How old were you when you started cooking?

angelaidJuly 12, 2012

What was your starter dish?

I was about 4, I know I hadn't started school yet. Mom let me put together a "no bake cheesecake" from a box.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I remember my mother bought me the Nancy Drew Cookbook (it was the 70's!) when I was around 8 or 9 years old, because I had shown an interest in cooking. From Kindergarten, I had begged for an Easy-Bake Oven, which never materialized.

I still remember carefully following the book's instructions for Cinnamon Toast. :-) I soon graduated to Scrambled Eggs and Pancakes, when she became more comfortable with me using the stove.

By the time I was 14 I was baking, and the family looked forward to deep dish pizzas from scratch almost every weekend. Mom, who is a fabulous cook and baker, always said she didn't like working with yeast, and was amused at how I took to it.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 3:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I remember the day, as if it was yesterday.
July 7th, 1970. Mother and I had just returned
from our honeymoon, and I realized that she could
not cook. REALLY . . . she couldn't even fry an
egg. Of course, I grew up with a mother that
made EVERYTHING from scratch, so I was at a loss
as to what to do. There was no other answer. . .
I learned to cook. By the way, Mother still doesn't
know how to cook, (I'm giving the sign of the Cross).

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 4:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Too old! It's funny, lbpod- your problem was your mother making everything from scratch, mine was that my mom followed every recipe to the letter... and the same recipes over and over. No excitement! And she was absolutely crazy about messes in the kitchen- if I did cook she would always be peeking over my shoulder. "You spilled, oh the dishes, oh, you're going to do them right away, aren't you?" In her defense I am an extremely messy cook :) But it did sort of take the fun out of cooking, and I never really made anything that wasn't microwavable until I moved out on my own. But then a whole world opened up to me, that may not have had I learned to cook from her.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 7:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My foray into " cooking" (making stuff to eat) as a child came about because of my 4H club. The first thing I remember was giving a demo on how to make tuna salad. We lived in rural Indiana. I was in the 4th grade, so maybe this was early 60's. The Ritz crackers I had to serve the tuna salad with were a Big Deal, as I recall. My dad always came through for me!!

Then I remember entering chocolate chip cookies in the county fair. Again, through the 4H affiliation.

Once I got older, I was often tasked with cooking for 5 brothers while both of my parents worked outside of the home.

One thing led to another. I cook because I like to eat. I don't always like to cook. And I hate to bake.

TMI, huh?


    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 9:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

About 30 y/o. Until then, I could cook Top Ramen, Hamburger Helper, and burritos. SWMBO claims she knew how to cook when we married, but I remember her on the phone to her older sister at Thanksgiving, asking what end of the turkey to stuff.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 10:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I was in the 7th grade and my mother had been widowed with 5 kids. She had a part time job and called on the telephone and told me to fry the chicken. She walked me through the cleaning and flour and frying. My first dish.
And yes, cooked most of our family meals until I left and always told that I was "messy".
But I am still a great cook and that was my beginning and I am actually pretty neat cooking now.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 2:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't remember specific cooking lessons, but I do recall when I was 5 or 6 it was my job to start the coffee percolator going in the morning for breakfast, and to make scrambled eggs and toast. By the time I was 9 I was starting to help with dinners as my Mom had to go out to work. When I was 10 we had a country pub where I learned more about cooking and soloed on my first turkey Sunday dinner when I was about 13/14.
Having seen clueless friends in the kitchen, I made sure DD could prepare simple meals by the time she was about 9. She used to have a ball playing "restaurant" for DH and me :-)

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 2:49AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I was about 4 when my folks got a new electric stove (before that it was wood fired - the late '40's) and I was so entranced by it that I put my hand on it when it stopped being red. Ewwwh. 6 weeks of mesh bandages and a whole lot of crying "poor me" did not deter me from the fascination of making raw stuff into yummy meals like grandma did. I watched my mom making dinner. Never a good cook she produced same old, same old, cheap but nourishing food from local gardens and meat markets - cracker filled meat loaf, spaghetti, chilli, vegetable soup, tomato soup, boiled potatoes and ham bits, canned tuna for salad, cottage cheese with a tomato chunked on it, boiled cabbage and sausages, eggs 10 ways from Sunday, homemade hard drop biscuits with Crisco spread, -- adding any cheese was a big wow factor --, lots of local vegetables yet herbs and spices did not live in her kitchen, nor do I think any spices lived there, so everything was plain and uninteresting and boiled to death! I asked if I could help cook (about 6 yrs old) and she said, "No, because daddy wants his food on the table the minute he gets home from work, but you can bake anything you want to because I don't have the time."

My wonderful aunt said, "If you can read and think like a scientist, you can bake." So, cookies, brownies, pies, cheesecakes, then on to a variety of wholesome breads and luscious cakes with unusual fillings and toppings, and even candies and brittles, and so much more! At 12 I was making cream puffs and eclairs with homemade puddings and ganache, while my grandma continued to make doughnuts into her 90's at the rest home she lived in, never once being asked to. Asking her advice she said, "If you like to cook, make what you will eat with pleasure. If it is for someone else because they asked you (or paid for you) to make it, then it is a chore."

That advice has carried me on to being a vendor at the local farmers market in my retirement years, but more so for turning down offers to make hundreds of baked goods every week for local coffee shops (on demand), and from restaurants with a whole list of desserts "to be frozen for later" (why?) because I would never see all the smiles from those people. Nah. I still want the one-on-one of "Here, I made this for you."


    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 5:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I must have been around 4 or 5 and was always hanging in the kitchen when my mother was cooking. To keep me out of the way, she crowned me the "Salad Chef" and from then on it was always my job to tear the lettuce, and c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y cut the tomatoes for dinner each night. She was a wonderful cook and though dinners like Chicken Paprikash and Nockerl were pretty common (she was born in Budapest) I never had what most people would consider typical dishes. By the time I got to school and started meeting other kids whose mothers didn't cook like that, it really opened my eyes. I learned to eat and make things like New England Boiled Dinner, Clam Fritters, American Chop Suey (which I thought was the most amazing thing I had ever tasted at 8 years old) and other more typical fare when one lived on the coast in Maine. My moms best friend used to can jars and jars and jars of veggies from their garden and she is the one that taught me the basics of canning and more traditional cooking. I really enjoyed all sorts of food, and it was fun for me to make things that my family and friends didn't usually eat.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 7:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I remember standing on a chair when I was too small to reach the sink and peeling tomatoes for Grandma during canning season. She taught me to bake bread when I was about 7, saying the more I handled it, the better it would be. She chose bread because she said I couldn't hurt it, no matter what I did to it. Since then I've realized that bread is very easy and the ingredients are cheap. (grin)

I was winning ribbons at the county fair by the time I was 10 with canned goods. My Grandma was one of those people who never used a recipe, it was all in her head and she cooked based on how it "looked" or "felt". Dad said she could make a good meal out of nothing and I think she could.

My girls were cooking with me by the time they were old enough to sit up on the counter in their footie pajamas and I started the grandkid with spoons and whisks at about that age.

Now Makayla is 8 and just won a blue ribbon at the county fair for her Frisian bread and a third place for strawberry rhubarb pie. Her brother is 6 and doesn't care how it looks, he'll bake just so he can eat it, LOL.

We also grow grassfed beef, has chickens (again) for eggs and garden, so we not only cook from scratch, we grow it.

I also make my own yogurt, pack sauerkraut, bake all our bread (when it's not a hundred freakin' degrees, sheesh) and make various sausages, so I like the entire process from seed to consumption.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 8:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As soon as I could get my arms up over the countertop - standing on a chair. I would guess I was around 6? My mother did everything from scratch, and as a working mom with 3 kids and a demanding husband, pressed me (the only daughter) into service as soon as possible. I was her prep cook, washing and peeling veggies, getting rice on the stove, cutting up everything to have it ready for her to cook.

She baked, but never liked it so I took that over by the time I was around 8 or 9. When my parents entertained, I made dessert. There were some catastrophes, but they were good learning experiences - how to disguise the flopped cake or the mousse that didn't set. I found out that (1) booze makes almost everything appealing; (2) a bit of decoration and the right attitude go a long way.

I never thought much of my service under Mom until I left home when I discovered that not everyone made their own noodles or mayo. I turned to books to learn techniques Mom didn't use, so I made preserves and canned and cured and smoked. Fortunately DH is open to anything I want to try - not everyone would eat home-cured prosciutto. He also tolerated the leg of pork hanging in the spare bedroom for 6 months. His family thinks I'm mad but he's happy so it's OK.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 10:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Speaking of messy cooks, it's National Kitchen Klutzes day :) I'm sure I'll celebrate unwittingly one way or another.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 10:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Don't remember when I first cooked anything or what it was, but was probably about 7-8 yo. My mother died when I was 8 (brother 5 & sister 2), and Dad's parents step right in to runu things... pretty much until we... or at least I was old enough for us to be left "home alone" when Dad was working shift work. My grandmother was a great cook... only thing she made that I didn't like and have NEVER made is LIVER!?! She wasn't a cookbook kinda person... most of her recipes were what I call "dump" recipes... just put in what you have/like. Learned how to make soup that way... veggie/beef, bean and split pea. Learned how to make crab cakes...ALWAYS shallow fried in cast iron skillet in bacon grease. Learned how to make jelly/jam when her Concord grapes were ripe and several of us grandkids had to battle the yellow jackets to pick them.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 10:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I was five or less...because I remember the house we were living in. I made cakes...from scratch. My mother would tell me each ingredient...and I would measure and mix it up. They had the consistency of stale cornbread but my daddy ate them, and bragged on how good they were.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 2:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh man. . . I was about 20 the first time I made anything besides ramen, burnt scrambled eggs, or cookies.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 6:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I was 19 years old when I married and that's when I learned how to cook. My poor husband. :) He's stuck with me for almost 43 years, though!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 8:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

18 1/2. When I got married, too young but that's what you did then. My Mom didn't cook much herself and she didn't want us to help her. We would be to messy and she didn't like messes. So I guess that's why I really don't like to cook today. My poor husband, he will eat anything. I do try and have made a lot of good meals but I still don't like to cook.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 9:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm not sure, but I was younger than 5 because we lived in an apartment and we moved to a house before I turned 5. I remember having an easy bake oven at the apartment. Moved to real cooking not long after that. My mom's mom didn't teach her to cook - her mom didn't want anyone slowing her down in the kitchen. My mom had to learn from an aunt after my mom married so she made sure her children learned to cook young. Mom wasn't a very adventurous cook but her food was good.

When my mom got sick during my mid-teens, I started doing a lot of the family cooking including being responsible for the Passover sponge cakes. There were some memorable failures the first couple of times: beating the egg whites first (because the recipe was in that order) and having them fall to much before assembling and the time I realized I'd forgotten something and quickly lifted the two piece tube pan out of the oven by the center piece instead of the outer one. That was a big mess!

As an adult, I learned a lot more about using fresh vegetables, spices and herbs and cooking from scratch.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 12:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When did I learn to cook? Hmmm

Well, not as a child, that's for sure. My Mom once told me that I would only be a kid for a short time & that my responsibility was to work hard at my school studies, my music lessons, & learn how to think & apply what I'd learned. Other than that, she said I was to enjoy my youth 'cause once I married I would be cooking for the rest of my life. She also said she would teach me to cook & sew after I married just like she had my two older sisters. Both of them were/are great cooks & seamstresses.

I was married on a September 1 and Mom was killed on September 21. Not much time to teach me to cook considering most of those few days I was on my honeymoon. My sisters both lived between 300 & 1,000 miles away so they were not around to teach me either.

I floundered around for a few years living on take-out & packaged stuff. One of my sisters is LDS & has seven children. She's always maintained a one-year food storage program. Even though I'm not LDS the food storage appealed to my desire for a bit of self-sufficiency. I was lost after Mom's death & looking for someway to feel grounded & secure.

I figured that I was a banker responsible for a large commercial/residential portfolio that definitely required critical thinking skills, I was accomplished at math, a good reader, & had become bilingual. I imagined I could learn to cook, if I tried.

Soooo, after a bit of reading, I ordered 1,000 lbs. of various grains, dried beans, powdered milk, and whatnot. When it arrived by UPS & was delivered in my driveway...I decided I was in trouble! My next purchases were the red plaid BC cookbook & a little brochure on how to use the grains that were now looming in my basement.

I started with bread and chili (imagine THAT - how creative with what I'd purchased!). Little by little, I became an accomplished baker, taught bread baking classes, became a county fair judge, etc. etc. I could cook a decent dinner but, frankly, I wasn't as accomplished at that as baking. It bored me to no end. I just wasn't interested.

Fast forward through a wise decision divorce, serious illness, & a Blessed gift of a new DH. My new (and current) DH commented his first wife...she didn't cook, didn't clean, didn't take care of the house. I vowed to get better at cooking - at least as well as I could bake. Man cannot live on bread & cookies alone! lol

Now, thirty years later I've become a fairly accomplished cook (and I still love to bake). I do have my favorite cuisines & have put the most effort into those dishes (Mexican being my absolute favorite). The cuisines I enjoy not so much (like Italian), well I can make a passable lasagna but there's no doubt that some of my New England Italian neighbors make better. Oh, well. Lucky for me, my DH is a Colorado boy & loves Mexican.

My learning to cook has been a self-taught process with no real mentor around. I sometimes envy those who learned to cook from their Mom or Grandma but then I'm also pleased that I "did it my way".

Now, illness has stopped me from cooking & I'm passing on what I've learned to DH. He's not exactly an enthusiastic student but he's willing. That's right where I started also...


    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 1:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I didn't do much cooking as a child. I mean I peeled and boiled potatoes for dinner as part of my chores, that sort of thing but I didn't cook much.

I really started cooking when I was 19. I was living in Montreal, sharing an apartment with three university students...all male. We were all dead broke.

None of them had any idea how to cook and offered me a deal. If I did all the shopping and cooking (dinner only) they would do all the clean up and I would not have to contribute towards the grocery fund. Sounded like a deal to me so.....I learned to cook. Thankfully they were not exactly gourmands so they were very appreciative of whatever I made for them. It was a fun year and I did learn to cook!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 2:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sigh, you're going to find out my 'history'. lol

I didn't learn to cook at all until I got married. Loved picking up magazines, and started to cook. Made chili sauces and pickles as well.

Marriage ended after 4 years, lived on my own for many, many years, but always cooked a meal for myself. I'm not one to just make a sandwich standing at the counter type thing.

Got married again, and the first few times I was making dinner he (now another ex! LOL) would come in and say, "I'd have done it that way" or just take over. He did this about 3 times and I said that he could do the cooking from then on. And he did, through our 10-year marriage.

With my sweetie for a number of years and he's so easy to cook for and is always up for anything I want to try. It's a joy to cook for us. Everything from baking our bread weekly, to trying a new recipe that caught my eye. Everything I've made has been a success. (No mushrooms or eggs and he's a happy guy).

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 8:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I love all these stories. It sounds like a movie trailer, but I've laughed and I've cried reading them. Thank you all for sharing.

I, too, was the salad maker in the household. We had a big wooden salad bowl, and I picked up from somewhere, probably my Dad, that you're supposed to rub the bowl with garlic before adding the salad greens. This was when I was either preteen and/or my early teen years. I also did some baking from scratch. My mother was more of a get the meat, a couple of vegetables, and a starch on a plate and get it served. My dad was more adventurous, but he didn't cook every day. He was more of a weekend cook. He loved to make chile, grill steaks (I've never tasted a better steak than what he made), and later on he started making things like mayonnaise. He had terrible heart disease, and I think, besides the actual disease, his strict heart diet tortured him to death, because he loved the foods that were banned from him, such as salt and fat. My Mom would have frequent parties, and she did go all out for those. One dish she made for her parties she called Seven Boy Curry. I Wish she had taught me how to make that. She did teach me her favorite pasta dish, with the blue cheese. I don't know how to spell it, but phonetically it's Pasta Shoota. Her Italian art teacher taught her to make it.

I guess I digressed to my parent's history rather than mine. Aside from the baking and salad making I mentioned earlier, I didn't really start cooking until I was married at 20. DH already knew how to cook, so he taught me a lot of things, but I also taught myself using The Joy of Cooking, which my parents gave me as a wedding present, as my textbook.

It's funny - when I started having kids, I became more like my Mom, just being happy to get something on the table for them that was nutritious. It wasn't until they were grown that I started experimenting with cooking, and enjoying it again - other than baking. I've always loved baking.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 10:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If 'cooking' and 'baking' are separated,
It's hard to say.
I honestly don't remember when or what
I first actually 'cooked'.
My help was always needed with the livestock
And in the fields
More than it was needed in the house.

I first started baking when I was around 8 or 9,
(I think).
And that was because I wanted to,
and begged my mother to let me try.
If I remember right,
My first attempt was biscuits.
I thought they were wonderful,
But my mother made fun of them,
Because they were biscuits,
made with baking powder.
She only liked (and made)
yeast rolls.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 12:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This has been a fun thread to read!

When I was a child, I don't remember helping my mom too much in the kitchen with meal preparation. I did have an Easy Bake Oven and made little cakes in it. This was about age 6 or 7.

The first real cooking I did was about age 12 or 13 when I took my first Home Ec class in eighth grade. We had to make a nice dinner for our family - I chose spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, rolls, and there was probably a dessert. Our teacher had to come by, see our table set and see the food being cooked while we described everything for her - she didn't stay for dinner. After the teacher left, I was carrying over a plate full of spaghetti and sauce, Mom said something to me and I turned slightly to answer her.....the entire serving of spaghetti slid off the plate and onto the floor. A very memorable dinner!


    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 1:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When I started dating.

I realized that fancy cooking skills can be as effective as having an expensive Italian sports car in winning girls.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 11:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

dcarch, you rascal, you...

I'm separating 'cooking' from 'heating something up' or 'making something from a mix'. In the mid seventies I was in my early twenties and in school in New Orleans, and found myself making Hamburger Helper three times a week. (I couldn't afford to go out much, and when I did go out it was to some fairly inexpensive joints. At the time, you could get a plate of red beans and rice and a generous amount of French bread for 35 cents at Buster Holmes. RIP, Mr. Holmes; you helped many a struggling student.)

I decided I needed to change, so I bought a copy of Rima & Richard Collins' book 'The New Orleans Cookbook'. It was a perfect match for me; the book was detailed enough in its directions for a neophyte, and I was soon able to make everything from Chicken & Sausage Gumbo to something frilly like Trout Veronique. The book also gave me confidence: if you follow directions, something good will probably come of it. I've given dozens of copies of this book to friends, always telling them that this is the book that taught me to cook. (BTW, the first review on the Amazon site is by me.)

Here is a link that might be useful: new orleans cookbook

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 4:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

About 4-5 years old. My sister and I got an Easy Bake Oven type of cooking oven in 1955/56. We also stood on step stools and helped Mom mix things and roll out pie crusts. We would peel veggies and fruit and other basic food prep chores. We could make simple things like eggs and French Toast and oatmeal for breakfast. By the time we were 9 we could do a whole meal from soup to dessert and follow any recipe in the Betty Crocker's cookbook that was my Mom's bible for cooking.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 7:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The first food I remember making was Roly-Polies when I was about four. It wasn't until about a year or two ago that my cousin discovered this snapshot of me making them. I'd roll out the scraps from my mother's pie crust between two sheets of waxed paper. Then I'd spread it with peanut butter and cinnamon/sugar, roll it up, slice, and put on a cookie sheet for my mom to bake.

As an only child, I was my mom's sous chef (tipping beans, whipping cream, decorating cookies, etc.) and I learned a step at a time, always thinking it was fun. All the women in our family used to congregate at my aunt's house in the summer for a week or two of canning and freezing vast amounts of food for the year. I started as a tomato and peach skin peeler.

My dad and two uncles had boats so cleaning fish and picking crabs was the beginning of my seafood cooking education. My friends and I used to make little stoves out of potato chip cans and coat hangers and have simple cookouts on them. We'd also wrap potatoes in clay and roast them in a bonfire while we were ice skating and things like that.

My cooking skills progressed so that when my father was killed when I was 12 and my mother went to work full-time, I made most of the dinners for us. That's when I started experimenting with different kinds of soups and stews that could be heated up and eaten at any time.

When I was 16, I acquired a stepfather who was a wonderful cook (although a little heavy on weird stuff like souse and blood pudding that I'd never seen made before). Around then, one of the grocery stores offered a 12-volume set of the Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery and WOW, did my culinary adventures shift into high gear! We'd have a dinner of dishes from Denmark, followed by English jam tarts the next week.

I was fortunate to have a roommate for my first college apartment who knew how to cook just about anything. While our classmates were eating ramen noodles and hot dogs, we were having tasty meals on the same budget. We also used to prepare venison and other game dinners for hunters at a set price per head, which was our first commercial cooking venture.

So that's my youthful culinary history. Cooking has always seemed to be interwoven with other activities in my life but rarely played a major role in it.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 9:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I was 8 years old the first time I cooked a meal with out help. I cooked pancakes, heated the syrup,set the table, poured the milk before waking anyone to eat.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 12:10AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Matzo Stuffing
I've probably made matzo stuffing 3 or 4 times before,...
OT - spoon basket
So I am having some work done on my 'kitchen'. The...
To Fava or not to Fava?
For my cooking/recipe club, I'm preparing Braised Lamb...
Awesome Shortbread with Caramel and Dark Chocolate
I have picked up so many great recipes from this forum...
The Monkey Princess makes pasta and pies
The Princess has Italian grandparents on Dave's side,...
Sponsored Products
Juno Trac-Lites 50 Watt Baffle Brass Track Spotlight
$34.99 | Lamps Plus
Reverb Premium Office Chair in Gray
$299.00 | LexMod
Amba Jack J-D004 Plug-In Towel Warmer - J-D004 B
$176.00 | Hayneedle
Mia Bronze Three-Light Bath Fixture with Marble Grigio Glass
$391.50 | Bellacor
Darby Executive Desk
Denture Bottle Opener
$7.99 | zulily
Thermostatic Shower Bar Faucet, Rigid Riser, Handset & Square Head
Hudson Reed
Spring Air 300 Thread Count Overfilled Lunalux Mattress Pad
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™