Aug 29, 2009

Question: How or why did you learn to cook?

For those of you interested in cooking or baking, where did your interest come from? For me, the biggest influence has undoubtedly been my mother. Mom is a terrific cook! Many of my favorite recipes are ones that I got from her—dill bread, floating island, pot roast and vegetables, Parmesan chicken, peach pie, chicken salad with fruit, Parkerhouse rolls, tomato soup, and so on and so on. Mom not only makes food that tastes delicious, she also makes dishes that are beautiful. Growing up, we’d have a green salad with violet petals tossed in, floating island with caramelized sugar strands, chocolate almond pie with delicate chocolate leaves. I don’t have the same flair for aesthetics or even the interest in spending time on such things since I usually just cook for myself, but I do appreciate the efforts of others. Mom’s passion for food has certainly carried over to me.

Also, as mentioned in a previous post, I’ve always been interested in watching the creative process that is involved in cooking. I don’t think that I’m very creative myself as a cook, but I love to watch others cook, whether it is family members, friends, or the professional chefs on television.

Of course, I also love to eat food. One of the reasons I decided to learn to bake was that my mom didn’t bake cookies as often as I wanted to eat them, so I learned to make chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, gingersnap, and other cookies on my own. And then my interests spread from there.

And finally, there was an element of entrepreneurship that motivated my early attempts at cooking. With one of my friends in our Provo neighborhood, we set up a lemonade stand on the street in front of my house. But it wasn’t just lemonade. At different times, we sold homemade cookies, brownies, and suckers; frozen bananas; imitation pixie sticks (paper straws filled with dry Jello); etc. We certainly didn’t get rich from our efforts, but we did pretty well, and we had a lot of fun making things to sell.

So do any of you have stories to tell about how or why you learned to cook? Or maybe even why you don’t like to cook. Feel free to share your thoughts.


  1. Similar to you - it was Mom initially that inspired me to cook. I don't think I ever even questioned whether I would learn how to or even like to cook! I think it was just an expectation. Fortunately I have found that it is also something I really love. And like Mom, I am finding that I also demonstrate my love for friends and family through cooking. It is amazing how excited I get to fix some new great recipe that I think might be a winner with my family - and how I always have the urge to invite more people over to share in the yumminess.
    I feel like over the years I have come into my own when it comes to cooking. I am not the most amazing cook in the world - not very gourmet - and I don't experiment with new tastes as much as I could - but I feel I definitely know my way around the kitchen. After years of messing things up - I finally feel like I can get things right most of the time. And that feels good.
    I also think it comes down to having good recipes. And thanks to Mom and you - I have a nice collection of tried and true recipes.

  2. I learned to cook for the opposite reason - my mom didn't really like to cook, and wasn't all that good at it. I think she would readiliy admit that, but lucky for me, she also doesn't read blogs. Because she didn't care for cooking, she was always more than happy to have one of us take over the kitchen. She would even procure long lists of requested ingredients for me to experiment, and signed me up a couple of times for recipe mailing lists to give me new ideas.

  3. Thanks, Emily. I think you are an excellent cook. You've probably added more recipes to my collection than I have to yours over the past several years. I admire that you are always interested in trying new things. That's something I'm wanting to work on.

  4. I appreciate your comments, Kathy. I know quite a few people who start out cooking for the same reasons you have. In fact, it's a much more extreme situation than what you are talking about, but I think that you might like to read Ruth Reichl's memoir, Tender at the Bone. She is a former food critic for the New York Times. Reich's mother was a HORRIBLE cook. You wonder how her family survived her cooking! ;-) But the book is entertaining. Pick it up if you get a chance.

    Your mom, by contrast, was at least a competent cook and supportive of you learning, which is great.

  5. I think I heard an interview with Ruth Reichl on NPR awhile ago. It was pretty amazing. I'll have to look for her book at the library. Thanks for the tip.

  6. I started quite young. My mom didn't like to cook. Maybe because she was too busy, and maybe because ingredients were scarce.

    I was hungry, and like you...wanted cookies more often than anyone else was baking them.

    Creativity was the key word when I learned to cook. You had to make up something, based on the ingredients in the house. No shopping at the grocery store.

    Now I think I cook because it's a people connection, I love to eat, and also because food is beautiful - colors, textures, designs.

    Lately, I have gotten into the health benefits of certain foods and my palette has expanded.