in the traditional way, on their own as a starter, so that you ate less meat. On Monday we'd have something made out of leftovers, either a pie, or Lancashire hotpot or, *shudder*, my Mum's idea of curry which was cooked in the pressure cooker with sultanas and leftover gravy. I always refused to eat that, and thought I hated curry until I had a proper one at the age of 18 (in France of all places).

                                                            My Mum hates cooking, but to her credit she would prepare most things from scratch (probably due to lack of money). She was also very good at pastry, so we'd have a lot of home-made desserts like rhubarb crumble, apple pie, Bakewell tart and lemon meringue pie. She also made lovely scones, biscuits and parkin, and mince pies and jam tarts at Christmas.

                                                            1. potato soup
                                                              chicken soup

                                                              1. Pretty standard american fair, I would think. I grew up in the 80's outside of Philly and we had: meat loaf, pot roast, pork chops w/ apple sauce (a lot!), roasted chicken, steak, tacos, sausage and peppers, lasagna and various pasta dishes, lots of turkey sandwiches with home-made soups, breakfast for dinner, shrimp scampi, crab cakes, stir-frys. Veggies and startches always made it onto the plate as well. Usually frozen veggies and minute rice or a potato dish.

                                                                My mom's go to meal when we were little was ravioli w/ bread and butter and a side of veg. We must had eaten this 3-4 times a month. (I had a single working mom, what can you do?)

                                                                As we got older (into the 90's), she started keeping meal kits in the freezer and I would have to make dinner for me and my younger brother. But overall the relience on packaged food was low. She always made me buy my lunch at school, so we didn't have snacky junk in the house either.

                                                                She did do a lot of involved cooking on whims and on weekends while we weer growing up and today she is known to be a very good cook... she just didn't have a lot of time to have cooking adventures while we were little.

                                                                1. The food I ate as a child were simple but rather good: roast chicken with rice or potatoes, beef stews, meatcakes in gravy, steaks with fresh peas and baked potato and salad, roast lamb with mint sauce, roast beef on Sundays, pot roasts, fried chicken in the summer, crab cakes, oysters, pan fried trout, and even salmon with a dill sauce for special occasions . Vegetables were often lightly creamed or served with a pat of butter. Layer cakes, pies, cookies, fruit salad, charlotte russes for sweets.

                                                                  In general, the quintessential meals of relatively prosperous mid-Atlantic WASPs.

                                                                  We didn't eat much in the way of casseroles, rarely did we eat anything that might be considered "ethnic," and dining out meant going to a French restaurant that often had the word "Chez" in its name.

                                                                    1. re: racer x

                                                                      for some of you anyway...the rest of us need a 'what did you eat in the fifties' thread :-)

                                                                    2. We grew up in the 70s in the NYC suburbs, Haverstraw to be exact. My dad was 14 years older than my mother, who was a teacher. When my father retired from the school system, my mother went back to teaching and my father kept the house -- pretty daring for a man who was a professional boxer and baseball umpire in addition to being a groundskeeper. I guess they were about 20 years ahead of the times. My mother was a functional cook - a lot of shake and bake, meat starch, vegs, etc.

                                                                      However my father was a wonderful cook. His lasagne was the ultimate, he would make leg of lamb on Sundays, chicken paprika, steaks... He would have a routine where we would leave for school and he would head to the Grand Union and the meat market to get the day's dinner fixings. The only thing was that when he discovered a new recipe we'd be eating it for a month. I remember watching The Galloping Gourmet and Julia Child with him before he watched The Edge of Night (hehe).

                                                                      We all ate together at the dining room table at 5:00, NO EXCEPTIONS unless my brother had a baseball or basketball game. We would get pizza on Friday nights after the basketball games at the Town Tavern in New City (we all went to the regional Catholic high school where my father kept the time clock at the basketball games and was the groundskeeper -- for free).

                                                                      However, my mother would always make Thanksgiving dinner. I still use her sausage stuffing recipe to this day.

                                                                      1. I think that cooking was a chore my mother would rather not have performed, but we were always fed. Growing up in Northern MN (Duluth), hotdish was the norm - tater tot (ground beef, cream of mushroom soup, veg-all, milk), corned beef (canned corned beef with velvetta, topped with potato chips), and green been. Chicken and rice was baked with cream of anything soup to a mushy mess. We also had a lot of fish sticks (w/mayo), frozen Tombstone (weekends only) pizza and breakfast for dinner. Our tacos were ground beef w/packet seasoning, iceberg, black olives, tomatos, jarred salsa (usually Chi-Chi's) in flour tortillas. My mom made a pretty good lasagna, which I still think is the best thing she makes. Of course, this was usually when company came over. Salad was iceberg, chopped tomato w/Thousand Island or ranch and Bacos.

                                                                        Thankfully, we moved two weeks before I started high school to Phoenix. Mexican food was a revelation.

                                                                        1. Hi Hounds. New to this place. I grew up on the east coast of Canada. Typical meals for me were, Salt cod pieces with pork/pork fat & onion with potatoes, lobster...when is what $1.50lb, mussel and clams...dug fresh from the shore. Mackeral, trout. Pork chops and two veggies. Something we called rapure (raw-purr) 10lb bag od potatoes shredded, with onions and pork baked in deep dish for approx 3-4 hours. Nothing too unique but still fond memories.

                                                                          1. Typical breakfast: Ekuri, toast with butter and sugar, cinnamon buns, juice and tea
                                                                            Typical lunch: Pita, falafel, salad, fries and soda
                                                                            Typical merienda/tea: Pecan cookies and tea
                                                                            Typical dinner: Chicken tikka, rice, dal, boiled broccoli and juice

                                                                            Mother was an adventurous eater without the skills to back it up so most of the cooking fell to Father who drew upon an array of Middle-Eastern, American, English and American-Chinese recipes to feed us when we were small. If we were with the grandparents, food was invariably Filipino, usually featuring fried fish, some sort of bitter mush that was allegedly mung bean or bittermelon and rice. We were to eat until we were full, and then eat some more. At a certain point, mother started cooking Filipino as well, though her best dishes were Asian interpretations of American and involved "sauces" made of ketchup whilst father introduced Indo-Pak spices into the repertoire once we were old enough to tolerate heat, along with terrible Tex-Mex revolving around Taco Bell DIY packs. What was exotic to us as children (fried chicken, collard greens, pork) became addictive to me in adulthood and when looking for comfort, I still miss the taste of my mother's burnt rice and hot dog spaghetti.

                                                                            1. There was never a meal in our Italian-American household that did not begin with some sort of past or soup, plus we had spaghetti and meat balls every Thursday and Sunday. The various other pastas would be things like pasta & peas, pasta & ceci, pasta con le sarde, pasta fagole and then soups like escarole, which I despised and which was the bane of my childhood. Other kids would come to our house and drool; for me it was just what we ate.

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                                                                              1. re: roxlet

                                                                                My mom was the main cook even though she was a terrible one. She liked anything from a box or frozen (pot-pies, TV dinners). She consistently overcooked meat. I started cooking at age ten in deperation to get decent food. My father was a rather good cook but only did so occasionally. He made wonderful fried chicken, mashed potatoes, any kind of eggs. When he cooked dinner, it was sometimes a variation on breakfast. I loved having pancakes or French toast at night. In fact I preferred it to the big slab of steak that was put on my plate and encouraged to eat because it was so "good for you". We had salad every night, mostly iceberg and bottled dressing.

                                                                              2. I grew up in Yonkers,NY in an Italian family. Everything was home made from scratch. Pasta twice a week, soups, veggies. When I would have dinner at a "american" friends house.....to me their food was exotic. Weird things like cassaroles and frozen fish. Friends would just happen by the days we had "macaroni & meatballs" (thurs/Sun) and say you are so lucky your mom cooks like this. I love to remember all those childhood meals now and really appreciate the effort.

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                                                                                1. re: Doreen

                                                                                  I guess that we are lucky to have grown up eating wonderful food. I have a friend who talks about getting slices of raw potato in his lunch bag. He was always happy to eat at our house, and now I know why!!

                                                                                2. I grew up in typical suburbia in the 1960's and 70's near Hartford CT. Think of that show "The Wonder Years", every other house on the street looked like mine. My father was a better cook than my mother and what was atypical was that my mother worked full time instead of being a stay at home mom. Dad worked swing shift at UTC. My mom was a functional cook but nothing spectacular and since she worked it was all about convenience. I remember eating the basic three, a protein, a starch and a veggie for dinners. Breakfast was OJ and cereal, lunch was a sandwich on Wonder bread with a piece of fruit and some cookies and dinners were always the same things:

                                                                                  Spaghetti with ground meat sauce
                                                                                  Fish Sticks
                                                                                  Liver and Onions
                                                                                  Creamed chipped beef on toast AKA S.O.S.
                                                                                  Chicken, baked or grilled
                                                                                  Sloppy Joes
                                                                                  Hamburgers/hot dogs
                                                                                  Instant potato buds (BLECH!!!)
                                                                                  pork chops
                                                                                  Minute Rice (BLECH!!!)
                                                                                  canned vegetables
                                                                                  Salad was iceberg lettuce (ONLY) with tomatoes and cucumbers or iceberg lettuce with peaches and Miracle Whip.

                                                                                  Basically everything we ate growing up was unseasoned and bland. My mother (bless her heart) thinks that black pepper is hot! It was only after I left home that I became a real foodie and started experimenting with recipes and herbs and things I never savored as a kid. Eggplant! Sushi! Tofu! Herbs and spices! Now I make almost everything from scratch because I can control the amount of fat and sodium and actually create flavorful, healthy dishes.

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                                                                                  1. re: CoteGal

                                                                                    I grew up in the outskirts of London in the 80s. My Mum is Ghanaian, so my diet reflected this. My sister and I were very lucky as my Mum enjoyed cooking and food was always delicious, meals included traditional British stuff like Toad in the Hole, Cottage/Sheperds pie, Fish pie and Sunday Roasts. We also had Lasagne, pasta dishes and the occasional chips and burgers. The Ghanaian stuff was also good - exotic stews with crab fish and pork, soups and rice dishes - Ghanaian food is quite unknown so I don't think anyone would know the names of dishes! I think growing up with a more exotic palate enables you to enjoy more unusual foods - but then I'll eat anything!

                                                                                  2. I grew up in the 80's in Mobile, Alabama. My mom is a good cook - I think we were just picky and she tended to make whatever she knew we would eat: baked chicken and rice, pork chops and cornbread, spaghetti, salmon croquettes, hamburger gravy and noodles (like a homemade version of hamburger helper, which we NEVER got) - she really never made anything with canned soups or processed foods. We ate our veggies, too - I remember liking both lima beans and brussel sprouts from an early age. When the family got together was when they'd pull out the real southern stuff - fried chicken gizzards, oysters, gumbo, greens, shrimp and the like (I'm allergic to shellfish so didn't really get into those occasions).
                                                                                    My dad had served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia and also was a fighter pilot in Vietnam - he had traveled all over before returning to the south and getting married and he is an excellent cook. He'd go through manias where he'd cook nothing but Thai food for a week, then nothing but Ethiopian food the week after that, etc. He also was a bit of a dictator and if you didn't like what he was making, you didn't eat!
                                                                                    The only thing I recall actively disliking - and I don't know why my mom started making it nor where she got the recipe - was curried cabbage. So stinky! We three kids just plain refused to eat it, but she loves the stuff and makes it to this day!

                                                                                    1. I grew up on the fringes of the country in the south. My dad always "put in" a veggie garden large enough to feed the neighborhood. We always had corn, tomatoes, yellow squash, okra, cucumbers, lettuce, green beans, limas, peas and cantaloupes plus whatever the seed company was pushing that year. He grew enough that we always had canned or frozen veggies over the winter. Our favorite meal during the summer was cream style corn, sliced tomatoes, mac and cheese and biscuits.

                                                                                      In addition to the veggies, our meats were pretty much what looked good at the local butcher. That could be anything from calves liver to pork tenderloin to a whole chicken. I grew up eating a wide variety of foods.

                                                                                      Then came the influence of Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet. I eat anything now, but I still love the cream style corn and tomatoes.

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                                                                                      1. re: blewgo

                                                                                        I grew up, the youngest of 5 girls, in Los Angeles, in the late 70's-80's. Mom hated to cook. Lucky for her, we spent summers in Las Vegas where we ate at the buffets all the time. I gre up thinking that all potato salad was the white, vinegary stuff popular in the hotels.

                                                                                        When she did cook, and she had to the rest of the eyar because dad was a doctor and had to eat nutritious meals, she'd throw a steak or piece of chicken in the oven (lit a few fires that way, lol) and then she'd give him a can each of corn, green beans and peas. Plus a salad of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. That was dinner. Breakfast was a lot of fruit, cold cereal and eggs (for dad)

                                                                                        We all went veg when I was about 8 (much to my delight) and she was excited when she discovered tofu which she tried in all sorts of incarnations, but never got quite right, except for a rice, spinach, cheese, garlic and tofu thing she made that was delicious. Other times it was mac and cheese, english muffin pizzas, occasional casseroles and scrambled eggs. Plus los and lots of tuna salads and plenty of cottage cheese with fruit. There was always cold cereal and milk, American cheese (we're kosher and it was hard to get kosher cheese in LA back then) and once in a while,when I could convince mom to make it, Manicotti which was my favorite.

                                                                                        Mom passed away when I was 13 and I quickly learned to cook, even though I was in school. My elder sisters cooked a little but two were married by then and the others were not cooks.

                                                                                        My dad made the best cream cheese and oiive sandwiches which I love to this day, and he makes a damn fine omeletete. He's also the one who taught me to make pizza!