Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Domestic influences

Sometimes when I'm working around the house (especially the kitchen), I think about how and where I learned certain homemaking skills. It is interesting to me that in some tasks, I do things the way my mother always did. And for many other jobs, I've adopted someone else's habit or come up with my own method.

Here are a few examples of what I'm talking about:

*My mom always had one of those cool nut grinders with a hand crank, and I decided I wanted one, too. My mom often buys us whole pecans/walnuts for Christmas, so I keep the bags in the freezer and chop the nuts fresh.

*I don't really remember cooking chicken until I lived on my own, though perhaps I did. So I figured out my own method: I always set out the meat to thaw overnight in the fridge, then dice it up raw and cook it piecemeal over the stove. Until last year when my sister came to visit, I didn't realize that she and my mom have a completely different approach of cooking chicken by steaming it in a skillet with water!

*My mom told me the best way to cook rice is from the More with Less cookbook, a gem she gave me a few years ago.

*I had never heard of this little tool until I saw one at my mother-in-law's house. I now own one and think it's a handy invention.

*I've mentioned this before, but following my mom's example, I use crushed garlic from a jar. I do love the flavor of fresh, but this is one area that convenience is a real plus!

*I learned from my mom that carrots absolutely must be peeled to be eaten. I remember being at a family gathering a long time ago, and my mom was not a fan of the carrot sticks that still had the peel on them!

What about you--who/what have been some of your domestic influences? What skills and methods have you learned from someone else, and what have you figured out on your own?


Ginger said...

Hi Carrie, I follow your post along with Monica's but don't hink I've posted here before.

Being from the South, of course I had to follow my mother's lead in frying chicken.

I must say, though, that the rest of my culinary habits are my own. Now that I'm older and have been through colon cancer, my eating habits have changed from my mother's southern country cooking. I am now more influenced by just eating healthier. For instance, years before I knew I had a cancer tumor, I had switched to brown rice and grilling or baking most meats.

I do love gadgets. I have a different strawberry corer, and I just bought a garlic press at Monica's Pampered Chef party. I used to buy the jarred garlic, but I've always wanted a press.

Ms. Gardener said...

Hi Carri, I love your blog and am also excited to be doing this swap with you! It's going to be a joy to get to know you.

I have often wondered the same thing that you described in this post. My mom and I are so different, and there aren't too many things we do the same (except make a mean spaghetti sauce and pasta e fasioli). I truly enjoy trying new recipes and stepping outside the traditional. My mom loathes cooking and only cooks a select few items she feels comfortable preparing.

We both keep a relatively clean and orderly house. I am a clutter-freak and have to dismantle piles all around the house. My mom is great with getting rid of clutter.

Other influences for me are magazines like _Country Living_ or _Real Simple_. I love getting ideas from other blogs also. I have learned a great deal from a few chefs on the Food Network about cooking as well.

Have a great day!

mom said...

Dear Carrie,

My mom also had a nut grinder -- I guess it's a family tradition! I still do some things the same way my mother did -- making and freezing hamburger patties and, of course, making homemade rolls in the big yellow bowl. However, I used to make Rice Krispie treats the way Mom did -- melting the marshmallows in a pan then pouring that over the Rice Krispies in the previously mentioned big yellow bowl. One time Julie saw me do that and suggested I melt the marshmallows in my Dutch oven and then add the Rice Krispies to that -- only one dish to wash! Why didn't I think of that?

I learned about garlic in a jar from another friend. I've never had or even used a strawberry huller. I had to smile when I read about the carrot sticks -- I don't remember that incident, though I still prefer my carrot sticks peeled!

I'm glad we can all use what works for us -- no matter where we learned it or if we "added it up for ourselves." :) Love you, Mom

Michelle said...

I've gotten a few things from my mom, like putting a fried egg over a baked potato and broccoli for a quick dinner, but for the most part I do things OPPOSITE of my mom! LOL

I tend to use fresh or frozen vegetables, and she usually used canned. I avoid salty convenience foods, which she liked to use... but then again, I don't go to work every day like she did, so it was a necessity for her in order to have something on the table.

One thing that I don't even know where I learned it, is that I always throw the first pancake in the garbage. It's so oily, ick! My kids know this, so when I pour the first one on the pan, they will say, "I'll throw it away for you, mom!"

My 5 year old loves peeling garlic for me, and we go through a LOT of garlic, so I'm sure she'll carry those memories with her and perhaps always do her garlic herself... or maybe she'll call me one day and say "did you know you can buy it peeled and minced??"

It's fun to take a trip down memory lane and see where we get our quirks from! :)

kelseylynae said...

This is obviously an area in which I am still figuring out "my habits," but it's interesting that I'm already noticing how much I do just like my mom, who I know does things just like her mom.

Since mom grew up in a family of 10, she spent much of her time in the kitchen. There are definitely a few quirks Kali and I both picked up. For example: When making cinnamon rolls we measure each off with a ruler before cutting the dough. This way it ensures that each is the same size, and that you don't end up with a huge one (or one too small you can't use it) at the end.

Also, I like to rotate what juices we drink, so I'll buy apple juice in the jug, but since grape juice is so much more expensive, I'll buy the frozen concentrate and reuse the apple juice jug. This sometimes confuses guests, but it does save money and recycles!

There are some things I'm learning on my own though. Since my dad has acid reflux, we could never have anything tomatoe based, which actually cuts out on A LOT. So now I'm figuring out how to make a lot of those recipes on my own.

Great post.

(By the way, I thought of Eric the other day becuase I heard a Rob Bell sermon where he used an illustration with UofM vs. Michigan St. :)

Melody said...

My mom never allowed us in the kitchen because there were so many of us and she didn't want us underfoot so I didn't learn a lot while at home.

Most of the stuff I have learned on my own from reading recipes and books however if I have a question I will call my mom and ask her how it is done.

Edi said...

I don't remember watching my mom cook a whole lot while growing up. Her meals were pretty simple.

I do have my mom's bread dough recipe which I use from time to time and a few of her recipes for various desserts - and only her recipe for turkey stuffing!

Most of my cooking I learned on my gadget that I rec'd from my grandma - a ricer (for mashing potatoes...but I also use it for mashing apples, pumpkin etc.)

There are probably other things we do similarly or I do and don't even realize I learned it from my mom.

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

I do a lot of things differently than my mom did them, but I did pick up a few things from her. Like the way I fold towels and the way I iron a shirt.

Some great things to think about though...I'm going to be working at home all day today...I'll think about it more as I complete my tasks!

Ewokgirl said...

I do a lot of housekeeping things the way my mother does them. I fold towels and sheets the same way, dust and vacuum the same, handle laundry-sorting and such similarly...

We're a bit different in the kitchen, though. I do a lot more scratch cooking than she did. I use fresh garlic, am a little obsessive about my spices, and I cook a lot of ethnic foods that she rarely made. (I'm very into Asian cooking, which she never did.) However, a lot of this has to do with the fact that I didn't bother learning from her when I was growing up. I had to wing it in the kitchen when I was in college.

Oh, I use a completely different recipe from my mom and sister when it comes to mac and cheese. My niece was appalled. ;-) The kid just doesn't realize that my recipe is better!

Wendi said...

I learned so much from my mom, and still am learning from her!

I fold bath towels the way mom taught me. I love cooking with my garden fresh veggies, just like mom. I tend to make many of the meals that I had as a child.

I am trying to prepare the same foods I had as a child but much healthier. Mom is a good southern country cook, so I leave out the bacon grease and tend to bake chicken more then I fry it.

Linds said...

Interesting thoughts! I haven't thought about this much but there are several things I do that are how may grandmother did them.

I used to cook chicken breast like she did-boil it, I don't anymore because we get whole chickens.

I just rearranged my living room yesterday and because it's going to be winter I moved the couch next to the window. If it's next to the window in the summer the color will fade-she always changed the living room according to the seasons.

I don't use a mop. She scrubs the flour on her hands and knees and that's what I did when I lived with her and continue to do (when it gets done :).

I've always used the garlic in a jar as well, it is definitely a great convenience. I had my first real garlic over the summer's hard to beat...we still keep the jar on hand for convenience though.

Kali said...

I loved your post, Carrie. I think about this often, especially in the kitchen. As Kelsey already mentioned, we both picked up quite a few of Mom's methods. She usually had a very specific way of doing things, which I find myself picking up on most of the time. I'm a huge recipe follower, just like my Mom, and I often find myself defaulting to many of her recipes that I grew up with. With our recent move, I even realized how I organize my kitchen...just like Mom!

I have learned to experiment quite a bit with different ethnic dishes since being married. Dan especially enjoys Mexican food, so I have learned more about hot peppers, tomatoes and cilantro with many of these dishes. I use much more chili pepper than Mom ever did!

I also fold clothes & towels just like Mom taught me, and like she always said - things just fit better that way :-)

Angela - Life w/ Two Busy Boys said...

Good post...I think almost everything I do is influenced by other wives/moms. It's amazing especially raising children how much you learn from other mothers that you can't find in books.

gail said...

great topic! i also have moved to jarred garlic. which i learned about from a friend. i think i learned most of my cooking skills on my own, after i got married. tho i did learn some things working in a deli. i used to cook chicken like you, but not i toss it in the crockpot. let it cook, then chop it up after its cooked. i don't really like handling raw meat of any kind.

Anonymous said...

Well, my mom and I had an interesting moment when she came out to visit this past summer. I picked two meals to make that I thought I made "just like her." Turns out she was surprised by my recipe and said she didn't have anything whatsoever to do with either of them. (They tasted good and she approved, btw.) All that to say - I have NO IDEA who my influences are. Apparently not my mother!

- Carrie, ReadingtoKnow

(Your comment section is different and it wno't let me say who I am. So here you go!)

Teri in CO said...

This is an interesting thought process! I too have learned most of my "methods" from my mom. I had to laugh when I read your first point. My mom has and uses one of those hand-crank nut choppers! I do have the PC chopper but when I saw the hand-crank one at the thrift store, I knew I had to have it! And that's mostly what I use now!

Amy said...

That is such a great topic. It is funny because my sister came over one day for dinner and we were laughing because our refrigerator is exactly the same inside and we put everything exactly where our mom did.

Other than that though, I don't really do anything like my mom just because she really wasn't into homemaking or cooking. I am a self-taught gal and it is funny because she is so intrigued by what I do and how I cook things. It has been a little role-reversal that feels kind of weird :)

Mary Ann said...

This is an interesting question. :-)

I cook a lot like my mom does/did. She was always big on how the food would look on the plate color-wise and I often think of that. Also, not too many starches at the same meal. I am very creative with leftovers and substitutions like she is. My dad says that I cook like Mom. :-)

I've also learned a lot from my sister. When we lived together before we were married, she taught me a lot about cooking as I wasn't that experienced at that point! So what I don't do like Mom, I do like my sister! What I learned from my sister was a bit more gourmet recipes as well as trying a lot of new things.

I pick up a lot of cooking tips and hints through cookbooks and the internet. So with my mom, sister and internet influences, I've picked up a style all my own.

My mom has never been one to have very neat kitchen cabinets and drawers. So my sister and I are both almost obsessive compulsive over ours. :-}

Anonymous said...

Hi Carrie:

I finally got back to reading your blog. (I've just been so busy!!)
Anyway, this post really interested me, as I learned so much of what I did & still do in the kitchen from my beloved Aunt Louise. Memee was never much of a cook, so I loved to go to Aunt Louise's house & watch her. She taught me MANY things about the kitchen, and to set a pretty table, etc.
I got the nut grinder idea from well as the yellow bowl rolls. I still use a different kind of potato peeler, which she had used. (Mary helped me find one on the Internet a few years ago because you can't buy them in the stores anymore.)
As for chicken, I nearly always cook mine first (unless I'm stir frying it) but I usually bake my chicken breasts in the toaster oven. Sometimes I will steam or "boil" them in water, but I feel that makes the meat kind of "stringy". Perhaps it is a little more tender that way, though.
I also learned to do a lot of things in Home Ec classes in high school and college.
As for carrots....Aunt Louise always wanted them unpeeled, but thoroughly scrubbed, because of losing food value when you peel them , but I could never bring myself to eat unpeeled carrots!!

Funny, how we pick up some habits from others and form some of our own, isn't it?

Good post!

Love you, Grandma

Ticia said...

Hi I really enjoyed reading your post along with everyone elses.

My Mom worked full time and we were not allowed in the kitchen. So I didn't come away with too much like my Mom. I did have to call her right after I had moved away and find out what I left out of potato soup!

So I went into marriage not very capable in the kitchen.
So my greatest influence has been my husband who has always encouraged me to learn and experiment in the kitchen.

And my best friend and mentor for the last 8 years has opened me up to new foods and canning. She is more of a blessing then she will ever know. Like a mom and best friend rolled into one.