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Bad Cooking: Passed on Through the Generations

I learned from my grandfather this weekend what I had already suspected: bad cooking is a learned behavior and is passed on from generation to generation.


As he described it, my grandmother was never trained in the Culinary or Domestic Arts, a fact which my grandfather learned the hard way the first morning of their marriage when my grandmother asked for his advice on how much grease to put in the frying pan to cook bacon. She eventually learned the simple rules governing basic cooking, which she then passed on to my mom, who then passed them on to me.


Which makes me a third generation bad cook.



The last time I saw my mom, she admitted that her cooking wasn’t any better than it had been when I was growing up; in her defense, I never questioned any of her cooking at all and ate about 63% of what was served to me as a kid. Specialties in my particular region of the Pacific Northwest included deviled eggs and boxed macaroni and cheese, so I am guessing that she wasn’t even the worst cook in the neighborhood. None of the kids around knew any better and ate pretty much everything that didn’t look like it was a vegetable.


And, while I know several great cooks, my mom and I aren’t the only ones left on the planet still struggling with the culinary arts. One friend who also learned her cooking from the matrilineal line of her family once had to eat her mom’s special spaghetti—spaghetti noodles served with ketchup. Her mom’s cooking never improved beyond that, but my friend’s cooking has improved somewhat. (I’ve never seen her feed her family ketchup on spaghetti and she does make a pretty mean mac and cheese.)


In comparison, many of the foodies I know were taught to cook (and fed) by their parents at a younger age. I can’t imagine any of them struggling with flipping a pancake as I have, or with choosing which spices go best with which foods. I watch in wonder as they prepare meals without consulting their phones, their iPads, or their computers.


Of course, I can’t give any of the great cooks I know too much credit for any of their accomplishments in the kitchen because a majority of them inherited their kitchen talents from their parents while I had to learn how to chop, slice, and dice at a much later age.