Your Favs From Parents That Couldn't Cook?

If your folks were great cooks this thread is not for you!

For me:
1.) Grilled Swordfish Marinade - best swordfish I have ever had.

2.) Creamed Spinach - served most frequently with pork chops (which I hated)… frozen chopped spinach with bacon and onions made the meal for me.

3.) Raisin Sauce - served with ham (which was mostly ok), but this made it a fav.

4.) Cioppino - it was always great, and maybe my all time fav.

5.) French Dressing - a sweet, ketchupy version that was great on cottage cheese with cherry tomatoes, or cucumber salad.

6.) Chopped Poached Eggs - served in a small pyrex bowl, this was the “chicken soup” of dishes when I was sick.

7.) Meat Sauce - not quite a ragu, but pretty amazing on top of any kind of pasta.

8.) Beef Jerky - made from flank steak, soy, and other stuff… dried in a low temp oven.

Wow! I can only recall 8 (out of many dozens of) dishes served. So sad. Any similar experiences here?

BTW… If anyone has interest in any of these recipes just ask, and I’ll try to look them up and post.


My dad used to make a really good cucumber salad (creamy dressing with dill) until he decided that he could “just add some matjes filets” in lieu of salt. It was never the same after that.


It doesn’t sound like your parents couldn’t cook. It sounds like they made a few things well.


My mother disliked cooking but had a lot of mouths to feed and not a lot of money to make meals happen. She baked wonderful loaves of bread, and baked a crumb cake I remember that was her mother’s recipe. We had a large vegetable garden, and she made wonderful vegetable soup and canned it to eat all winter. And the “chopped poached eggs” resonates with me - when I got sick she would tear up buttered pieces of toast and stir the eggs into it. Even now, approaching 71, I still make it for myself when I’m feeling cruddy.

My father was the adventuresome one - I think he’d be considered a “foodie” if that term was coined back in the 60’s. He made delicious chili and split pea soup. He sought out fresh oysters for our Thanksgiving stuffing (we lived in rural Ohio). One year I remember he made homemade ketchup and bottled it up. He would also make mincemeat for the holidays. And I still have his recipe for eggnog in his handwriting.


They did, which was the point of this post. But what they did with beef and pork pretty much put me off both for decades. 8 out of 100+ dishes is not a high mark.


I guess I was expecting “everything sucked except for the burgers” or something.

I agree. 8 passable dishes? I don’t think I could name more than the one I already did for my dad, and the second would be fat slices of young gouda on rye bread. He made that pretty well :rofl:


Dad didnt cook. And Mum was a lousy cook.

Well, she was a product of her times. They married in 1948 when the UK still had a number of years to go before food rationing ended after the end of WW2. So, she cooked what was available. Much of it tinned products. I’ve recently mentioned her trifle which we still make for Xmas (and which I’ve enjoyed for dessert tonight - again).

Then there’s her proper gravy - fat and juices from the roast, flour, water from the vegetable cooking. Which is where we learned about gravy making. It would not have occured to her to add some wine, as we do. And she wouldnt have heard of pomegranate molasses, let alone add some to gravy , as we’ve recently started to do.


My parents got divorced when I was 11. My father lived in a series of nice apartments nearby, and he had two set dinner menus he would serve when we came for dinner. One was broiled flank steak, rice-a-roni, and canned green beans. The other was hot dogs and Kraft Deluxe macaroni and cheese. Considering he had never really cooked before, he did pretty well, and I still make flank steak the way he did. Ironically he went on to become an excellent cook!
My mother was a competent but unenthusiastic cook, and she started working, so I became the cook in our house which was fine because I loved and still love to cook. I used my younger brother as my sous chef, and I am still proud of a Moroccan dinner we made which included bastilla, something we had never tasted.


That’s a great story, thank you for sharing!


Love it… usually a second course, but could do a whole one just for dinner. Got a recipe?

My mom can cook, but she’s one of those people who eats because she has to, so shes never enjoyed it. She was overjoyed when I got tall enough to see over the counters and showed a love (and a knack, under my grandmother’s tutelage) for cooking and by the time I was 15 was cooking half the time.

However…her liver is still a favorite…calves liver and chicken livers both. The recipes are similar vut not identical, ans involve sherry, bacon, and mushrooms, so the liver stays moist and fork tender.

Her walnut bars at rhe holidays, as well as oyster dressing.


This happened back in the 70s so who knows where the recipe came from! We had some of the Time Life cookbooks or it could have been in the San Francisco Chronicle or I borrowed a book from the library where I spent the majority of my time. We made some other dishes to go with it, but I can’t remember what they were, and my brother is no longer around to ask. But I remember that the bastilla was very impressive!

Thanks. I love hearing family food stories and telling my own. Before the pandemic, I enjoyed the Archaeology of Taste blog: But I don’t think she’s added to it for a few years.
There was a great thread on Chowhound about foods and dishes that people didn’t realize were specific to their families. Some of the stories were very funny. Maybe we should start an HO thread!


Do eeeet!!!

I have spent the entirety of my adult existence letting the memories of my Mom’s mediocre cooking fade away. Dreary 1970’s suburbia was not a time or place that lent itself to culinary excellence in our household. That’s not to say there weren’t a couple of dishes that I recall fondly from Mom. (Somewhat unsurprisingly, her self-assessment of her cooking expertise was much higher than the rest of us). First dish was called Slumgullion, aka “American Goulash” that would be prepared, cooked, and served from a casserole dish. It consisted of ground beef, elbow macaroni, tomato sauce and cheese. An artisanal “Hamburger Helper” if you will. The second dish is one I still use as part of my regular repertoire, which is a teriyaki marinated skirt steak that was broiled. In the 70’s, skirt was a really cheap cut, and many years earlier she had won as a “parting gift” from a TV game show, a “lifetime” supply of soy sauce, which likely factored in her decision to highlight this particular recipe.


Mum used to cook lamb’s liver regularly. On reflection, it wasnt that nice - she was of the generation that believed that the only good meat was the meat that had been cooked for a very long time. Exactly the opposite of what I now know is how to cook liver of any sort.

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Mom made oven baked chicken with corn flake crumbs, but she used a combination of bbq sauce and saucy Susan to adhere the crumbs. It was really good.


I love both, but next to each other. On a divided plate :joy:

Like others in this thread, my Mom was competent at cooking. She just didn’t really like to do so, but with 3 kids, and my Dad always traveling for business, she did what she had to do to keep us fed. We didn’t do takeout pizza more than twice in my childhood, that I can remember. She always cooked.

There were some recipes she’d make that became favorites of mine: Company Chicken with Orange-Clove Rice was one. It was “fancy” because green grapes and canned mandarin orange segments were added to dress it up for company. :grin: It also had canned cream of mushroom soup. I still make it now on rare occasion, cutting WAY back on the mushroom soup. :wink:

Dad, on the other hand, was more food-adventurous. He born and grew up in Shanghai and regularly traveled the world with his film business. So he was always bringing home food ideas to try that he’d had in his travels. My family had satay in the early 70s way before it ever became popular in restaurants in the States. Friends would wrinkle their nose at the idea of a peanut sauce, but once they tried grilled skewers of chicken or beef with vegetables and Dad’s peanut sauce, they became converts. Dad’s sauce is not authentic at all, as he couldn’t wrangle a recipe out of the hotel chef. But he got basic ingredients from him, and then created his own recipe with what was readily available to us in northern NJ in the early/mid 70s. Still the one I use today.

I became the baker in the family after I made my first Thanksgiving apple pie at age 14. From there, once I moved out on my own, I grew to love cooking more. I liked learning about new flavors to me, and how to use them.