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Feb 8, 2012 05:17 PM

Was your mom a timid cook?

I love my mom, but I have to confess that she wasn't a good cook. Yes, she fed seven people every day, and no, we never went hungry. But spices frightened her, and new recipes made her worry that she might waste money on a poor meal. So we had boringly predictable food. Maybe this is why I crave new food experiences, but it makes me wonder -- how might her life (and cooking) been better with a bit more zest?

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  1. My mother was a bored, unhappy cook who turned out pretty good meals every night, though she would much rather have been reading with a cigarette in one hand and coffee/martini in the other depending on the time of day. She made great tuna noodle casserole and decent lasagna and for a picky eater like i was that was just fine. (I learned to make Kraft Mac and Cheese at an early age.)

    4 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      My mom did cook with a cigarette in one hand (martini came after cooking). But she did the best she could, considering her own mom died early & couldn't teach her.

      I remember several not-quite-good entrees that might have been great -- salmon loaf from canned salmon, pureed in a blender, bones and all -- "more calcium" -- and potatoes every which way.

      And I also remember the cookbook she got as a wedding gift, whose instructions were the same for every recipe: "Cook until done".


      1. re: lyden

        Ha! And literally everything was always baked at 350.

        1. re: sandylc

          "Ha! And literally everything was always baked at 350."

          Hilarious, Sandy! I don't think my mom even knew that there was any other heat setting than 350. She called it "good ol' 350." The oven was never set any anything but that.

          1. re: EarlyBird

            That is SO funny!!

            When my mum asks you to put the oven on, you don't need to ask what temperature she'd like - it's ALWAYS 180! I don't think the poor beast could go any higher.

    2. The food era of my childhood was all about bland, bland, bland. This is sad, because it was also the first time that more ingredients and information were available to a larger number of people.

      My mother was a wonderful cook. No, wait....rewind.....That's was SHE has always said! I only just realized the other day that she was/is the only one always saying so!!!!!

      I was a "picky" eater because I was discriminating!!! Wow, breakthrough moment......

      Mom was so very anxious to gain Dad's approval that she was scared frozen regarding any experimentation. I f he approved of a dish, she slavishly made that dish the exact same way again and again. She lived in fear of messing up! He had some strange ideas about food. He had no idea how to cook anything, but he knew how he wanted things to be!

      We didn't starve, anyway!

      2 Replies
      1. re: sandylc

        I wish I could blame my picky eating on my mother's food, but I hated onions--cooked or raw, chopped or sliced--rice and a list that includes almost all vegetables and every fish but fish sticks.

        1. re: sandylc

          Oh gosh! Sounds like my childhood ...

          I remember a 'chicken cashew' dish that was nixed as "too different" -- but I don't remember the kids saying this -- just dad.




        2. my mom didn't cook. she does a bit more now, but i would probably say it's closer to timid anxiety. everything has to be just right, and it's such a production, that i can't imagine making new things is enjoyable for her. she has a solid repetoire of things she makes for her and my stepdad, all basic. she cooks new things with the mindset of "i have to see how it's supposed to look, and then next time i won't have to be so stressed." ha. of course, lack of experience breeds anxiety. nobody likes to goof, especially if it's supposed to be dinner, but she has no zen in the kitchen. she doesn't have intuition. most importantly, she doesn't trust the food. i always say there's a symbiotic relationship between me and my ingredients/food/recipe/methodology. i do my part, then i trust that they will take it from there. mom will never change, and that's okay... which is why i do a lot more of the cooking for family occasions. (and salad dressing... once a month i have to make a large squeeze bottle of dressing for her. i've given her the recipe, but she prefers me to make it. oh well)

          4 Replies
          1. re: Emme

            There was a lot of pressure several decades ago for the "little woman" to be the perfect little housewife.

            1. re: sandylc

              not even close. my mom was a single mom, self-employed owner of her own firm... she wasn't anything near a housewife. at all.

              1. re: Emme

                I was speaking of the decades-ago expectations of women - they had a very narrow window of opportunity for acceptable behavior, and that behavior included housekeeping, cooking, and child-rearing.

                I don't know what era your mother was active in, but I admire her.

                1. re: sandylc

                  ...she'd probably appreciate it if i acknowledged she's still active... thriving practice, obsessed with golf... still doesn't share my culinary verve. oh well. all said and done, she has done well.

          2. My mom made great food, but she's a bit timid in the kitchen. She often tells me that she admires my confidence, and I wish I could convince her to just go for it! She definitely has the talent: she made home-cooked meals every night, usually without a recipe. I was never bored with food, so I was surprised when she revealed her own kitchen insecurities. Seriously, the chocolate sheetcake she made/makes me for every birthday I celebrate at home is absolutely divine. Plus, she made sure to expose my brother and I to (at the time) more exotic foods, like sushi (we went out for that), lamb, and artichokes.

            I think the major problem at home was trying to get us all to the table. To quote my dad, it was a bit like wrangling cats, and sometimes she didn't (couldn't) stick to her guns and force us to sit down at the table as soon as dinner was ready. I feel bad for wanting to sit in my room blasting music or chatting on the phone or playing Super Nintendo, when my mom was counting on me to set the table and eat. I definitely knew that, once I got to the table, I wouldn't be excused until everyone else was finished eating. Of course, now that I'm not enveloped in a cloud of teenage angst, I really appreciate those family meals!

            1. My first reaction was yes, she was but then I thought about it a little more and realized she was a very bland cook because that is how my dad liked his food. She actually took a fair amount of risk in trying to make favorites of his from Norway and she did a good job based on what I know of those dishes. Sadly, they all were pretty bland.