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Jude's avatar

Are you a self taught cook? If not, how did you learn how to cook?

Asked by Jude (32198points) January 28th, 2010

Or, maybe you can’t cook at all?

I’m the youngest of four. There’s an 8 year age gap between my second youngest sibling and I. All three of them were taught how to cook (by my Mom). When I was in myearly teens, my brothers and my sister were making meals, as both of my parents were working full-time. My bros and my sis would come home from school and start dinner. Sadly, no one taught me how to cook.

I actually signed my girlfriend and I up for a cooking class. Now, even though I try to cook and do enjoy it, my meals don’t always turn out so hot.

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55 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Yeah, I don’t cook much. I can if I must and I guess all sorts of different people taught me but I’d rather not cook. I don’t think anything I’d make would be uber-edible because I wouldn’t put any passion into it.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

4-H gave me the basic skills, trial and error did the rest. I’ve tossed a lot of bad results.

janbb's avatar

My Mom never formally taught me but I learned a lot from prepping for her and watching her cook. She was also a great baker and I picked up a lot from her there, too; not specific recipes so much as techniques. My husband and I also learned a lot from each other; cooking together and fighting about it. ( He turns the flame up; I turn it down, he adds salt, I add pepper…) I am Jewish and he is English, so our cooking is a nice fusion, plus all the other ethnic influence we have added over the years.

SophiscatedLady's avatar

My grandma taught me (my mom actually just another business woman who can’t cook). it’s all Chinese traditional recipes though. Sometime I learn that from cooking books.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

If you ever need someone to make you a bowl of cereal, then I’m your guy, but that’s about the extent of my cooking skills.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@SophiscatedLady so business women can’t cook?

MissAnthrope's avatar

I had a few Home Ec classes in school.. beyond that, cooking runs in the family to the nth degree, it’s kind of ridiculous. I’m pretty fortunate that it’s a natural gift; I can pretty much make anything if I have a recipe for it. As for learning, I learned a lot by watching my mom, to a lesser degree I learned by her directly teaching me some things.

shego's avatar

I am self taught. I started cooking basic meals when I was five, but I had to know what I was cooking. Since I already knew how to read, I used recipe books, a chair or step stool, and I was supervised under an adult at all times. So I have learned so many different reciepes, and I like to teach it too.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

I learned from my parents, the food network and I just try out some recipes online that don’t involve baking since I don’t know how to use the oven

knitfroggy's avatar

I thought I knew how to cook when I got married, but all I really knew how to make was hamburgers and spaghetti. I basically just did a lot of trial and error, mostly error at first. I started reading cook books and looking at recipes online. I called my grandma and my mom for help. It’s not an overnight process, by any means. I’ve been married 11 years now and would call myself a pretty decent cook. I can make the best cream gravy you’ve ever eaten and friend chicken to die for. I really like to cook now.

SophiscatedLady's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir No. I meant they just don’t usually accustomed to such thing. Of course they can cook,but it won’t as tasty as if it is made by real housewife who more accustomed to kitchen lifestyle.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@SophiscatedLady look, you can’t keep baiting me with this stuff, okay? ‘kitchen lifestyle’?

janbb's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir May be from a different culture.

faye's avatar

I also had home ec in school but I think it was self interest as my mom liked to bake not so much meals. So she was happy for me to cook. I love cooking shows and recipe books!I also love to bake but I’m too fat now!!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@janbb because that makes everything okay

janbb's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir No, but maybe more understandable? But carry on….

SophiscatedLady's avatar

@Simone “The more you spend time experiencing in kitchen,the more you’ll know how to cook or everything that involved cooking”. Rather than spend your time at work and lack of cooking skill. That’s what I meant.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Hey!I can’t cook,and don’t wanna cook.So,there!;)

EdMayhew's avatar

@SophiscatedLady @Simone_De_Beauvoir

Whooooa, this is not a place for your fight ladies. Take it up in another post abut the moral implications of male/female domesticity and its place in modern society if you feel the need. Right now @jmah has asked a question that has not yet been answered. So put your differences aside (for now at least) and maybe say something constructive?

As far as my answer goes, I love cooking; it’s very rewarding and also obviously healthy. In a family of four children, three of whom can cook, I can see why you might feel left out. Not to worry though. Cooking is not something you are born with – nothing is! If you really want to do it then you can. If you don’t want to do it, then you’re not missing out. Win win situation yup?

I play guitar. This may not seem relevant, but it is. People often tell me ‘Oh I’ve tried learning the guitar and I’m just no good at it’. Of course not, they’re beginners. So yeah, you’ve taken classes, read cookery books. It’s the practice that makes perfect. The experience.

If you really want to learn – keep reading those recipes, keep taking those classes, and most of all cook! Like with anything, be it musical instruments or culinary expertise, the people who can already do it make it look easy, and it’s frustrating that you can’t jump in and do it straight away. These things take time; stick at it and before you know it you’ll be setting woks on fire as frequently as the next guy!

dpworkin's avatar

I actually learned to cook by making everything in Julia Child, but there were no blogs in those days, so no one made a movie about me.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@EdMayhew excuse me, hi, I did answer the question at hand as did the other user I was in a side discussion with…side discussions are accepted, within reason and I was not talking about any moral implications…but thanks for sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong, non-moderator…oh and just in case you need any more reason, @jmah can more than answer/direct my responses for herself

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@janbb I agree with you. It is more understandable but it still doesn’t make it easier fr me to accept

janbb's avatar

@dpworkin It would have been a much better movie too, no doubt. Who would have played you, I wonder?

MissAusten's avatar

I learned cooking basics mainly from my mom. She taught me how to make simple things, like scrambled eggs and pancakes, and let me bake cookies on my own (even though I remember a couple of disastrous attempts when I was in grade school). The first time she let me make dinner, I was probably in high school. She’d shown me how to make baked chicken, and then later let me do it on my own.

I also had a home ec class in high school that was all about cooking. We made a variety of dishes, and I enjoyed it. That, combined with what my mom taught me, gave me a pretty decent start. However, it wasn’t until I was married and working full time, cough cough that I really started to learn my way around a kitchen. I started out following recipes to the letter and trying new cooking techniques. Now I am confident enough to often deviate from a recipe, even when baking a cake or something like that. Inventing my own creation from whatever I have in the fridge doesn’t intimidate me like it used to, and I feel that I can trust my own judgment. For example, if a recipe calls for one temp and cooking time but I think something else would work better, I’ll try what I think will work. Usually it does. :)

dpworkin's avatar


SophiscatedLady's avatar

@EdMayhew I don’t think we’re fighting. I think people can express all they want as they wish. Argumentation still acceptable anyway.

janbb's avatar

ha! works on so many levels.

DominicX's avatar

My parents taught me how to cook. Both of them are good cooks and do it frequently. They cook all kinds of things too. I pretty much learned everything I know from them and of course if there was something I hadn’t learned directly, I taught it to myself. It’s something I really like doing.

EdMayhew's avatar

Well sorry then guys, and @Simone_De_Beauvoir no I am not a moderator so I really should learn my place. There was no ill will, just a desire to keep on track, so forget I ever opened my big stupid non official mouth.

Speaking of back on track, @MissAusten has a really good point – when you first try a recipe do make sure you do exactly as it says, regardless of what you think, then once you’ve done it a few times then you can start to think ‘well maybe I’ll put in less turmeric’ or whatever, but not before. Also, If you’re looking to impress guests, don’t just pick up any recipe book and start from scratch, do something that you’ve tried and tested. It’s always good to have two or three certain winners up your sleeve that you know will work when the opportunity arises.


liminal's avatar

Deciding that I wanted to eat a plant based diet with lots of whole grains, beans, etc… I suddenly realized that if I didn’t learn to make things edible my life could be miserable. (I started out thinking that broccoli was to be boiled, until limp, and resurrected by butter.) I then hit the library and hunted down vegetarian restaurants, all the while taking copious notes.

gailcalled's avatar

As a new bride and non-cook, I started with The Joy of Cooking, by first Irma Rombauer and then her daughter, Marion. They led me by the hand; “This is how to boil water.”

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@gailcalled is it customary for a new bride, in general, do you think to start learning to cook if they didn’t know before?

EdMayhew's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir is it customary for you to crap on other peoples genuine answers?

gailcalled's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: This was in the Eisenhower era (1957) and it was assumed by everyone, including me, that I had to be the part of the partnership who learned how to cook.
My first meal, from Joy, was a tuna casserole. Canned tuna, canned peas, can of cream of mushroom soup and egg noodles. That was starting at the bottom, of course. We moved on to cheese fondues, beef Wellington, chocolate mousses, and other horrors.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@EdMayhew wtf! that was a genuine question NOT directed at you.

gailcalled's avatar

@EdMayhew: It seemed a reasonable query to me, although I would have added a few commas for clarification.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@gailcalled I’s good to know how to cook in a partnership..I wished I cared a bit more to contribute

dpworkin's avatar

Egg noodles? I thought it was a can of Durkees fried onions.

janbb's avatar

No, that was the other recipe. French green beans, cream of mushroom soup and Durkees fried onions.

dpworkin's avatar

Ahh, I am a moron. You know who I learned a lot from? Marcella Hazan. And Madhur Joffrey.

janbb's avatar

No, you’re just a macaroon.

KhiaKarma's avatar

I grew up in a mostly heat and eat environment, and have had to learn myself. I am still learning….

I work and I have had to figure out how to balance a busy schedule with menu planning and trying to save $ (we used to waste so much eating out!) What has made it fun (and healthy) is that now I get my fruits, breads, and veggies at a farmer’s market. I am convinced that eating local, seasonal food has kept me from getting the colds/illnesses that so many around me have gotten. I plan what I cook around the foods that I get there.

There are so many sites where you can search recipes and create on-line recipe boxes. Just google it. Cooking takes practice. Some people are “by the book cookers”, like my hubby- and others cook more by instinct, like myself. I have had to throw away several meals. Oh well. Keep frozen pizzas in freezer, just in case… Good luck with your adventure!

cookieman's avatar

Yes I am a self-taught cook. I learned from the FoodNetwork and by watching my wife (who is a fabulous cook). I’ve only learned in the past five-ten years. Prior to that, I was hopeless.

susanc's avatar

I learned how to cook from the Joy of Cooking for the same reason Gail did, and at the same time of life. Then I got all excited about it and started asking questions. I’m a good cook. Now I watch Top Chef and mutter “Oh Eddie, come on Eddie, get that lamb outta the oven before it gets grey”.

eponymoushipster's avatar

totally self-taught. my grandmother is a particularly good cook, and since i was small, my mother has encouraged me and my younger sister to cook. i live alone, so i need to be able to eat something other than take out. i do quite ok, i think.

Jude's avatar

@epony, I’ve seen the stuff that you’ve whipped up. They’ve all looked yummy and I betcha’ that they were tasty noms. And, you would look quite lovely in an apron while in the buff. ;-)

El_Cadejo's avatar

I went to a tech school for culinary arts instead of normal high school.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@jmah likewise im quite sure. ;)

aprilsimnel's avatar


First meal at age 6: hamburgers and home fries. I had to stand on a kitchen chair to see into the skillet. Made an entire Thanksgiving meal at 12. Cooking doesn’t thrill me so much, nor baking, but if necessary, or when the mood strikes, I’m a fair hand at it. It’s at the point now where I do everything by instinct.

susanc's avatar

@jmah: lurve for “tasty noms”

gemiwing's avatar

I was first taught by my mother and grandmother. Then I went to work in kitchens of all shapes and sizes for about ten years. Now I’m self-teaching myself further.

Try not to be so hard on yourself. Learn the basics, learn some basic chemistry and just enjoy the learning process. It takes years to perfect cooking- that’s why there are schools dedicated to just that.

Perhaps focus on one aspect of cooking and learn as much as you feel you need to in that area. Say, sauces or baking or even something ‘simple’ like casseroles. You can’t be expected to learn engineering, chemistry, medicine and art all in one big lump can you? Same goes for cooking.

Get cooking books- the Joy Of Cooking is a good read – and read them. Just spend time researching techniques and methods. There are entire books on how to cook a good pot of spaghetti.

Just try to remember why you like cooking and the enjoyment you get from learning.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I highly, highly recommend Fanny Farmer for beginner cooks. My mom, who is a chef in her own right, gave me the FF cookbook as my first because she knew it was such a good starting point. I can’t tell you how helpful and how much of a reference it’s been over the years. You get explanations for just about everything, measurement conversions, definitions of cooking terms, and the recipes are pretty easy to follow.

I’ve since graduated from FF onto more complicated cookbooks, but I still use it for reference.

stevenb's avatar

I’m mostly self taught. For a great, simple to read, and fabulicious cookbook I always recommend anything by Americas Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated. They test and test every recipe to make it easier and absolutely foolproof. I try it once or twice their way, and then go for a bit of tweak-age to make it my own. I have so many family members/friends who rave about my cooking, and most of it started there.

angelaclaire's avatar

This may sound kind of silly, but besides a few family favorite recipes, I didn’t know much about cooking when I started out as a newlywed. Luckily, in the first year we were together, my husband and I were introduced to Alton Brown’s Good Eats series on the Food Network, and it quickly became one of our favorite TV shows. I learned so much, and discovered so many great recipes and techniques, that now (6 years later) we rarely eat out and enjoy delicious, home-cooked meals on a regular basis!

stevenb's avatar

Alton Brown rocks.

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