Cooking With Mum – Childhood Experiences: Times Past


© irene waters 2015 — My cooking

The prompt for this month is Childhood Cooking Experiences.Reading Robbies flash fiction I started to think about how cooking was presented to me as a child. Did your mother set you up to cook by working side by side with you in the kitchen? Did she set you up to be kitchen illiterate?”

Please join in giving your location at the time of your memory and  your generation. An explanation of the generations and the purpose of the prompts along with conditions for joining in can be seen at the Times Past Page. Join in either in the comments or by creating your own post and linking. Looking forward to your memories.

Baby Boomer – Australian country and later Australian city

My mother was a high school teacher and worked most of my life. She went back to work when I was three years old. During the week we had very plain food – meat and three veg. She would come home tired after her day and spend the next hour reading the newspaper. Shortly after she’d finish she’d think about dinner – always planned in advance. I know my mother would not have considered cooking a chore but it certainly came across to us that it was something she had to do. A wife had to feed the family.  A wife, in those days, was expected to stay at home. Mum was determined to have a career but also maintain the home fires in a way that no-one could say that we suffered from her daytime absence. During the week the only time we entered the kitchen when she was preparing meals was to either wash up or get the necessaries to set the table. Weekends weren’t much different although with the additional time Mum would make an effort to have special meals on Saturday night and Sunday at lunchtime. If we had dessert during the week my Dad made a jelly. He was the expert in this field.  Mum would often make a pie or some other sweet for the weekend meals. Cooking cakes and biscuits was confined to when she had to take  something for morning tea or if the church ladies guild were having a cake sale. And of course she made super cakes for our birthdays.

In my memory we weren’t invited into the kitchen to help with the cooking. The most we did was get to lick the bowl out. As a girl I was not expected to assist with food preparation until we had moved to the city and I was much older. Then it was only to peel the vegetables.

It was not until my Father took me to the Royal Easter show and we visited the A-jin-o-moto (a brand name for MSG) stand and were given a recipe book and also collected some Arnotts recipe cards that I had a desire to cook. When I was doing my HSC this became the way I avoided study. I would come home from school, get out these cards and spend the rest of the afternoon cooking. It didn’t last long. Most of the recipes were a failure due to my lack of prowess such as misinterpreting the order of 1 tsp almond essence and putting in one tablespoon.

I wonder sometimes when I watch mother’s with their children in the kitchen making simple gingerbread men or peeling the veggies or whipping cream or any task a small child is capable of and then see those children grow to be competent in the kitchen as adults, whether I too would have been able to cook had I had these experiences. My gut tells me probably not – my mother sewed and encouraged me in this pursuit – but I still can’t do it.

I’m looking forward to reading  your memories……. and don’t forget that if you are interested in memoir check out the series on the second Friday of the month over at Carrot Ranch. Join in the conversation.

Baby Boomer Australian city

Baby Boomer USA cities

Gen X – USA Rural

Times Past: Cooking with Mum

Gen X / Y  -USA rural

Cooking With Mum

Gen Y – South Africa City

Gen Y – India

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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40 Responses to Cooking With Mum – Childhood Experiences: Times Past

  1. (The following memories are from the mid-late seventies.The content may be disturbing to some readers.)

    All the kitchens that I remember were right up front and center of the house, a place that got walked through not walked to. So from the beginning there was easy access. There were no great secrets about the goings on in the kitchen and about how food got onto the table. Food preparation might have started months earlier with gardening and gathering or hunting and slaughtering the pig or steer or other animals we kept. As a child my role in food preparation started with a trip to the cellar where there were two huge chest freezers full of the meat and vegetables that we had put up in the summer and fall as well as a root cellar with canned pickles and a potato bin. If there were no eggs in the fridge I would go to the barn and see what my hens were up to.
    My father did his own dressing and butchering and we all knew how to skin our own deer and other game that we got. In the kitchen or environs my father continued his role as meat man. He was enthusiastic about making venison or bear stews, experimented with different marinades, even corned bear, (bear, by the way, is not great eating, so his efforts were appreciated) and it was he that you wanted to cook the steak, as she tended to overcook. If it were winter he would put the grate in the Franklin stove that heated the house and grill the angus right there in the living room. His stews were usually all day affairs that simmered on the top of the woodstove.
    My father also had us competing with the squirrels as we gathered wild butternuts to put by. We would bring along our .22 rifles, so the squirrels lost and ended up in the pot. Old overgrown farmsteads had apple trees going wild, providing excellent fodder for the cider that we made from an old press that he had found and rebuilt.
    I hunted, fished, gardened, and gathered like my brothers but as the girl child also was the assistant to my mother in the kitchen making jellies and putting up the vegetables and other gathered foods. I learned rudimentary skills from my mother; I knew how to follow a recipe, and knew my way around the kitchen. When she took a job that included a commute, it fell to me to make the evening meal. These results were just okay. My mother’s cooking, with the exception of her baked goods and desserts, was also just okay.
    Later I would be in other kitchens and eat other’s food. It is all about imitating and experimenting, so just as writers read, cooks have to eat! I have improved in the last 40 something years.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Such connectivity to food enriches the whole experience. I agree that imitating and experimenting is something kitchen cooks and writers have in common!

      Liked by 2 people

    • What a wonderful life you must have had as a child D. Those are memories that I would love to read more about. I’d love to know where you grew up. Your stories makes me think Ozark Mtns or the Appalachian Mtns but it must have been somewhere fairly isolated to have bears roaming the woods.
      You are so right in your line – like writers have to read, cooks have to eat. I have to eat also but my husband that does all the cooking eats in a different manner. He separates out the different tastes and then can without a recipe replicate the dish by taste alone. He says that is my problem – I don’t know when a recipe is wrong because I don’t know consistency and taste.
      Thanks for participating. You have made a layer to this prompt that I feel few of us would have experienced.

      Liked by 3 people

      • My husband, who actually took over cooking, is away and I have not been too good about meals, as I despise going to the store. Today was no different but I am eating the best pancakes mixed with tonic water and vanilla yogurt instead of milk, which I never buy. Don’t know what I’ll do when these ingredients are gone…
        Ya gotta work with what you have; a recipe or what’s in the cupboard serve as prompts. Go where it leads.
        Have a great week Irene.

        Liked by 5 people

      • LOL. If my husband has a night off I have either a tin of sardines, sweet corn or baked beans. Usually cold out of the can to save on washing up. Before I met Roger I was as thin as a stick. Not the case now.


  2. Charli Mills says:

    Irene, I’ve found that cooking is an extension of my creativity and yet I look back and see many influences. I’m going to ponder these and whip up a cooking recipe for memoir (or cooking memoir for a recipe). All my children were welcome in the kitchen and helped out but none had to fix meals as I often did. I think children need to help but then be allowed to actually fix meals and not just peel potatoes. My daughters can’t cook a lick, but my son is a great baker because he developed an interest. We all like to eat!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Annecdotist says:

    A shame for your mother having to work extra hard in the home to earn the right for a career outside it. My mother had only occasional jobs outside but we were all roped in to help with the housework. I might come back later in the month with some memories of that treachery! But in the meantime, what on earth are you eating in that first picture? You look too happy for it to be sausage and custard.

    Liked by 3 people

    • My Mum was a ministers wife and as such the congregation had huge expectations of what she should be doing. To my knowledge my Dad supported her totally in taking up her career but I think they both got a lot of flak because of it and my mother felt it keenly. She really tried to appear as though she was wonder woman and could do it all.
      LOL No it wasn’t sausage and custard. From memory – it was a long time ago – it was sausage in cream of mushroom soup.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I was very interested in your memories, Irene, and you mom’s decision to have a career. Most women of that era I know didn’t want to work so I think it is great she was able to do what she wanted to do and have a balance. Your pictures are lovely.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Pingback: Times Past: Cooking with Mum | Musings of a Retiring Person

  6. macmsue says:

    Luckily my children didn’t need me as their role model in the kitchen, I didn’t learn much cooking from Mum. 🙂 My post is here:

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Pingback: Times Past: Cooking with Mum « Carrot Ranch Literary Community

  8. Pingback: Times Past – Cooking with Mum – syncwithdeep

  9. syncwithdeep says:

    This Challenge is so amazing that you helped me reconnect to my memories of Coking with Mom. Here is my entry :) Thank you for this lovely challenge.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Pingback: (m/nf/BoTS) Past Times/ Just Cooking (4.16) | Jules in Flashy Fiction

  11. Jules says:

    I’m not a great cook… but I’m getting better… only took me 50 odd years:
    Just Cooking

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Pingback: Times Past: Cooking with Mum « Carrot Ranch Literary Community

  13. Pingback: #Timespast – Childhood cooking experiences – Robbie's inspiration

  14. susansleggs says:

    I grew up in a 4-H household in the rural Finger Lakes area of western New York state. The H’s stand for head, heart, hands, health and we had adult mentors that taught us general life lessons. In my case, cooking and sewing. Other kids raised farm animals but we lived in a little town of 300 people, so didn’t have the necessary barn or pasture. My mother taught pie baking and I remember a specific lesson on how to make a bed with the sheets tucked properly to make square corners.

    Being the youngest of four girls I learned to bake and cook through osmosis, watching everyone older than me. I don’t remember a specific time in the kitchen with my Mom but my older sisters let me sift the flour and measure the sugar. I was baking batches of cookies and sweet breads on my own by the age of twelve and full dinners by the age of fifteen. Full dinner meaning meat, potato and vegetable.

    We “harvested” wild game and fish so I learned how to clean and cook them from my father. Taking a deer from the field and ending with the meat in the freezer is something I can still do today. We liked the flavor of the meats so they were fried, baked or roasted with just salt and pepper, no fancy sauces to mask what we were eating. After a duck and/or goose hunt he would check what was in their gizzard while cleaning them. If the contents were muddy we didn’t eat the meat because it would taste muddy, but if the contents were grain, we enjoyed the whole bird. Fish eggs from perch, trout, or sunfish were enjoyed by all.

    To this day I have trouble cooking for just two. Thankfully my husband likes leftovers. “Playing” in my kitchen is fun and to this day most things, sweet and otherwise, are made from scratch. I do regret I didn’t learn to make roses out of frosting to decorate a birthday cake like my Mom used to. Mine always look like they don’t have enough petals and are already wilted. It’s nice to remember hers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Was the 4-H a style of community living? We had hippie communes which sound somewhat similar or was the adult mentor just from within your family group. I’m fascinated. I didn’t learn the corners for bedmaking until I did my nursing training and then I wrote multiple foolscaps pages on how to do it and the other types of beds. All gone out the window now I think. Having older sisters must have been fun and the kitchen was probably a fun place to be. I can imagine the chatter.
      Wild game – I have to admit I’m glad it was you not me but I enjoyed reading your experiences. YOur roses made me smile. At least it is a lovely memory of your Mum. Thanks for such a wonderful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • susansleggs says:

        I used the term “4-H household” to signify my sisters and I were active members of a 4-H group (somewhat like Girl Scouts) in which we were taught how to run a household, cook, sew,care for animals and support each other with friendship. It had nothing to do with community living. Sorry for the confusion. I’ll have to make sure I explain that better in the future now that I know fellow writers from other countries aren’t familiar with the clubs we have in the states.
        I do enjoy your memoir prompts. Thanks for making the world a smaller place for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Susan for clarifying. We think we are so similar and yet there are many differences. I have found that out blogging as well even with just the use of a word that is commonly used in a certain context here and possibly England but has a totally different meaning in the States and possibly elsewhere as well. We don’t have those clubs here as you have guessed. I’m glad you enjoy the memoir prompts. It does make the world a smaller place because of the knowledge and understanding we learn from each other but for me it is now such a big place because I have seen and learnt of so many places I would love to visit, I know I don’t have time (or probably the money) to do so in my lifetime.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. restlessjo says:

    Interesting reflections, Irene. (I came here via a Sherri Matthews tweet 🙂 ) Your Mum sounded determined to be Superwoman. And it sounds like she might have pulled it off. I wasn’t it the kitchen as a child either and find I have little natural affinity for cooking. My son, however, has the cooking ‘gene’ despite never really being encouraged as a youngster. His partner leaves the cooking entirely to him. (and please don’t ask me to sew- I’m not great at that either 🙂 )

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jo, nice to know someone actually reads any of my tweets, since I am still pretty clueless about using Twitter properly! 🙂


    • LOL. I won’t ask you to sew. My mother was of a generation where appearances and correct procedure were faithfully adhered to. She managed it but I can’t say that she enjoyed a lot of it. I have gone the other way and don’t worry about appearances greatly. I find it interesting that so many men seem to have the cooking gene – perhaps women never have had it but have been keeping up appearances and also in previous generations have been at home to do it when the men were out earning. The shift to women working may have freed up time for men to find their true selves – in the kitchen at least. Thanks for dropping over from Sherri’s tweet. Cheers Irene

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi at last Irene! I so much enjoyed reading your cooking with mum memories, and as always, adore your photos. I had to take a few looks at your top photo, wondering what on earth it was you were eating, and smiled at Anne’s question and your answer to clear that up! I think there are again a few similarities between our upbringings, in that as a youngster, I loved ‘helping’ Mum bake, which meant I got to lick the wooden spoon and cream coloured china bowl. I wasn’t asked to help cook until I was older but that was peeling veggies. The part I hated was the washing up later. I must have watched and developed some kind of interest as I took an ‘O’ Level in Food & Nutrition for 2 years in high school and had to cook a main meal every week. I had to make a menu, shop for the things, measure them all out and take them to school (by 2 buses as my school was 20 miles away with living in the country) and spend the entire afternoon cooking up my planned menu, presenting it, and then my essay about it and bringing it all home. By the time I was home, I was so sick of the sight and smell of it, that my mum and brother would eat it and I would make myself beans on toast or something. We didn’t have dinner on school nights, we my brother and I had hot lunch at school. Mum was working by then, so my brother and I usually fixed ourselves ‘tea’ which was something on toast and maybe some cake. Mum would have her dinner later, about 7 or8, and I was very jealous of her steaks and such. At the weekend, she made a roast, usually chicken, on Sundays, but we were not a family for routine with the same meals every day of the week like a lot of my friends. Also, the man she married after leaving my dad, was Scottish and had travelled to France and Spain and introduced us to such things as lasagna, cheesecake (hated it!) and some revolting Scottish dishes (hagis…yuck). My Dad was typical Brit, liking his meat and veg and a mug of gravy on the side. I was much more like my dad and it took me years before I dared eat anything remotely spicey, My stepdad would bring home roadkill of pheasants. I would come home from school and rush to the downstairs loo, as you do, and jump out of my skin at the sight of a pheasant hanging by the feet, blood dripping from its beak into a bucket. When Mum cooked it that weekend as a casserole with red wine or such, I refused to eat it. I was surprised to get away with it, as I was brought up to eat whatever was put in front of me, but she let me off with that. I encouraged my children to cook with me when they wanted to, but it wasn’t a forced thing. I wanted it to be fun. They all cook now, without much prompting, having taken on their own ideas. Youngest is into Japanese style and makes wonderufl meals when up to it, eldest son makes a lovely chicken dish and great breakfasts. Middle son tries his hand at a few things, but tends not to cook as much. I would love to cook more if I had the time, but lately, hubby and I are lucky to get a jacket potatoe or some soup lol! Great post and prompt my friend, thank you and I will do my utmost to get a post out on my blog for your next one 🙂 Big hugs ❤

    Rural England, 1960's/1970's Tail end babyboomer

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you Sherri for your response that took us through two generations. The school lunch option was to my knowledge never available here. Just recently they have introduced to some schools a breakfast program as they were finding many children arrived at school without having eaten breakfast for numerous reasons and there attention span was greatly affected by this. A lot of cooks say that once they have done the preparation they don’t feel like eating it. The meals you were given after your Scottish stepfather came on the scene sound positively yuk although a few people have talked about having road kill as a common meal. I can remember heading off when I was in the Red Cross Disaster team to Newcastle and one of the girls was running late because she had come across a road killed kangaroo and had to take it home to put in the freezer. She assured us that she knew it hadn’t been there the previous evening and therefore would be quite safe to eat. My stomach churned at just the thought. I would have hated your toilet experience with the hung pheasant. I guess that is what being able to afford to shop at the supermarket brings with it – a certain softness for some pursuits – I bet if I was starving hungry I’d eat it happily. You sound as though you made cooking fun for your kids and they can all do it. I love jacket potatoes so you can invite me for dinner anytime.
      Don’t stress yourself over it Sherri. Your tweet worked so you are doing better than me. ❤️😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would love to have you over for dinner Irene, jacket potatoes it is! Oh I can’t imagine eating a kangaroo, never mind a roadkill one. Goodness, your friend must have had a huge freezer!! Although, having said that, I have seen kangaroo burgers, or meat, on sale around Christmas time in the ‘deluxe’ range of a certain supermarket. If I was starving, definitely, as you say, but couldn’t face it now. Crazy too, when you think the French eat horse meat which sounds absoutely revolting to me. Lovely to chat as always my friend, I am very much looking forward to your next prompt. As for Twitter, I do feel like a right twit, but hey, my tweet worked so that’s good enough for me! Hope you get some lovely downtime and a happy weekend and we’ll catch up very soon. Lots of love 🙂 ❤ 🙂


  17. Almost the end of the month, but I really wanted to visit this topic as well. It’s been so fun reading everyone’s experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

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