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"No mom, you don't have to cook..."

So, how many of you used to think your mom was the BEST cook in the world when you were young, but since you have grown up and become a chowhound and/or cook, have discovered that mom just wasn't a good cook?

I love my mom, but her food is WAY too salty!

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  1. You mean it's not because Mom used to be a better cook? ;)

    1 Reply
    1. re: visciole

      I actually think my mom WAS a better cook back then. She stopped cooking for a decade at least and got out of practice. She also tends to be trying some health trend or other, lately it's been low salt and that is not working for me!
      But there's also the fact that I learned to cook in the foodie era and have access to better ingredients etc. She's forever throwing huge amounts of dried herbs in where I never would for example (into dips and soups as a finish so the flavours don't have a chance).

    2. Opposite here. When I was young I thought my mom was average to below average as a cook. I never got the good stuff like TV dinners, Kraft mac & cheese, Fluffernutters or any of the good food my friends had. Veggies were never the good canned stuff like creamed corn; either they were fresh (only in season back in the day) or frozen. Chicken was roasted, not fried. Roast beef on Sundays with mashed potatoes and green beans. Yuck.

      As I got older (teens) she expanded her repertoire to Italian--home made lasagna, stuffed shells, chicken parm. Damn I was deprived.

      Then I lived on college caf food. Roomates, friends and I made pilgramages to parents' house (college was in same city as folks' house) for good food.

      Now she lives with me and I had a very tasty roast chicken and asparagus for dinner. Her stuffed shells are in the freezer for quick fix dinners. The herb garden outside provided some nice pungent mint for the iced tea.

      16 Replies
      1. re: gaffk

        In a few ways, I was dealt the same - frozen, 'cause that was new, or from a can, or from a jar. We so very seldom had anything really fresh, but then, that was what my mother grew up with - farm produce, so the packaged variety held an aura, at least for her. Such was life, in those post-Depression times.

        It was not until I was exposed to some of those same veggies, etc., that were fresh, that I came to appreciate many of them.

        Now, one must understand that I am probably older than their parents, so what I encountered was a generation, or two, before their parents "came of age." Much has changed, and in some ways (fresh produce), for the better, at least from where I sit.


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Both parents were children of the depression. Mom's parents owned a business and was so less "deprived"; dad's parents worked for the government and so also less "deprived." They both thought an onion and ketchup sandwich was a treat. That's a depression.

          1. re: gaffk

            That sandwich sounds oddly familiar.

            My father tried to convince me that mayonnaise, with black pepper on white bread, was a sandwich. Oh well, at least he tried.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              I can remember mayonnaise sandwiches from when I was very young. The mayo was really Miracle Whip. My sis preferred butter sandwiches, which was really oleo.

              Parents grew up during the Depression.

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                In the Late seventies my parents would eat mayo sandwiches to be frugal as young newlyweds.

                1. re: melpy

                  Funny, how as we progress and our palettes become more refined there are still old staples that just work. My All-time fave sandwich is semolina bread, mayo, one slice of provolone and tomato slices. Sometimes, when the fridge is empty...mayo does the trick

                  1. re: jhopp217

                    And I hated mayo on both sides ;) Give me bologna or give me death . . . Lebanon on rye . . . with mustard!

                    1. re: gaffk

                      Lebanon Bologna....you must be from Philly

                        1. re: gaffk

                          My father is from Philly and I love the stuff. I like to call it the single man's cold cut, because it permeates your skin. My father once brought it back on a bus and people complained. He had it double plastic bagged, then in a paper bag and then put it in a back pack. The back pack was basically ruined. Delicious though on a nice Hoagie!

                          1. re: jhopp217

                            Yes, it does have a distinctive aroma, but I guess if you're from Philly you're impervious to it.

                            Crunch in some Utz or Wise chips and it was quite a five star day ;)

                            1. re: gaffk

                              I am from Florida and love it with all my heart. It may be a Philly thing but I embrace it with all its fatty goodness.

                              1. re: suzigirl

                                Wow, who knew you could find lebanon in FL. It really is a small world these days.

                                1. re: gaffk

                                  There aren't many places, but when it comes to smokey, fatty, meaty goodness I'm on it. We have Seltzer's brand sweet and regular. Yummy. I got my bf hooked on it too.

          2. re: gaffk

            What a lovely post gaffk. And thanks for starting this thread potato.
            I think I will add something from my mom's childhood just for fun. My grandmother worked as a bookkeeper Way back in the day when most women did not work outside the home. So there was always sliced bread from the market at her house for my mom to offer her friend. But at the friend's house there was fresh homemade bread aplenty. Each girl thought the other one had it better.
            A fast after school snack back in the day was bread and jam or if there was no jam the old reliable standby was bread slices spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar. By the time I came along as the grandaughter, my grandmother sometimes made warm delicious homemade loaves of bread and boy did I know to appreciate it.

            1. re: givemecarbs

              Funny about the bread. Just goes to show kids always seem to prefer what their friends have rather than what they experience every day.

          3. My mother was an adequate cook. We never went hurting, but seldom had anything special, with but a few exceptions. OTOH, she knew the best restaurants in New Orleans (where we often went for "special" events), so I did learn quite a bit - just not from her kitchen.

            Much could be blamed on the times. Frozen food was really just hitting its stride, and she embraced that. In the end, it was only slightly better than canned, or in a jar. Much that she loved, was totally lost on me, until I encountered those items, in a fresh state - I mean, who knew?????

            We would always drag my mother out to eat, and at restaurants of our choice, and always our "treat."

            I am very fortunate in that my wife is the best cook (I think that she could actually be a chef, with a bit of time on her side), that I have ever been around. She is far, far better, than any in her family, and certainly in mine.

            Thinking about this thread deeply, I would say that there are but 3 dishes from my mom, and 1 from my paternal grandmother, that I would really want again. From my wife's family, though possibly better cooks, I might lean toward 1 dish, but even that is a bit of a stretch.

            I did not come from a family of cooks, but still, my mother knew every top-level restaurant in New Orleans, and given the opportunity, took us to those.


            1. My Mom was not a very good cook and was a person who ate to live and found food essentially a burden. She had a few great things she could do well....fried chicken, London broil, sauteed cabbage, vegetable soup and cabbage rolls (she made a Hungarian friend when my Dad was in the Navy).

              Thank goodness for having two aunts who loved to cook and could make a feast out of essentially anything.

              1. My mom had a few company dishes she could trot out, but for everyday it was pretty ordinary, and as others have posted, was out of cans or the freezer. My mom never met a mix she didn't like. I think she thought of mixes--cake mix, cornbread mix, biscuit mix--as making things easier or foolproof. I do think she was a product of her times, and also her culture. She always seemed to have some ideal in mind, and which she never felt she met. And day to day cooking (she worked outside the home after all) was a chore for her.

                So, her cooking was occasionally good, although I don't think I'd like it at all now. I am sure it was overly salty. Mostly it wasn't every wonderful, and I think I sensed that early on.

                1. Neither parent was an especially good cook (though my mother is an excellent baker). Frankly, they just aren't particularly adventurous eaters, so the cooking tended to the bland side. Nothing awful, but I'm not looking to them for their best recipes, either.

                  That said, they both worked full-time and my siblings and I always had a meal on the table at a reasonable hour, and they always managed to provide a salad course and dessert, too. To me, that's quite a feat.

                  1. My mom was a good cook and still is. Mostly meat and potatoes type cooking, a little pasta here and there. Her beef is well done, because that's the way my dad likes it. But overall, delicious. And she is a fantastic baker. She wins tons of prizes at the spring fair for her pies, butter tarts, cakes, jams, bread, etc.

                    Unfortunately, right now, she is unable to stand for more than 10 minutes at a time (and sleeps in her Lazyboy chair instead of her bed due to pain), so we kids DO say 'no mom, you don't have to cook.' Hopefully, surgery will get her back in the kitchen, because she is really sad that she can't bake and cook as much as she wants.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Sooeygun

                      That is sad. I hope the surgery works for her and she returns to prize-winning form.

                      1. re: gaffk

                        Thanks. I hope things work out (the prognosis is pretty good). My mom and I have always been the ones to make holiday dinners together and I miss our holiday kitchen dance. Mr. S has taken over helping me, but he doesn't know where everything is in my mom's kitchen and I end up bashing into him (even though we work really well together in our own kitchen).

                        1. re: Sooeygun

                          I also parrot gaffk that I hope your mom gets better. Tough to watch someone not only in pain but missing doing something she loves, being in the kitchen. I also am touched by the kitchen dance. I had a beautiful kitchen dance with my ex husbands aunt. We both taught each other alot in the kitchen. She introduced me to butter(always had margarine growing up)and making gravy, I introduced her to black pepper cured country ham and cathead biscuits. But we cooked together so often we just clicked.

                    2. My Mom was a very good plain cook. I grew up on the coast in the 50's and 60's and we always had fresh fish every Friday. One thing I remember her making that I never make was a dressing of rendered bacon fat, vinegar and sugar she poured over iceberg lettuce. It was delicious and might have been something from her French Canadian background. She worked full time and didn't bake. I remember being jealous of my cousins because their stay at home mom made a gigantic, frosted cake made from a boxed mix every Saturday.

                      My wonderful MIL, God rest her soul, didn't like to cook meals, but loved to bake. Main meals at her house were slapdash and rushed so dessert could be brought out. Towards the end of her child-rearing years (I was married to her oldest), and she had more money, she used to throw out leftovers like roast beef and chicken or gave it to the dog so she didn't have to deal with it. One time I asked for and received the Thanksgiving turkey carcass so I could make soup, and she eyed me strangely like whatever good could come of that?. I remember one time she made her special cayenne spaghetti sauce and served it to my toddlers. She never offered to cook at my house and I never asked.

                      I learned something from both of them.

                      1. I grew up in the era of canned goods, frozen meals, and processed everything. I can't blame my mom for being a bad cook. I just can't. It's not fair.

                        1. On the note of 'No mom, you don't have to cook'. God love my mother, but I learned how to cook out of self defense. My mom was pure awful in the kitchen. I started learning how to cook when I was ten. Watched cooking shows like Justin Wilson, Yan can cook, Frugal Gourmet, Julia Child Graham Kerr, and the like. For Christmas I asked for Brand Name Cookbook( which I still have). I cannot tell you the ick factor as i don't want to change the thread into the eewwww blog. Suffice it to say she never used saran wrap and no matter what we had leftover during the week it ended up in a pot on Friday's with enough water to cover and boiled into a 'soup'. Kind of resembled dishwater most of the time.
                          However, I loved her chicken Ala king which I still make, her Amish casserole and tuna noodle salad.

                          1. This is so funny for me, because my life has been the opposite. My mother has ruined restaurants for me. My mother was such an amazing cook, that dining out is always a swing and miss, unless I'm somewhere that does something great. It's been almost eight years since she passed away and my average meal has gone so downhill that I sometimes question my own chowhound merits. Friends of mine would joke when we talked about food, because I ate lamb chops or seared tuna weekly. During the holidays when people were cutting into spiral ham, I was having Coq au Vin or Osso Bucco. Dinners were almost religious experiences in my house. When my mother didn't want to cook, we had sushi or sashimi and started with some escargot. I remember spending nights over at friends house and eating pizza and jar sauce and wondering how people lived like this. My family was far from well off, but they sacrificed other pleasures for great meals. I refuse to go to Italian restaurants (and many of my friends houses) because my mom, who was not Italian, puts Italian chefs and grandmas to shame.

                            I wish to one day be able to make one thing as well as she did. Striving to make it better, isn't possible.

                            1. My mom worked a high-stress job full time (commuting by train to work daily) once all three kids were school aged. And yet she still managed to do all the bill paying, house cleaning, food shopping, errand running etc.. and had a hot, healthy meal on the table for the entire family every night. It was basic, American food (meat/chicken/fish with every meal, starch, vegetable... fresh or frozen... glass of skim milk). Nothing special, underseasoned as most food was, with a tendency toward overcooking the meat due to a particularly paranoid fear of food poisoning (it happened more often back then...). But it was fine, healthy, freshly cooked. And money was tight ....

                              I admire her.... so much. I don't know how she did it. She didn't complain.

                              I can barely take care of myself, and I look at what she did for us....

                              1. My mom is an amazing cook that I took for granted until I had a few meals at friends' houses growing up. By the time I got to high school, I realized that I was lucky. My friends' moms (and a few dads) weren't bad cooks - they were all pretty average - but nothing like my mom.

                                1. I credit my mom to this day with inspiring me to want to cook (or at least eat, teach, and write about food).

                                  She was a creative, fresh home cook during my growing up in the late 60's-70's, and she rarely used canned items - except for basics, like tomato sauce. Never canned veggies, and rarely frozen.

                                  We had a lot of international visitors to our house due to my dad's work, and she could turn out a nice french meal a la Julia Child and make it look easy. Of course, by the time I was 7, I was her little sous chef, so she did have help:)

                                  I remember fondly her wonderful chicken crepes with a delicate creamy wine sauce (a mornay, I believe), her fabulous lasagna, great fresh taco salad (it was in-style back then!), stuffed chicken breasts baked with vermouth, grilled fresh sides of salmon. And always, a huge lovingly made fresh salad for after the meal.

                                  Some of the best memories my parents made then, were 'the standards of dining' as we still refer to them today; everyone had a placemat, and cloth napkin. We each had our own different napkin ring to tell them apart for hygienne, and when it got soiled you got a fresh one, but no paper ever. Candles and usually flowers on the dining table. Everyone was required to show up for dinnner. That was the time to connect, share in the food and the family and have good conversation. And no one was excused until dad had had two plates of salad after dinner(that took a long time when in HS, we were itching to get going to whatever project or practice we had..!)

                                  My sister and I cherish those times. Our mom died when I was 20, so it is a fond look back. We both have practiced those 'standards' as much as possible in our homes since, and I can't help think my mother would - if she could- still be hanging out in the kitchen cooking with me, and no less up on the trends today than she was then. She cooks over my shoulder even now...

                                  1. I never thought my mom was a good cook. I went to a religious elementary school and in 3rd grade when it was my turn to pray in class I prayed my mom would learn how to cook. The teacher told my mom and we still laugh about it.

                                    1. There were winners and loser as far as meals, but I would never tell her that. I'm just happy to get a break from cooking now and again.

                                      1. I thought my mom was a great cook when I was a child, and I still think she was a good cook about some things, but I would not enjoy eating her food now. She was a very plain cook and made everything homemade, and we lived on a farm so we had fresh veg, our own beef and chicken and pork, free range brown eggs, etc, but her ways of cooking things just killed the ingredients. She cooked meat to "get all the germs out" which made it the consistency of shoe leather. I never saw anything less than well-well-well done beef til I went to college. I loved her friend chicken, but realize now it was dry as sawdust and had no flavor - my dad didn't like "spicy" which ruled out all flavoring except salt and maybe a little pepper. Her vegetables were just boiled to mush, no sauce, no butter, no taste or texture.She cooked eggs til they were brown and hard, and while I disliked them that way, it took me years to be able to stomach a soft egg. My dad also disliked "foreign food" so we never ate pasta or rice, it was potatoes every day of the year, often 2 and 3 times a day!

                                        There were some things she made that were great, though. Her desserts were really good, she made the best cakes and pies (I dream of her lemon meringue and chiffon cakes!) and such good bread pudding. She could fry bacon like no one else, she made a roast chicken with the most beautiful crisy skin, she made homemade noodles I will kill for today, and her pancakes were the best(she used almond extraxt and would put fresh berries in during the summer, and in the winter she would stack them with butter and brown sugar between the layers-mmmmmm!)

                                        I think she cooked great considering the her place and time. She grew up during the Depression and was very frugal, and she was never exposed to other types of cooking. And she made her family happy - we all felt well-fed and enjoyed her food, and have many happy memories of mealtime at home. I hope someday my daughter will be able to say that!