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The food you grew up with and the type of food you eat now

Discussion in 'Cookery' started by egyptgirl, Mar 12, 2011.

  1. egyptgirl

    egyptgirl Senior commenter

    OK. We've established that we come from a pretty diverse range of backgrounds.
    When I was eating my dinner this evening, I started to think about my upbringing and the type of food I grew up with - compared to the type of food I eat now.
    I always ate very traditional Greek and Egyptian food when I was growing up - when we were living in Egypt, we ate a practically vegan diet.
    I'll admit that the type of food I eat now is largely influenced my fiance - he'll eat Greek food sometimes (but he's not hugely keen) and he says that he doesn't like Egyptian food (although if I do make it, he virtually inhales it).
    I am hugely interested in food and that almost certainly makes me want to know more about food - I love trying different cuisines and get more excited about trying new ingredients than anything. My excitement when I went to the local market last weekend and found vanilla pods at about half the price they are in the supermarket/farm shop was almost slightly embarassing!
    What kind of food did you eat when you were a kid and how does that compare to what you eat now?
  2. *** - she's hardly traumatised.
    Meat and 2 veg, which is mostly what we eat now. My kids will starve themsleves rather than eat anything spicy. How I long for curry!
  3. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    Ate anything and everything as kids. My parents are unfussy eaters which means that my sister and I are unfussy eaters, I believe. We went through phases as children, as I think many children do despite their parents' efforts (I went through a phase of seemingly liking nothing but Dairylea sandwiches for example!), but from the age of about 8 onwards, I've eaten anything.
    We were lucky to have been taken on foreign holidays right from when we were very little (mainly Spain, Portugal, Greece and France), and those holidays involved eating searching out and eating real local food at locals' restaurants, and not at the thousands of identical restaurants with the depressing, faded plastic photos of chicken and chips/pizza/spaghetti bolognese along the tourist strip. I can't remember this but a well-told family anecdote involves me as a 1 year old in France sitting on my mum's lap in a restaurant and demolishing her plate of Coquilles St Jacques, and I have fond memories of eating frogs' legs/snails/king prawns/mussels/squid/octopus/albondigas/poulet de Bresse aux morilles/quenelles de brochet/paella/zarzuela/foie gras/confit etc. right from a young age up until the age my parents told me I'd have to start paying to go on holiday with them (admittedly, I was about 28!).
    Meals at home were always proper, decent food, apart from Saturdays which was mum's no cook day, when things came out of packets, the freezer or the chip shop and when we were old enough, we could fend for ourselves.
    Mum was and still is a great cook, although she doesn't take a particular pleasure in it, other than puds, cakes and desserts which are her speciality. We always ate a varied diet of healthy food as kids, but she cooks more out of the love of providing for her family than pleasure in the actual cookin itself - i.e. it's a necessity, but she does it well. As children, like many people I suspect, you could guess what was for tea depending on what night it was, although this varied seasonally.
    Sunday - Roast. Tended not to be the traditional English roast, but often French in style, particularly concerning accompanying veg, influenced by family holidays
    Monday - Cold meat and bubble n squeak, or salad in Summer
    Tuesday - Curry or similar with leftover roast
    Wednesday - Soup made with last remnants of roast - either a traditional stew + dumplings or minestrone. In Summer this might have been salad instead.
    Thursday - the only day that was slightly unpredictable as Thursdays was the "big shop" day, so might have been chops/home made burgers/meat balls/chilli/lasagne/sheperd's pie but was normally pasta - either bolognese or my mum's made up 'bacognese" which was simply bolognese but with bacon rather than minced meat
    Friday - Fish - either fresh mackerel or trout or smoked haddock or kippers or sometimes a piece of cod or haddock. When we were very young, mum would make her own chips, but as we got older, the chips that accompanied the fish would be from the chip-shop (it being my job to run up and get them, accidentally 'sampling' a few on the way home)
    Saturday - Mum's no-cook day - ready meals, sandwiches, take-away food!
    Our eating habits now certainly reflect the frugality of my upbringing, in that a roast would be eked out as long as possible to provide meals up until at least Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. My parents both grew up in very poor families, where food was valued and nothing wasted. Priorities were eating as well as possible though, and their respective parents would buy the best food they could afford and make the very best of it. By the time I was born, my parents were a lot better off, as my father did very well for himself, professionally, but the basic principle of making the most of your food and wasting nothing was still rigidly adhered to. The only big difference is that we eat more veggies meals now, whereas meals always involved meat or fish when growing up, as they still do at my parents' house.
    My mother tended to cook during the week because as a stay-at-home mum, that was her role, with my father working long hours, but on Sundays and on high-days and holidays my dad would cook and it's from him that I've inherited my passionate obsession with cooking. Mum's food was always nutritious and tasty but done out of necessity, whereas my father's food is based on invention and creating something wonderful. When we speak on the phone, at least 50% of our conversations include food, relating to what we've cooked that week or what we've eaten out that week! We're both avid collectors of food books and so any visits result in us spending a few happy hours devouring any new purchases. What's nice is that nowadays, we learn reciprocally from each other relating to food, and I now teach him at least as much as he does me.
    It goes back further than that though, as my paternal grandfather was possibly the best cook I've ever known. He was a galley chef in the merchant navy, which doesn't seem as if it would produce anyone with a love of fine food, but boy when he cooked...utterly wonderful. He used to cook our family's New Years Eve dinner, which was always a big occasion and would lock himself in the kitchen for a whole day, with no-one being allowed in whilst he cooked as the menu was always a secret. I was obsessed with this as a little boy and would sit outside the door, listenting to him cooking inside, with Radio 4 on, coughing his way through umpteen Woodbines. He would let me in sometimes, as our special secret, and he'd tell me what he was doing. I can't recall the details of much of this now, sadly, but I remember him preparing a shellfish bisque once, and showing me how to fry the shells and add the fish stock and reduce it.
    It's possible I say this with misty eyes now, but the food we ate on NYE was always sensational. Many courses, always prepared with incredible precision and a deftness of touch that surprise most who met him out of this context. Certainly food that wouldn't be out of place in a Michelin starred restaurant.
    Sadly, old Sid is no longer with us, but if I could cook for absolutely anyone in the world, it would be my old granddad.

  4. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    Crikey - apologies for War & Peace, there! Got a bit misty-eyed and nostalgic...feel free to ignore any or all of my ramblings...
  5. My mum wasn't a particularly good every day cook, and would never dream of having fresh veg, always frozen with the exception of potatoes - she came from a very large mining family, with very little money, and so I don't think she actually knew how to cook - thankfully she's better now, but still wouldn't dream of using anything other than a jar for spag bol sauce.
    She can however, turn her hand to a decent spread when pushed, but it's always very plain - sliced cold meats, cheese, salad and jacket potatoes with loads of pickles being her favourite. She also buys all cakes and biscuits and certainly couldn't make a batch of scones...
    I learnt to cook through trial and error with my 'Aunty' Jennifer teaching me how to bake - she still is one of the best bakers I know, although now she tends to use too much cream and whisky for my tastes.
    Mum has never eaten curry, won't even try, not even a mild one - and when she comes to us, her first thought is always what are we having to eat, your step-father might not like it. They travel regularly but apart rarely eat local cuisine, prefering to seek out places that cater for the tourists.
    My cooking is in complete contrast - lots of spice and fresh veg with everything! Mr W laughs at how many veg I can put on a plate in one sitting, as he's not used to it either. Mr W being a complete carnivore, finds me strange!
    The main difference is that now I have to cook gluten free, my daughter is a coeliac, and I have a wheat allergy (obviously passed the gene on - sorry Hannah!) which mum also finds difficult - she regularly uses the same knives for buttering toast and so on.
    I tend to cook lots of batch and slow cooking, ready for mid week meals, and a roast dinner almost every Sunday. Fish pie, curry, casseroles of all kinds, chilli, soup, lasagne ...
    There's always homemade cake in the tin too - but not currently until Good Friday, so gluten free Simnel cake will be a fabulous treat then.
    Also rambly, sorry!
  6. InkyP

    InkyP Star commenter

    Nigel Slater's 'Toast' rang a lot of bells for me with the sort of food he describes in the 60's and 70's. My Mum was a terrible cook too. I learnt to cook at school and did A level Home Economics although I was the only one in the class. Thank you Miss Cuppleditch!
    I've always enjoyed cooking and eating varied and imaginative meals with fresh ingredients even when I've lived alone. I can't uinderstand people who say they can't be bothered 'just for me'. I continue to learn and experiment from books, TV, friends from different cultures and now from this forum.
  7. Si N. Tiffick

    Si N. Tiffick Occasional commenter

    My father often worked away, for weeks at a time, and my mum prepared all of our meals. She generally made a meal for my sister and I, then ate alone later. I believe this was because she was a) really fussy and b) always on a diet, and didn't want us to grow up with her weird food habits.
    When dad was away, meals were basic and frugal eg sausage and mash/ macaroni cheese- we didn't eat much veg as my mother doesn't eat veg, therefore it never ocurred to her to provide it for us, the exceptions being, peas, green beans and mushrooms (she likes those!) Given that she was always dieting there was always a jug of carrot sticks in iced water in the fridge which we'd help ourselves to when peckish. I remember dad coming home unexpectedly and being served what we were having- sausages and boiled rice and exclaiming "what on earth is this?!" as he was never served such basic fodder.
    When dad was home, mum pulled out the stops- she was an adventurous cook for her day and meals would be spag bol/ osso bucco/ coq au vin/ stuffed peppers/ indian curries courtesy of dad's mum's cook's recipes or Madhur Jaffrey/ recipes picked up when they'd lived in the States- jambalaya/ sticky ribs/ barbecued chicken. She'd make crumbles and bake most days. Dad would eat with us if he was home early enough (usually mum would serve the same meal twice, for us at 6ish and for the adults when dad got in about 9ish).
    For family gatherings, it was always my mum who cooked- she would then as now, make a fabulous spread.
    Today, I cook many of the same meals of my childhood, but I always eat with my son and make sure I set a good example to him through my own varied diet. I've never made "children's food" for him; he eats what I eat. We eat the varied food of my childhood, but have loads of veg- my mother's hatred of anything healthy didn't dampen my enthusiasm! I learned from my mum how to stretch meals and how to use every bit of say, a chicken, getting several meals out of each one as she did when Dad was away. My mother hated traditional Scottish food like Mince and tatties/ stovies/ broths/ stews as her own mother was a rotten cook, but I've learned to love these foods as well as the more exotic ones.

  8. I grew up on meat and two veg, followed by pudding (which we always just called "afters").
    All of that was mixed in with an additional supply of processed stuff, which was considered very sophisticated in the 70s.
    I had learnt to cook well before I left home, but my days of experimenting really started when I went to uni - I had never eaten pizza or spaghetti before then. We didn't have "foreign" stuff at home [​IMG]
    Nowadays, I still eat a lot of traditional British stuff, plus of course the German stuff (never considered foreign, of course) but also lots of Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern stuff.
    Plus Italian, of course.
    And I don't eat a lot of meat, as I am not too keen on it.
    Although they are all my adaptations - I am not really a stickler for authenticity. In fact, I hardly ever stick to a recipe.

  9. What an interesting thread.
    I grew up in Libya so started an abiding love of both Libyan and Italian food (Libya being an ex Italian colony). Moved to France where my mother added classic French cooking to her repertoire. She was an excellent but jealous cook and didn't teach me at all. I was allowed to peel potatoes and veg but that was all. Somehow I absorbed what she was doing though and learned by osmosis.
    I still eat and cook the food I grew up on although I am constantly battling Mr C who was brought up on badly cooked Scottish stodge and is deeply suspicious of anything new or different - apart from curries which have to be blisteringly hot!
    My children were brought up to eat anything from spag to squid. Sometimes I wished I could get away with feeding them on fish fingers - it would have been so much cheaper!
  10. lapinrose

    lapinrose Lead commenter

    Fancy a trip to Libya in July? I've got a wedding to go to in Tripoli!! Flak jacket will be worn methinks!
  11. Fancy a trip to Libya? Don't joke - I'd go in the blink of an eye! Bl00dy hot in July though!

  12. lapinrose

    lapinrose Lead commenter

    I'm not joking, I have so many invites to Tripoli, Sabha, the Red Sahara, Ms'rata and Al-Khums that I'd need a year ther to visit them all. I was there in Nov 2009, lovely country, the students I've taught from Libya have been fantastic, really nice people.
  13. It is a lovely country and the people are really nice and as for the food..........
    I am seriously tempted lapin! Might have to wait and see how the situation in Libya resolves itself though. [​IMG]
  14. Bethannie

    Bethannie New commenter

    Libya is where Mum and birthdad were! I'll have to ask Mum exactly where they were. I'm guessing there must have been a British RAF base somewhere in the area.
    (I recently discovered that one of my brothers went to school with Gaddafi!)
  15. A friend of mine knows one of Gaddafi's sons (don't ask me which one, but he is in his 40s and spends quite a lot of time in Germany).
    Apparently he is very nice - although a bit of a lady's man.
    Having read about the father, I think I am a bit prejudiced [​IMG]
  16. About the family, I hasten to add - not about Libyans!
  17. egyptgirl

    egyptgirl Senior commenter

    Thank you to the brilliant response to this thread everyone!
    Some really wonderful and interesting stories out there!
  18. henriette

    henriette New commenter

    My grandmother was a very good, plain English cook. She taught my mother all she knew.

    My mother started the expansion of her repertoire with visits to France in the early 1950s where "Madame" taught her some family staples.
    In 1958 aged 22 she worked in Vienna for HMG and had a Hungarian landlady - she learned a lot about Austrian and Hungarian food.
    In 1959 aged 23 she married my father: a Lancastrian of Irish extraction who had never eaten anything other than "plain". He had already done his National Service in Jordan and spent a year at MECAS in Beirut so was "into" Arab flavours.
    In 1961 aged 25 and with a toddler, she followed him on his posting to Denmark , where she learned the delights of Danish food.
    In 1963 they were posted to Kuwait where she added not only Gulf delicacies to her repertoire but also Goan (out cook was from Goa), Filipino (the house boy) and American (good friend was the American ambassador's wife).
    She taught me all she knew.
    • I have added to it with more French (my teaching specialism); Italian (my "other language - lived there for a while for my degree); Spanish (born out of holidays) and Greek (again holiday/boyfriend led).
    • I dabble with an occasional Indian or Chinese-style dish, but would never claim them to be authentic.
    • Additionally, my god-father was Palestinian and he, his wife and the housekeeper developed my knowledge of Lebanese/Alexandrian food. I loved the food in North Africa when on holiday there and try to replicate the flavours here.
    Is my cooking/eating influence by what I grew up with - most definitely - I was brought up to be adventurous (I remember a friend struggling with Spaghetti Carbonara in 1970!) and continue to be so.
    My downfall is that I do not like "plain" food - I have grown up used to strong flavours and that is what I like. This is also what I feed my family: the children beg me to produce "normal" food whenever they have a friend over!!
  19. bombaysapphire

    bombaysapphire Star commenter

    I grew up on meat, 2 veg and pressure cooked new potatoes and mash. Roast on Sunday, then cold meat with veg as described on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. If it was lamb my mum stretched it by mincing the cold meat and making rissoles.
    Thursdays were usually spag bol and then breaded cod and homemade chips on Friday. I remember the first time my Mum put garlic in our food - I was in my teens. We never had curry.
    The way I cook is very far from the above because I didn't enjoy my food as a child. Moussaka and risottos were very rare and real treats. I cook more stews, different types of fresh fish, pasta with homemade sauces, risottos and we never have meat and 2 veg. Mr BS doesn't eat chips so if I do a steak we have it with mashed sweet potatoes or a plain risotto on the side.
    The puddings were always good, fruit pies and crumbles. Those I do still make!
  20. InkyP

    InkyP Star commenter

    All these people who lived in Libya! I was born in Benghazi in 1955. My Dad wasn't in the RAF but worked at Benina (I think?) airport for the Met Office. Were we all there at the same time or am I older than everyone else?

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