Have you ever wondered why your grandmother was such a good cook and yet you seem to struggle with boiling a hot dog? Keep reading to find out why your cooking doesn’t taste like grandma’s.
10. She Saw Cooking as an Art Form
One reason why your grandmother was such a good cook is because she saw cooking as an expression of creativity. “From the way we cook and create recipes to the way we plate and showcase our dishes, it is all a creative act. It’s a creative art form in which you use the intuition, tasting, testing, and feeling to prepare something with love to share with others,” author Lindsey Smith said in her book titled Eat Your Feelings: The Food Mood Girl’s Guide to Transforming Your Emotional Eating. And, choosing to see it this way can help shift your thinking from “I can’t cook anything” to “Let’s get creative!,” Smith added.
9. She Made Everything from Scratch
We can all agree that homemade food tastes better than store-bought or restaurant food any day. That’s why your grandmother’s cooking was so good. Not only did she make everything from scratch, but she grew most of the ingredients herself in her backyard garden. And, what she couldn’t grow (e.g. meats, eggs, etc.), she got fresh from the farm. Then, she would season those foods herself with herbs and spices she had in the cupboard, on the spice rack, pantry, or wherever she kept them.
8. She Had Lots of Experience
Your grandmother’s cooking didn’t become wonderful overnight. It took years to perfect those recipes. When she first started cooking, she’d follow the directions exactly. Once she perfected her art, she cooked by taste and touch, which is why you never saw her following a recipe. She also experimented with different ingredients to get just the right combination of flavors. And, of course she got help from her girlfriends, too, by exchanging recipes and cooking tips with them. And, all those years of experience culminated into the tasty foods you enjoyed at her house when you were a kid–and perhaps even into your adult years. So, we guess the old saying is true: “Practice makes perfect!”
7. She Wasn’t Health-Conscious
Not that she didn’t care about her family or herself, but being health-conscious is a fairly new thing. Back then, people made do with what they had. And, what they had was lots of lard and other not-so-healthy seasonings. And, honestly, they made the food taste so good. It may not be the healthiest thing in the world, but fat makes food very flavorful. So does salt. That perhaps may be why you saw your grandmother drop a ham hock or two into a big pot of cabbage or collard greens. They contain both salt and fat, and therefore, are the only ingredients needed to make those vegetables taste oh so delicious. And, they indeed were delicious!
6. She Used a Cast Iron Skillet
Cooking in a cast iron skillet makes food taste better. Perhaps that’s because cast iron skillets absorb, hold and distribute heat very efficiently. And, here’s something else you may not have known: Cooking with cast iron skillets offers some health benefits. For example, studies have shown that cast iron can boost the iron content of your food. And, when seasoned just right, cast iron skillets can have a nonstick-like surface, allowing you to use less oil and fats when cooking. With that said, here are some of the foods your grandmother probably prepared in her cast iron skillet:
-country ham and potatoes
-mac & cheese
-corn meal pancakes
5. She Used Leftovers
Food always tastes better warmed up the next day. And, because your grandmother grew up learning the phrase “waste not, want not,” she often used those tasty leftovers to create other delicious meals like chicken salad, chicken casserole, pot pie, vegetable soup, vegetable stock, and more. Marty Leverette, from Columbia, SC, told Taste of Home magazine that his grandmother used to make Apple Butter Biscuit Breakfast Bake from leftovers she saved from Christmas Eve dinner. “By combining the leftover ham and biscuits with her homemade apple butter, milk and eggs, she could serve us all a warm, delicious breakfast and still have time to spend with the grandchildren,” Leverette said.
4. She Reused Her Cooking Water
Reusing her cooking water not only saved water, time and dishes, it also added flavor to each food cooked in it. “I often push the limits of a single pot of water’s utility, boiling broccoli or cauliflower, then pasta, and then potatoes, all in succession, and then use the water to make beans,” expert cook and author Tamar Adler said in An Everlasting Meal. “As long as you move from less starchy ingredients to more starchy ingredients, one pot of water can get you pretty far,” Adler added.
3. She Kept it Simple
Your grandmother likely wasn’t concerned about preparing fancy meals everyday, but instead focused on meals that were tasty and healthy. And, because she didn’t stress over making the “perfect” meal each time, she was more efficient in the kitchen. This “good-enough cooking,” as it is referred to, “is a standard far easier to meet than the lavish dishes seen in magazines and served up on the Food Network,” Kathy Block said in her book The Granny Plan: 12 Steps to Everyday Home Cooking. Yet, “Granny’s meals were always filling and nutritious,” she added.
2. She Cooked with Love
Out of all the ingredients your grandmother used to prepare her meals, the one ingredient that was key was love. “From my mother and grandmother I learned to take real satisfaction in feeding people. My grandmother would beam with pleasure over a heavily laden table,” David Ferguson, writer for The Guardian, said in an article published on the newspaper’s website. Dana Meredith, writer for Taste of Home magazine agrees: “This is perhaps the best bit of wisdom passed down by any grandma: Cook for people, and they will know you love them, and they’ll remember it long after you’re gone,” she said in an article published on the magazine’s website.
1. She Took ‘Home Ec’ in School
Years ago, females took home economics courses in high school and college. These courses taught them how to cook, including how to boil water correctly.
“When my mom took her home economics courses in the 1950s, they learned every egg preparation there was,” Susan Turgeson, president of the Association of Teacher Educators for family and consumer sciences, told NPR. “The reason for that was, they didn’t know what kind of eggs their [future] husband might want.”
FUN FACT: Home economics started in the early 1900s. Its purpose was to professionalize housework.
Now that you know what made your grandmother’s cooking so delicious, it’s time for you to get in the kitchen and apply some of these methods to your meal preparation. Thanks for reading, and happy cooking!