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How Old Were You When You Began to Cook? What Was Your Starter Dish?

I was probably 12 when I concocted a spaghetti sauce recipe and began preparing spaghetti with meatballs and sausage for my family. This would have been '79 or '80.

PS--By cooking I exclude preparing processed, prepackaged foods (Kraft Mac, Campbell's Soup, canned biscuits, etc.)

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  1. When I was around 8 I would sometimes get up early on Saturday mornings (think 6-7) and make pancakes for everyone and watch Looney Tunes (which were shown on Cartoon Network in the early 2000s/late 90s). I'm guessing pancakes will be a common theme since they're so easy.

    1. Pre teens breakfast, egg, oatmeal etc. Later on, pasta, burgers, hot dogs.

      1. 1st things I remember cooking on my own were baking things like cakes and pies. I wasn't very good, but I began reading cookbooks a lot when I was about 10. I still don't bake much, but my cooking has vastly improved.

        **note** I had to help w/dinner when I got home usually. That was not fun. By the time I was 14, I was the prep cook all the time i.e. peeling potatoes, making salads, etc. Boy, did I ruin liver & onions.!!!!!!

        1. I think lamb is going to be correct. I made a version of pancakes from a brand name cookbook. It was called pigs in a poke. Where you fried sausage links in a cast iron pan then arranged them in a wagonwheel fashion, covered them in pancake batter and baked in the oven. I tried to served them with basted eggs. As i was taking the eggs to the table my brother ran in front of me and I stopped short but the eggs didn't. Ten eggs all over seventies shag carpet. Not cool. I got the cookbook for my tenth Christmas. I still have it today. And i still make the pigs in a poke and love them. Serve them cut in wedges with butter, syrup and berries. Yum yum

          1. I didn't start cooking until I was 24, and I remember the first meal fondly. It was Christmas Eve, and I was in a cabin in Colorado with a lovely young lady. We knew our food options would be limited on Christmas Eve, and she had wanted me to make a meal for her, so I stopped at the market the day before to pick up rations, wine and liquor.

            I ended up making grilled swordfish with a tomato, onion, garlic, raisin and caper sauce. We had calamari salad on the side. To start I put together shrimp cocktail and cocktail sauce. Dessert was panna cotta.

            The cooking was a mild disaster; I was simultaneously texting with my father, so he could tell me how to grill the swordfish, as well as my mother, so she could tell me how to prep the calamari, reduce the sauce and make the dessert. Of course, I was trying to text as surreptitiously as possible so as to most impress my companion.

            The liquor was mainly there in case the food was atrocious and we needed to get wasted, fast. Luckily, the meal was fantastic, and the liquor was not deployed until I served dessert.

            1. @ 7 or 8, I was reading cookbooks like prose, but hadn't done much except watch and learn a few things. Bread-baking was not one of them, but for some reason I thought the very small ingredient list translated to simplicity, and hadn't any idea that some recipes need to be a bit more detailed than they actually are.
              Anyway, got permission, mixed the dough, kneaded it 'til "satiny", maybe 1 minute total, :) and set it to rise in a "warm, not hot" place, and as far as I was concerned, the oven was just the spot. Unfortunately, the bowl in which I set it (lovingly greased and toweled) was TUPPERWARE. That's right. The lettuce keeper w/ the core, though of course I didn't use the core part. Turned the oven to "warm" (NOT HOT!) and took off to play Barbies or something.
              The smell was the tipoff, and then the smoke. It brought my dad in from the garden right when I was tossing a bowl full of water directly onto the bubbling mass of super-industrial plastic veined w/ deliciously yeasty smelling dough (NOT!) and wrecked a bitchin' vintage O'Keefe&Merritt stove. At least until it was fixed, and dried out and stuff.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mamachef

                I thought my first baking attempt was bad. I was about eleven and my dad had gotten one of the large bags of apples that we kids weren't eating fast enough and he was hinting to my mom about pie.she wasn't budging. I got a cookbook out and read the short list of ingredients and set to the task. Apples chopped,sugared and spiced. On to the crust. Bottom crust in no problem. Filling in, no problem. Got to rolling the top crust and it ripped. Oops. Mush it all back together. Oops, it tears again. Mush it back and roll it again. Perfect. Bake it and it LOOKS beautiful. Can't wait for desert. Later, dad is at the head of the table, knife in hand. Cut cut. Nothing. Tap tap tap in crust. Puzzled looks all around. Dad asked what did you do? I explained. Roaring laughter from my father, dumb look on my face, so he explained the ginger on the pie crust and the one shot to roll it right. He pried off the top crust without missing a beat and got to work on the rest. It was delish. So funny. Hope you feel better about the bread

                1. re: mamachef

                  Oh, bless your heart! What a mess!

                  And bless you again for reminding me of the strawberry-scrambled-egg disaster I made when I was about that age, trying to make a strawberry custard or pudding (can't remember which) and failing miserably. My mother was not well pleased with me for wasting expensive fruit, not to mention eggs and milk and sugar!!

                2. Chocolate layer cake at 10. The recipe called for 1/2 cup of coffee. I put in 1/2 cup of coffee grounds. I'll never forget that one!

                  1. I was 8 at the time. I'm the youngest child and when I turned 8 mom went back to work as a school teacher. She told me that now I was old enough to learn basic cooking and to do my own laundry.
                    I learned to bake, broil, roast and make thing in pots and pans on top of the stove. I was not allowed to fry things in oil without adult supervision until I was 14.

                    1. I was about 36 or 37. I'd been heating things since I was 8, but actual cooking? My wife and I had casually split the cooking duties, which as often as not meant who called the pizza joint or picked the restaurant. It wasn't until several years into the marriage that our schedules changed nad I regualrly came home 2 hours before she did. I figured I shoudl make something. Started out as a piece of meat, a jar of sauce and some veggies in a pot that cooked until the meat was done and the veggies a soggy mess. Eventually I became more interested in how things went together. It was a bit of a revelation to go from the one pot dinners to cooking a few items seperately and combining them at the end so every thing was cooked to just done and tasty.

                      Now, almost 20 years later, I like to mix up my own spices, cook sauces from scratch and generally have a good time in the kitchen. Deffinitely become one of my forms of entertainment. A good day is making a bolognese from scratch, fresh pasta and building a lasagna. Usually start at 9am and eat around 7pm. Hmm, this weekend looks open.

                      jb

                      1. I started with making Cantonese dumplings and wontons when I was about 9. When I was 12, I started steaming some traditional Cantonese meat and veggie dishes (my parents prepared the raw ingredients). I started stir-frying about the same time as well.

                        1. We (my twin sister & I) helped in the kitchen from a very early age - we loved it. My Mom went back to school to get another degree when we were 9 - then we started cooking complete meals for the family. Roasts, hams, meatballs, rice, vegies, etc. I remember Mom telling me how to salt and pepper a roast before putting it in the oven - I asked her if you should salt a ham too! Was so funny! Great memories!

                          1. I was a relatively late bloomer, doing nothing but the occasional batch of oatmeal cookies at first - that was at around age 12. I was "cooking" at Scout campouts, but that was either hot dogs or foil packets - foil cookery was all the rage among Boy Scouts in the '50s - that my mom had made up for me. But then I wanted to have bacon and eggs, so she taught me how to do it campfire style, cooking the bacon and then frying and basting the eggs in the fat. Amazingly enough I caught on well enough so that after I'd cooked mine plus some for a few friends, at the next regional Camporee, guys from other troops were coming around begging me to cook theirs for them. This was when I decided I'd NEVER have a restaurant …

                            I didn't get serious about cooking until I was around 30, and have been catching up ever since. However, I think my grandchild is making up for my tardiness: her mom told me that on Mother's Day Felicity had made scrambled eggs and toast and served them to her in bed. Felicity will be four this month.

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: Will Owen

                              Felicity is aptly named.

                              My mom made those foil wrapped "Scout Dinners" back in the 70s and we loved 'em. I make 'em to this day. Layer onions and potatoes, a bay leaf, S&P, a doctored up beef patty, more onions and potatoes, carrots, and more S&P on a large piece of foil. Fold over foil to make a pouch and bake at 375 until done (roughly an hour).

                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                Ugh. I hated those things -- half-cooked hamburger with canned veg.

                                That "hobo stew" , the cloying "mock angelfood" - a chunk of bread dipped in sweetened condensed milk, rolled in coconut, and toasted like a marshmallow (I didn't like it as a kid, I think it would make me gag now...) ; and the snotty half-cooked eggs broken into an orange peel are a big part of the reason I DO NOT camp -- that and the damp, musty, stinky Army Surplus tents.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  "half-cooked hamburger with canned veg" Well that does sound dreadful. Y'all weren't making them right! :)

                                  I loved those foil packet meals. And eggs cooked in cast iron over the open fire. Or scrambled in your mess kit tray if you were traveling a bit lighter. And hot dogs cooked in the fire on sticks. S'mores. cinnamon toast. Camping food was great food!

                                  1. re: debbiel

                                    We didn't *have* mess kits -- we had a dunk bag with with dishes and silverware.

                                    and the adults were the ones who made the call on whether it was cooked or not - we were 8-9 years old and not allowed to get nearer to the fire than a circle drawn in the sand.

                                    And even the adults didn't cook in cast iron. EVERYTHING was cooked wrapped in foil, and everything was pretty much crap.

                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                    Ours were awful too! A burger with packet of dry soup mix and canned veg bleach!

                                    1. re: melpy

                                      geez. We didn't even get the dry soup mix. we had salt and pepper, and a can of Veg All.

                                      I'd have to be pretty close to half-starved to eat another one -- and I will *never* make one again.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        The dry soup mix made it much worse.

                                        1. re: melpy

                                          I'm tellin' ya', if you do these up right in the oven, they're delish. Trust me, for cryin' out loud! :)

                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                            sorry -- no way.

                                            Glad you like them, but I don't really believe that I could bring myself to EVER eat another one.

                                            The last camping trip I went on, I begged my mom to either let me bring my own food or to not send me on the camping trip...even at that age, I knew that this was NOT chow.. No such luck, and I still ended up with a half-cooked soggy blob of hamburger with limp flavorless canned vegetables (burned black at the bottom, of course), and another snotty half-cooked egg in an orange peel for breakfast.

                                            We moved before I had to be subject to that slop again.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              For the record, mine typically had a miniature version of a very strange dish Mom had gotten from a magazine, but which we perversely liked: two hamburger patties smeared with mustard on their facing sides, with thin-sliced onion and carrot (fresh! not canned!) sandwiched in between. At home the patties were about a pound each and this was cooked covered in the oven and served with boiled potatoes. For my purposes it was two generous sandwich-sized patties with the onions and carrots between them, but wrapped tightly in two or more layers of foil. I knew where to put this into the coals and for how long, and after the first attempt I knew enough to poke through the side after it was cooked and drain the juice out onto the fire.

                                              And once I had sliced parboiled potato and sauerkraut that I cooked to accompany a couple of garlic wieners roasted on a stick. Just for the hell of it.

                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                I'm still not a big fan of cooking stuff in foil -- I'll put it parchment, or bake it en croute -- but about the only thing I'll actually cook in foil is a riff on potatoes dauphinoise -- thinly sliced potatos with superthin onion slices a little minced garlic, layered with butter and a few dribbles of cream. Seal tightly and throw on the grill.

                                                THOSE are good.

                                                They bear NO resemblance to what the troop leaders tried to pass off as food.

                              2. I was maybe 8 ish when I started making the Chef Boyardee pizza. They still make them and I've been toying with the idea of making another, but will not turn on the big oven untill we get out of the 90's here, maybe I'll do one in October.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: James Cristinian

                                  Making the Chef B crust and managing to stretch it across the pizza pan without holes forming was a pretty tough kitchen task for a little kid. I know because I remember making those when I was in the 5-8 range, supervised by mom and aunt. And incidentally, the Chef B pie is another beloved oldie that I still make a few times a year.

                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                    Exactly, and I should have mentioned the dough because it was a pain in the ....... After that, it was all downhill. I will do one, or more, this fall, assuming fall ever comes back to Texas.

                                    1. re: James Cristinian

                                      I share your pain. Although--blessedly--we have had a bit of a cool, rainy stretch in west Texas of late.

                                2. My first culinary responsibility was was at age 5 (1956) when I would arise early on weekend mornings to warm my baby brother's bottle so mom and dad could sleep. I then graduated to setting up the coffee percolator (remember those?) and getting it started. Scrambled eggs came next and by age 7, I was pretty good mixing and making pancakes on my own. I recall the first time I volunteered to make dinner at age 9. It was Swedish Meatballs from the original Joy of Cooking. I also baked cakes for mom when she was in the hospital the following year and her roommate sent home a note about how good they were. That was really encouraging.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Chefpaulo

                                    I still use a percolator to make coffee. Here in west Texas we pronounce it PERK-yew-lay-ter, though.

                                    1. re: Chefpaulo

                                      Lovely story. It is hard to beat family sharing food memories.

                                    2. Sometime in early high school, maybe 9th grade, maybe even jr. high, my mom started working. I was to cook dinner on those nights. My first dinner for the family was tuna noodle casserole. I thickened it with flour and water. I thought it looked boring, so added green food coloring. They ate it, but politely declined second helpings.
                                      After that disaster, I moved on to souffles. Much better results.

                                      1. I was 6 and decided to make snickerdoodles. I messed up the cream of tartar amount, measuring in tablespoons instead of teaspoons (I can't recall if it was 1 or 2). #fail

                                        ETA: Now I'm craving snickerdoodles.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: debbiel

                                          Chocolate chip cookies at 9 or 10. Thought odium bicarbonate was salt (sodium!) so I left it out. Flat cookies resulted. LeArned fast! :).

                                          My mom hated cooking and did her best to avoid it so I never really helped in the kitchen. Once in a while we made English muffin pizzas or Mac and cheese. Scrambled eggs, rice casseroles, cake mixes. My dad is a great cook and though he was always working, liked to make pizza with homemade sauce, great omelets and the occasional cookies.

                                          When mom passed away when I was 13, I started to cook. My first real solo attempt was an orange cake that looked gorgeous but was wet inside. My next cakes were honey cakes. Also wet. I finally figured out that I was using too much liquid (duh!) and my cakes started to come out fine. Moved on to bread soon after and when I was about 19, bought my very first cookbook. I've been cooking ever since.

                                          1. re: debbiel

                                            That cracked me up, debbie -- I can't imagine how bad they'd taste with even ONE tablespoon of cream of tartar!!

                                          2. When I was 6 I made chocolate cookies from scratch for the first time. My passion for food began when I was about 8 after receiving several cookbooks from my favourite aunt. I read them like I read Nancy Drew books, hanging onto every compelling word. I kept all my diaries - when I was 10 I was making Dacquoise regularly. Also yeast (deep fried puffy) doughnuts, bread and buns. My signature dish at that time would be eclairs. I made abdsolutely incredible eclairs. By the time I was 12 I was doing all the canning (we had a huge garden on the farm) and preserving. My passion has only grown and has not abated ever. Now I show my nieces and nephews how to cook and hope to instill in at least one or two the same passion! One can always hope...

                                            1. I can't remember not cooking. My mom was a farmwife who believed in having a healthy meal waiting when dad came up from the barn. She taught herself to cook with the Betty Crocker cookbook circa 1962. When I was old enough to hold a spoon, I was expected to help ... and I did by stirring the ice cubes in the jello to make it set faster :-) Cooking and baking were never a mystery because I watched and helped my mom every day. When I got an EasyBake oven for Christmas, it was a downer because I was already making from-scratch cakes and using the big oven with supervision. First cookbook - Betty Crocker's Boys and Girls Cookbook and the Peanuts Cookbook (Peanuts the cartoon with Snoopy drawings).

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: shaja

                                                Me, too -- one of my very earliest memories is standing on a stool in my grandmother's kitchen, stirring grape juice to make jam, surrounded by aunts and great aunts (so much love in that tiny kitchen - no wonder I associate cooking with love) -- so I don't really remember what my first dish was.

                                                Most likely a cake in my EZ-Bake oven at about 5 or so.

                                              2. I don't remember but would bet it was Kraft Macaroni and Cheese at the age of about 10. I was a very picky eater so that was my go-to meal.

                                                1. I remember when I was 6 or 7, making cinnamon toast from a kids cookbook. Butter bread, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and toast until it sizzles.

                                                  I was making "real" food by 8 or 9. I remember making spaghetti and meatballs. Hunts paste, sauce and puree, "Italian" Seasoning, sauteed onions and garlic. The meatballs were always just ground beef, salt, pepper and garlic powder. My mother didn't use breadcrumbs.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: sbp

                                                    I also remember having the LBJ Ranch cookbook - a small paperback. I think I made a spice rub from that. When I was about 11 or 12, I had the Galloping Gourmet cookbook, and I clearly remember making Chicken Kiev. A pain, but it worked.

                                                    1. re: sbp

                                                      Chicken Kiev at 11-12? Impressive. That dish still gives me some trouble.

                                                      1. re: sbp

                                                        I, too, am much impressed by Chicken Kiev at 12. I've had to work on sealing the breaded cutlet to not have my butter leak out and still haven't mastered it. Kudos!
                                                        CP

                                                        1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                          Well, this goes WAY back, but my recollection is the butter was shaped into balls and frozen. I think given the egg wash prior to breadcrumbs, when it was fried, the egg sealed the edges before the butter melted.

                                                          1. re: sbp

                                                            This is how I've always done it. Love that dish!

                                                            1. re: chefathome

                                                              The problem is getting today's Frankenbreasts thin and pliable enough to make them easy to work with.

                                                        2. re: sbp

                                                          Similar path to sbp. I remember taking out "cooking for Boys" from the library at age 7-8 and making cinnamon toast and scrambled eggs. I loved Galloping Gourmet and remember making a blanquette of veal with white sauce and tourtiere in early high school. Then, Beef Wellington and vichysoisse in later high school as a housewarming gift for my big brother's first apartment.

                                                      2. I grew up in the Nancy Drew Cookbook era and my first dish was Crossword Cipher Chicken.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Sydneyeats

                                                          I had that cookbook, too! Main thing I remember is a story about Nancy Drew finidng somebody's lost diamond ring in a batch of muffins :-)

                                                          1. re: shaja

                                                            "finidng somebody's lost diamond ring in a batch of muffins"

                                                            I should be so lucky!

                                                        2. I cannot remember a time when I wasn't baking; mom involved all her girls by the time we were 3 or 4.

                                                          By 6 -8 I could scramble eggs and make pancakes (thanks to stay-at-home mom and 3 older sisters). By 10 I could make brownies and cookies from scratch. By 12 (thanks to home ec in school) I could make a decent cheese omelet. By 15 I could make dinner for the family from scratch.

                                                          1. Most of my early cooking memories are of baking -- cookies, pretzels, etc. There's a hilarious video of me as a kid (probably 8 or younger) demonstrating how to make brownies using the recipe from Betty Crocker's Microwave Cookbook. From a pretty early age, I've always loved to cook and bake. Of course, when I was in the single digits, this was usually supervised. I think pasta with ground meat / tomato sauce (using canned tomato purée) was probably one of the first non-baking type dishes I made.

                                                            I also remember around second or third grade, when our class was reading the "Little House on the Prairie" books, I had the Little House on the Prairie cookbook. My mom helped me make some things from it, and at one point, we even had a "Little House" themed party, featuring some of the food from the cookbook. We even tried making butter by shaking cream in a jar.

                                                            Starting in my early teens, my family had a thing where each of us would cook dinner one night, and wash dishes one night -- I traded with my mom and did two nights of cooking and no nights washing dishes (score!). This was definitely helpful in terms of expanding my repertoire, though there are definitely some basic things I'd like to go back and teach my teenage self, like basic knife techniques, etc. I'm sure it also has something to do with why I still make such a mess when I cook.

                                                            Interestingly, my younger siblings don't really enjoy cooking as much - my sister can cook, but isn't that into it, and my brother... well, let's just say he has difficulty with things like turning a pepper grinder the right direction, or telling whether water is boiling or not.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: will47

                                                              I need that cookbook! What fun for little girls, or boys who like to cook for that matter. I'll have to see if I can find one online!

                                                              1. re: SAHCook

                                                                The "Little House" cookbook is still in print
                                                                http://www.amazon.com/The-Little-Hous...

                                                                1. re: will47

                                                                  Now to convince my husband I need ANOTHER cookbook ;)

                                                                  1. re: SAHCook

                                                                    It's worth it just for the historical value. But, for grown-up Laura's actual recipes from Rocky Ridge Farm, including the best gingerbread you ever had, buy her Country Cookbook: http://lauraingallswilderhome.com/pro...

                                                                    1. re: shaja

                                                                      A friend received this book last Christmas, and I tore through it when we visited her a couple of weeks ago. It's GREAT. I'm ordering a copy for myself.

                                                                  2. re: will47

                                                                    It's WONDERFUL.

                                                              2. I baked long before I cooked. I think the first thing I made was banana bread (with my aunt helping), at age 5 or 6. I was always in the kitchen watching my mom and aunt cook, though.

                                                                The first thing I made on my own was fried rice, probably around 12.

                                                                1. I didn't get serious about cooking until my mid-20s when I started hanging out with my husband to be who was really into cooking. From then on, I got serious. (I always cooked before then and was the main "chef" in college but my dishes were pretty ordinary.)

                                                                  1. When I was 15 we were living in Argentina and I longed for American baked goods. My mother's interest in anything domestic was sporadic and the maid didn't have a clue so that summer when everybody was having siesta I moved into the kitchen in the afternoons. The first thing I baked was a yeast coffee cake. An American teacher at school told me how to convert "a cake of yeast" to the bulk yeast sold locally at bakeries. I constantly studied The Joy of Cooking. My streusel-topped coffee cake came out well and I was immediately hooked. The kitchen was primitive---a 30-inch range with an oven that had to be regulated by the seat of your pants, a tiny refrigerator with an 8-inch square freezer compartment, a marble-topped table, a stone sink, that was it. NO electric appliances for the first couple of years then we bought a mixer from somebody returning to the States. No thermometers, not much of anything (this was about 1948). Ingredients were sometimes weird eg sugar was gray with pieces of rope in it. This situation offered me excellent training in Improvisational Resourcefulness. I wouldn't trade the experience.

                                                                    1. I remember baking with a friend in 1st or 2nd grade. It was at her house, and I remember being surprised at how much she was allowed to do in the kitchen. I baked a lot after that from a couple BH&G cookbooks for kids.

                                                                      Then in 6th or 7th grade my dad supervised while I baked a chocolate cake for mother's day. It was the worst ever! I started crying when I tried it, it was that bad! We tried to figure it out later, and I think he mixed up baking powder and soda but I'm not sure if that would have been enough to make it taste that bad.

                                                                      Over the years I started looking through their BH&G cookbook to make "fancy" meals for their special days. And in high school I made lasagna from memory pretty often.

                                                                      1. My mother was a control freak about the kitchen and cleanliness so I know that even if I cooked it probably wasn't unsupervised. She never would have let me just make dinner for the family etc. the first things I can remember are scrambled eggs and a quick tomato sauce with pasta made with canned diced tomatoes. I was probably 13 or 14.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                                          My sister-in-law didn't learn to cook properly until she was married (first time) at about 20, because her mother was the same way. Hardly allowed her to step across the threshold into the kitchen!

                                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                                            maybe i wasn't an only child after all...! i wasn't really allowed to cook, but my mother didn't cook either.

                                                                          2. My Mother viewed kids in the kitchen as more of a hindrance than a help – being the eldest she preferred to assign me the task of watching after my siblings while she cooked. Once in a while she would have me mix the meatloaf or stir the jello.

                                                                            I attended a children's cooking class the summer between 4th and 5th grade at the Power & Light Co. Each week we made a dish working towards a final complete meal. Appetizers involved radish roses, there was a tossed salad (tear don't cut the lettuce!), noodles, Swedish meatballs and rice krispie treats for dessert.

                                                                            When I made the meal for my family my Father, never known for patience or tact, took one bite of the meatballs and left the table in disgust. I was devastated and didn't do much in the kitchen until I was on my own at 16. At that point my efforts were largely eggs, cup-o-soup, grilled cheese, etc.

                                                                            When I was 18 I decided I I was going to make fried pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy. I bought a Michael Fields cookbook at Goodwill and read how to mash potatoes. I just winged the rest. Amazingly everything was good and from that point on I was hooked!

                                                                            1. I began to learn by first watching how things I loved to eat were prepared. I watched my Nana make a beautiful poached egg when I was six, and then, under her supervision, I made one (not so perfect, but edible!). I was fascinated by how my Aunt Dora prepared, breaded and fried eggplant, or why my mom seasoned the cavity of the chicken, or rubbed mustard and other seasonings on the outside of a pork roast before cooking. So for me it was watch, then do, parts of a dish (though I couldn't carry a roasting pan, I could season a roast.)

                                                                              My first dishes were eggs (scrambled, poached) and then homemade pizza from ages 6-8 maybe? Mid to late seventies. It was always a process of watch how it's done, learn why it's done that way, then do it yourself.

                                                                              1. These postings just reminded my that I took Home Ec/Cooking n high school. I have no memory of what we made, but I do remember deep frying tortillas (this was in So California) and one girl tried to fish out a dropped tortilla out of the oil with her bare hand---the EMTs were very prompt.

                                                                                1. I was about seven or eight, when my mom had surgery that required she eat pretty much first thing in the morning or she would be come nauseous. Dad left early for work, so I made her scrambled eggs and toast every morning.

                                                                                  I think I graduated to Bisquick pancakes, and around 12 remember making roast chicken pieces.

                                                                                  1. I was 6. My grandmother made jams and jellies. I stood on a chair to stir. Looking back, no one would teach a child this way today.
                                                                                    I would stand there and stir the berries, pectin and sugar. Grandma would stop and check it now and then.
                                                                                    After a length of time, she would send me out to play. Probably not all that long.

                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: slpsharon

                                                                                      ain't that the truth? I'm another child of the jelly pot!

                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                        My arm and wrist did get tired, and it was hot over that stove.

                                                                                        1. re: slpsharon

                                                                                          Bet your arm never tired of lifting that jammy toast. ;-) lol

                                                                                          1. re: suzigirl

                                                                                            Especially with a little peanut butter added.

                                                                                            1. re: slpsharon

                                                                                              Mmmm. That sounds tasty

                                                                                    2. Started helping Mom in the kitchen at a very young age (4-5), my 1st job was probably icing cakes. Funny memory: My Mom's steak never tasted good, I think she bought cheap cuts and just tossed them on the grill. When I got my 1st apartment I invited my siblings over for a steak dinner; they were in awe and asked how I learned to cook stake so well. My answer was "I just went to the butcher and asked for the most expensive steak they had and what I should do with it"

                                                                                      1. My first memory of cooking something all by myself was when I was 7; I had checked out a kid's cookbook from the school library, and SO wanted to make buscuits by myself. So bad, that I lied to my mom about being sick... she worked mornings in a dr.'s office, so she left, calling me every hour asking how I was, etc.
                                                                                        I pretended to be sick, but of course had gotten out of bed and was standing on chairs raiding the cupboards, getting flour everywhere trying to get those biscuits made.
                                                                                        Mom came home a little after noon, and there I was - not sick, covered in flour, but with a pan of not-too-bad biscuits in hand! She was SO mad, and so proud...

                                                                                        I am sure I was cooking with her before that, or I wouldn't have managed so well, but most of my memories come after that. Mom was a great cook and enterained a lot at home for dad's clients and friends from all over the world. A creative scratch cook, she didn't use a lot of canned and prepared foods like most in the 70's-80's. I learned from her.

                                                                                        When I was 14, my father gave me James Beard's Theory and Practice of Good Cooking. I cooked my way through that, and learned alot of technique. I still remember making a sponge cake, and him exorting you to fold it with the flat of your hand (washed, of course) to underscore to the budding cook that your hands are some of your most valuable cooking tools. Never forgot that.

                                                                                        Then I started subscribing to Gourmet and Bon Appetit, by the time I was 15, and cooked a lot of recipes from those. Things like a complicated stuffed leg of lamb in a pastry crust for easter, and a boned-out turkey, stuffed with bockwurst and a stuffing with liver and walnuts, then sewed back up to look like a turkey again, roasted, and carved boneless at the table.

                                                                                        When I was 15, my family also took a long summer trip all around Europe, and we ate in Germany, Switzerland, France - from Alsace to Paris to Marseleille, and on to Spain. My taste buds sure opened up then, and on coming home I started cooking a lot of French food.

                                                                                        By the time I was 16, I was ordering cookbooks at the library, and went through a lot of classics, like Julia Child, Fanny Farmer, The Larousse Gastronimique, edited by Charlotte Turgeon.

                                                                                        I was cooking at a friends local deli by the time I was that age, making soup of the day, their signature salads, baron of beef for a few hours after school. Had a catering company of my own senior year in HS, and started working at a large catering firm in college at 19.

                                                                                        It never leaves the blood:)

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                          It's an honor to have you posting on CH, Rachel Ray. ;)

                                                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                            Perilagu, Please don't call me that! Can't stand that gal! I think you were kidding, but really; with family friend Graham Kerr's help, I pitched a tv show about 10 years ago, just after she hit the scene. We shopped my demo at a media buyers convention that had a number of new food production co's in attendance, and they all turned me down for being ' perky, like Rachel Ray', like they allready had 'me' in broadcast:(. They missed out. I was going to teach everyone how to use up stuff they already had in their fridge, shop before making a meal plan, etc. NOT cook easy stuff in 30 minutes and come out with ugly orange casserole line. Also, I would never make up a phrase to use like 'sammy' or "EVOO". Just sayin'! :)

                                                                                            1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                              Heh heh. Sorry I struck a sore spot! :)

                                                                                        2. I remember Friday nights when I would make 'pizza' with refridgerated crust, sauce, cheddar cheese and hot dogs. (parents went out a lot so this was my go to meal) also loved bis quick, and used to eat pancakes raw. (of course I was terrible at the cooked ones- I believe one of my friends called them pukecakes) made cc cookies like crazy. Was terrible at cooking any real food, and sent the hubby to the er 3 times while I was 'learning.' With time and patience I've learned to love to cook and am pretty good at it. Still love baking, and am always making some type of treats for my boys. Right now have peanut butter chocolate chip cookies in the oven.

                                                                                          1. I don't remember my age but i am relatively my first 'dish' was the cole slaw for thanksgiving, followed eventually by the stuffing.

                                                                                            Again with no clear recollection of other kitchen ventures, I am sure that it was the holiday feasts when I began to 'make' food.

                                                                                            I blame my life-long love of the kitchen on the preparing the stuffing. At a young impressionable age to see the trinity slowly softening in in a pan full of butter with the attendant perfume.

                                                                                            Next, on to the giblet gravy.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: FrankJBN

                                                                                              Thanksgiving cooking is probably my favorite cooking of the entire year. So redolent of both flavors and memories.

                                                                                            2. I was 9, and my best friend and I made apple pie from "The Betty Crocker Cookbook."

                                                                                              1. Quiche Lorraine in 7th grade cooking class. I carried it home from school on the train and my family had it for dinner (no ptomaine). I still love making pie crust from scratch.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: FoodieInDenial

                                                                                                  For a French class in the 9th grade I made some sort of potato tort. Pretty sure it was from a Fanny Farmer cookbook. The tort was a smash hit.

                                                                                                2. 8ish probably. Mama taught me how to make migas. I remember thinking it was so cool to be able to grab a handful of tortilla chips and crunch them over the pan. We did a rockin honey fruit salad too.

                                                                                                  1. I used to read cookbooks like they were novels, from a really young age, and my mom had a subscription to Gourmet magazine… I always helped in the kitchen but didn’t get to cook a meal by myself till I was about 12 or so.

                                                                                                    I’d done ‘some’ cooking before that (side dishes and veggies)

                                                                                                    I remember there was an incredibly complicated dish in one of the “Great Chefs” cookbooks we had, I was hell-bent on making it, so finally my mom gave me the “ok” and we got the ingredients and she stepped away (Except to do some clean up as I was cooking)

                                                                                                    Partially de-boned the chicken, made a forcemeat of sorts to stuff it in, roasted it, sauced with a wine/demiglace served it with Rice Pilaf (because I thought that would be ‘fancy’) and some baby carrots… it was the early 1980’s and “baby” any veggie was very en vogue!

                                                                                                    1. I made chocolate truffles one Christmas - I have no idea how old I was - the recipe called for grated chocolate and butter, and I got it into my head that the butter had to be grated. So I froze and grated the butter - and left the resulting truffles to 'mature' overnight. I still remember their amazing texture - simply the best chocolate truffles EVER!

                                                                                                      1. I think I was 2. I decided early one morning that my folks would like pancakes for breakfast,so I put a french fry basket on the black cast iron stove that was always going in the winter and proceeded to dump pancake mix into it. When the mix began to burn my Mom got up very quickly. End of pancakes. I began cooking earnest at about 10 beginning with making bread. To this day I have no idea what inspired me to do this. When I was 16 my Mom was widowed and worked long hous, so I became the cook for the family. My brother still teases me about some of the things I made.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: miriamjo

                                                                                                          When I was 2 my parents came home from an evening out, maybe midnight, and they found me standing on a chair in front of the sink peeling a carrot. Then when I was 3 I remember taking Vienna sausages out of the refrigerator and roasting them over the flame of the gas stove on the end of a fork. Of course I had been camping with my family so I knew what I was doing. ; )

                                                                                                          When I was about 10 my older brother and I started making pancakes on Saturday mornings and our two friends, brothers as well, would come over and we'd make a mess in the kitchen. My mom asked one of the friends why we cannot do this at their house on some of the Saturday mornings and the reply was, "Our mom won't let us use the stove". Translation? Their dad was OCB about cleanliness and cannot stand any kind of a mess.

                                                                                                        2. Not counting the ketsup sandwiches at 4 years old, I started making dough for "pizzeels" at about 9. It's just pizza dough that is fried in pieces and covered in butter or confectioners sugar. My Southern Italian Nana made them and we continued the tradition. Children usually like them.

                                                                                                          1. I don't remember exactly when I started cooking, but my family has always been big on it. My dad taught me how to make pasta and sushi.

                                                                                                            When I was sophomore in HS I became a vegetarian (I eat meat now) and that is when I really got into, because I had to if I wanted dinner, hahaha.

                                                                                                            But my first big memory of cooking was when I was about 11 and I decided I wanted to make mozzarella stix. So I went downstairs, by myself, filled a pot with oil, breaded some string cheese and threw them in the oil, and man they were yummy, except...when I was done I put the oil in the sink and turned the cold water one, and...BOOM! hot oil all over me. Freezing cold, fully clothed shower followed soon after. But I was soothed by the cheese stix that had remained as I healed :)

                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Rachael5000

                                                                                                              Oh you poor baby. I'm shocked that didn't put you off fried food for years. You parents must have been beside themselves.

                                                                                                              1. re: suzigirl

                                                                                                                That reminds me of an incident from my teens. We'd already had dinner.
                                                                                                                I washed the dishes and turned to get the burners off the stove. I forgot they were still hot.
                                                                                                                Burnedboth palms badly of course.
                                                                                                                Whole thing was my own fault.

                                                                                                              2. re: Rachael5000

                                                                                                                Oh my goodness!! That made me gasp out loud!

                                                                                                              3. Intrigued by the sound of Crepes Suzette from the Patty Duke Show theme song, I attempted to make them. I didn't even know what they were but my mother humored me and let me have a go at it. I think I was about 9 at the time. There may have been earlier baking episodes come to think of it. :)

                                                                                                                1. I have been thinking about this for a few days before replying. I can't remember ever not cooking with my grandmother or mom, but the first thing I remember making totally on my own was when I was 8-9 and unsupervised after school. I had these kids activity books and one of the recipes was for "Surprise Muffins", which were basic from scratch muffins with a dollop of jelly in the middle. I made them MANY times as a kid. I occasionally made dinner for my family from middle school on.

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                                                                                                                  1. re: JenJeninCT

                                                                                                                    Heeheehee -- those were one of the first things we made in Home Ec in 6th grade.

                                                                                                                  2. I made my first meal, "goulash," with no help, at about 10. I'd been cooking with supervision since about 8, and helping with one thing and another since I could stand on a stepstool at the counter.

                                                                                                                    I'm eternally grateful to my mother for making me fly completely solo that day -- I remember being so nervous! She went back to her room to watch TV and left me to it (I'm sure she was listening at the door) and I was so determined to get it right and not ruin everything! She did come out and set the table later, and that was incredibly gratifying. I managed to get it all -- goulash, salad, cottage cheese, bread and butter, milk in the glasses -- on the table without burning or ruining a single thing and I felt like I could do anything after that.

                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                                                      What a gift your mother gave to let you do that! Nothing like feeling a parent's confidence in you to boost your own.

                                                                                                                      1. re: SAHCook

                                                                                                                        and it's one of the hardest things as a parent to step back and let them do it themselves!

                                                                                                                        1. re: SAHCook

                                                                                                                          Indeed. I've thanked her for it a hundred times. I turned out many a batch of hockey-puck biscuits and many an over- or under-seasoned dinner, but my family gamely ate it all and my mother graciously helped me do it better the next time. My mother is THE reason my brother and I are good cooks today, and that's a fact. A few sub-par dinners are a small price to pay to give your kids culinary independence and perhaps even a creative, relaxing hobby!

                                                                                                                      2. When l was @ 10, l would take the money my parents left me for dinner and go to a grocery store and buy ingredients for a salad with a zillion things in it, yes vegetables, but also cured fishes, meats, spices, capers, etc. l was a chowpup way before Chowhound. BTW, l still make a variation of that dish occasionally now.

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                                                                                                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                                                          How interesting a ppattern. We all seem to start ou the same, and even mostly solo around 10 or so.
                                                                                                                          Wish my grandmother had lived long enough to see her teaching take effect when I cooked at the cafes. She was alive when wwe had the family cafe, but alrady had Alzheimers.
                                                                                                                          My first solo dish was chicken noodle soup. We even made our own made our own noodles. I am sure mine were a litle lumpy, but not even my cousins complained.

                                                                                                                          1. re: slpsharon

                                                                                                                            I was about 5 or 6 in my grandparents kitchen on an egg farm they owned in New Jersey...my great grandfather , who I did not know was a baker...my grandmother was an excellent baker as well...she taught all of her 7 grandchildren how to bake....Mixing dough for kreplach, with our hands at the white porcelain top table....the dough had flour, eggs, salt and pepper...I think that was the first egg I ever cracked.(they sold the farm when I was 6 so I think I was about 5 years old)

                                                                                                                            1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                                                              Good start.

                                                                                                                              1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                                                                Let me guess--you were in Egg Harbor.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                  LOL!!!! Actually Toms River!!!! and they had a couple of "Tom" turkeys!

                                                                                                                          2. I was about 6.

                                                                                                                            Wanted to make eggs & onions for breakfast.

                                                                                                                            Got out the onions & started to slice them. Managed to slice my finger!
                                                                                                                            Ran down the hall to the bathroom waving my finger - naturally, splattered blood on the walls.

                                                                                                                            After a quick bandage & admonition (for said wall decoration), I managed to finish the task as hand.

                                                                                                                            A very good lesson learned - use a sharp knife & watch what you are doing!

                                                                                                                            Only dinged myself a few times afterward - the most egregious was using a steel & a Chinese cleaver - I forgot what I was doing for a second. 4 stitches please. Very interesting sound it made.

                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: algct

                                                                                                                              *shudder*

                                                                                                                              (says she who's nursing a painful divot on the end of her thumb from when the knife slipped last weekend....)

                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                Where are Quint, Hooper and Chief Brody when you need 'em?

                                                                                                                                I've got a permanent one-inch scar on my left middle finger complements of a deep slice while cleaning a butcher knife.

                                                                                                                              2. re: algct

                                                                                                                                The sound it made? The SOUND it made? Please, oh please be referring to the noise of the steel, not the cut oh no....and I'm not even squeamish!!

                                                                                                                                1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                  The sound?
                                                                                                                                  I don't remember the cleaver on steel, but the cleaver hitting the top of my thumb just south of the knuckle was a "pock".

                                                                                                                                  Weird - no pain, just a bit of blood. Oh well - time to go the the Emergency Medical place.

                                                                                                                              3. Probably at about age 6 or 7, helping mom. But actual responsiblity in the kitchen happened when I was about 12 and my parents both were working. I'd be assigned simple jobs, like put the meatloaf into the oven or start the rice cooker or cut up veggies - about age 11. In junior high school, I took home ec. and was introduced to such nutritious wonders as corn dogs, puffy french toast, and tamale pie. Those I cooked for my family - it was really the first time I felt as though I was responsible for the meal. Good times.

                                                                                                                                1. I am going to say 8 or 9 . The Chef Boyardee pizza in a box. I had the pizza pan my mom ordered from them until recently when I had to toss this heirloom. It had great use. Early 60's. Other than that I would help with frying the smelt.

                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: emglow101

                                                                                                                                    I still love that Chef B pizza kit.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: emglow101

                                                                                                                                      emglow101, frying smelt reminded me that I was a prep monkee in my youth, mid 60's, the parents had me peel wonderful large Gulf shrimp. I liked pulling the legs off them. I didn't even like shrimp back then, while the adults ate shrimp, I fed on fried red snapper and speckled trout fried by my Granny. I didn't take notes, but by osmosis I am now a master shrimp and fish fryer. Like Perilagu Khan, I cut my teeth on Chef Boyardee pizza. That dough for the crust taught me patience, getting all the holes out and all.

                                                                                                                                    2. My mother put me in the kitchen to keep an eye on me when I was about three. I had a knack for finding ways to test gravity and this was the 50's, so a majority of her day was spent in the kitchen. By the time I was five I could scramble eggs. At six, she packed my first (and only) school lunch. She and I disagreed over the appropriate contents of a baloney sandwich and I packed my own lunch (and my younger brother's a year later) from then on.

                                                                                                                                      We moved when I was eight, and I began shopping for lunches on my own then at the grocery store a block away. I was eight when I started baking (I don't remember my mother ever baking). I became fascinated with yeast breads in junior high while taking Home Ec. About that time, my mother got bored with cooking and was battling depression, so shopping and cooking for the family fell to me. I cooked my first holiday turkey at 13.

                                                                                                                                      Mother grew up in a restaurant in the 1930's and wasn't a fan of packaged, boxed, or frozen items, so I learnt everything from scratch. We lived in a fourplex when I was ten and our next-door neighbor made nearly everything out of cans. She came next door once to borrow me to make gravy for a holiday dinner. I couldn't believe that a grown woman with two kids didn't know how to make gravy!

                                                                                                                                      Mother remarried when I was ten and we moved out of the fourplex. My stepfather's mother lived in rural Oregon and lived in a tiny house he had built for her. It had a kitchen with room for two stoves - one electric, one wood-burning for when the electricity went out. She taught me how to cook on that wood stove before I was 11.

                                                                                                                                      1. I think mine was in college, when I'd tired of the "Easy Mac" and frozen dinners. I tried making a lentil soup with apricots from one of my mom's Moosewood Cafe books. My first REAL experience cooking for anyone other than myself, though, was attempting to make a nice dinner for my parents anniversary (because I didn't have enough money to get them a decent gift). For some reason, I decided on Chicken Kiev (I was/am a vegetarian, and had NEVER made meat before) and some sides, and a creme brulee for dessert. Apparently the chicken and sides were really quite nice, but the creme brulee was a disaster that we still all laugh about!

                                                                                                                                        1. Uncle Fritz would come from back east to visit papa.. They would get real drunk and prepare the kugelis, a Lithuanian potato dish. I would have take over so it would not burn. My mom could not stand Uncle Fritz. Hilarious,13 yrs old.

                                                                                                                                          1. Baking with help when I was little--brownies, cookies, and cakes.

                                                                                                                                            But the first thing I COOKED for me..
                                                                                                                                            --Spaghetti-Os in the microwave
                                                                                                                                            --couscous (boiled) and then added a tiny bit of manera and shredded cheese.

                                                                                                                                            COOKED for the family..
                                                                                                                                            --Boboli pizzas... when my mother was at work
                                                                                                                                            --Frozen chicken nuggets or fish sticks... when my mother was at work
                                                                                                                                            --Pigs in a blanket... when my mother was at work
                                                                                                                                            --Ramen.. when my mother was at work

                                                                                                                                            1. I think I started getting in to cooking in undergrad. Don't remember anything specific. Maybe steaks

                                                                                                                                              I remember seeing the similarity between cooking and organic chemistry. I think it was why I liked organic chem

                                                                                                                                              1. Goodness. Coming from a hard-core cooking family, I was "helping" as soon as I was tall enough to reach the stove (even before then, I think). I started with adding the "golden egg" to Mrs. Grass's chicken soup when I was home with a cold, & easily went from there.

                                                                                                                                                1. Pretty young, can't give an exact age. The real reason I cooked well is that my mom worked and wanted us to have a healthy dinner. So she paid me to cook dinner because she didn't think it was job. Oh the glory days of scoring an extra dollar for making a homemade pie.

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: JudiAU

                                                                                                                                                    Sounds like a sweet deal.

                                                                                                                                                  2. I started to cook quite young, about 8 or 9. My first venture was with the Easy bake oven. I graduated to cake during my Mom's absence, I kept begging her to let me cook something but she knew I was not ready. So while she was away I attempted a loaf cake and got creative adding extra milk and ingredients. It was awful, and the kitchen was a disaster after! Well eventually I started to learn that a baker has to follow a recipe and guidelines and from there it turned around.

                                                                                                                                                    1. I always "helped" my Mom in the kitchen. When I was 4, I especially enjoyed closing my sister in the large drawer that held the pots and pans we were allowed to play with, while my Mom was making dinner!

                                                                                                                                                      I remember making tuna fish, which to this day I can only eat if I prepare myself. I also was into baking, and was really disappointed with my easy bake oven. My cakes were full-sized and much better tasting than the mix you had to use. I also made lots of cupcakes, until one time I ate the uncooked batter, and then didn't want to touch the finished cup cakes, they tasted so bad after the yummy batter! And snickerdoodles got lots of baking time from me too!

                                                                                                                                                      1. I honestly have no idea. I had kids cookbooks from the age of maybe 8. Pretty sure if was a Betty Crocker one. I had an easy bake oven LOL. In elementary school I was helping my mom make pies and by 12 I was making homemade donuts along with other things like eggs and pancakes and biscuits.

                                                                                                                                                        1. My sister and I (twins) started helping in the kitchen at a really early age. We both love to cook and would watch her and want to help.

                                                                                                                                                          I remember at 4 or 5 when we would visit our grandparents in North Dakota we would help in my Grandmother's massive garden. We'd pick the green beans, wax beans, peas and the raspberries in her raspberry garden. We helped her shell the peas, snap the beans. Every morning we'd gather the eggs from her hen house.

                                                                                                                                                          By 6 we were making brownies, fudge (i remember one disaster that ended up being chocolate sauce for ice cream), chocolate chip cookies and especially snicker doodles. At 9 we took snicker doodles we had made to school for the whole class for our show and tell presentation.

                                                                                                                                                          Also the summer when we were 9 we started to cook whole meals for the family. My Mom had gone back to college to add another speciality to her teaching degree - it was an hour drive each way so my sister and I made dinner for everyone. Mom left specific written directions - we were cooking meatballs, rice, hams and roasts, swiss steak, etc. We'd ride our bicycles to the grocery store (we lived in a small town) and they would ask us what we were cooking that day. Great memories!

                                                                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Jeanne

                                                                                                                                                            Jeanne....that is a wonderful story....or really just a bio of what really happened...I really sensed what was going on here...what dishes do you still make that are from those times??? and what dishes have evolved from thoses times that you both still make?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                                                                                              I had to think about this for awhile - we both still have a love for rice so cook that with many things. Swiss steak has evolved into beef stroganoff for me - with good round steak and lots of mushrooms over pasta. The meatballs have evolved into an appetizer "swedish" meatball that I make on Christmas Eve because my nieces and nephew demand them - they love them. Have also made them for lots of parties. We both still make Mom's shrimp gumbo - a simple version but we love it.

                                                                                                                                                              I learned how to make my Dad's BBQ chicken by watching him. It was his speciality and it was so good. Learned his basting sauce and his BBQ sauce - and can duplicate it. Is really good - we all loved the times he would grill his chicken. Both of us can make Mom's potato salad.

                                                                                                                                                              My sister lives on 7 acres and has a big garden. She does a little canning - which my grandmother did from all her vegetables in the garden. She cans tomatoes, her husband makes pickled onions and cans them, and she makes the best okra pickles I've ever tasted - none top hers from a regular grocery to a specialty food shop. She's had a bumper crop this year and so far has made 25 quarts of okra pickles! She also bakes bread occasionally, especially in the winter, as my grandmother did.

                                                                                                                                                              Some of these things we started making when we were a little older - but we grew up with the basics and more and could help with them then.

                                                                                                                                                              I have a recipe for baked beans from my Great Aunt Mamie who would be around 108 now if she was alive - made from scratch, of course, from dried beans, and they are fantastic.

                                                                                                                                                              I could go on but that's a long example. It's great to come from a family of good cooks and people who really love to cook.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Jeanne

                                                                                                                                                                WOW!!!! JEANNE!!!!! you really have some legacy here...mine was remanded to a small apartment kitchen in the Bronx NY....none the less I learned a lot from my great and grand ma.....so nice to see your post.....it is great that we have this legacy....isn't it?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                                                                                                  Yes it is Phreddy - was just thinking about this post and also thinking that I need to write my "swedish" meatball recipe down for my nieces. One has helped me make them for the past couple of years - and I'll have her help me again this year. I should write the "recipe" down for her - put in quotes because I really don't have a recipe!

                                                                                                                                                                  I don't have much space either - live in a townhouse. Sounds like you are carrying on the family tradition too! That's wonderful! Would love to hear about what foods you are making from or have developed from your childhood!

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Jeanne

                                                                                                                                                              Beautiful...

                                                                                                                                                            3. I would speculate about six, but then I was a "latch key kid." At first, I would do canned ravioli, but would doctor it up quite a bit.

                                                                                                                                                              Now, as I married a lady, who could well be a chef, should she retire, I do many more wine pairings with her cuisine, than actually cooking, though I still do some dishes.

                                                                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                Bill, I'm assuming you weren't drinking wine at six, maybe, but did you do different juice pairings, especially grape, with you different concotions?

                                                                                                                                                              2. I guess I was six or seven. Before that, mom wouldn't let me in the kitchen, except to grate carrots over the iceberg lettuce salad. Before we moved away (when I was seven), I made a tiny chocolate cake for my grandparents, and some white fudge with cherries and walnuts for their Christmas present.

                                                                                                                                                                1. not sue of the exact age helped earlier but the first meals were when mom went back to work when I as in high school - sine she worked in real estate most week nights she still cooked or dad grilled but I became responsible for weekend meals starting with baked chicken and rice

                                                                                                                                                                  1. I started baking at six. After a couple successful boxes of Jiffy corn muffins, I upgraded to scratch and never looked back.

                                                                                                                                                                    As for real food, I was eight when I made my first standing rib roast, with baked potatoes and frozen baby peas. This is an extraordinarily easy meal...but it hits the wow factor. And, the house smelled heavenly when my parents came home from shopping.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. Filet of Sole Veronique for a school project in eighth grade. I had to bring a dish representative of part of my heritage (French). Cannot begin to fathom why I chose this dish or where I found the recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. I think I was about 8 or 9, I was at my dad's house and I made either ground or diced lamb with apricots. It was decent. My dad was supervising- I'm not sure where we got the ideas from, he had a lot of cookbooks and I liked to read them. Soon afterwards I started making "cream cheese eggs" from the JOy of Cooking for our breakfast, which I was allowed to do alone. It was a lot of cream cheese and butter with slow cooked scrambled eggs cooked in a double boiler with some seasoning. Quite good but very heavy. Just makes me realize I was into cooking from an early age.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. I was around 7 years old when my mom started to teach me and haven't turned back yet :)

                                                                                                                                                                          1. I was 'helping' as soon as I was old enough to see over the counter. But always supervised.

                                                                                                                                                                            That is until my Mom was late getting back from an errand and we were getting ready for a church potluck. I was 10 and knew she wanted to make a lemon poppy seed cake which needed to be cooled before we left. So I just made it. Mom came back and she was so proud of it. She gushed about the whole time at the picnic.

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                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Crockett67

                                                                                                                                                                              That would be cool - I'm sure she was impressed - I would be! (My pups have no interest in cooking. Alas.)

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                Thanks! Yeah, most of my peers are not so hot for cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. I don't remember cooking exactly, but remember doing a taste taste between butter and margarine with my father when I was about 7 or 8 and knowing which mashed potato dish had the real butter. He tried to convince me that I couldn't tell the difference, which I could.

                                                                                                                                                                              I knew then that my palate was "different" than most kids.

                                                                                                                                                                              And I didn't help my mother cook, becaus she never really liked to cook. In my early teens I started to venture in there alone. I felt at home, without even any cookbooks. :) Still do.

                                                                                                                                                                              www.saffron215.blogspot.com

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                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: mcel215

                                                                                                                                                                                Seven or eight. I was a 'Tender Foot' boy scout and had to make a 'camp fire' meal that could be wrapped in tin foil (the 'tin-foil dinner) and put in the fire. I remember to this day how delicious it tasted. A thin sliced potato/carrot and onion and a hand full of ground elk, a spoon full of home made butter, salt and pepper. Slow cooked at the edge of the fire with the other boy scout's tin foil dinners. Special memories. We all got our 'badge'.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                                                                  We were subjected to "hobo dinners" as we called them -- and a troop leader who had no idea how to tell if they were done, nor how to cook them evenly -- which means we ended up with half-scorched foil packages containing hamburger and Veg-All burned beyond recognition on one side, raw and cold on the other side, and about two bites of something that was at least somewhat edible.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Breakfast was almost as good -- eggs broken into a hollowed-out orange peel, then cooked just until snotty and lukewarm

                                                                                                                                                                                  I still adamantly refuse to camp.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. My mom came from the philosophy of "help ruins my cooking" - so I really didn't learn how to cook until I was 14. I spent a summer with a set of Moosewood cookbooks and learned from them. Despite no longer being a vegetarian, that remains what I'm most comfortable cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. My sister and I started baking at an early age - I can't even tell you when we started cooking or what my first dish was! Yesterday I made a fish recipe I remember my mother making when I was a kid.