Lunchtime poll – grandma a good cook?
December 3rd, 2010
12:15 PM ET
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Yesterday, we discussed how the specter of the Southern grandmother tends to loom large over all her descendants. You're never going to best her biscuits or trump her chicken and dumplings - though you're certainly welcome to try.

Then some of us around Eatocracy HQ got to talking. We won't name names, but a couple of people admitted that actually, their grandma couldn't cook a lick. One didn't care to. Another tried and failed badly - though everyone still had to make a fuss about how good it was. It's not an especially fair expectation, to be sure, but how does or did she measure up to the stereotype of the killer-cookin' granny? (Your secret is safe with us.)

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soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. wsw.im

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    July 13, 2014 at 1:44 am | Reply
  2. saraellen

    if by cooking you mean cocktail hour and hors o'dourves, then my nana has it all over everyone. She is the queen of the small finger food, and makes a great manhattan.

    December 10, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Reply
  3. Susan

    Both sets of grandparents owned restaurants, but it was the men that cooked. One grandfather was a chef at fine dining establishments and the other a short-order cook, but they both cooked better than their wives. My parents were both wonderful cooks, too. My dad's pie crust (his father's recipe) was to die for. Mon could cook anything and make it wonderful.

    December 5, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Reply
  4. drinkinmyhand

    DEAD DEAD DEAD.....DO YOU HEAR ME!!!!SHES DEAD AS A DOORNOB, CANT MOVE AN INCH, NO BLOOD IN HER.

    December 3, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Reply
  5. drinkinmyhand

    My Grandma is the best cook ever, even though she's DEAD!!!!!!

    December 3, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  6. drinkinmyhand

    My Gradma cant cook, cause she DEAD!!!!!!

    December 3, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Reply
    • Skinny Cook

      I'll drink to that.

      December 3, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Reply
  7. Skinny Cook

    If the instructions said to cook it for an hour, my grandmother would cook it for four hours. Is it dead yet? And no herbs or spices ever crossed her doorstep. Nothing but dessicated, flavorless food . But understandable, I guess. Cooking is a joy and she is an utterly joyless, hateful person.

    December 3, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Reply
  8. dsb

    Only knew one of my grandmothers and she was an awful cook. But that was ok with me because my grandfather was retired and ran the local Elks club so she "cooked" a big lunch for him (everything fried and boiled to death). As soon as he left we cleaned up the kitchen and her friends started to arrive. We played cards the rest of the day and until late in the night 'cause Grandpa didn't get home until after midnight. Dinner was what ever we could scrounge – usually cake, chips and cokes. Fine with me because I NEVER got junk food at home. I spent every summer with them until I turned 14 or so. Didn't learn to cook from her but I did learn to play a really good game of poker!

    Oh, my Mom was also a pretty bad cook. My sister and I used to love it when she took the Girl Scouts for trips because my Dad would cook and he was a really good cook.

    I'm 60 now and I am a pretty good cook and a really good baker and I'm cooking up a storm for my grandkids. But I still miss those summers and all that junk food and late poker nights.

    December 3, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Reply
  9. stuckup1

    My kids have missed out. My mom was gone before they were born–and she had Type 1 diabetes, so no real baked goods, I had to bake my own birthday cakes starting at age 12. My M-I-L burned everything she touched, nearly the house a couple of times. I have had to be mom and good-cook-grandma both, and I am very, very good with cookies. And we had both turkey and tofurky for Thanksgiving, in my house, nobody leaves hungry.

    December 3, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  10. James

    I would guess a good number of people have Grandparent's not much older then baby-boomers. My general feeling is any Grandparent who truly lived through the great-depression knows how to cook. Their food is basic in ingredient, but always hearty and they make the most of leftovers.

    Between the cutting of "Home-Econ" classes and the growth of fast food, people do not cook like they used to.

    December 3, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Reply
    • kdragona

      My grandpa grew up during the great depression. He can't cook well, but if you shoot it, you eat it, no matter what it is.

      December 3, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Reply
    • stuckup1

      The last home ec teacher in the entire school district just retired last year. All of my kids had her, and they can at least cook to feed themselves and sew on a button. Sure, you can learn that at home, but the kids were motivated when there was a grade involved (retired teacher was a tough grader), and they were with friends.

      December 3, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Reply
    • Skinny Cook

      I agree – but some of us do. And I don't share your nostalgia for Depression-era cooks. But I admit I am biased.

      December 3, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Reply
  11. AlisonNoelle

    I only knew one of my grandmothers but the one I had was a great, well not so much cook as baker. Her cream puffs were absolutely amazing. She was the queen of desserts and I hope I can be half as good as she was.

    December 3, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Reply
  12. LouLou

    One of my grandmothers was just fabulous in the kitchen. She was German and baked the most wonderful breads. Never did you find what she called "store bread" in her house! As kids we always loved visiting her because we knew we were going to have some awesome home cooked meals (okay, my mom was an awesome cook too). These grandparents were farmers and her cooking reflected this...warm, hearty, delicious food!

    Other grandmother was snooty, uppity, and an absolutely horrible cook. Come to think of it, no one on that side of the family could cook worth a damn. Oh, and she was a cook in a school cafeteria! I always did feel sorry for the kids that ate the lunches at her school :)

    December 3, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Reply
  13. kdragona

    My grandmothers both cook, and can cook pretty well. The only problem is that one of them has Alzheimer's, so her cooking skills are going downhill rather fast (she forgets she put ingredients in, so puts it in several times). My mom's cooking is pretty amazing. Most of the time, she doesn't use a recipe, and cooking lessons growing up consisted of "make this with me" if we wanted recipes. To this day, if I ask her for a recipe, I usually get a list of ingredients and rather vague directions. My MIL on the other hand, needs to learn what seasonings are....at least that's the general consensus that was reached over Thanksgiving.

    December 3, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Reply
  14. 3141592654

    We don't have too many family traditions in my family, but one of them was going to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving and getting FOOD POISONING! No concept of safe food handling.

    December 3, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  15. foodislove

    never really cooked for me that i remember, but always loved going to g-mas cuz she would let us have junk food; totino's pizzas, coke, cereal like fruit loops and such...stuff we wuold have never gotten to eat at home haha

    December 3, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  16. Tyler

    I had one grandmother (that I can remember), and she was without a doubt the WORST cook of anyone's who has posted. I was actually told since I was a small child that I could not eat anything at her house (sanitation reasons).
    To start with, she was totally clueless about the physics of food. She thought that if something was in the oven you just turn the oven off after it reached the time you were supposed to cook it, and then she left the food in for an hour or two with the ambient heat to "keep it warm". My dad actually has scars in his mouth because the frozen Or-eida french fries would cut his mouth!

    One time I went over to fix something for her. She asked me if I wanted some beef stew. I politely refused, but when I looked at it I saw that it was a whole brisket (still in one piece), 4-5 full russet potatoes, and a bunch of whole carrots, in water. Maybe she used salt and pepper, but I doubt she had any other spices in the house.

    The sad part was when she would talk about her cooking and she legitimately thought she was decent at it. She never claimed to be a great cook, but she thought she was good and when she came over our house she thought my mom was a culinary genious (my mom is an average cook, but by comparison she was amazing). I would keep going, but I think I'm approaching the character limit for a post.

    December 3, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Reply
    • 4U Mister

      God, she sounds like my MIL: hubby describes as a child once eating a tuna fish sandwich made from cat food tuna, and spagetti with ketchup. UGH. When we eat at her house, I am always a bit nervous...

      December 3, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Reply
  17. Erin

    Both were/are pretty bad cooks.

    Once of my grandmothers just never cooked anything – and when she did it was a disaster. I remember when I was younger she offered to make poptarts for us kids for breakfast. A half hour later we were given a plate of charred black poptarts. Another time she managed to give us hard boiled eggs that had feathers in them (really don't know how that worked). We usually went out to eat when we were in her care or she'd have one of our aunts come over and cook.

    My other grandmother on the other hand always insists on making a home cooked meal, she's just never done a very good job. There is no imagination to her food, it's just that heavy bland 50s/60s era cooking. Sure we have a turkey and veggies on the table, but they don't TASTE like anything. The only good thing I can recall her making are a type of sugar cookie but in my opinion they are not that hard to make delicious. The last time we had a big family holiday with that side of the family and grandma cooked, my brother and I ended up hitting a Wendy's on our way back to the hotel.

    December 3, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  18. Dorothy

    My grandmother from Ireland makes the absolute BEST scrambled eggs. I don't know what she does to them – Irish LSD? – but they are amazing. I have not been able to duplicate them. She also, obviously, makes pretty fabulous mashed potatoes.

    My other grandmother does pretty good cooking, and though I've never had it, I have heard that she makes a really, really good halupki (stuffed cabbage).

    December 3, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Reply
  19. Roe

    AG....you brought back wonderful memories of my Grammie.....she came to the USA from Hungary in the late 1800's at the age of 19 and brought with her, delicious recipes of good Hungarian food. She passed these recipies onto her daughter and she to me and me to my daughters.....really good home-cooked food.....beats what people eat today.
    Grammie lived to be 101 and still baked homemade bread up until she was 95..

    December 3, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Reply
  20. Trudy

    Gramma never cooked. But she did smoke cigarettes like a chimney and drank like a siv!

    December 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  21. JH

    My materal grandma could cook up an old boot and have you asking for seconds. My mother was a haphazard cook. I remember her making cookies with any leftovers in the fridg – if one fell on the floor, it would have gone right through it. I learned to cook like my grandmother though and love to get in the kitchen for a good session of making good food. I make yeast rolls that even my ever-dieting step-daughter can't stop eating – thanks grandma! I hope I last long enough to pass it down to a child or grandchild. In my family, it seems to skip a generation.

    December 3, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  22. AG

    It's funny how standards change, when you think about it - my mom, like my grandma, was a great cook, but we did have a lot of meals that I would NEVER make now – convenience foods, etc. I recently made "Manwiches" for the first time in decades – not bad, really – I also remember how Mom's idea of Chinese cooking was making the LaChoy chow mein kit – anyone remember that stuff? It came with a can of greenish, gooey sauce and veggies, with a can of chicken or shrimp taped to the top – and were the noodles in another can? Can't remember. It was glop, but we loved it! Mom also drank instant Sanka coffee - blecch!

    December 3, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  23. LlamaLlamaDuck

    Neither grandmother was much of a cook. They did big holiday meals, but it was all really basic stuff...and proved it was possible to exist with nothing in your spice cabinet beyond salt and pepper. Growing up, my mother had a handful of decent dishes, but again, pretty basic offerings (spaghetti with canned sauce, four-ingredient meatloaf smothered in ketchup, etc). Unfortunately, that handful disappeared over the last decade. We've had food poisoning three times the last couple years (every meal she cooked for more than four people). It was bad enough that a trip to the emergent care facility this Easter had the regular desk lady asking "Let me guess: your mom cooked again?" Thank heavens I was able to hijack Thanksgiving this year.

    December 3, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Reply
  24. Bellesie

    My Grandma on my Mom's side wasn't much of a cook- I had the only skinny non-cooking Yiayia out of all of my Greek friends- she'd still feel compelled to feed us (at a restaurant) and she used to tell me her Mom never let her in the kitchen to help. On my Dad's side, his Mom was an incredible cook, and so is my Dad. Unfortunately, neither of my Grandmas are with me anymore, but I do try to keep the one who COULD cook's traditions alive, especially this time of year, by making her Christmas cookie recipes (Austrian/Hungarian). My Dad and I usually spend a weekend baking all of his childhood favorites!

    December 3, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  25. Amber

    One grandmother – never tasted her cooking, but she was from the era where everything comes from the farm and nothing gets thrown out ever. My understanding it was mostly perpetual pots of beans, meat a little...past prime, etc.

    Other grandmother – everyone claims she was an awesome cook, but by the time I came around "cooking" consisted of heating up food from the Schwann man.

    So...I can't really say on either of them.

    December 3, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Reply
  26. Phyllis Gould

    My grandmother was Italian and she made the best lasagna i have ever had. She never used measuring instruments or recipes but her food was amazing. She taught my mom to cook who in turn taught me to cook. Even though i make her lasagna a lot it is never as good as my grandmother's.

    December 3, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  27. AG

    MMMM- Grandma's kitchen! Stuffed cabbage, plum dumplings, homemade egg noodles, crepes, jelly doughnuts - ah, I can still smell it all. Good Hungarian food! Fortunately, I picked up on the stuffed cabbage methodology – you can't find the genuine article in a cookbook and expect it to be the same.

    Now I'm the grandma - but my grandsons are such picky eaters that I don't think I'll make the same impression. They do like my meatballs, though!

    December 3, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  28. Kat

    My grandmother was a horrible cook and she passed that legacy to my mom. I'm 40 right now and I have 2 boys. My plan is to be the best baker around by the time I have grandchildren. I WILL have the best bread recipe down pat and I already have several cookies researched and perfected. I have one pie that I make that is amazing and I just need one really fantastic cake to round out my baking. I even have a wonderful banana bread recipe that I am still perfecting.

    I am a fairly decent everyday cook, but the area that I really excel in is appetizers. I have so many appetizer recipes that we have to have a separate day at the holidays to try them all because nobody wants to eat their Thanksgiving or Christmas meal after all the appetizers.

    I guess that is my grandmother's legacy; be the worst cook and baker possible so your grandchildren vow to be good cooks.

    December 3, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Reply
    • Jerv@Kat

      Good morning Eatocracy.
      I was able to catch your segment "Fabulous gifts for foodies" at CNNMoney. Couldn't get it to run on Eatocracy. Anyway, good job and thanks. I love the William Sonoma bowls, ordering them today.

      December 6, 2010 at 8:02 am | Reply
  29. Charlotte

    Neither of my grandmas was much of a good cook, although my mother's mom was a reliable one if you like overcooked veggies and meat and lots of starch. My mom isn't much of a cook either – I like some of her dishes but for the most part she buys into the whole 50's and 60's "convenience foods" paradigm and her offerings have lots of petroleum products like jello, cheese-Whiz, fake mayo, margarine, Cool Whip, instant spice mix packets and so forth. Prefers Wonder Bread or Roman Meal, rather than good, crusty local bakery bread, and would rather boil up frozen veggies than steam fresh. So although her cooking is edible, it's far from wonderful. I do like her cranberry-orange relish.

    December 3, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Reply
  30. Hannah

    Both of my grandmothers made yummy food, but nothing sophisticated or anything with flair. We had a lot of meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, things like that. I never thought about how unsophisticated it was until going to my sister's bridal shower. My grandmother was catering, and my sister was worrying about what "classy" casserole she would be making. It was actually very good, though!

    December 3, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Reply
  31. Jeff

    My dad's mom was the mother of 13 kids. The family was poor and lived in rural Western Kentucky yet there was still enough food on the table to feed all of them every day of the week. I don't know how she did it. She truly was a strong woman. My other grandmother still cooks a full and delicious Sunday lunch for six people at 84. So, yeah, I've been very blessed. Here's to grandmothers!

    December 3, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Reply
  32. bwright

    I have one Memaw that could cook to beat the band. Lucky me, I got her handwritten recipe book!

    December 3, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Reply
    • Jerv@bwright

      Oh damn, lucky you! Have you had much success with her recipes??

      December 3, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  33. Kathleen

    My grandmother cooked everything to a uniform gray color. I never had a crunchy vegetable until I started cooking.

    December 3, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Reply
    • Charlotte

      British background, maybe?

      December 3, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Reply
      • Kathleen

        Naw, Texan. Would you believe the Southern ladies of that generation would boil those poor green beans for an hour or more? The poor veggies were BEGGING for mercy1

        December 3, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Reply
  34. Snowbunny

    Kinda sad. I don't ever remember my grandma's baking or cooking. There was ONE time my grandpa made a really good spaghetti dinner. But, that's it.

    December 3, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Reply
    • Evil Grin

      You know, you enter a good point. Why is it that we only focus on grandmothers? Surely there are some grandfathers that can cook up a storm.

      December 3, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Reply
      • RichardHead@EG

        My Grandpa could cook up some damn good "White Lightnin" from what my dad told me!

        December 3, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Reply
      • Evil Grin

        Somehow, I don't doubt that, RichHead. =)

        December 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Reply
      • :)

        My grandfather did most of the cooking! Mostly grilling/bbq but we are from south Texas so that's okay.

        December 3, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  35. Jerv@AD

    Not much of a champagne or wine drinker, but I was wondering, that old wine and beer they found in the Baltic, wouldn't it taste nasty?

    December 3, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Reply
    • AuroraDawn

      I assume it would have a definite funk....but you just never know.

      December 3, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Reply
      • RichardHead

        I shall place an underwater call to Capt. Nemo! Pirates never lie.

        December 3, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Reply
      • Jerv@AD

        Okay, thought so.

        Oops, sorry didn't realize I was posting on the grandma cookbook think instead of the booze article.

        December 3, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  36. :)

    My grandma is a good cook when it comes to mexican food but that is about it. She never baked that I can recall, but I can't even begin to top her Spanish rice.

    December 3, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Reply
  37. abbyful

    One of my grandmas almost never cooked. The only thing I can ever remember her making is pot roast on a handful of occasions.

    The other grandma cooked, but used zero seasonings and spices. Boiled chicken, spaghetti with generic sauce from a can that tasted like tomato paste, and pancakes are main things I remember her making. She would hardly even use salt and pepper, it was very bland food.

    Thankfully my mom, and consequently my sister and I, can all cook pretty well and our food actually has flavor!

    December 3, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Reply
  38. AuroraDawn

    LOL I just may have to take you up on that! I promise I'll tone down my nerdiness...for a bit anyway!!!

    December 3, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • RichardHead

      WOOOHOOO-In Honor of Jdizz the Grill is about to be fired UP!

      December 3, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Reply
  39. RichardHead

    Don't really remember my grandma as they lived in upstate N.Y. on a farm. I do remember she made the Best Blueberry Waffles that I have ever had to this day. I try to duplicate them but they are just missing something.

    December 3, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Reply
    • AuroraDawn

      ok RH AKA Brad Pitt you owe me some blueberry waffles for breakfast....lol

      December 3, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Reply
      • RichardHead

        Dang Busted again. Anytime my lovely brunette nerd. Ummm..Your not one of those backseat cooks are ya?

        December 3, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Reply
    • Green Eyed Lady

      Richard Head? Hmmmmm . . . . see you on Sunday at the Victorian Stroll !!

      December 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Reply
      • RichardHead

        I'm familiar with Victoria's Secret-Have never heard of this.

        December 3, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Reply
  40. Kathy T

    My maternal grandmother invented "coffeepot sandwiches". Those were grilled cheese sandwiches burnt to the color of her (black) coffeepot. My paternal grandmother made awesome restaurant reservations.

    December 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Reply
    • Rin

      That is OUTSTANDING!

      December 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  41. Sarah

    My parents both insisted their mother's were absolutely amazing cooks. "No one prepares a meal better than my mother!" Truth be told, I found their cooking nothing more than "okay" and a lot of the time a bit bland. I MUCH prefer my own mother's cooking, which leaves me to believe that children of parents who can "cook" will always think that to be the greatest food. It never is, but you can't make me believe that my mom isn't the best at what she makes!

    December 3, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Reply
    • AuroraDawn

      LOL That is too sweet. Your mom would be over the moon if she read that I bet!

      December 3, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Reply
  42. Evil Grin

    I only had one grandmother who cooked for me as well, and she's amazing. She sometimes gets frustrated that she messed up a dish, but her mess up are like my very best dishes. She came by it honestly, though. Her mother was hands down the best italian cook I've ever met. (That's the caveat, there.) And in true old-country fashion, she'd make huge feasts anytime we came over, enough for at least twelve people even if there were only two.

    December 3, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Reply
  43. Jerv

    Only one grandmother and she was a great cook. I absolutely miss her fricassee

    December 3, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Reply
  44. AuroraDawn

    My Nana was an amazing cook. She never measured,never looked at a recipe. She just instinctly knew what she was doing. One of my best memories is standing on a chair at the kitchen counter when I was about 4 with my Nana. She let me mix the dough, and prepare the blueberries for the Blueberry Grunt. (I think this is a Canadian thing but...it's sort of like a cobbler)

    December 3, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Reply
    • 4U Mister

      Reading your post and thinking we are long lost cousins...my Nana didn't use a cookbook either, and was a fantastic cook, too! Pecan pies, hummingbird cake, chicken and dumplings....miss her!

      December 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Reply
    • Terry

      My grandmothers too, an d now my dad who is a much, much better cook than my mother. They were from different areas of the country, so the food was varied, but very so yummy. Each child selected the menu for their "special" meal and helped prepare it. I miss doing that!

      December 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  45. Gr8fuldude

    I actually never knew either of my grandmothers, but I can tell you that my MIL, being from VN can cook up a storm and I NEVER leave any meal hungry.

    December 3, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  46. Evan Thomas

    This is a great point to discuss. While I myself am a cook, neither of my grandmothers cooked much if at all for me as a kid. I remember getting frozen chicken wings and tacos from a box at my grandmothers house. Yum? Not so much. This actually came up at Thanksgiving, when my mom(who was a decent cook for me growing up) and I were watching TV and the host of a show asked "Who doesn't have memories of walking into grandma's house and smelling fresh baked cookies" and immediately we turned to each other and laughed.

    December 3, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Reply
    • Kathy T

      My sister and I have the same reaction to comments like that. Neither of our grandmothers made a batch of cookies in their lives.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Reply

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