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.