Jen at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam posed that question today on her blog. Cooking is my passion so I was unable to formulate a quick response and did not want to take up tons of room in her comments so I am responding here in my own little corner of the internet. I hope that Jen will not mind. Please feel free to share your experiences and cooking history as well.
I hope I never stop learning to cook. It is one of my true joys in life. I love challenging myself to try a new technique or come up with a new recipe. I'm constantly "making things up in my head" as I call it and sometimes the results are disastrous but most of the time the result is nothing short of delicious.
I suppose the short answer would be that I inherited an ability to cook. Just as I inherited my curly hair from my grandfather or my fair skin from my father I believe that cooking is in my blood. Both of my grandmothers and my mother were/are wonderful cooks. I really believe that it is part of the southern small town culture that my parents grew up in. Things like that are so important to me. I am pretty passionate about southern culture and the things that make this corner of the world so different and divine. It's not just about flip flops and azaleas. (although L-O-V-E my azaleas)
My mother tells me that from the time I could talk I would inform her that I was going to have a TV show like Nathalie Dupree when I grew up. I was always in the kitchen with my mother keeping her company. She had a small TV in her kitchen that picked up ETV and we would watch cooking shows while she cooked each night's meals. I adored Julia Child and can still vividly remember watching her beat something with her rolling pin and thinking "wow that looks fun!"
In middle school I started begging my mother to let me help cook. I am sure before then I would help her stir something or put cake batter into the pan, peel potatoes or other such things but it was then that I started helping more with actual meal prep. I remember making pepper steak. I am not sure where I could possibly have had that since my mother didn't cook things like that. She cooked very "southern food." It was, of course, a recipe I made up in my head. It was very good, if a little spicy for some of the members of my family.
In high school I started grilling out for my family in the summer time. My dad did not so much appreciate this since he likes to grill but I am sure that my mother probably told him not to ruin a good thing as my helping out was highly encouraged by my mother. I will always be thankful to her for that.
I met my first high school boyfriend in home ec class. His mother made him take it because she wanted him to be prepared when it was time for him to be out on his own. I remember even at the time thinking that she was a mighty wise woman for that. He was a wonderful guy who treated me well and was very respectful and we took several more home ec and foods, as they were called, courses together even after we broke up because we maintained a great friendship for many years. I will always be thankful that my first boyfriend was such a great guy.
In high school I also tried 1.5 million chocolate chip cookie recipes one summer before deciding to ditch them all and come up with my own. Of course I didn't write it down but continued to make it during high school and beyond. I haven't made it in years and don't remember anything other than that it contained shortening, which is probably why I no longer make that recipe. Shortening= bad for you!
My early adult years were spent pretending that I didn't know how to cook so that my friends would cook for me. I loved trying all the different food that my new grown up friends made. Very few of them cooked traditional southern food so I enjoyed having my palate expanded to Indian food, Italian food and Asian food.
I remember cooking for my husband when we first met(I was 20 and that was nearly 8 years ago- side note where has all the time gone?!?) I already knew I wanted to marry him so I wanted to impress him with my cooking. I made potatoes from a box. I didn't know how easy it was to make homemade scalloped potatoes.
When I had decided that "THAT IS IT I AM READY TO BE ENGAGED DARN IT!" I made him "Engagement Chicken" by Glamor magazine. It worked, shortly thereafter we were engaged. It is the first recipe for roasted chicken I ever made and the one that still to this day that I base my own recipe on.
Once we were married I started cooking much more. I would say the turning points in my culinary "career" thus far were the trip that we took with his family to Italy when we were dating and our trip to Paris (again with his family) when we were newlyweds. I came back with a passion for those foods and a drive to learn to make them. Unfortunately I don't get to do so very often as my husband is a meat and potatoes kinda guy and then picky on top of that.
Poor guy was a transplant to this state and thought that he was marrying a woman that would cook him meat and potatoes southern food every night and he got a woman obsessed with different ethnic foods. Oh well. He's still well fed. :-)
Over the last few years I have made more and more yeast breads including my favorite recipe for bread, pizza dough, bagels, rolls, etc.
I'm still not very into making desserts. Maybe one day when I have more mouths to feed it will be more exciting but my husband's taste in desserts is as follows: fruit desserts and deserts containing peanut butter, butterscotch, or caramel. (ahem yuck) Mine are as follows: cheesecake, chocolate, pastries, frou frou french desserts such as creme brule. He finds those equally as yucky.
Right now I am focusing on meal planning, making sure that what we eat is balanced both at the meal, during the day and for the week and on making use of leftovers. I hate to waste!
I am also working on more slow cooker dinners because I reached a point where I needed to make things easier for myself.
I often remark to my husband that I really don't know what most couples our age eat since it seems that women don't cook anymore. Now that isn't meant to be sexist as my husband also loves to cook, but it is like a point was reached in the '80s when mamas started thinking their daughters wouldn't one day have families of their own!
I like to remind him how lucky he is to have a wife who knows how to cook. :-) I was just telling him that yesterday when I waved my magic spatula and turned yucky dried out leftover rotisserie chicken (that I did not make) into moist and delicious chicken croquettes.
I hope that cooking is never boring for me. I hope that I always enjoy learning new techniques and, God willing, I look forward to a day when I can pass on the family recipes and traditions to our next generation.