HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

When you were starting out in the kitchen what did you make?

What were some of the dishes you made when you were first learning to cook? Or how about right before you "properly" learned to cook? Any particular things you were super proud of, or any epic failures?

I remember I made a lot of classic American food like meatloaf, shepherd's pie, lasagna, casserole and chili (even though I'm Chinese). In retrospect they were quite complicated for a beginner, especially considering a lot of them also required multiple steps, sides, etc.

How about you?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. flank steak marinated in Kraft Italian salad dressing

    quiche Lorraine

    stuffed mushrooms

    sauteed mushrooms

    meat sauce for (usually) angel hair

    coquilles St. Jacques

    chili

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jay F

      I did the flank steak too; in the early seventies, but I used FRENCH dressing.....the orange one from Kraft.

      But sometimes things from Family Circle or Woman's day, 'cause that's what my mom had. I remember a tuna casserole with a mashed potato and mayo topping! By high school,I did some Galloping Gourmet.

      My crowning glory was a strawberry sorbet and some sort of cake roll with an apricot jam and cream filling.

    2. I'm in my late 70s, and the only food that I can think of is chili. My mother never made it, so I had to learn how to do. It has become an obsession as you probably surmised from my user name. I grow potent chiles is a small garden, and freeze the pods to be used all year long.

      Chili is not only for Super Bowl Sunday or cool weather. It is a year round meal. When my wife of almost 55 years goes out with the 'girls' for lunch, and comes home not wanting to cook dinner, chili is taken out of the freezer, defrosted and heated in the microwave for dinner.

      1. I started cooking at around age 4. The first thing I really remember "making" was a mini apple pie, using scraps of my moms pie dough and leftover over apples.

        After that it was the usual things kids first learn to cook-scrambled and fried eggs, pancakes, french toast, grilled cheese, brownies, cookies, etc.

        By age 6-8 I was routinely making my own breakfasts and lunches as well as cooking dinner for the family. By that time there wasn't many everyday/basic meals I didn't know how to cook. When left to my own devices I would experiment with more elaborate dishes from my parents extensive cookbook library.

        1. I taught myself to cook early in my first marriage in the early 1970s, using the Good Housekeeping cookbook.

          London broil, rice pilaf, & mushrooms
          Chicken paprikash from the back of the Franco-American chicken gravy can.
          Beef stroganoff; the meat was rarely up to the dish - mealy and/or tough, and the sauce, gloppy.
          Breast of veal stuffed with rice peas & mushrooms - breast of veal was inexpensive then.
          Baked ziti - we ate a lot of this, and I frequently had a casserole of it in the freezer.
          Spaghetti & meat sauce
          Pork chops with a bread, apple & raisin dressing around them, baked.
          Of course, that was the high-end of the menu; hamburgers, hotdogs, canned beans, boxed macaroni and cheese were in regular rotation (we were on a tight budget). And yes, we ate Rice-A-Roni.

          My most memorable and spectacular failure has been chronicled elsewhere on this site: Shrimp Casserole Harpin. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9749...

          1. Dry..... overcooked aka well done pork chops :(

            London broil (or other top sirloin) with an asian marinade

            chicken basted with bbq sauce in the oven

            spaghetti with meat sauce

            1. I learned pretty much all my basics from my grandmother (Dad's mom). She was a little, spark-plug of a lady with a wicked sense of humor and a GREAT home cook... unless she decided to cook LIVER!

              I got a very solid foundation for cooking all kinds of everyday food... can't remember her making anything remotely "fancy".I learned how to make soups... veggie/beef, navy bean with ham bone, split pea with ham bone, and turkey noodle from left-over T-day carcass and scraps.

              One of my favorites was her simple, baked chicken breasts... the part SHE liked, she was cooking, so she picked the parts. Just S&P on a baking sheet in a HOT oven till skin was crispy & brown. Lesson... even if slightly over-cooked, bone IN chicken doesn't tend to get super dry or tough.

              She made "jelly" from Concord grapes in her back yard. Actually more of a jam, but yummy. We grands had to battle yellow jackets in late summer to pick them. She's fill sink with water and we would wash and pick off stems... ya didn't have to be terribly precise with this step cuz everything go strained... a few stems and most likely BUGS were removed eventually. She's she'd simmer a BIG pot full till everything was totally soft. She'd strain off juice... FABULOUS with a little sugar over ice. The juice went back into the pot and the stuff strained off went thru her trusty Foley Foodmill. All THAT liquid was strained thru cheese cloth... the foodmill did break up some seeds, so second strain got rid of unavoidable grit. Probably about 1/2-whole gallon of juice SLOW simmered down with a LOT of sugar till "done"... thickly coating a spoon. She'd put in canning jars, pour some melted parafin wax on tops and stored on a shelf for EVER.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kseiverd

                I, too, learned to make soup from my grandmother. Also bread, meatloaf, fried chicken, pot roast, "stewed" chicken, baked chicken with rice. The cooking gene skipped a generation... my mom was a good cook, but didn't like it much.

                Grandma had Concord grapes, too! I would always wind up with purple hands and purple smears on my face on jelly making day. We also "put up" lots of corn, green beans, tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, blackberries, apples and what she called pear honey (made from hard, cooking pears).

                I'm putting up butter beans today (not something we ever had in Missouri). Thanks Grandma for teaching me!

              2. My mother was a good cook, but she cooked plain farm food - meat and potatoes, beans and cornbread, vegetables she canned, lots of baking from scratch. I learned to cook all those things at a young age, but when I left home for college I did not cook again until I got married.

                Then when I started cooking on my own, at age 25, I made the exact opposite kind of food, and because it wasn't something I had ever learned to make, it wasn't very good. For example, I made a lot of pasta (which we never had at my parents - my dad considered it "foreign food") but I always either over or under cooked it, and never seasoned my pasta water, and frequently burned my sauce. I couldn't cook rice either, somehow it was mushy but undercooked at the same time. I made London broil in Italian dressing, and I cooked it to death. I bought a fancy spice box at a pretentious gourmet grocery and proceeded to put cumin and tarragon in things that cumin and tarragon were never intended to be in. And I remember I made "impossible pie" all the time, because my husband liked it and the Bisquick box had a bunch of different ones on it. I quit making that when I tried the recipe for taco impossible pie and microwaved the hamburger, forgot to drain it, then mixed with taco sauce and baked and when I served it we couldn't decide if the disgusting pink juice in the pan was blood or taco sauce!

                Soon after that I became a Martha Stewart fan (it was the 90's!) and bought one of her cookbooks and it was a revelation for me. My mother had never used a cookbook and while I owned some, I had primarily just read the ingredient lists then winged it. I realized there were rules to cooking, and once I learned them my cooking improved greatly. Then I started watching Food Network (on maternity leave) and at that time, they actually taught cooking, so I am now a MUCH better cook. I still cook very different food than my mom, much lighter and lots of ethnic food, but I do occasionally make some of her dishes and enjoy them.

                5 Replies
                1. re: littlemissmuffin

                  Hi littlemissmuffin,

                  Your whole second paragraph was me, too at that age. Like you, growing up, we quite literally never had rice or even a taco. Midwest meat and potatoes all the way when I was a kid.

                  So naturally, out on my own, I overcooked everything and scorched was just another flavor. For years, the only rice I dared to make was Rice a Roni. :-D

                  Duffy

                  1. re: littlemissmuffin

                    I think it's so sad that there are very few teaching shows on Food Network now. Barefoot Contessa is good but they repeat old shows too much. I did learn a lot from them before.

                    1. re: walker

                      We were just talking about this earlier while watching Good Eats, they need more shows like that.

                      1. re: On_yun

                        I did a lot of things like tacos, spaghetti and meatballs/sausage, stir fries and basic grill items. All sides came from boxes like rice-a-roni, bagged pastas with sauce (just boil and add milk and powdered sauce).

                        We ate out a lot the first three years because of our work schedules and lack of cooking skills.

                        Then we moved and our kitchen had room for a TV. I started watching food network. Rachel Ray, Mario Batali, Ina, and Alton Brown taught me to cook. So I agree, it is a shame FN doesn't have quality how-too shows anymore.

                        As annoying as RR can be, to someone like me who had ZERO clue how to cook, she was a great resource for me at the time.

                        1. re: cleobeach

                          "As annoying as RR can be, to someone like me who had ZERO clue how to cook, she was a great resource for me at the time."

                          I heard an interview with her a couple of years ago on NPR with Terry Gross, and it made me understand what she was doing better than I had before. She had started out doing food demonstrations and later cooking classes (at Wegman's, I believe)in upstate New York and she encountered so many people who had NO idea what to do with an artichoke or asparagus or whatever, that she realized that there was potentially a big audience for very basic friendly instruction in cooking. Also she said that their single criterion for whether an ingredient was readily available was, could you buy it at Price Chopper. Every one in a while Food Network will rerun one of her very early shows and it's depressing to see how charming and low-key she is - how much less of a Big TV Personality.

                  2. I started with very simple dishes, just making tuna salad or potato salad.

                    Then did the basic dishes that my mother prepared, meatloaf, roasted chicken, American chop suey, roast beef.

                    I loved to watch Julia Child, but never really did bake much from her shows way back then.

                    Then around 1975, I bought a new Cookbook that my friends were raving about, The Joy of Cooking. It transformed me, because there were step by step instructions (even though I hated those ribbon page flippings during a recipe) and I was a stay at home mother, I could spend most afternoons in the kitchen prepping a very gourmet meal. I also paid attention to Julia more, I had a MIL who was a fabulous Italian cook and I made everything from scratch and dinners ranged from beef hearts a la pizziola to pate a choux with raspberry cream, drizzled with chocolate. I loved cooking home made meals for my family every night.

                    Now though, I much more of a basic cook, as my family has grown and gone. So I do lots of stir frys and salads in the summer and my winter fare is mostly roasted vegetables with a small amount of protein.

                    www.saffron215.blogspot.com

                    1. My parents would have these little cookbooks around simple themes like "cheesecakes", "cookies", "candies". They were well illustrated. I started cooking around these making desserts with adult supervision at around 10 year old? Give or take 2-3 years?.

                      Starting by making dessert was a good idea since there were less pressure to succeed because its not a critical component like a main course. You could also make it often off hours and keep it for supper in case of success.

                      Epic failure: Mothers day and I was around 10. Decided to make brownies. Didn't read the recipe well and put 3/4 cup baking powder instead of 3/4 tablespoon. My sister asked me what was wrong with my brownie base as is kept making bubbles. I was convinced I followed the instructions to the letter. The brownie caught fire in the oven, much to my mother's dismay.

                      Failure #2: My parents decide that I am old enough to stay by myself and leave for a weekend telling my where food was at. We had these frozen chicken tournedos pucks in big boxes. The stove also had an electric "fake" grill. Not knowing about the concept of "defrost", I took the frozen puck and put it directly on the hot grill. I remember being completely confused by the while goo of an ugly puck with a frozen center. Luckily I could do something else.

                      Early success: Girlfriends. It was so fun to try to impress girlfriends with good food I made myself during those early days. I remember making a killer lemon cheesecake for the birthday of one. I made chicken in a white wine cream sauce in another early relation and was doomed to make the same recipe each time I visited her because she could not cook for herself. At the end I'd make several batches for the week and she'd freeze them for later. Told her I knew how to make other stuff but she would not hear of it. I still like to cook for other people to this day, gets the same kick out of it.

                        1. re: sweetpotater

                          If we're talking when I first moved out of the house, that would be me as well. Wasn't cooking Mom's style of food much (aside from rice and salad and raw vegetables) since I had become a vegetarian. Veggies with tofu or tempeh with too much tamari over brown rice. Or steamed veggies over brown rice with melted cheese on top. Falafel, pasta. Also I went through a period of trying to cook all those hideous "loaves" from Recipes for a Small Planet topped with gravies made from those Hain/Loma Linda packets. The kind of thing that would make prisoners complain to Amnesty International. And even at that I was still considered a good cook in my circle - not surprising given how many of these vegetarians were somehow sustaining human life on nothing but pizza, beer, pretzels, and peanut butter sandwiches. Or vegetarian versions of the kind of five-can-casseroles you don't encounter otherwise outside of the White Trash Cookbook.

                          The big turnaround in my cooking and eating came through my gradual discovery of some better cookbooks. The revelatory ones for me were The Vegetarian Epicure (oh, that mac and cheese! still my favorite) and Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking.

                        2. Hi tinabeans,

                          I made a lot of spaghetti, chili and mac and cheese. They were pretty much all I knew how to make back then. I'm 60 now.

                          I was proud of my spaghetti, though my current recipe for sauce is nothing like my old one. I recall the first time I made it for my parents. Mom came into the kitchen, watched for a bit, then told me "You're doing it wrong." What? She said, "That's not how I taught you to make it."

                          I had to laugh and confess that I'd never been a big fan of her spaghetti and preferred the stuff from the box with the little can of sauce that she made when she was in a hurry. Kraft, IIRC. It even had a little foil packet of grated parm.

                          Mom loves my cooking now. And my spaghetti is still nothing like hers.

                          Duffy

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: DuffyH

                            OMG your post just reminded me of a supermarket abomination - Spatini*.
                            Some may recall it; it's no longer in retail outlets, only food service. A spice/flavoring/thickener packet that you added to tomato paste and water. Gahd, it made the most dreadful sauce. A few steps up from Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee, but only just.

                            I used it way, way back when. Then I thankfully learned to make the real deal.

                            *Salt, Sugar, Dehydrated Onion, Potato Starch, Spices, Maltodextrin, Garlic Powder, Beet Powder (Color), Dextrose, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Partially Hydrolyzed Cottonseed and Soybean Oils, Guar Gum, Carrot Powder, Modified Corn Starch.

                            1. re: mcsheridan

                              Hi mcsheridan,

                              Oh, gag, no! This box had thin spaghetti, a can of ready-made sauce and a packet of parm. All you did was cook the pasta, heat the sauce and toss it together. Now i'm not saying the sauce was good, just that child me liked it better than Mom's. Hers was on the thin side, while I prefer a thicker sauce.

                              I searched for it about 10 years ago to see if it was still available, but alas, I think the miles of jars of sauce have driven it from the shelves.

                              Duffy

                              1. re: DuffyH

                                That boxed spaghetti is still available. I got one somewhere a few years ago and gave it to my 25 year old son. I had told him about my coworker's husband who wouldn't eat any spaghetti but that boxed stuff, and I wanted my son to have the experience. Though I forgot to ask him if he ever made it!

                                1. re: DuffyH

                                  Oh, I know you were referring to a different product altogether. Your post just reminded me of that awful mix. We also had your box dinner when I was a child. Ugh.

                                  1. re: mcsheridan

                                    kitchengardengal and mcsheridan,

                                    It's funny, looking back on childhood foods. So many make us gag now. But boy were they tasty then!

                                    Threads about them make for some of my favorite reading here on CH. :-)

                              2. re: DuffyH

                                This reminds me of the Chef Boy R Dee pizza kits we would make once a year or so when I was growing up. Sauce from the little can and the dough spread all over a rectangular baking sheet industrial-style. We were making real pizza!

                                1. re: ennuisans

                                  I remember those! I always wanted to try them but pizza was too exotic to be made at home. We had Shakey's for delivery, so it was all good.

                                  I remained frightened by pizza until just a few years ago. But we always had really good pizza joints, so again, it wasn't a big deal. Yeah, I'm a wuss, I know.

                                  1. re: ennuisans

                                    Those chef boy r dee pizza kits made for the best drunk food. We used to make them in college. A few years back we rented a beach house with friends and got to talking about them. A quick trip to the grocery store and we were going down memory lane....

                                    1. re: cleobeach

                                      <A few years back we rented a beach house with friends and got to talking about them. A quick trip to the grocery store and we were going down memory lane....>

                                      Those impromptu ideas make the most fun, don't they? :-)

                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                        Absolutely the most fun!

                                        Someone referred to it as "puke pizza" because of the smell of the dried cheese. We were all piled in this old van chanting "PUKE PIZZA! PUKE PIZZA!" as we pulled out of the grocery store's parking lot.

                                2. Chicken.

                                  Julia Child taught me how to cook it.

                                  1. I started out with chili.also my mom's potato salad(hers was epic

                                    1. Well, I was five years old. I was following my mother's instructions - she was sick in bed and she yelled out instructions for me from the bedroom.

                                      I made cooked-to-death hamburger patties, fried; gravy from the hamburger fat and whatnot; boiled to death potatoes; boiled to death veggie that might be peas or carrots or rarely corn. That was six days a week. On the seventh, roast chicken with everything else I mentioned above minus the hamburger patties. It certainly wasn't good food, but it was what my father wanted, so that's what we ate.

                                      I started baking around the same time with my sister, two years older. We did cakes, cookies, and bread pudding mostly. Pluma moos and other foods from our Mennonite heritage. And they mostly came out good. We used a family cookbook that was reliable.

                                      And we helped my mother with her canning and bread baking from when I was around 5 years old as well.

                                      When I was older - say, 12 - my sister and I started branching out into other foods. Pizza, lasagna, other pastas.

                                      1. I misread the headline as "When you were making out in the kitchen what did you start". My reply might have excited the Mods, so I'll leave it unposted.

                                        1. Rice was the first thing I learned how to make. Then a really simple pasta with oregano & butter. I moved from the. San Fernando Valley to Edinburgh, Scotland. The difference in food was amazing.

                                          1. Pasta sauce - gravy.

                                            When I first moved to San Francisco my roomates and I were so broke we had pasta at least 4 times a week. We would take turns making the sauce each nigh. Everyone ttrying to out do the other.

                                            Prevous to this (now almost 20 years ago) I was from one of the flyover states - I had seen cloves of garlic but had no Idea how to cook with it we only had garlic powder where I come from(I sh&T you knot).

                                            Somewhere along the way, I learn to really like cooking. As I didn't have room for power tools I bought All Clad cookware and Henkels knives. I took too watching cooking shows on Saturday (pre food channel) and trying things out.

                                            I do pretty well in the kitchen now days.. the All Clad cookware I bought is some of the best money I have ever spent:-)(you will only need to buy it once!)

                                            1. I started cooking in college, and many of my friends were also interested in learning how to cook plus were vegetarian. One of those friends made me eat raw onions and shredded cheddar melted into some refried beans and jarred salsa with tortilla chips, and that made me want to one-up her.

                                              I had one of those *tiny* studio apartments with half a fridge and maybe two feet of counter space plus two burners that I shared with my boyfriend. I first did vegetarian chili (sacrilege to Texans, I know), but it filled up a bunch of my friends along with some Wisconsin beer. I also tried to make some spoon bread, but it collapsed like a sad midwestern souffle left out in a thunderstorm somewhere once one of my friends slammed the door upon entering my apartment.

                                              I then made hot stuffed peppers with a homemade tomato sauce accompanied by fresh corn risotto, which, at that point, was one of my proudest accomplishments. Then, (so I thought), I made up the idea of buying baguettes, slicing them crosswise, and topping them with homemade tomato sauce, goat cheese, and finely chopped artichoke hearts. That bruchetta made my friends like me even more, as it was quite tasty.

                                              I also made a lot of dishes with lentils and veggies, lentils and harissa, beans and veggies, and so on.

                                              Now, I know how to make a lot of things, including meat, but it is really tantalizing to revisit these memories. Thanks, tinabeans, for the memories! I never would have thought about those first cooking experiences if you wouldn't have posted!

                                              1. When I was in college in summer school I had to start doing my own cooking. This is what I came up with (which I thought was really clever)

                                                Put some frozen veggies in a small pot with a little water.
                                                Lay a sausage on top.
                                                Simmer until done.

                                                Meanwhile, slice a bread roll in half, and butter it. Put in a frying pan to toast.

                                                Have some ice cream or melon for dessert.

                                                1. When I shared an apartment with a friend after HS, we decided to go vegetarian. I'd forgotten all about it till reading this thread.

                                                  I remember our quick and easy after-work dinner often was a tomato and Velveeta sandwich on whole wheat Toast.

                                                  1. Popovers! On a daily basis. My family still talks about the mess. I started baking when I was seven or so, because I asked for an Easy-Bake Oven and my mom led me into the kitchen and pointed to her double oven.

                                                    When I was nine, my parents divorced and my mom went back to school and worked full time, so I started making the family dinners. Things like baked chicken and rice, pork chops, hamburger "stroganoff". I read the cookbooks we had (the enormous "Gourmet" double volume set, for example) and watched PBS on Saturday mornings for the cooking shows. I didn't know enough to be intimidated by any recipe so I just sailed right in to cooking.

                                                    But oh, those popovers!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: auburnselkie

                                                      " I asked for an Easy-Bake Oven and my mom led me into the kitchen and pointed to her double oven. "
                                                      I had no idea my mother had a twin sister.

                                                    2. scrambled eggs when I was maybe six or so. then I remember making these jello-cream cheese-canned fruit concoctions that were very popular with my family. boxed cake mixes. in college, made stuffed cornish hens with all fixins in the RA's kitchen - pretty impressive at the time. in my first apartment, toast with one of those boil-in-the-bag sliced turkey & gravy, sliced tomato & melted cheese was quite gourmet! I'm 60 now & go for scratch cooking as much as practical - no more boil/nuke-in-bags for me, unless it's something I made & froze!

                                                      1. I learned the basics of cooking from my mother. When I was out of college and living on my own I was cooking food I learned from mom, foods such as fried pork chops, chili, bolognese sauce, a family hotdish recipe (it's a Minnesota thing), and other basics. I'm referring to dinner meals and not breakfast stuff, although learning how to properly cook eggs is probably the first, and most important thing a cook should learn. Learing to cook eggs will help a cook to learn other techniques.

                                                        I actually learned more cooking skills from watching television cooking shows than I did from watching mom. I guess my reason is that when I was watching her, I was not intentionally watching to learn new skills. I will say this about learning to cook from TV cooking shows, unless a person already has a love of cooking and a desire to learn, watching TV won't help because it will be a chore and not an enjoyable thing to do.

                                                        1. Something I made a lot when I moved out, really the only thing that tasted good, was pork chops I'd dusted with flour that I'd fry in oil, add a ton of sliced onions, then I'd add white wine and continue cooking till the chops were done.
                                                          Maybe not the best way to cook chops but my boyfriend at the time liked them and so did I.
                                                          Made a lot of pasta too, often using Liptob pasta sides as training wheels.
                                                          I enjoyed cooking but didn't really do any research or learn any techniques till I got married, started watching the food network, and found Chowhound.

                                                          1. *A lot* of boneless, skinless, chicken breasts. I've since realized other types of meat are tastier but I'm proud that I can turn a typically, dry bland meat into something juicy and delicious!

                                                            1. Mostly the same food I grew up eating. My Mom was a pretty good cook and kept a lot of spices around and let me "play" with them when I was a kid. I didn't have any sisters and being the youngest I helped out in the kitchen quite a bit. We raised chickens, rabbit, ducks, geese, turkeys, and beef. Not to mention a good sized vegetable garden and fishing during the summer, and game meat here and there. Food wise I had it made as a kid.
                                                              I had a dark period when I was working all the time and ate out mostly but made a lot of canned soup, frozen burritos, pizza, ramen, and fried stuff.
                                                              I'd go to a restaurant that had real food every once in a while and found that what I was craving was vegetables and simple meat. I remember I went to the store and picked up a pork roast popped it in the oven, made gravy with the drippings, boiled potatoes, and zucchini. We used to grow the best zucchini and sell them when I was a kid. Anyway, I bought a Dean and Deluca cookbook and started making stuff out of it along with the stuff I grew up on. This was in my late twenties and I've been cooking ever since when work allows. Nothing fancy just what I consider good food.
                                                              Learning to use wine in cooking was a success, a good red sauce, and shepard's pie, two of my favorites still, and too many epic failures to count. Vanilla doesn't work with beef even if it's sweet. That one I didn't even feed the dog. I still don't know what I was thinking.

                                                              1. I had a head start like many others here at home with mom and both my grandmothers. Pot roast, mashed potatoes, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, home made soups, meatballs with sauce for pasta , meat loaf and much more.

                                                                At 15 I got a summer job at a day camp, in the kitchen , what seemed more like a server and floor cleaner. Part of my responsibility was to make about 100 sandwiches daily , for the campers who did not want the hot meal.

                                                                There was a chef in the kitchen with two helpers, who were college students. One of them had a car accident and was not able to work for two or three weeks. I drew the short straw and went into the kitchen. It was real hard work to make roasted chicken part for 500 kids, or 20 gallons of instant mashed potatoes, but it was great experience, because the chef taught me some basic cooking and knife skills.

                                                                So when I would be out with friends, I became the acknowledged cook and the first dish I made for a party of college friends was a huge tray of eggplant parm, with garlic bread and a big green salad with black olives, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce thin sliced cukes and of course Good Seasons Italian dressing.

                                                                Everything else just keep getting better from there.

                                                                1. I used to be much more adventurous because before I knew how to cook, I would pick an exciting recipe out of a book and follow it step-by-step. Now that I know the basics, and have a few favorites up my sleeve, I rarely pick something awesome out of a cookbook anymore. I want to start back up, but A) I'm cooking for one (my SO barely counts because he's the pickiest person on the planet and gets almost no enjoyment out of food) B) I seem to be on a budget a lot these days and C) I have a lot less time then I used to, so I go with the tried and true. I miss the days of just going for it, even if I didn't know what "it" was. I need to bring that attitude back!!

                                                                  1. I was 15 and the first thing I made was a yeast coffee cake. We were living in South America and I was dying for US-style coffee cake. My mother's interest in domesticity was uneven and the maid didn't have a clue so during summer vacation from school I shut Irma Rombauer (author of The Joy of Cooking) and me in the kitchen during siesta and followed directions. This plan worked well and I was hooked.

                                                                    1. As a small child i always helped my mom in the kitchen, but when i decided to become a vegetarian at age 11 that's when i started really cooking. My parents thought it was a "phase" (nope, still veg now!) and i could either eat side dishes for dinner or make my own meal. For some reason i remember an eggplant phase- i would layer eggplant and tofu in a casserole dish and bake it with tomato sauce. Also lots of baked eggs, lentil salad (which my whole family liked too), and veg/bean soups. We always had salad at dinner so i would make salad for everyone as well