My mom wasn't a very good cook, so I really started from scratch when learning to cook. My first meal as a young bride was a roasted chicken dinner --- but I didn't know that you had to take the giblets and other organs out of the bird before you cooked it! That was NOT a good surprise when I served it.
My mom was an excellent cook but never taught any of us or even wanted us under foot in the kitchen. I learned by trial and error, but still don’t really cook much. I like single ingredient eats... fruit, salad, rice, cheese and crackers, etc. I have a few go-to recipes but I don’t make them often. I live alone and don’t like eating the same thing over several meals. If I freeze portions I just end up tossing it out a year later.
I don’t have a sense of smell but my sense of taste is fine. (Did you know there is one cranial nerve behind the ability to smell, but three cranial nerves behind taste!)
I started out with basic one pot stuff, often featuring pasta and cream of mushroom soup, because the apartment was tiny and the kitchen had no counter space.
Four years ago, when my husband passed (he cooked very well) I decided I need to eat better and I also needed to learn how to prepare food with more flavor. I experimented with spices and learned they do nothing for me, except for hot ones I have no tolerance for. But there was still a lot I could do, and meals I cook for people with regular noses say they’re flavorful.
I was impressed by the TV show, The Taste, so for a while I tried for different textures and flavors in the same dish. Too much trouble to keep up when I’m scrambling in the evening, but I do like where I settled. Generally one large low heat saute with a lot worked into it, so healthy foods I might not have enjoyed or eaten by themselves are part of an overall mix.
My mom was not much of a cook at all - she had no desire and even less talent. When I was leaving for college in the 90s, someone gave me a copy of "Where's Mom Now That I Need Her?" which is basically food and laundry 101. There were very easy recipes in there, as well as explanations of food and why some go together, etc. Seeing how easy it was got me on the track of finding more and more recipes and my own palate. Now I usually do a recipe as written the first time and spend the entire time that we eat it boring my husband with what I will change up/add/delete next time. I thoroughly enjoy cooking!
I'm the same way with a new recipe, Jamie! You kind of have to try it as written the first time so you know what changes to make the next time, unless there's an obvious change to make right off the bat. If you don't like mushrooms and a recipe calls for mushrooms, you can omit them before even trying the recipe.
I tend to omit the salt from recipes because I'm used to not adding salt to my food so it doesn't take much for it to be too much.
So my mom doesn't cook but when I was younger she would make us (my sister and I) and my Dad separate meals during the week and then on Sundays she would make one meal mostly Jamaican food for us to eat. So as we got older and she started working more we all had to fend for ourselves. So my sister and I would make regular processed crap Chef Boyardee and Kraft Mac and Cheese (still a favorite) etc. When we moved from Brooklyn to NJ when I was 12 my sister and I had to take Home Economics Classes and that’s really where I learned to cook and learned about recipes etc. Still one of my favorite classes ever and I wished they still offered it here in the middle schools we learned to sew and so many other important things that are important to life.
As the 4th child of 9, I figured out early on that if I could bake, there were side benefits while making cookies and cakes so I started cooking in that realm at the age of 8 or 9 years old. My mom taught me of course! And I helped her from a very young age. We also had to make our own lunches as early as first grade - we helped each other. And we washed dishes from that age as well. Dishes are a natural part of cooking. My entry level cooking was making popcorn with oil over a gas burner. I did have one slip up where I grabbed corn syrup instead of oil. I learned about the expression "elbow grease" when I undid the damage to that pot that was crusty with burnt sugar! I like to cook now but have been burnt out over too much work so look forward to retirement in a few months where I can plan my meals better and cook with what is planted in our garden!
I helped cook for longer than I can remember. I recall even before starting school my mom would let me roll dough and cut out biscuits using a plastic cup. Baked stuff was the limits of it until I got older beyond doing prep work stuff like snapping green beans, opening cans, etc. I was such a pesty child, resistance was futile, so she redirected my energy.
I watched my mom when I was young, hanging out in the kitchen with her. She was a working mom, so she welcomed the help. I also liked trying things, and then when I took home ec in junior high and high school, that helped teach me a lot. In college, we had nutrition in several classes too.
It amazes me how few people know about nutrition these days, when it's everywhere! I know several college-educated adults who couldn't explain which vitamins do what, and while they know what foods are "good" or not, they don't really know why.
But I love to cook, and bake. I just hate cleaning up afterwards!