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Ask The Readers: When Did You Learn To Cook?

I want to thank you all for taking the time to answer my question about dishwasher soap last week. I loved all the tips you gave. I can’t wait to try some of them to see if they solve the problems that I have been having.

Today, I thought I would ask a question about cooking, more specifically about learning to cook.

I grew up helping in the kitchen. My sisters and I spent many summers helping my mom can, freeze, and dry fruits and vegetables for us to eat during the rest of the year.

Growing up I peeled and sliced many peaches and pears, snapped more green beans than I can count, and pitted many cherries. I washed dishes, and occasionally made a batch or two of cookies, but it was not until I was about fourteen and my mom started working outside the home, that I really learned to cook.

My mom worked nights and my dad worked days. I was the oldest one at home at the time and my younger sisters and I were in charge of dinner.

Because of this I was forced to learn to cook during my teen years, but I did not enjoy it at all. Cooking was a chore for me. It was something that I had to do and I did not like it.

It was not until after I was married that I really started to love cooking. It became a hobby for me and I would spend many hours in the kitchenย experimenting and trying new things. The more I cooked, the more I loved it.

My cooking has changed a lot over the years, but I still love to cook and I still love spending time in the kitchen.

That is the summary of my cooking story, now I want to hear your cooking story.

Did you learn to cook as a child or an adult? Were you like me and helped in the kitchen when you were growing up, but you did not really learn to cook until your teen or adult years?

I would also love to hear if you love or hate to cook? Do you think of it as a chore or something fun to do?

I look forward to reading what your cooking story is.

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures


  1. I learned a little bit of easy stuff – roast and veggies, spaghetti and stuff like that when I was a teenager from my Momma. When I was 19 I moved out and for a year I called my Grandmother at each meal so that she could walk me through every step of anything I was cooking. Now I can cook nearly anything with or without a recipe and love trying new recipes.

  2. I have always said its inherited…I come from a long line of great cooks. I spent a lot of time with my grandma growing up…we baked more than we cooked and I bake as a relaxation time for me. My parents farm, we have crops and cattle so my mom was busy helping or running for repairs and I was in charge of meals when she was gone, Grandma would help when I was younger but then I took over completely when I was old enough. Then I babysat for a woman when I was in high school…she was feeding two sets of 4 rig guys…and I was the one making the meals. I like to cook big meals when we have people in.

  3. I can’t remember when I learned how to cook. I’ve been doing it since I was a very small child. In fact, by the time I was seven, my mom let me make cookies all by myself. (She figured it would be better for me to do it alone as the mess I was making made her “twitch”.) I remember having to take the recipe card out to her in the other room so she could read some of the cursive to me. The cookies turned out great by the way. ๐Ÿ™‚

    By the time I was a teenager, we (my siblings and I) were required to each plan and prepare in full one meal a week for our family during the summer months. I also enjoyed baking for fun quite a bit all year long. I always helped out in the kitchen year-round as well.

    As an adult, I really enjoy cooking for a crowd. I do get a little tired of the day to day chores. But, by and large, I like cooking a lot!! (It’s the cleanup that gets on my nerves and causes me to go out to dinner with everyone. LOL)

  4. I learned to cook when I was elementary school. I still have one of the cookbooks I got from the book order and remember going to a kids cooking class. And then there was Girl Scouts and learning to cook outdoors. Thanks for making me relive the memories!

    Now, I do a lot more cooking and baking for scratch. Most days I enjoy cooking. Last night when I did not get home from work until after 7, I was glad I knew what we were having and it was a matter of pulling it together. Today, I have homemade rolls rising, have made a small chocolate cake for desert and have just finished making the marina sauce for our lasagna tonight. Next up is making the ricotta cheese.

    My next goal is to impart more cooking knowledge to my son. He starts high school in the fall and I want him to plan and make one meal a week.

    Lynn, thanks for all the great information and for sharing!

    • @Shannon, Homemade rolls, chocolate cake, and lasagna sound so good! You have been busy today. I am trying to teach my son some cooking basics too, although he is only 9, so he is still a bit young. I think it is good for boys to know the basics too. Cooking is a skill that will benefit them for life.

  5. It wasn’t until I was married the first time that I started to learn to cook. 15 years later and I still am learning ๐Ÿ˜› I really only did the basics back then :easy casseroles, prepackaged food ect….

    It’s only been in the last year that I’ve really been cooking and learning to cook new things. I can’t say I love it but now that my confidence is getting stronger I enjoy more than I did.

  6. My earliest memory of learning to cook is with my Dad actually. I got this really cool super duper Secret Diary book when I was 10 yrs old. I was reading through it, and for Father’s Day they had this recipe in it for pancakes. Mom did not make pancakes. Not even a bisquick recipe. Only way I ever got pancakes is if we went out, and that was only on vacations (for breakfasts!) Come to think of it, I think it was a vaca with my Dad, that he took us to Denny’s for the first time!

    Anyway, I wanted to make these awesome delicious pancakes for Father’s day. I don’t remember lots of the details, but I do remember sitting at the table – talking about it. It was the morning of Father’s day, but I didn’t know how to cook. I was talking with Dad about the recipe, and the next thing I know Dad is pulling out flour, and other ingredients, and the griddle. And the two of us are figuring out how to make pancakes from this recipe. I was so thrilled and excited to be learning how to make something!!! We discovered the recipe wasn’t all that good, and we had to like quadruple if it we all wanted breakfast (family of 4!) but it really is what started my baking desire. I think Mom ended up coming out a little while later, seeing her husband and daughter in the throws of making breakfast!

    The next memory I have is learning to bake cookies. Mom finally agreed to supervise me while making cookies. After that, it was whenever I could manage to squeeze in a baking thing. It’s not that Mom didn’t want to teach me, but she just didn’t like baking or cooking herself (she has a love hate relationship with food and all things necessary with those things!).

    Eventually I pushed to learn how to make dinners! It’s funny to me that you say you learned as a Teen and that you hated it! I begged and pleaded with my Mom to let me cook dinners several times a week! Finally she relented, and for $3.00 extra a week – I started making dinner (plus clean-up!) I don’t know what she balked at! It is funny though, I didn’t know things when I started making dinner – like you need Taco Seasoning in the hamburger meat when you make Taco’s….so we ended up with plain hamburger! There were so many things that she didn’t tell me how to do – and I figured out and learned all on my own! Lucky for my husband I knew how to cook long before we meet, and he just loves my cooking!

    Love to bake, cook and try out new recipes. I don’t go off base too much (yet) but I’m starting to get a feel fo how to adjust things in a recipe that I’m making!

    • @Lynette, I look back on my teen years and I wish I had enjoyed it more because I think I could have learned a lot more than I did. But it really was a chore to me at the time and something I resented, I did learn a lot and it made it much easier on my husband when I got married that I at least knew the basics of cooking. I am so glad though that I learned to love cooking and that it is no longer a chore that I dread.

  7. i remember baking with my mom & grandma as a little girl, and as i got older, i learned to cook some of our family’s favorite recipes (lasagna, meatloaf, a special rice, etc.) after i graduated from college 4 years ago i would call my mom from the grocery store or kitchen alllll the time with questions. i got married 2 years ago & still do that occasionally but have become much better in the kitchen. ๐Ÿ™‚ i always love cooking! i prefer baking to cooking but i just like making our own food from scratch ๐Ÿ™‚ so much healthier, tastier and cheaper.

  8. I am still learning… lol. I’ve picked up some tips here and there from my grandma’s, mom, dad, mother in law, sister, sister’s in law… all over. I love reading your blog cause you give some good recipes and I feel like I can make the things you post. Thanks!

  9. I knew how to make popcorn and chocolate chip cookies when I got married 18.5 years ago. I figured out spaghetti, tacos, and one chicken dish for the 3 years I worked until I stayed home with our first. Once we lost my income, I felt like I should cook. But… what??? Thank goodness the Internet was coming around and I had some people email me recipes. I found a few sites. I still don’t really enjoy it, but I am thankful it is something I can do to bless my family. Ironically, the baby I stayed home with, now 15, is a total foodie and loves to play in the kitchen and tweak recipes for me. She helps with many of our meals, loves to bake and especially loves to grocery shop which I don’t get at all.

  10. In high school we were required to take home Ec for one year, and then the following year we could take a specialty of home Ec, and I chose cooking- unfortunately my class was made up of boys that were filling their days and really did not want to be there, so we never got much past brownies and a simple stir fry, when I was out on my own, it was fast and easy stuff-prob wasn’t until I was married that I really began to stretch my cooking wings as it were, now it’s almost an obsession when I have time and a chore when I don’t- and with two active boys, unfortunately that is more often than not. I would like to add that growing up we ate at restaurants a lot, we were fortunate to be able to afford to go out a lot- like 4 times a week and we were introduced to a big variety of different foods, I ate sushi at about 10 and french, Spanish, Indian and Chinese regularly, so I have no food issues!
    My mother did not cook often, and we were to be out of her way when she did, she did not grow anything or can anything, but when she did step into the kitchen to cook or bake- a masterpiece that Martha Stewart would be proud of came out of it, both in taste and presentation- she still makes the most awesome apple pie, miles high and just right on the sweet, the crust is perfect with little dough flowers, and she even makes beef wellington- despite the fact that she hasn’t eaten meat in 30 years. So… while she did not exactly “teach” me to cook, she did and still does inspire me.

  11. I learned to cook after I got married. I could barely boil water, so bought two cookbooks and just started trying recipes. Then learned a few things from neighbors or friends as we moved around in the military. I was too busy doing other things as a teen to pay any attention to cooking. Good thing I did learn, as I had 5 sons and they loved to eat a lot of food. Oh, those teenage years when they consumed huge amounts of food each day. I can’t say I love to cook because I’ve had to cook in such “cafeteria” quantities and just get good food out on the table. I must say that I am usually disappointed when I go out to a restaurant to eat. My hubby & I look at each other and know I could have made a better meal at home, and usually cheaper too. I guess eating out just gives me a break. I would recommend to anyone to just buy a couple of basic cookbooks and just go for it.

  12. Beulah Remedios says

    I came from a family where we always had a cook but when I was 17 years old my Mother sent me for cooking classes. She said you never know what the future has in store for you! Off and on with the help of the cook I would try a dish or two. Then I got married and came to the USA and I was all on my own with no mother or cook to help out. I think it was in me to try out various dishes and with my husband’s encouragement I did pretty well if I should say so myself! LOL! Today I cook all the traditional Goan dishes (since our ancestors came from Goa, India), Indian vegetarian, Chinese and now American dishes. Since our kids moved away it is just my husband and me, so sometimes I am not that enthusiastic about cooking, but if I am expecting company I get all the energy to cook. I am happy to say that it is rubbing off on one of my girls and I am hoping once the other one is married she will have the same enthusiasim though she does give it a try now and again. My daughter’s friends often ask me to start a cooking class for them.
    Cooking is something you must enjoy doing and yes I inherited it from my grandmother and mother. I love to try out someone’s recipe and then give it a little touch of me!

    Chef Mom

  13. I learned to cook after I was married. Dinner parties were very “in” but were very “out” if your culinary skills were non-existent ๐Ÿ™‚ However, it was not until I moved to Portugal I really enjoyed cooking and learned to improvise. My new year’s resolution for 2011 is to try a new recipe each week and record my success and failures on my blog. It’s proved a great challenge so far an my repertoire of simple but delicious meals etc has already increased. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you put your mind to it ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I kind was self taught. My mom didn’t really enjoy cookies by the time I came along. I am number 8 of 12 so cooking for that many people for so long would kind of burn someone out. I however thought it was fun. I would go out to our blueberry bushes and pick blueberries. Then I would come inside get out a cookbook and look for a muffin recipe to put them in. I would then have to hide them from all my other brother’s and sister’s because in our house food was gone in a flash. Anyways, so that is kind of what I did all along, just followed recipes. Now I venture out and experiment with my own recipes in my blog and have a great deal of fun. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.

  15. I was 19, and married, moving 800 miles from home. A Southern girl in the middle of a Kansas winter! Life was full of shocking moments. My mother never wanted anyone in her kitchen, so I didn’t learn to cook. That was 28 years ago. The internet didn’t exist. I dont’ cook like a typical southern woman, because I learned a lot of basic recipes from my military friends. Example, I don’t fry pork chops, even though my mother did. I bake them with mustard and seasonings, because my neighbor cooked hers that way. I didn’t know how to wash clothes or grocery shop, either.

  16. Mostly I learned in junior high in Home Ec class. My mother had no patience teaching us kids to cook (or sew, for that matter). She only would have us “cook” things that didn’t require much, if any instruction. So, I knew how to make ice box cake (it’s made by alternating whipped cream and graham crackers which are stacked on edge and covered with more whipped cream then allowed to set in a refrigerator at least 8 hours or overnight; cut on the diagonal, it looked like a torte). We would also make pancakes with my dad on the weekend.

    After junior high, I started teaching myself from reading recipes in my mom’s cookbooks. Once I was out on my own, I started taking a few cooking classes at the local community college (which my mother was very dismissive of as she thought all anyone ever had to do was read a cookbook).

  17. I grew up with the best of both worlds, my Dad was a cook (taught my Mom) and my Mom was a baker/decorater. My sister and I started out peeling potatoes and carrots and learning the basics in the kitchen. By the time we were 7/8 we could make pot roast and spagetti.

    When I turned 10 we were making dinner for our family of 4 on a daily basis. Mom got a job working nights and Dad didn’t get home until later. I’ve always had a love for baking and would do so whenever I got the chance. My fondest memory is of my Mom teaching my how to make roses out of frosting. The only part I regret is that I stuck with the recipes we knew and didn’t really experiment.

    When I moved out I survived on cup-o-noodle, instant mashed potatoes and fried egg sandwiches, couldn’t really afford anything else. After a few years I was finally in a place to expand my cooking knowledge and was calling my Grandmother for all of her homemade items. If you look in my recipe box you’ll find many a recipe with measurments of 6 handfulls of flower, about a dime size of salt and enough water until it comes together. I only wished I would have paid more attention when she was trying to teach me this in person, i’m a visual learner ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Kind of my mom started it, but most of her cooking was open this can and that can and viola! So I was cooking dinner at age 13YO, but . . . I really learned to cook when I was 3oYO and I was nursing my first baby. I watched hours and hours of The Food Network as I nursed. I am very thankful for that because it was less than a year later that my husband got his heart problems and I had to learn to cook everything from scratch.

  19. My mom was a perfectionist and found it was just easier to do things herself than to try and teach us how to do it. Due to that, the only kitchen education I got came during a short time in 7th grade home economics. When I got married, my husband taught me a little and I had figured out how to read a recipe, but did not really enjoy cooking and still relied heavily on processed foods. I went back to college when I was pregnant with #2 and took a food prep class that changed my attitude towards cooking completely. I learned how to use a knife properly and a variety of ways to cook (braising, roasting, stewing, etc), among many other helpful tips. I started experimenting more at home and as time passed became rather proficient in the kitchen. I no longer need to follow a recipe to the tee and instead use them for inspiration. My older girls, ages 8 and 10, begin learning kitchen skills 4 years ago and are capable of cooking entire meals, homemade bread, and all sorts of treats. I do not want them to lose out on the joy that comes from producing and serving something that brings such joy to others.

  20. I also learned to cook at an early age because of working parents. While I was “proud” of being able to fix meals, it was not a joy because of the pressure put on me to remember to get it started and ready by a certain time – still being expected to get homework completed and “supervise” a younger (by 5 years) sister.

    I do enjoy cooking now. My mom, my grandmother (her mother), and aunt (mom’s brother’s wife) were & are excellent cooks and especially bakers. Back in the CB days, my grandmothers handle was “Cake Baker”. She and my aunt made wedding cakes and along with my mom, all our family events usually had some Wilton inspired cake. We called my grandmother’s buttercream icing recipe – gold! I enjoy sharing the tradition of cakes with my children and in-laws.

    As for daily cooking, I enjoy it, but what I fix depends a lot on how much time I have and how many will be eating. Now that spring has arrived and I’ve started turning the dirt in my garden, I’m looking forward to getting back to better eating habits with lots of veggies & fruits, especially tomatoes. Can’t wait to make Fresh Tomato Tarts and also can tomato juice for drinking & sauces.

    Get out there and garden – it’s worth the effort!

  21. I’m almost 24 now, and I learned to cook when I was 19….right after I got married. ๐Ÿ™‚ My husband is better in the kitchen than I am, but I’m definitely still learning and getting better. The first year or so we were married we ate Hamburger Helper so much that I’m pretty embarrassed of it now. For the most part I enjoy the actual cooking, but I still get lost sometimes in the menu/meal planning part of it, especially since we are blessed with freezers full of meat (my father-in-law raises beef, pork, and chicken for the family) to use up. Other than consistently meal planning, one thing I’d love to improve on is being more creative in the kitchen. I’m very much a stick-t0-the-recipe girl and am always afraid I’ll mess something up by doing it differently. My hubby is just much more comfortable with winging it and doing things without a recipe. Maybe someday I’ll get there! ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Martha Artyomenko says

    I started cooking when I was about 6…..I fixed my first dinner on my own with only supervision at 7……my mom believed in teaching us young!!! When I was 12, she had a pizza business and I used to make the pizza for customers.

  23. You inspired me to blog more about this on my site! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I learned to love cooking for a “crowd” in my early teens, but still pray to find true joy in cooking for me and my husband. Though, now that my son is starting to eat with us as well it is a bit more fun for me.

  24. Denise G. says

    I learned to cook as a small child but when my mother went back to work when I was 11 or so then I started to prepare dinner for the family. I already knew how to make most things already. I love to cook and it never seemed like a chore. Now I let my daughters help me in the kitchen to let them learn to cook. They are 5 and 9 years and they love to help prepare food.

  25. I learned some of the most basic of basics as a teen at home, but mostly we just ate junk food and packaged foods so really it was just learning to follow directions. I didn’t really care one way or another about it. I don’t remember hating it but I definitely wouldn’t have considered it a hobby. When I met my husband among other things he asked in our first date which we jokingly call my first interview he asked what I could cook. That kind of got the wheels turning. I decided I wanted to learn how to cook, like with seasonings and ingredients instead of just packaged foods but I had no idea how to learn because my mother and grandparents really didn’t know how to either. So many of the recipes I could even find online at the time were like “combine ground beef with taco bell home originals salsa” or cream of mushroom soup, etc which I just wasn’t interested in. Finally I found one site that had recipes that didn’t include branded pre-made foods and I pretty much taught myself to cook from there when we were early married (1 year after that first interview :). I think all the pre-made packages and boxes, for me at least, took all the creativity out of preparing food and so when I was able to discover the creativity in cooking from scratch I really enjoyed it instead of it being a chore or just one of the choices of how to get something to eat. Especially since I have pretty much always been drawn to the idea of growing food. Strawberries in the back yard. I grew basil, parsley, thyme, cilantro & chives in pots inside the house before I knew how to cook with them. Simple stuff.

  26. The kitchen was the best place to be to spend time with my mother and both grandmothers, so we were always begging to help. I remember helping to whip cream or beat eggs. My grandmother would look at the results and say, “Let me feel it,” then get it done to her satisfaction. We were allowed to fix simple things as early as eight; by high school I could fry chicken pretty well. By my third year of college I was off the meal plan and cooking with my roommates. One of my roommates was Vietnamese so I learned a lot from her. I’m not sure there was ever a time I would have admitted not being able to cook. I felt like I could, thanks to good examples, and most of the time it worked out like the recipe said it should.

  27. I learned to cook from helping in the kitchen when I was young, I think I completed my first meal by myself at 10. My mom had us in the kitchen either helping or doing homework all of the time and it just seemed natural.

  28. A typical dinner for us was Chik-fil-a, though we did often sit at a table to eat it as a family. ๐Ÿ˜› Needless to say, I didn’t learn how to cook at home. Mom tried to teach me a few things, but she was busy or exhausted most of the time (she’s an OBGYN) so other things took precedence.

    After Hubby and I were married for a little while we got sick of eating ramen and boxed mac & cheese. We decided to learn to cook together, and that was that. He knew a little bit, and I’m a master of internet research so we were able to teach ourselves pretty well using recipes and Food Network. Now we cook dinner for my parents whenever we are visiting them, and they are impressed that we’ve come so far. ๐Ÿ™‚ They like to point out that there was a time when I couldn’t boil water (I didn’t know at what point water was considered “boiling”) and burned cereal (I thought warm Cheerios might be a nice treat, but left them in the microwave for too long).

  29. I took a Home Ec. class in highschool. The first recipe and only recipe I remember making was Orange Ambrosia. When I was first married, I tried to make a lemon meringue pie. I put raw egg whites on the pie and popped it in the oven. I thought the oven would make the meringue rise! I discovered my dad was a wonderful cook when I was in my twenties (I didn’t spend much time with him when I was growing up.) He made Puerto Rican dishes that I fell in love with; Arroz con Pollo, Pasteles and Platanos. I have tried cooking a couple Puerto Rican dishes; some day hope I can be as good a cook as my dad. I do enjoy cooking and love trying new recipes.

  30. I started by learning and helping much the same as you. I preferred baking to cooking and was given a free hand as long as we had enough of the ingredients and I did all the cleanup. I was taught basic methods, like how to make lump free gravy and scramble eggs mainly by having chores in the kitchen while meals were being made. My mom is an excellent cook, and rarely uses a recipe for anything other than general proportions and procedures. I used to use precise measurements, until I realized how many different recipes there are for, as an example, muffins – that all make, well….muffins. I won’t say I especially enjoy cooking, any more than doing laundry, but I really do enjoy the results. I grew up with good food, so I see processed foods as substandard junk I don’t want to eat. Even though it is not my favorite pastime, I cook from scratch, bake bread and snack items for two bag lunches, make yogurt and stocks, do home canning and freezing, make jams and pickles – whatever we need or want that comes from the kitchen. Lots of our meals are pretty basic and because we live in a real world, sometimes uninspired, and I’m okay with that. I don’t need to impress anyone, just feed my family a nourishing, filling meal. When I have the time and energy I might make a multi-ingredient main dish with several steps, like lasagne with homemade sauce, or chicken kiev but that is the exception, and I make enough to freeze for a couple more meals. My kids are comfortable enough in the kitchen to tackle whatever they feel like having. We don’t uses mixes so they start with basic ingredients. At Christmas my daughter made (from scratch) flavored marshmallows as part of our food gift baskets. It was her idea, she found the recipe and she did most of the work. I just gave suggestions about the bowl size and preparing for each step in advance. They were a huge hit! Food (except maybe marshmallows) is so basic that even if you don’t especially like to prepare it, you should know how. I can’ t imagine relying on factory “food” – any more than I would want to live on hospital food. It is easy and convenient, but not good.

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