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when did you start to become interested in food?

please forgive me if this subject has been covered, i was wondering when everyone became interested in cooking/food in general. young, or was it something you came into later in life?

for me it started early, i can remember my nonna making fresh pasta and killing chickens (a little scary especially for a two year old) but the end result was beautiful i can remeber watching her and helping make sauce and the sweets oh the sweets! tiramisu, palmero and cannoli.

and when i was eight i was addicted to ready-steady cook. i would practice meals on my family i remeber making a youghurt vegtable soup (didn't work out to well but no one complained bless em) and a rolled stuffed chicken breast with bread crumbs and feta and herbs that was a lot nicer than the soup!

by my teens i was cooking every night for the family, my mum and dad worked full-time (actually they still do i'm only seventeen so still in my teens!) , soups, lasagne, curries, all sorts of pasta and rice dishes fish, chciken dishes from all over the world. so for me its been a hobbie almost from birth what about you?

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  1. A couple of years ago, I was in the hospital for a few weeks. Television choices, particularly during the day, were limited, and I (who previously had no particular in food, other than eating it) got hooked on The Food Channel. I hardly watch it any more, though I do watch Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel and a couple of the PBS food shows.

    1. I was 18 and in Europe for the summer. I had always been a picky eater -- if an egg was fried, I'd eat the yolk but if it was boiled, I'd eat the white, and I never, ever ate eggs scrambled. I wound up having an omelet in Paris, and it changed my life. Then, all I wanted to do, was to replicate all the delicious things I had eaten in Europe.

      1. I was young, probably 6, when I actually started to develop a real love of cooking and food. I always remember watching and helping my mom and grandmothers cook. My mom would always help me make recipes out of my favorite book: The Disney Mickey Mouse Cookbook. I would watch PBS cooking shows and write down recipes that I thought were good on the back of my homework. The very first thing I made my parents by myself was this spicy roasted shrimp. It was fantastic and my parents loved it. From that point on, I was the "foodie" in my family...I played an integral role in helping my mom come up with new recipes and making the old ones better. I even remember being the resident garlic peeler in the house. I think my parents were excited that I developed this liking/talent for cooking, but at the same time I think they found it to be strange. Instead of playing a board game, I wanted to cook something...After a while they went with it and now they can't complain because they get to eat some of my creations! :)

        1. As a kid I'd cook with my grandmother quite often. She made everything from scratch and that taught me an awful lot.

          But I didn't really start cooking on my own until I was in my early 20's. That was also about the time I moved to Chicago and a whole new, great , big, world of food opened up for me. I gained 20+ lbs the first year l lived there. It became an obsession to try something new every day. As the scale demonstrated, I was successful.

          1. I had to cook for the entire family from the time I was 12; my mother refused to teach me how to cook, didn't let me use cookbooks [like I was meant to learn by osmosis], only let me make certain sanctioned meals, and would not let me choose groceries, meaning I had to use what happened to be around and make it fit. My family never ate out [I mean never] so I spent every dinnertime with my stomach in knots, worrying that I would be punished again for not making a meal up to her standard. Food was pretty much something to keep you going, not something you enjoyed. Needless to say, once I finally moved out I decided I was never going to cook again, on principle, and lived on take-out, fast food, and frozen prepared dinners for over a year. After a] starting to really dislike the processed crap I was eating and b] realizing what a waste of money it was, I began to reclaim the kitchen. I thus 'came to food' in my 20's once I realized that I could make my own relationship with cooking and meal prep. I've become a complete recipe hound and now totally love cooking, eating, and everything to do with both. Ironically, I am the only one of all of my friends who actually cooks- they grew up with mothers who never let them in the kitchen!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Smorgasbord

              That's a great story; sort of sad, but it sounds like something out of a novel. Thanks.

            2. My interest in food goes back as far as I can remember. I spent a lot of time visiting my grandparents during summer months, they didn't have cable so I read cookbooks and watched cooking shows on PBS. I grew up helping my mom, dad, and grandmom in the kitchen. I started prepping (and eventually cooking) dinner for my family when I was 9. I started entering cooking competitions at the state fair when I was in 6th grade.

              1. When I was seven years old, my mom went back to work as a nurse at a residential nursing home. She worked second shift, from 2 to 10 p.m. My dad's store didn't close until 9, so he usually just picked her up on his way home. My sister was in college, so she was in class and then at her work-study job until late, and my brother was either at basketball practice or in the park playing pick-up hoops until well after dark. So I consistently was at home alone from about three in the afternoon until probably seven or eight at night at the earliest. And there are only so many TV dinners you can eat, even when you're a kid. I started teaching myself how to cook partially out of boredom and partially because I knew I could do better than just eating fish sticks or pizza rolls or bologna sandwiches. So just through practice and trial and error, I was a better cook than my mom by the time I was in ninth grade, though naturally I never would have said so.

                Also by that time, I was reading books about food (I'd fallen upon Calvin Trillin's AMERICAN FRIED at the local public library one afternoon while I was ditching school...and yes, I was the kind of kid who ditched school to go to the library) and getting as interested in unusual food as it was possible to get in Lubbock, Texas in 1984. Believe me, it was the height of sophisticosity when I took my girlfriend to a Thai restaurant for the first time, and finding a coffee shop in a strip mall on 82nd Street that served cappucinos was as important to me as discovering the tobacconist in the mall that sold both Nat Shermans and the UK brand Senior Service (which were a whopping $5 a pack, but one of my favorite Elvis Costello songs was called "Senior Service," so I had no choice). Believe me, sitting at one of the little fake-marble and wrought iron tables in there with a cappucino and a pack of carefully-rationed European cigarettes that were too expensive to smoke more than two a day and my Walkman with a C-90 with a selection of late-era Jam singles on side A and the first album by Everything But the Girl on side B, reading a used paperback copy of either ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS by Colin MacInnes or PLAY IT AS IT LAYS by Joan Didion, I was the coolest 14-year-old in west Texas. Of course, if I met that kid today, I would mock him to within an inch of his life, and justifiably so. God, I was a pretentious little twit. But knowing that I could buy a baguette at the Food Emporium at 82nd and Slide Road -- hell, just knowing what a baguette was -- was a big part of that pretension.

                1. When I was about 9 I became interested in Crepes Suzette. I tried to make them but my mother would not provide me with the ingredient necessary to flambe. I was already baking cakes and bread for a couple of years. Like Barmy, I was home by myself while my mom was at work so I got to put up the roast beef--I think I was about 12 or 13. At 18 I was following Julia Child's recipe for duck a l'orange. I was hooked for good.

                  1. When I was young I was a very picky eater and just ate because I was forced to it seems.
                    I have vague memories of my father trying to get me to eat spinach, well any vegetable really. It wasn't until much later, that every thing I was given to eat was very bland.
                    I had some inkling that I liked to cook in 8th grade, because we had a cooking/sewing class. I hated sewing, loved cooking. It was there, that the teacher made food that taste good and I started to experiment at home a little. I made tuna and blt's, that my family loved, especially my mother. That lasted through HS.

                    During my last year in HS, I dated a guy whose mom was Italian and they invited me to dinner...Wow! I was hooked. Food actually tasted wonderful, and made the house smell heavenly too! After dating the guy a few months, I asked his mother if I could come over and learn to cook lasagne one time. The parents showed me how to cook the "gravy" and lasagne. It was the beginning of a lifestyle for me, homecooking. I found PBS with Julia in my 20's and never looked back, she was my idol. After nearly 45 years, I still cook from scratch. And I still love to cook!

                    1. My sister and I were very picky eaters during childhood, and my parents were busy shop owners, so my mom mainly stuck to several boring but accepted meals. The first time I ate 'grown up' food was during a homestay in France when I was 14, and again when I was 16. In college, I lived happily enough on dorm food and pizza. Having said that, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so we were exposed to all sorts of good things from an early age - just didn't appreciate it enough.

                      I guess I became more interested in food when I moved to Japan after college. Not only were many flavours new, I also had to cook for myself for the first time. I got proficient enough not to starve (and was lucky to have hot meals served for lunch at the school where I taught English.)

                      But I only started to enjoy food, plan meals and seek recipes properly in the last few years - getting married somehow made me feel compelled to do better. Also started working at a food company, so my general knowledge and interest soared.

                      As for the rest of my family, once my sister and I moved out of the house and my parents' careers took different directions, my mom started making amazing meals! Turns out she had been suffering for years with bland food and prescribed dinner times just to please all of us, poor thing. My sister married a trained chef and has become a foodie extraordinaire. Food is now a big part of all of our lives. Guess it's never too late to appreciate good things!

                      1. I grew up in a very food-centric family, so good food was pretty much all I knew. I didn't really start to pay attention to it until the family took a trip back home to Texas from Belgium, where we had been living for a year or two. I was eight or nine. The whole time we were in Europe I had been daydreaming of plain white Rainbow bread, with no seeds or anything in it. When we went back to Texas someone gave me a white bread sandwich, and I was shocked to find that it tasted like styrofoam.

                        I didn't really start cooking until I was 12 or 13; my parents split up, my mom went back to work, and suddenly if I wanted cookies or brownies after school I had to make them myself. I started with box mixes and moved up until I was making mousse cakes and creme brulee. My parents always had us help out with dinner prep too, but I didn't start really cooking for myself beyond scrambled eggs or grilled cheese until I got my first apartment in grad school.

                        1. My Mom cooked almost everything we ate from scratch and was a great cook. She had a passion for it and a concern for food safety that wasn't usually seen back then (the 70s), she even ground her own hamburger for us, not trusting the ground beef at the store. She always showed me how to cook things and I was by her side observing a lot when I was little.

                          Despite that, I grew up with the most restrictive, bland, little-kid palate you could imagine. I was an extremely difficult child when it came to food and would cry and refuse to eat when not presented with a "safe" option. I basically lived on white foods and hot dogs and bologna, white foods being french fries, mashed potatoes, nooddles, plain pasta, white bread, plain cheese pizza, plain everything. I wouldn't even eat hamburgers. I wouldn't eat my mom's homemade spaghetti sauce. Never ate any salad, the only veggies I ate were corn and canned spinach. I was so extremely thin due to this awful diet and being pretty hyperactive that at times my elementary school teachers would get concerned about my health and call my Mom to talk about it. Believe me, she did everything she could to get me to try things, and nobody else in my family was like this, I was just impossible.

                          Things didn't really drastically improve over the school years. In high school I learned about fast food and junk in the cafeteria and would eat that, but not much else. By HS graduation I had expanded a little and would eat things like grilled chicken or goulash that I wouldn't previously eat, but I still wasn't a very adventurous eater.

                          In college I met and began dating a much older man who had a lot of money and who was pretty sophisticated. He was an advanced home cook and liked living the "good life" with fine restaurants, subscriptions to the ballet and the orchestra, etc. I was literally embarrassed into trying things at first as I couldn't bear to foist my child-like food desires on a french restaurant. He soon discovered my reticence and FORCED me to try all kinds of cuisines, from sushi to thai to indian to everything else under the sun. I loathed being forced and shamed into trying things and the games he would play to make me eat things (refused to tell me what something was til after I ate it, for example) but it did get me trying things and I developed a taste for many other types of food that I had previously never had. I started liking salads when he prepared them, as they weren't the iceberg lettuce and grocery store tomato we were limited to in my youth (nothing else available at the store) but were a variety of lettuces, olives, cheeses, sometimes meats, tasty homemade dressings, etc. He actually started my wine palatte development. At first I would drink nothing but the sweetest dessert wines like Gewurtztraminer or Riesling and little by little we would introduce drier and drier wines and different food combinations. We went out for over 2 years and I would say I was a completely different person, food-wise, than I was when I went into the relationship. Unfortunately, the "food"/palatte gift was the only positive thing he gave me in the relationship and while I don't have very good memories of the years I spent with him, I'm grateful that someone was able to break through my stubborn food barriers and get me to expand what I would eat. It was the beginning of my journey to becoming a big foodie or chowhound.

                          1. I grew up in a large family (nine of us) so dinner was more an effort to get things on the table ( which I totally understand). We ate a lot of bland over cooked food. I was forunate enough to go out dinner more than most kids and travel a fair amount, so I was exposed to different food. In college, my SO was a great cook and did all the cooking. then, a few years ago, I had a group if friends I went out to dinner with every week, and it started to get too $$$ for my wallet. I wanted to try to cook, but didnt know where to begin. Then one night, after too much wine, I became a member of my local PBS station and the gift was 13 julia child dvds. once they arrived, I figured, I better watch them since I had spent way too much on them. As it turned out, i loved cooking. It wasnt until people started saying, hey this is great, that I realized I could do it. Once that happened, I couldnt stop!

                            1. When I was 6 weeks old, my college aged aunt was babysitting me. And gave me lemon ice cream.

                              Needless to say, my mother was far from pleased, but I have loved food as long as I have memories! My first word was cookie. My mother is a wonderful cook (as was her mother) and I learned from her. After college, I really started cooking more complicate meals. Now in my mid 30's I am figuring out the flavors that work well together & using my nose to tell when things are done baking in the oven. Of course, not everything turns out right, but when they do... oh the heaven!

                              1. My mother and grandmother were great cooks so I was always interested in eating but didn't get into cooking until later in life. When I was about 10, my sister used to go to a tutor on Saturday mornings and I had to wait downstairs watching tv. There was one of Julia's old cooking shows that aired each week and I remember being fascinated and looking forward to watching her each visit.

                                Fast forward to when I got my first apartment at 19 and realized that I didn't know how to cook ANYTHING! I had to learn fast and luckily my roommate was interested in cooking so we had fun with it.

                                A big turning point for me was when my now-husband had just started law school and we were invited to a potluck dinner. Everyone brought things like Thai noodles, salads with toasted pine nuts, exotic cheeses, etc. and I showed up with - a salad made with wagon wheel pasta and Miracle Whip from a Kraft recipe. No one touched it and I was pretty embarrassed. I decided to learn all I could about different cuisines and started clipping newspaper recipes and buying old back issues of Gourmet for a dollar at a used bookstore near my apartment. Soon we were enjoying things like jerk chicken, singapore noodles, bolognese sauce, etc. As students we were pretty broke so it forced me to learn how to make the most of inexpensive ingredients by making my own breads, pastry, etc. That was a very influential time in my life - I'm now a recipe developer and food writer!

                                1. Ever since I was child, I had always loved food (which meant I was always a little pudgier growing up!).

                                  I had a stay at home mom who was always cooking full meals for when my dad came home and she also introduced me and my sister to exotic fruits and the like. My dad's side of the family is very food centric- my grandma made all sorts of things from scratch (like di bao and dumplings, etc.) and almost all my uncles work BOH in restaurants (one of them is quite well known for his restaurant here in Toronto).

                                  That said, I was never really in the kitchen until I was 18. Sure, I would help my dad peel wrappers for spring rolls or make my own "cream cheese frosting" for my "bagel cakes" but never really anything of my own. It was only until my first fine dining meal at 16 that I started taking a keen interest in the dining scene, which then translated into a fascination with food blogs and recipes. Shortly after entering first year university, I met my current bf, who is also very passionate about food and loves to cook (quite good at it too!). He understands that I need to be in the kitchen (accounting is REALLY not creative and thus, my other side of the brain needs exercise whenever possible). Now, neither of us really go out to eat anymore unless we are celebrating something because we love to stay home and experiment with new recipes and ideas.

                                  1. Ever since I could walk and get shooed out of the kitchen, over and over again.

                                    My paternal grandfather was fine with my watching as long as I wasn't in the way, while my mother thought I was more of a pest. :)

                                    We had the Many Hands children's cookbooks (I think that's what they were called) from Unicef, but the recipes seemed too difficult at the time.

                                    By the time I could reach the counters (it seems I was under 4' tall until the age of 12), I started cooking. Lots of Bisquick and bouillon and failed attempts at what I thought were grown-up foods. By 14 I was making bread from scratch every night in HS to make use of my insomnia, while also cooking no fat/salt/sugar recipes--which did taste good--and was becoming an ovo-lacto vegetarian. Travelling helped improve my tastebuds further (and desire to replicate the foods I was served), and eventually I started eating everything again. American BBQ is newer to me--influenced by my husband's family--and I've had to learn to make Mexican food to make up for the lack of quality fare where I now live. Eating locally is my current inspiration, as well as whatever I pick up on CH (not a plug, as I'm seriously addicted to this site).

                                    1. Grew up in a single parent family where Mom basically worked so first it was my sister preparing dinner to help out and then it moved onto me when she started in university. I can't say that I really enjoyed it at that point (always had to be Chinese food). I'd always liked food though, Mom was pretty good about taking us out to proper restaurants (i.e. not chains) as a special treat (learned my table manners that way too!) so I got a lot of exposure that way. Can still remember tasting caviar for the first time and spitting it back out because I thought it was way too salty (I was in the early teens).
                                      As for cooking, beyond Chinese food, that happened after I moved out for my first job and then when I moved to another country for work, well, it's all been for the better since. Mostly it's been forced seeing as proper Chinese ingredients are scarce in Bermuda. Go figure!
                                      Getting married has definitely upped the ante for me though, I enjoy having our friends over and testing new recipes on them (unbeknownst to them), with varying success. Not sure how'd they feel if they knew I kept inviting them just so that I could use them as guinea pigs. Lol!

                                      1. I always liked to eat and was a mother's dream as I was happy to eat just about everything my mom put in front of me. I didn't really get interested in cooking though until much much later. My mom's a really good cook, but I don't think she enjoys the process much so she didn't really give me a lot of encouragement. I did show an early interest in baking, but again, not much support at home - my mom is a business woman first and foremost and I just think she thought it was kind of silly to be interested in this kind of stuff. It wasn't until I had my son (8 years ago) and I was home most of the time that my interest in cooking really ignited. I discovered Amazon and the second hand book dealers and I started buying all these great cookbooks dirt cheap. Eight years later, I have a huge cookbook collection that I am absolutely passionate about and I love to cook. I re-discovered baking around the same time and I've been having a ball ever since!

                                        1. I was a voracious little boy. When the grandparents couldn't find me anywhere else in the house, they could be fairly confident that I was sneaking something out of the pantry. It wasn't just tastes and satiety that I craved. There was a noise about food as my mother smacked garlic with a cleaver to prepare it for chopping. There was a visual component that would cause me to celebrate the purchase of colorful shrimp crackers that would soon puff and bubble in hot oil. There was the physicality of getting on a stool and fighting blue crabs with tongs before they were put in the pot. There was a corporeal element -- food is/was an experience -- and I wanted to be a part of all of it from the get-go.

                                          I remember coming into the kitchen at age 3 to play with the crabs and running out screaming when my grandmother let one loose on the floor and it chased me. I remember being bored with coloring books around age 8 and perusing the pictures of a cookbook instead. I watched "The Frugal Gourmet" when I was home from school. My pre-teen eyes widened when I learned by error that lemon curdles milk. I made my first Thanksgiving at age 12 and I've been hooked ever since.

                                          1. Growing up I was not allowed in the kitchen when meals were being prepared. My parents said I just got in the way. We're talking about a normal-sized suburban house kitchen here. I moved out in university and had no idea how to cook. The day after I graduated from university I moved to Europe- first to Barcelona, then to Torino. When I got to Torino I made friends with a lot of young people from England, and they were blown away by my cooking skills. They were AMAZED when I would make things that I thought were really simple, like soup and lasagne. That gave me the confidence to try out new recipes, and I just got better and better. It helped a lot that I had a market directly across the street from my Italian apartment from Monday to Thursday, and that I could walk to three grocery stores, a handful of bakers, and at least six "greengrocers" (I think that's the word- we don't have them in Canada to the best of my knowledge) in less than two minutes. Food was at my doorstep. I'm still no master chef, but I am significantly more confident and knowledgeable in the kitchen than most of my peers.

                                            1. I recall my first cooking mistake. I took a hot frying pan from the burner and placed it on the counter. I melted a spot on the counter that I could not cover up. I was cooking some food for my brother and I ( he's 18 months younger than I) and I recal one ingredient was canned,(non-creamed) corn. I recall being upset that I burned the counter top..it actually took a piece out of it when the pan was removed. (Drats I was 'caught!)

                                              My parents tell me I was not yet 5 years old (more like 4.5) and had pulled up the kitchen chair to do my cooking, My brother confessed it was not the first time I cooked. I just recall it as the first mistake I got caught at.

                                              Yes; I grew up in a restaurant family. But I think it was genetic on my Mother's side, Amazing "natural" cooks there!

                                              1. I grew up w/ a very ethnic family and food, but I wanted to be "American" like my WASP friends so was a very fussy eater except for hamburgers and hot dogs. About 5th grade mom got a teaching job w/ a provisional certificate and had to go to night school (She got her degree 2 weeks before I graduated high school). Dad started to work 2 jobs to put my older brothers through college. I got appointed cook and w/ mom's help, became pretty competent and confident. I went to college and began to blossom w/ food experimentation when I got drafted.
                                                Worse than mess chow was the continuous need for c-rations in the field and the mistake that left me dependent on Spam or a couple of weeks. But the real catharsis came when I was going through rehabilitation at a VA hospital in Queens, NY and on walks from the hospital, noticed the plethora of Greek restaurants in the area. I was hooked! and extended my walks to avoid eating the hospital chow.
                                                I finished my degree, delayed law school (for 39 years now.) went on a US odyssey in my V Dub, which died in New Mexico. I stayed for 10 years and developed a healthy addiction to New Mexican food. Form there I worked in Europe and South America and the rest is history.
                                                I think my Viet Nam experience 40 years ago makes me today appreciate the rich cornucopia of food I have as an American and be very thankful that I am here to enjoy it as many of my comrades are not.
                                                Carpe diem chowsters!
                                                Ye Olde Dumbe Keg

                                                1. I think my interest in food has grown over time. I look back now and realize it was always there. My family is how I got interested in food. I can still smell and hear my Mom-Mom's kitchen on Thanksgiving morning- the smell of celery and onions and the loud banging of pots and pans:). My mom has always been a good cook. She loves to cook and is great at creating recipes. My Nan probably had the biggest influence on me for cooking and eating.

                                                  My Nan was the one who encouraged me to cook. My first dish was deviled eggs at her place. I was probably in 4th grade. She told me to slice the eggs in half and scoop out the yolks as she left the room. I did that, and when she returned, she asked me where the yolks were. I told her I threw them in the trash. She asked me what I thought the ingredients of the filling were. Since the filling was yellow, I thought it was a mix of mustard and other things. She chuckled. Being a child that grew up during the depression, waste was unthinkable. As she dug out the yolks from the trash, she explained that the yolks were an integral part of the filling! :) Yes, we did eat those eggs and were pretty good as I recall. No, we thankfully didn't get sick! What I love about that story was how she never got upset, she just patiently explained and through the years always continued to encourage me.

                                                  My husband and I really enjoy good food and wine. Good food is a large category for us. It can be fine dining, but really, it's just food that tastes good. What I really love about food is how it brings people together. My favorite meals are the ones I have shared with my family and friends over the years. Food reminds me of the important people in my life- the ones who are still here and the ones that I have lost- my grandmothers in particular. Food is a way to carry them with me and continue to make new memories with my loved ones today.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: mdfifi

                                                    probably 4 or 5 yrs old. my grandma was sicilian, need i say more. always helping with the pizza,pasta,sauce,octopus,snails etc. but the most memorable experience was making a meal for the family from my betty crocker cook book. i'll never forget, mad hatter meatballs. just writing this brings a smile to my face. oh the memories:)

                                                    1. re: winebarb


                                                      Those mad hatter meatballs sound good:) I'm like you when I think of my deviled egg experience- I crack up every time. Great memories!

                                                  2. I recall that I was fascinated with food and my mother making cornbread and biscuits at an early age. Mom would let me cut out the biscuits and eventually I was able to knead and roll them out. This construction, the greasing of pans and getting them into the oven was my favorite part of the process. She let us “drop” the fluffy, wet dough into the boiling pot of chicken to make chicken and dumplings. She enjoyed teaching us to cook and asked us to participate. I could cut up a whole chicken into 11, precise pieces. Then my father died, when I was eight. It became a necessity that I cook while she went out and worked to support the six of us. We were already well-versed in cutting up peaches for canning, shucking corn, scrubbing potatoes and carrots and very used to shelling peas, snapping beans and inspecting, washing and putting on pots of dried pinto beans to cook.
                                                    I didn’t think much of this till much later in life. Eating out was unheard of till I left home, at 18. I started seeking out Mex and Tex-Mex restaurants. With friends, we would try any and all hole-in the walls, in Dallas, regardless of whether they spoke English, or not. We had all varieties of authentic Mexican. An older friend was going to Mexico frequently in the early ‘70’s and influenced my eating and smoking habits. In my early twenties I participated in cooking many communal meals. At 21, I was already out-cooking most women I knew.
                                                    At 27, I married a woman who liked to cook and eat. She had a good girlfriend, who was Mexican. We cooked together and she would bring tamales over that her family had made. I soon had a shelf for cookbooks that was eight feet long. Most of them were crap, but you get the idea of my enthusiasm. I gained weight. I went from 157 to 163 pounds! At six foot, this was alarming to me, for I had never had a “belly” before. I looked like a snake that had swallowed a frog…
                                                    The rest is somewhat boring. Travelling all over the US and trips to Europe, Canada and Jamaica have broadened my tastes. I cook, and I incorporate the best recipes of what I eat elsewhere into what I cook at home. I cannot survive without Chowhound to guide me to the next adventure.
                                                    This is pic of me with two pans of paella I fixed after a trip to Spain, in 1993.

                                                    1. I was interested in what went on in the kitchen at a young age, but really only because I wished to participate, not because I thought I could do anything there. I was discouraged from anything but licking beaters for cookie dough (though, from that I did learn by osmosis how to cream butter and sugar) and scraping carrots. I did learn how to make fudge the hard way, since that was a skill my mother had in spades. I was allowed to participate in that, probably because I insisted on sitting on the counter next to the stove to have my head right over the pot. Often I would monitor the temp as it sat merely to get my mom to start stirring it at the earliest possible moment.

                                                      It was only after I left home and tried a Vietnamese restaurant and raved about it, and my grandparents bought me a cookbook and a wok in response, that it occurred to me that cooking was a way to reproduce foods that taste good. But I had no skills and no teacher. I used cookbooks for many years with moderate success, but no skill emerged until I had both time and the right instruction and more than two pennies. I still laugh a bit when I recall figuring out what a "wiped" button mushroom was, after cooking them for years (and not wiping them, of course). I still shudder as I recall that every bottle of oil I'd ever used for six years straight was rancid, but I hadn't known. I just thought all oil was naturally disgusting before it was incorporated in a dish. Now I routinely smell and usually taste all items that pass through my kitchen to increase my knowledge of how basic ingredients ought to taste/smell.

                                                      I hit a break when I randomly acquired copy of Beard on Bread. His book was the first one I'd owned that tried to teach from the ground up and was approachable at the same time. I started checking out books from the local library and gradually the books became more like teaching books and less like ingredient lists. One day I reached a critical mass of knowledge and cooking opened up for me. It became possible for my food to reliably be better than the local restaurants. I had not grasped that home cooked food could be better than a restaurant when I was young. I guess I don't have a natural gift for food, you could say, but I have made some progress with it in spite of that.

                                                      1. The first time I tasted mashed potatoes and gravy...about age 2 or 3.

                                                        1. My mom grew up in Brooklyn and my dad grew up on a Midwestern farm. I was always aware of and interested in the relationship between production and consumption, so to speak. Then, I was a vegetarian for twenty-some odd years (well, maybe not that odd). That REALLY inspired me to learn to cook and to explore foods and food history - looking for new ways for me to eat, by finding out more about old ways of eating.

                                                          1. I remember the day that started me down to path towards full blown food obsession(FBFO).

                                                            It was a day like any other.......Ok, I wont do that!!!!:-)
                                                            I was 19 and recouping from a fairly devastating injury. I had grown up a typical suburban kid that ate too much fast food, didnt exercise and watched far too much television. I found myself 19 and more then 70lbs over weight, layed up in a hospital bed. I made a pact with myself one day laying in that bed that, as soon as I can walk again, I am going to lose this weight and get in shape.

                                                            once I was up and mobile I had to devise a plan of attack. Since all my usual habits of eating had to be abandoned, I figured I might as well learn to cook. One day I walked into my kitchen(first apartment!!woot!) and made a chicken breast stir fry. It was boring, pedestrian and probably all wrong, but it tasted good to me, then!!!
                                                            For the next 6 months, I ate every meal at home, cooking them all from scratch. All the time immersing myself in cookbooks and cooking shows. Slowly I developed knife skills, learned flavor affinities, mastered technique, and how to assembly healthy meals on a budget(remember the 19, living alone in my own apt. thing!?;-) ). All the while falling in love with running and starting to weight train in the gym.

                                                            Eight months to the day After I got out of the hospital, I stepped on the scale........165! 75lbs lighter and able to run a 20min 5K!(its 17min now!!). Its now 13 years later, still weigh 165, eat a little bit more, umm....indulgent diet, but practice some moderation. My love of fine food, wine, and spirits grows everyday and I am sure its a passion that will stay with me for all my days. Which coincidentally will probably be a larger number since that fateful moment, some 13 years ago!

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: nkeane

                                                              Hmmm...eating or cooking?

                                                              Pre child, I both worked in pretty high end restos and ate out A LOT, so I was exposed to some great things, learned about wine pairings and watched some chef techniques, although at the time it was like watching aliens mate or something to me. My fridge generally held beer, coffee, pop, milk for the coffee and ketchup. I don't even know where the ketchup came from.

                                                              But having a child really got me interested in cooking, starting with making my own baby foods and putting together healthy toddler meals from scratch. The commercial foods weirded me out, frankly. I also had to cook every night after that and again because of aforementioned child I was wary of processed packaged convenience foods, additives and the like and insisted on the most nutritious things like whole grains and things pretty much in their natural state if possible. My daughter ate things like grilled salmon with cous cous and asparagus at 1 1/2. I've also always used only fresh fruits and veggies and had to get seasonally aware and creative with that. Being an avid indoor gardener lead to a herb garden--easy, fun, cheaper and SO much better tasting.

                                                              So, I guess it started in that respect as a labor of love about 10 years ago.

                                                              1. re: nkeane

                                                                BTW-I love this story, nkeane! So inspirational!

                                                              2. Everyone in my family was interested in food and cooked so it was all around growing up. Then, at age 19 I went to Madrid for my junior year of college. It opened up new flavors and food experiences for me. I remember coming home and cooking Spanish dishes for my family.

                                                                1. When I was growing up, food was just fuel. At 18 I started cooking for myself, but I wasn't very good at it. I only had a mini-fridge (the lettuce froze), a hot plate, a toaster oven, a tiny budget, and, honestly, very little interest. After college I started an organic tomato farm that grew out of my interest in gardening, not in food. (And because I had a degree in English lit., and not a clue of what to do with it.) When I started selling to some of the best restaurants in the Bay Area, I became aware of what food could be. I couldn't afford to eat in those restaurants, but what I saw completely changed the way I cooked at home.

                                                                  (I'm very impressed with all the people who started much younger than I did.)

                                                                  1. When I was 15 and I lost about 50 pounds, I started caring more about what I ate. I had always enjoyed good food, and found helping out in the kitchen to be enjoyable, but only recently have I really gotten into cooking. Now I try to go to the best restaurants in my area, cook my own meals, Cooking Light is my favorite magazine, and I want to study to become a dietician, so I can guide people to the amazing world of good food!

                                                                    1. I recall being 5 and trying to make secretly make cookies in the kitchen with no recipe. My mom caught me and ended up tossing out mine and baking some Pilsbury chocolate chip. At the time, I though those were the cookies I had made.

                                                                      1. I have always had a sweet tooth. My first cooking experiment was as a two year old on Christmas morning with my 2 pound bag of M&Ms... I made M&M soup with the whole bag and water. Needless to say, it was only tasty for a minute. Otherwise I was an exceptionally picky eater as a kid. I ate tacos every night for a year, and bow ties w pesto for another few years. I was also very into creaming butter and sugar and eating it straight. My mother caught me and we had to turn it into a pie. When I was in middle school, I really enjoyed cooking class, although the thought of eating eggs/ potatoes/ tomatoes/ iceberg lettuce/ etc repulsed me. The teacher had a killer microwave chocolate fudge that I made weekly from then on. I think the real turning point for my palate was at 13 at a bbq where my grandfather made tandoori chicken on the grill. Theoretically, I was ok with grilled chicken, and was hungry enough to try it. Shockingly good. Once I ate tandoori chicken, my parents would take me to the local Indian restaurant and slowly started to try other things which were shockingly good. At some point at a restaurant, my pesto pasta was served with sundried tomatoes which were shockingly good, so my mother slowly introduced me to fresh tomatoes (a bit easier in NJ in August). I was also a big enough nerd in high school to go home, do my homework, and make homemade caramels from one of my mum's old editions of the Joy of Cooking that still had the good candy making chapter. Moving to Paris in my early 20s was spectacular. I learned to love: mayo, potatoes, blood sausage, celery root, etc. In some ways, I'm very picky about what I eat (not at all into chicken, most meat aside from cured pork products, mediocre cheese, fast food, mediocre food) so I cook nearly everything. Cooking has become a great source of joy and creativity in my life. Professionally, I am a 'creative' but that is often more about pragmatics/compromise/etc and I get to come home and make something that is 99% incredibly delicious.

                                                                        1. When I discovered that my wife's culinary repertoire and likes consisted of only Italian cooking.

                                                                          1. I became interested in baking around age 15 or 16. I started watching my mom more closely in the kitchen, and sure, I started watching Food Network regularly and became engrossed in what people were doing. Then when I started dating my now fiance, we began to cook a lot together, by starting out with some salsa, and moreso when we moved out of our parents. It was probably his family though that got me real interested in various foods and spices, and going out to eat, which my family wouldn't really do often (I have 6 people in my family). My future SIL is an amazing baker, so she's inspired me a lot and had me interested. My mamaw inspires me to grow my own garden and use up everything I have in the kitchen while still making amazingly delicious soul food. I get more interested every day though by what I read on here, in magazines, online, on tv, etc. I learn more and more each day.

                                                                            1. I don't remember NOT being interested in food. As a kid I would read cookbooks cover to cover. The Joy of Cooking was one of my faves because it had little stories about the origin of the food throughout. I was also interested in the charts with the animals that showed where different cuts of meats come from. I guess kids get their kicks in different ways. My guess is that this started when I was about 5 or 6.


                                                                              1. I was an absolutely horrible cook up until my mid-20's. That's when my husband and I moved 1000 miles away from home and he was working 2nd shift and I was home alone in the evening. With no friends in the new city yet, no car, and nothing else to do I started experimenting in the kitchen. Turned out to be a tasty experiment!

                                                                                1. My mom was a good cook and also was great at exposing my brother and me to different foods (her rule of thumb was that we had to take one bite of a new food, and if we didn't like it we could spit it out in our napkins :-), so I was already a bit of a chowpup even as a kid. However, once we were teenagers, my mom threw up her hands at cooking dinner, because we all wanted to eat at different times or in front of the television, plus, her live-in boyfriend covered everything in tobasco sauce, so she figured what was the point? This was when I was around 14 or 15. Previously, I'd always been good about making simple things like grilled cheese sandwiches or scrambled eggs, but after that, I starting making recipes from cookbooks. The first recipe I attempted was from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking -- the tarragon chicken recipe, which included trussing the chicken. While it took me a long time to put together, the recipe came out great, and I was hooked on cooking from that moment on.

                                                                                  1. I grew up in an ethnic household, so there was always interesting stuff around. In college, I started to discover some new food adventures and having been in a house where every part of an animal was utilized, there were no surprises ingredients wise, but much to be discovered flavor wise in other ethnic cuisines.
                                                                                    I cannot discount the occasional case of the "munchies" in fueling some unusual food explorations either. ;-)

                                                                                    1. I was not particularly interested in food until about two years ago. There were some hope in the years leading up to my awakening though. Living alone at 19, I started to cook a little bit after growing tired of fast food. I started with my grandmother's recipe for "chili" and my mom's spaghetti with meat sauce. I found that I enjoyed tweaking these recipes a little each time, adding unorthodox ingredients and such. I even got some pleasure from my mother's horror at my alterations. Being at home in the afternoons, I began to watch the Food Network, because there was nothing else on, and found myself in the kitchen spending several hours to make a "thirty minute" meal. However, around this age of 19/20, I was still holding on to my childish dislikes of things like seafood and organ meats, and I was eating out at chain restaurants with my friends far too frequently. Missed out on a lot of good ethnic places during this time.

                                                                                      But when I was 21 or so, a lot of my pickiness fell on the wayside as I became more adventurous in terms of ingredients and exotic cuisines. I started to cook more, and got into the idea of cooking from scratch with fewer processed ingredients. Still though, I found that cooking elaborate meals was exhausting and I didn't cook anything time consuming more than once or twice a week.

                                                                                      Then when I was 22, I went to France for a brief trip and really woke up to the potential of food made with good local and seasonal ingredients. When I got home, I wanted to recreate the meals I had there and cooking quickly became my biggest hobby. I discovered Chowhound and have learned so much from this site, usually searching past threads whenever I want to try a new dish or cooking method. My skills have definitely improved over the two years since my trip, and now nothing makes me happier than cooking a good meal for friends or family. Headed overseas again in four weeks, and I can't wait to encounter new cuisines and ingredients.

                                                                                      1. I started watching Good Eats because I tried a few of his recipes before and they were good, his show just OPENED MY EYES. And it introduced me to a lot of other foods. And I started cooking more and really liking it.

                                                                                        So embarrassingly, a television show ignited my passion. So I get a bit offended when someone are unnecessarily critical of Alton Brown.

                                                                                        1. I was fortunate to grow up in an extended family (both sides) obsessed with cooking and eating well in all cuisines - while at the same time having to become a professional. Everyone learned to cook at an early age, but studied to become something else as well. We now include aerospace engineers who can debone a chicken in a minute, orthopedic surgeons who can do world class sushi, lawyers who do pho or the best ravioli, one who can do you a traditional Japanese knife and food with equal re-known fame...

                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                            Wow. Beautiful.
                                                                                            I loved the family I grew up with, but if I had to choose a second family, I think it would be yours, Sam!

                                                                                            1. re: The Professor

                                                                                              Prof, thank you for the kind words and consider yourself an honorary member. Ironically, I was the black sheep among all the cousins on Mom's side - poor Mom, me getting a PhD while cousin so and so was doing her residency (!) and so and so became a corporate lawyer. My Dad's side was more relaxed - and had more of my cousins who ended up having successful restaurants - after getting advanced degrees and careers in something or the other. The great part is that everyone of us cousins on both sides love and support each other without quite the same expectations as our very very dear parents.

                                                                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                              Oh please invite me your next family reunion! Do you all cook when you're together?

                                                                                              1. re: alwayscooking

                                                                                                You are always invited. We always cook and eat and laugh when possible, but are getting older and I'm the remotest of all here in Colombia.

                                                                                            3. It was just after I graduated from high school. I had won a scholarship that paid my university tuition, so my parents let me use the money they had saved for it for a summer trip to Europe.

                                                                                              My mother's family was from Romania, so our dinners at home, although sometimes tasty, were often ill-concieved. Romanian tenderloin steak (which can be quite good, in moderation) several times a week, often served with "Minute Rice" which tasted like cardborad pellets. My mother would wait until the hottest day of the year to serve us some thick blazing hot eastern European soup in our un-airconditioned kitchen. She made not just chocolate pudding but nut chocolate pudding, which my father would eat over the sink, spitting out the nuts that he hated. She never realized that he hated them. All this accompanied by water or pop.

                                                                                              That summer I had a chance to try pea soup in Holland, fondue neuchateloise in Lausanne, sausages in Munich, choucroute in Paris, pasta e fagioli in Rome, etc.To drink, wine or beer. Dinners at home never seemed the same after that.