Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nana's Culinary Legacy

My mother was English. She cooked traditional English food…and by traditional, I mean bland and over-cooked. I grew up with beans on toast, Yorkshire pudding and roast beef, and fried English breakfasts. I don’t think I ate pasta until Chef Boyardee created spaghetti O’s. I mention spaghetti O’s as an example of an international meal in my house.

The only fresh vegetables in my childhood home were served boiled. Canned peas, lima beans and brussel sprouts were the vegetables of my youth. When I tried to think of memorable meals from my childhood, it wasn’t a Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner that came to mind. I mostly remember having to try evil smelling concoctions of kidney, liver, or tripe. The only pie my mom made was of the steak and kidney variety.

My gastronomical horizon was expanded at George K. Porter Junior High School when I took Home Economics. Girls took Home Ec. and boys had Shop. One of the first things I learned how to cook was French Toast…how international is that! In addition to French toast, we also learned to make banana bread in a soup can.

With my culinary history, it’s no surprise that I came into marriage with few kitchen skills. Fortunately we received several cookbooks as wedding gifts and I know how to read. Armed with the rudimentary knowledge of cooking I learned at George K. Porter Junior High and the Betty Crocker’s Cooking For Two Cookbook, I managed to keep my family fed.

I am reminded of my culinary legacy every Thanksgiving. For the past several years we have celebrated the holiday at my daughter’s house in Austin. My daughter has blended the traditions of our family with those of her husband’s. From her husband’s side of the family she makes a rice stuffing. From my side of the family we have little weenies in barbecue sauce in the crock pot and “green salad.” The green salad is cool-whip and Jello pistachio pudding with pineapple and little marshmallows. So, I guess my culinary legacy isn’t any better than my mother’s.


  1. It all sounds so... bland. But any culinary legacy is better than none, I guess. I remember my mother's turkey hash after Thanksgiving with real nostalgia, it was the best part of the holiday for me. And she made some dish with corn meal and black olives that I've never even thought of until now, but it was something I have never had again as a grownup. Good post!

  2. My favorite line: Fortunately we received several cookbooks as wedding gifts and I know how to read - it made me laugh out loud.

    This sounds like a pretty typical 50s and 60s culinary legacy. Remember Spam? That was considered a treat in my house growing up.

  3. I can relate to this post. My mother and I were just talking about how bland her cooking was. I was not being rude to mention it to her because she brought it up. She insists she didn't even remember ever eating broccoli until the 60's.

    I have her mother's hand written cookbook. From it, and from what I have heard about my grandmother, she was an awesome baker. I don't know what her everyday meals were like because she cooked for boarding houses etc. I think my mother just did functional cooking and that is how I've managed to get by also. I really don't like to cook.

  4. My mother was a pretty good cook, but I was a disinterested student. I kept my family fed while my kids were growing up, but I´m grateful my current husband Art likes to cook. I can´t imagine why that is.

  5. I don't have to cook for anyone, and I am very grateful that frozen dinners have become so healthy and appealing. I, too, took Home Ec (while the boys took Shop). Years ago, I re-read one of my journal entries from the 9th grade, and it cracked me up. As a Home Ec assignment, I had had to make a meal for my family. The menu? Lasagna and BISCUITS! (Now there's a combo!) ...I don't recall now if, during the painstaking prep work, I was wearing the poncho that I had sewn in class...

  6. Hey at least you kept food in everyone's belly right? :-) I know just what you mean about lack of culinary prowess. In my case it wasn't because of no one to model after, my mom & dad's mom were both fantastic cooks, it was more out of shear laziness lol. I still would much rather go out to dinner and let someone else cook AND clean up than make my own meals at home but there are a few things I've mastered over the years that I know my grandmother would have been proud to see -- like her spaghetti sauce. Because I can definitely boil water for pasta!

  7. Just found your blog thru Aging Gratefully, which I follow, and I saw that you're a fellow 60 year old blogger. Congrats. on reaching a one year anniversary!

    I've been at it for all of two months now. I've had the same idea -- try it for a while and see what happens. I was afraid I'd run out of things to say, but so far haven't had that problem. Whether or not I can still be at all interesting after a few months of this I don't know. But I'm gonna try.

    Anyway, my mother was Irish -- so I know all about bland overcooked food! Happy blogging!

  8. Oh yeah! I know all about that!

    check out my moms cooking...

  9. Inana, I laughed and enjoyed this story of your family's cooking exploits - Dave

  10. I too am nearly 60 years old, have lived in the UK all my life but we never ever had bland food. Lucky for us, Mum was a professional cook and we were brought up on her fantastic meals.


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