What are the best cooking tips or recipes you learned from your mom?
My mom always presented the food beautifully. She told me its important to make the dishes look appealing. I try to copy her but sometimes I get lazy. I think the food does taste better when it looks better.
She also taught me to buy fresh items and cook from scratch. She never bought many processed foods. I always complained that there was nothing to eat in the house because we did not have ready made stuff. Now, I pretty much do the same.
Perhaps the single most important thing Mom taught me about cooking quality meals was patience; that preparing excellent meals takes time. Oh, I know about the thirty minute meals and similar approaches to cooking and I realize that they have their place in the broad spectrum of culinary arts. But you can't rush a roast, or a good loaf of bread, or an especially fine sauce.
Running a close second would be the importance of planning ahead. Ladling hot gravy over cold mashed potatoes is no way to serve a meal.
I agree that patience is important for culinary creativity. I bake bread. The dough is allowed for ferment for 16 hours. I never throw out yeast because of a misleading expiration date. The expiration date on my current yeast was October 2006. Because it is kept in a tightly sealed glass jar in the fridge, it is still active. I buy yeast by the pound in a vacuum sealed container. IT'S MUCH CHEAPER THAT WAY.
Baking bread. The texture, the smell, the taste, the forming into loaves. And frying up a bit for a snack.
My mother did not teach me how to cook. I learned by trial and error out of necessity. I consider myself a kitchen experimenter. I belong to the "What if...?" school of cooking specializing in "cuisine impromptu."
I have a kitchen apron which states "I don't need a recipe...I'M ITALIAN." I'm Italian by marriage, not by birth. "I miei antenati non erano italiani" (My ancestors were not Italian).
Altho my wife is a good cook, I like other ethnic foods. My Chowhound ID should indicate that.
My mother is a good cook and I have a few recipes I learned from her, mostly for basics such as banana bread and simple bean chili. Although my mom made a lot of the meals I ate growing up, since she usually got home from work first, it was my dad who was the real chef of the family. He taught me that cooking should be fun, not a chore, and that there is nothing wrong with experimenting -- disasters are all a part of the process. Like the OP's mother, he was also a huge proponent of cooking from scratch. He taught me how to look at a processed food I enjoyed and figure out what it was I liked about it, and then take those elements and make my own, improved version. He also taught me many cooking and baking basics -- how to measure, how to chop, how to read a recipe, how to make a roux, how to knead bread. I still have a number of his recipes in my rotation and they are among my favourites to make and eat.
This will sound highly unromantic and unsentimental, but the best thing my mom taught me about cooking is that it all boils down to thermodynamics and chemistry. Cooking works the way it does and food tastes the way it does for a reason. She told me that the more I understood about the way food actually worked, the more I'd be able to make my food taste the way I'd want it to taste.
I don't mean to be mean, Mom is 85 and recently had a stroke, but she isn't on the internet and no one who knows who she is will read this.
She taught me that overcooked veggies are horrible. And she taught me by overcooking every vegetable she served. The absolute worst offense was done to asparagus, and it probably took me 10+ years on my own to actually cook these spears, and I love them now. Brussle sprouts took longer, but they were not a huge staple. Mom steamed her asparagus until you could hold it by the base and the stalk would flip over right above your fingers and hand straight down. Lord they were bad.
Meat also came in 2 versions, medium well and well, but I was able to get my steaks and chops out of the broiler early starting in high school or so, so it was not as traumatic.
Sorry Mom, I love you, but you were not a good cook.
Oh, like ocshooter, best tip I learned was not to overcook vegetables.
My mother was of the generation that pretty much boiled everything to a mush. I could pretty much say that if I did something the opposite way to her, then it'd be OK.
Still, she wasnt quite as bad a cook as the mother in law who is simply awful. I sometimes think that her daughter only married me at such a young age to get away from the cooking. It is truly horrible.
In the era of processed and microwaved foods, my mom taught me that fresh food is best. By serving us tomatoes still warm from the garden, freshly baked bread and a little bit of fried ham and eggs, she taught me that a simple meal can be more impressive than a 5-course feast. When all my friends ate Kraft dinner, she cracked open her Doubleday cookbook and cooked up French classics. She taught me cockaleekie soup is probably the most hilariously named dish ever.
Color! Every meal had to have at least three distinct colors and I almost always go for the same now.
She has tried to teach me her eggplant caponata but I can't come close to replicating her dish.
My Mom is the Queen of making something wonderful out of what looks like nothing. Growing up, especially after my parents divorce when she went back to work- part time at first, we had NO idea that money was tight because there was always a great dinner on the table. Chicken parts on sale became Coq au Vin. No wine? Maybe chicken and dumplings. She has always had a large vegetable garden so we always ate seasonally (I remember a neighbors refrigerator box being turned into a fort on the back porch on a rainy day and Mom bringing out a big bowl of steaming broccoli "trees" (fresh from the garden) sprinkled with cheese for us to snack on, the perfect size for little hands to hold onto.) Too much month left at the end of the paycheck? Veggies over rice with some magical sauce or seasoning that was whatever was in the pantry. We thought artichokes were the coolest thing ever because you got to eat with your hands AND dip them in stuff! They were probably just what was ready to be picked.
There was never any kind of negativity associated with it, it was simply what we had and she would make the best of it- I think she enjoyed the challenge! I don't remember ever wanting what someone else had- friends wanted to eat at our house because my Mom made cool things that didn't come out of a box or can. Picking up this skill has been a real life saver for me (being self employed for 16 years has had its financial ups and down but I've never not eaten well.)