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Jul 13, 2008 11:36 AM

Who was your first food/cooking inspiration?

Many people want to cook like their mothers but unfortunately mine was and is a bad cook. I love her to bits but yikes!! I had to learn to cook very early out of necessity. :) She is my inspiration for nearly everything else but food.

I received my first cookbook at the age of 7 from my favourite aunt who was a good cook. I was so absorbed by that book! She would be my first true inspiration. She would mail me recipes and I began cooking fairly elaborately at a very young age. I made huge batches of perogies, pickles, preserves, lefse and doughnuts when I was 12. I wrote my own recipes and tried to perfect them. My first recipe was for tomato dumplings when I was 8.

In junior high my Home Economics teacher inspired me in sort of a weird way. I often disagreed with what she said about measuring, techniques. flavour combinations and such aloud so she reprimanded me by sending me out in the hallway. She would then come talk to me alone and we would discuss cooking in private. I think she liked that I was so adamant and passionate about food and even challenged her at times. She really pushed and challenged me to perfect skills. We had such excellent talks and I was assigned special projects. While other kids were doing the dishes I was busy experimenting. We actually grew very close and I still think of those times fondly! I believe she is one of the reasons I went to cooking school.

My inspiration now comes from many things but mostly the ingredients themselves.

Who was your first inspiration?

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  1. I think it would have to be my late, beloved great-aunt (Tante Resi). She always let me whip the cream for Sunday afternoon kaffeeklatsch. And I was allowed to drink real coffee with lots of the whipped cream, too (I was the only first-grader that drank coffee!) Oh, she made the most wonderful creamed kohlrabi--I so wish I had the recipe (note to others: If you have a favorite recipe from a beloved relative, get it NOW--once they are gone, it is too late and making it is such a wonderful testament to them). Tante Resi had been a cook to some minor royalty before she got married and emigrated to the US. They didn't want to lose her and I can understand why! She also made wonderful hefezopf (sweet yeast braid with raisins). I was fortunate to get her cookbook and it's a treasured memento (and I am not really into mememtos).

    My mom disliked cooking; on the other hand, she loved cleaning and to this day I really appreciate a nice clean, clutter-free home. Which mine isn't always! But for the big holidays, my dad would cook (his father had been a master pastry chef, so maybe it's in the DNA). Yet he wasn't really a cooking inspiration for me, probably because he used to yell a lot when he was cooking. Not a very pleasant environment to introduce a child to the joys of meal preparation. He's mellowed a lot since then and we really enjoy cooking together when he and my mom come to visit me (only once or twice a year).

    This is really a fun thread. I am interested in hearing what other CHs have to say!

    1. My Mother was a poor cook, except for chuck roast. She was and is the best at that. My Grandmother was a great Southern cook. But neither really had me help except to wash up.

      Then I got married to a man who loves to cook. He loved all foods and if he didn't know how to make it, he learned how. He taught me to cook and it is a pretty romantic thing to do together. Small kitchen, two bodies. After 41 years we are still cooking together. He taught me to eat foods I thought I didn't like. We found some foods I am better making, and some he is better.

      So inspiration, my husband.

      1. My first inspiration was mom: a great cook who did all sorts of cuisines. She had learned a lot when she put herself through Berkeley--working in the houses of the rich--prior to WWII and the concentration camps.

        But others as well. The aunts on both sides were great cooks, as are many of my cousins (some have had restaraunts). We all grew up in an atmosphere in which cooking is normal for both males and females.

        Some of my wives have been good cooks, others not. We've all enjoyed eating well.

        The many, many rustic (markets, street food) and home cooks, mostly women, in remote rural areas around the globe.

        Finally, living for 35 years in places where one largely had to cook rather than rely on restaraunts has been a positive influence.

        1. My inspiration was a family friend, Lyllis. I was about 10 or 11 at the time and I was spending the summer on the Long Island Sound with she and her family. She had a pot of ratatouille cooking. I was amazed at the look and smell, and of course the flavors. I had never had anything like it before. That summer I had many new experiences with food.

          My Mom, although a good cook, is a very basic one. Mom never really liked to cook so she didn't put a lot of imagination into her dishes and we had the same things over and over and over. In my house if it was a Monday, chicken was on the menu, on Tuesday meatloaf, Wednesday sausage and eggs, etc., etc.

          When I would eat at Lyllis' house even the simplest of meals always seemed special. It took me a while to figure it out. It was simply that whenever she set the table for dinner she used her best things. China, crystal and linen napkins. That was Lyllis. Years later she became a caterer in NY and part owner of a health food store.

          She passed away about 13 years ago. I have her Le Creuset dutch oven, her stainless roasting pan and several of her knives that I use on a regular basis. I'd like to think that she'd be happy that some of her kitchenware is still being used and enjoyed today.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Axalady

            That really is a lovely story! It is precious that you have some of her treasured things.

          2. probably my wife. she was a lousy cook to start but followed me all over: cooking over a two-burner electric hot plate in asia; moving up to a roach-infested kitchen state-side; cranking out good meals in a sailboat galley; and so on.

            she's now a damn good cook. i like to surprise her with decent meals that put a smile on her face.