Monday, June 4, 2018

Around the Kitchen Table #bookgiveaway

June always makes me think of weddings. Which makes me think of new beginnings. What was the first thing you cooked—either when you first got married, first moved in with your significant other, or first moved out of your parents’ home and into the first place you were on your own?


DENISE My mother was a tyrant in the kitchen and I was never allowed anywhere near her stove or oven. And in college I lived in a dorm/sorority house the entire four years. So when I got married, I had literally never cooked a meal before. My first attempt was a frozen pizza. I carefully followed the instructions. I preheated the oven, took off the plastic wrapping, placed the pizza on the oven rack, and set the timer. Twenty minutes later, when the timer went off, I hurried into the kitchen to find the whole room filled with smoke. The instructions hadn’t mentioned discarding the cardboard circle under the pizza!


LESLIE: Oh, Denise, that's hilarious! I have no idea what I first cooked in my first apartment, a sparsely furnished one bedroom on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. For Christmas, my brother and sister-in-law gave me a box full of serving spoons, spatulas, and other kitchen utensils I could not have afforded to buy for myself -- or known that I needed! I still have the meat fork and turkey baster.

One of my college pals still raves about a souffle I made her in that tiny avocado green kitchen. I can't imagine my 21-year-old self making her a souffle -- I've only made a handful in the decades since -- but she swears it was spinach and cheese and terrific. On most things, I'll vouch for my memory, but on this one, I'll go with hers!


SHEILA:  My mother cooked out of necessity, not because she liked it. She was more than happy when I could take over some of the chores. She was a "working woman" in the sixties, so the first thing I learned to cook was oven-roasted chicken (put chicken pieces in a pan, add salt and pepper, put a dab of butter on each piece, cook in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, or until Mother came home).

Next came a Thanksgiving turkey. My senior year in high school I wanted to go to the Big Game with the family. My mother whined that she had to stay home and prepare the turkey. I said, no problem--I'll do it. So I did, and we all went to the game. And the turkey turned out fine.

So I knew how to cook long before I left home. But the first "independent" meal was yet another Thanksgiving turkey. I was living in a college dorm that happened to include one (segregated!) wing of guys. A lot of people couldn't get home for a short holiday, so once again I volunteered to make a turkey dinner--in the tiny kitchenette on my floor of the dorm. I must have scrounged all the pots and pans and utensils because there were few around. But nobody complained! We had a fine dinner.


DARYL: Denise, my mother had your experience. Her mother wasn't a tyrant, but she did all the cooking, so my mother didn't have a clue how to cook when she graduated college. I have lovely letters from her to her grandmother boasting about the meatloaf and Jell-o salad she made all by herself.  I, on the other hand, cooked a lot as a girl. I loved to bake, too. And I catered a few parties during college. [Appetizers were my forté.] So cooking wasn't foreign to me when I graduated college. But "entertaining" was. I remember moving into my apartment in Santa Monica and immediately buying a wok...which I still have.  I then invited over  four friends, and we had stir fry and homemade won tons. They were so impressed. I was a wreck by the end of the night because I really wanted it to go smoothly. A few sips of wine helped ease the tension. Okay, maybe more than a few sips. LOL


LUCY BURDETTE: My mother worked too, and raised four kids, and did not love to cook. So we didn't bother her in the kitchen when she was preparing meals--and the meals were simple, and sad to say, often cooked to death. So as I left home, I had no idea how to cook!

The first dinner I remember making was spaghetti sauce from the Joy of Cooking, for a guy I was trying to impress. That may have been the only time I saw him, though I've made hundreds of recipes of spaghetti sauce since then.

To win John's heart, I had an accomplished friend/cook help me prepare a rack of lamb, his favorite. The recipe must have been a success because we just celebrated 26 years of marriage. Sadly, from his perspective anyway, I really don't like lamb so I've never made it again!


PEG: My mother was a good cook although most of the time my father wanted only meat and a salad for dinner (he was doing low carb before it was popular which is probably why he stayed so thin.)  But he did love some of the German and Hungarian recipes my mother learned from her mother.

Every Christmas when I came home from college, my grandmother enlisted my help in making a fruit cake recipe she cut out of the NY Daily News.  NO ONE liked fruit cake, but that didn't stop us! I loved spending that time with my grandmother.

I got married right out of college and moved into my first apartment with my husband.  Neither of us really knew how to cook but boy could we follow directions! We got a Make It Now Bake It Later cookbook as a wedding gift and one of our favorite recipes was a casserole that included ground beef, shell shaped pasta, tomato sauce and lots of grated cheddar cheese.  We eventually graduated to Julia Child's cookbooks and much better meals!


LINDA: It sounds like there were a lot of mothers who cooked because they had to. Add mine to that list. What a funny story, Denise. I can't remember back that far! But I do remember what my sister gave me as a Bridal Shower gift. A hardcover copy of Craig Claiborne's KITCHEN PRIMER, published 1969. She knew me so well! I still have it in fact, minus the dust jacket. The most stained page is the Measurement Conversion. I've even added, in pen, the Metrics when Canada converted. What a lifesaver! The recipe I have used the most (and you'd think I would have memorized it very quickly) was for Poached Fish. Those pages have many memorable stains on them, also.


KRISTA: My mom was an amazing cook who watched Julia Child and bought all her books. I baked occasionally but I never prepared a meal. I remember my dad, who was very old school in some ways, telling my mom that she had to let me cook or I would never learn. The lovely thing about my dad was that no matter how badly I mangled a dish—even if it was burned—he raved about it to encourage me. I don't recall the first meal I prepared for others on my own, but I do remember making a lot of beef Stroganoff in my first apartment. I bought a paperback cookbook (it may have been James Beard) and that recipe seemed appropriate for company and easy enough to prepare.

CLEO: Krista, your dad was clearly a wonderful man! As for my own life, I grew up in a big Italian family, so my cooking and baking started early. My absolute earliest memory was not in an adult kitchen but with a toy many of you may remember: the Easy-Bake Oven by Kenner.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons Bradross63  

I had the Easy-Bake Oven on the left. ~ Cleo
Strange but true: The early models used incandescent light bulbs to heat and cook the food, and I got such a kick out of that! My earliest memory was baking the little chocolate cake. The batter came in powder form, and I remember mixing in the water in a little plastic bowl with a tiny plastic spoon and pouring it into the little metal cake pan. I really loved that oven!  💗


How about you?  

What was your first attempt at cooking?

Join our discussion in the comments to enter our giveaway! 

One lucky person will win:

A signed copy of AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, the 5th Food Lovers' Village Mystery, by Leslie Budewitz (Midnight Ink, June 8)

A signed trade paperback copy of A DEADLY ÉCLAIR, the 1st French Bistro Mystery, by Daryl Wood Gerber (Crooked Lane Books, June 12)

A signed hardcover copy of THE DIVA COOKS UP A STORM by Krista Davis. (Kensington)


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  1. I don't remember the first meal I made after getting married, but I sure remember the first time we had friends over for dinner. I made a broccoli/cheese/rice casserole, but did not know you were supposed to use instant rice. Oh boy, that was one CRUNCHY casserole! Wendy Clark
    clarksrfun at gmail dot com

  2. I think one of my first things I made was buttered noodles.. I loved that when I was 7 years old... I have never really been a good cook, but I finally had my chance to make Thanksgiving for me andbmy now husband... His mom, step-dad and brother had plans to go see his grandma in Battle Creek. Perfect. This was going to be fun.. my mom and sister live 250 miles away from me, but they told me they would walk me through everything in the phone.
    I had this small turkey.. I swear I have never seen one so small, but since it was for just David and I, it would be fine. I managed to make my Grandpa's homemade stuffing.. that was easy. I'm not even going to go there with taking out the bag from the bird.. I was grossed out..
    I kept opening the oven, trying to baste the bird.. I didnt have much juices, but mom said to just add butter to the pan and cover it up.
    I am not sure how, but I messed up on the time.. I took it out of the oven, let it sit for a while before I started to carve into it.. if that's what you want to call it. To me it was more like making a hot mess of that poor thing.
    I kept looking at the mangled meat on David's plate.. just as he was about to take a bite.. I jumped up and said it wasn't fully cooked.. (I swore i saw a slight pink) (now it seems it may have been in my imagination).. I threw out the stuffing that was in the bird cuz I thought it was full of undone juices from the bird.
    I shoved the now mangled bird in the oven. Remember it was a tiny bird and most of the meat was already off of it..
    As I put it in the oven.. we had green beans and rolls to eat.
    I looked out the window and in walks his mom, step-dad and brother... (there was a big argument at Grandma's house and they drove home before dinner was served.. assuming David and I would have some food for them to eat.
    Um... how embarrassing was it for me to say the meat and stuffing was in the trash and all I had was green beans and rolls. (The bird started to smoke in the oven due to lack of meat and moisture in there) Fire alarm going off..
    I was absolutely mortified.
    Let's just say, I am so surprised they want to come every year for Thanksgiving dinner.. but between us I have this rule.. I will cook and clean eveything.. the potatoes, stuffing, rolls, dessert.. but my mother-in-law brings the turkey. I wont touch that thing ever again! 🙈🙈🤫🤫😂😂😮😮🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

  3. Love all the stories - disaster or not. Ha! My mother was a lovely woman and she couldn't cook to save her life. Very, very bland. And really horrible. I started trying recipes and cooking when I was in my early teens and had quite a bit of success. Of course, my efforts were much more ambitious than hers. She also had me do any baking that she needed done. She was always taking cakes and cookies to people who were sick or on the prayer list at our church. If I baked it, we all knew that we wouldn't get to eat it. Mom would take it to someone else.

    One funny story I have is about inviting my teenage boyfriend (now my husband of 38 years) over for dinner. I cooked the whole meal. I made scalloped potatoes, but didn't cook them long enough so the ones in the middle were still crunchy - very crunchy. My dear boyfriend/husband was given the first serving and he gamely ate every bite. He told me later that they were pretty much raw potatoes. Ha! To this day, he insists that I have trouble with potatoes and he's right. We don't eat too many any more so it's OK.

  4. My Mother was an amazing cook/baker but I just never seemed to take an interest when I was growing up to learn kitchen skills. You can imagine my surprise when I got out on my own and started cooking. I thought simple and it would all turn out just like Mom's. Needless to say my first attempts (lots of them) were total disasters. I think I can remember that stands out so strongly is baked beans. For some reason I thought ok pork n beans with BBQ sauce is all you have to do - NOT. :) I sure learned to respect my Mom's wonderful achievements in the kitchen very fast and begin to study and watch closely learning what and how to do things. I was doing that right up to my Mom's passing and I treasure the memories of my adventures in the kitchen with Mom.

    I found out at very soon the difference between fresh pork and the pork we buy at the store too. I was thrilled to get to buy half a hog for $15 with mouth watering thinking of the wonderful ham and things like Mom fixed. Believe me it was LOTS of work and the old taste buds were really disappointed when I first cooked up some of the meat anticipating a meal just like Mom made when I was growing up.

    I am proud to say that with many years of practice and learning from some expert cooks that I'm not scared to serve my food now to everyone that comes into my home. It's something I love to do and pray that I can continue doing so up until my last day.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  5. I did not have cooking experience prior to marriage. My first meal for my husband was heated canned chili served over rice, topped with grated cheese, chopped green onion, and a dollop of sour cream.
    My husband is from Europe and had never seen this dish. He took a look at it and said, "I think a nice red will go with that."
    little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

    1. Oh, Lil, that is hilarious! He sounds like a keeper!

  6. I believe the first thing I cooked was when I was in Girl Scouts and we were camping out and it had rained, everything was wet and trying to start a fire was so much fun. It was a meal prepared in aluminum foil, chicken and potatoes. Then later we were telling ghost stories and made smores. Yum. pgenest57(at)aol(dot)com

    1. Oh, what fun! I won a prize for making the best pancakes at GS camp, over an open fire! The judge was the old cook, Irish -- all the adults had camp names.

  7. The first thing I cooked for myself when I got my first apartment was baked chicken which wasn’t hard to do. The problem was that I also made broccoli which I tried to cook as a head instead of cutting it up. I ate the chicken first and then ate the broccoli afterwards when it was finally cooked.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

  8. My mother wasn't big on letting me help her in the kitchen, but we had one of those large large kitchens with the table in the middle where everybody sat and visited so I learned to cook by watching her. I remember the first time I cooked was when I was still at home and my mother had to have surgery. I cooked a roast and corn. I don't remember how it tasted, but remember everybody saying it was okay. I never did learn to cook as well as my mother. My favorite sign is one that says,"if you've come to see me, you're welcomed anytime. If you came for the food, I'll see you later."

  9. I first cooked the meal by my self when I was in high school. My mom went to work full time and she told me you get home first you have to make dinner. We had hamburgers for a week because it was the only thing I knew how to make. My dad and brother complained. Mom said you can cook then and they stopped. After that I experimented and everyone was happy because we have different things for supper every night.

  10. The first meal I remember making was spaghetti and meatballs. I always loved my mom's greasy meatballs and tried to duplicate them.
    browninggloria at hotmail dot com

  11. Ha. My mom could cook but I hated the kitchen. My first real attempt at cooking for another human, my boyfriend. I was vegetarian but he was not. Trying to prepare pesto chicken. Holding the raw chicken with my hands in plastic baggies so I didn't have to touch raw meat. He hates pesto so it was not successful. But will celebrate 12 years together and he does much of the cooking ;)

    1. Erin, I too had that former vegetarian's reluctance to touch meat, though I don't mind much anymore. Mr. Right and I cook together, and he cooks most of the meat. He's a grill master, too! Thank goodness for our sweethearts!

  12. I was a country kid and a 4-H kid. Always had to help in the kitchen peeling potatoes, setting the table, washing dishes etc., all the fun stuff. I had entered several food projects at the 4-H Fair, but the year and the cooking experience I remember vividly is when I was 14 and decided to enter a pie. I practiced making my favorite cherry pie. All went well until the night before the fair when Michigan had it's hottest summer day of about 90 and humid. AC wasn't part of our world back then. My family went off to the lake to swim while I stay home trying to roll my dough while pouting, sweating and feeling very alone and unloved, sniff.... Eventually, after about two hours, dough and flour everywhere and me thinking that I'd ruined my chance of a blue ribbon this year, I took my finished product from the oven. I did get a blue ribbon, but I've always wondered if the judges knew that THIS pie literally was made with sweat and tears.

  13. Love all the fun stories! I did know how to cook a few things and certainly how to bake -- especially pies and cookies -- before that first college apartment, but it wasn't until the first apartment after law school that I decided I really needed to learn to cook. I remember my parents visiting and I was making Fettucine Alfredo, nervously consulting the recipe -- LOL, because it's quite simple -- and my father teasing me about "reading the map"!

  14. Cooking was a real trial for me. My grandmother was a master cook and baker who lived with us for 7 years and ruled that domain. I had no cooking knowledge at all so I was the worst cook ever. When I was first married I relied on cookbooks which were very helpful, but I still cooked simply and there was no real exciting meals. Now I have increased my repertoire and changed my outlook so I am much improved. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  15. Oh, Cleo -- what fun those were! My friend had one -- pink, I think -- and we had a lot of fun playing with it in her basement. Somewhere along the line, I ended up with similar tiny kitchen tools -- I've still got the 5" long rolling pin!

    1. LOL on the five-inch rolling pin! Vintage toys almost always bring back fond memories. I finally realized I was not alone in my affection for Kenner's Easy-Bake Oven when I watched an episode of Seinfeld. (For anyone who's a fan, you might recall the show in which Elaine joins Jerry in going to great lengths for the chance to play one more time with a vintage Easy-Bake Oven in a friend's pristine collection.) Loved it.

  16. My mother never allowed me in the kitchen---so my grandmother taught me to cook. She never used recipes so it was always a pinch of this and a handfull of that. To this day I never totally follow a recipe---I'm always adjusting or substituting which results in sometimes good, sometimes awful.

  17. My Mom started my four sisters' and my own love of cooking by having us line a springform pan with ladyfingers for her chocolate icebox cake. Then we graduated to adding the butter, milk and cheese powder to the macaroni and cheese, making scrambled eggs and chocolate chip cookies. I really enjoyed cooking, so she signed me up for the Betty Crocker Cooking Card Library that I thought was one of the coolest things ever. I modified their chocolate chip cookie recipe, and that became my trademark recipe.

    Also, growing up in Texas, we made a lot of Mexican food, and in college in Virginia, they used to serve "tacos" in the dining hall, but with spaghetti sauce instead of salsa. After a trip home, I brought all the ingredients to make a real taco dinner for my friends (tequila included!), and it was a big hit ~

  18. I'd been cooking since I can remember. My grandmother loved to cook and she loved working in the kitchen with us kids. Of us 4 girls. I am the only one that really likes to cook. I have made many things. But. The one thing I have never been able to get right. Is Penuche. I have tried many different variations. I love Penuche. But. For some reason it just does not turn out for me. The first thing I really remember working on was peeling apples that we had picked from Grandmas gravenstein apple tree. Still think they make the best apple pies. The best part? It was a joint effort. We all worked on it together. My Mom can turn anything into a gourmet meal without even thinking about it. I do not that that talent. I have to really work at it. Often fail. But, hey! The fun (usually) is in the trying. Della at deepotter (at) peoplepc (dot) com

  19. Growing up with a single mom and living with my grandmother I learned to make scrambled and fried eggs. My mother's idea of a cooked lamb chop or steak or even a burger was to cook it till it died and could be used as a weapon. When she remarried I used it as my chance to take over a part of the food prep. Step dad couldn't even get the BBQ to start. I learned and did all the outdoor cooking. Little by little (by watching all the tv chefs I could find on the public stations) I learned how not to poison anyone. These days I have great knife skills and have been paid to prepare meals for private parties.

    NoraAdrienne (at) gmail (dot) com

  20. My grandmother cooked wonderful meals, and my mother cooked very ordinary meals. I never ventured into the kitchen so I had to learn from trial and error and from following recipes. I adjusted recipes and now have many which I rely on and can produce a tasty and lovely meal. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  21. I helped my mother and grandmother in the kitchen when I was young but don't remember anything specific. I do remember, as a young teen, being tasked with making long simmered meatballs, salad, and green beans while Mom was at work (she made the mashed potatoes when she got home). It was delicious, and I wish I had the recipe now. My mom was an excellent cook and showed her love through food. She recently passed away, and I will definitely miss her delicious meals. Dmskrug3 at hotmail(.)com

  22. My first attempt was as a high school student in foods class. Teacher said make meals colorful & not all brown or beige. To also make holiday meals festive. So on St. Pat's day with my pork chops & sweet corn I made mashed potatos & added green food coloring. None of my family would eat the green potatos. Years later I made a special dinner for my husband on his bda. Are mushroom caps with cran, ribs, fried potatos. I left crab out too long & it gave my husband a bad case of food poisoning on his bday.

  23. Both my parents liked to cook. They served quite a few of the recipes from The Art of French Cooking. There were so many meals with heavy cream sauces that our dog (who got left-overs) had to be put on a diet!
    I started cooking serious food once I could see the top of the stove.

  24. My mother dies when I was 12ish - one of the ONLY items in my house from her mother (who died 6 months later) is a very battered copy of THE I NEVER COOKED BEFORE COOK BOOK by Jo Coudert. The note inside reads: Maybe this will help when you don't know what to do next - Love from Dandy Christmas 1965" This was about 2 months after my mom died. I haven't used it lately, and she was SO right - if you can find a copy, give it to anyone you know who is just starting to cook. Saved my butt many times! I can't remember the first meal I prepared - that was many decades ago. Have made my share of mistakes, I well know.


  25. I remember my mom making Danish Pastry a rolling the dough as big as our kitchen table to make it thin and flakey. I nevermastered that. I also remember reheating something a her direction of a pinch of water I took literally and she died laugh at me. I loved cooking and trying new things with my

  26. My mother and grandmother were good cooks. I really wasn't interested in learning, except I would bake some things. I learned to read & follow a recipe, but I never put together a meal.
    When hubby asked my daddy for my hand in marriage (over 51 yrs ago), daddy told him something like -- she can't cook or clean house, but you can have her.
    One of our most used wedding/shower gifts was a Betty Crocker DINNER FOR TWO cookbook. I used it for years, and it did become stained and pages loose. Then somewhere along the line (moves) I lost it, so a few years ago, hubby found a used one on ebay and bought it for me.
    Even tho nearly always I have cooked by recipe, I do think I turned out to be a pretty good cook. But nearly 30 years ago, hubby got home from his job in the military about 2 hours before I got home. So he started getting the supper ready. Well, didn't take me long to get spoiled -- I haven't cooked much since then!!

    1. donna (dot) durnell (at) sbcglobal (dot) net

  27. I had the same easy bake oven! My mom usually let my sister cook and bake. When I first got married Betty Crocker was my best kitchen friend!
    marypopmom (at) yahoo (at) com

    1. LOL on Betty being your best friend. Still true today for many home cooks. And smiles for the Easy-Bake Oven shout-out. What still impresses me is the way Kenner was able to create a safe baking experience for very little children--even including a little window where we could watch our cakes and cookies baking (by the heat of an incandescent light bulb). For its time, the toy was ingenious.

  28. I don't remember at what age I cooked a dish. I do remember cooking some dishes for my Cooking badge with the Girl Scouts. My mother volunteered to do some group activities. The one dish I remember preparing was ratatouille. The girls and I did like it amazingly. I remember kneading bread for baking it with my mother. I tried a bunch of dessert recipes. My mother was an amazing cook and have prepared dishes that I never attempted to do such as cassoulet and yorkshire pudding. Early in my marriage to my husband, he was game for anything I tried. I did manage to burn a pot of peas. LOL I threw that pan out. It was a cheap pan.

  29. My mom and grandma were good cooks, everything from scratch even though my mom worked and although they argued one overcooked and one undercooked, so I learned to cook at an early age. I could make a mean Kraft Dinner tuna casserole at about 9. About that same time my aunt found a homemade pizza recipe in the newspaper and we all made it - still making it to this day! Thanks for the terrific giveaway.

  30. I tried making pecan pie, and it was a disaster. Raw in the middle, burnt on the edges, and Karo syrup everywhere. Thank you for this chance. areewekidding(at)

  31. My mother was an excellent cook and baker. She never let me cook, but made me sit and watch her all the time. So, I actually knew how to make some things when I married. Unfortunately, I didn't know how to make a small amount for 2 people. We'd eat for days on what I cooked.

  32. First thing I learned to make was cream chicken over rolls that my mother made for me all the time..My grown kids love it to this day and ask for it when they come home to