Our Eating Lives

Rewind: What I Learned About Food From Moms and Grandmas

Our Eating Lives features stories about how food, cooking, and eating have shaped who we are and how we live.

I sometimes get aggravated by people who don’t understand the difference between a dice and a chop, or that don’t know to just leave the onions alone so they can brown. Then, I take a step back, knowing that I was lucky to be surrounded by people that cooked and spent time showing me to do the same.

In particular, this is an homage to those mothers and grandmothers that have taught me how to use my hands, how to bring dinner to the table, and how to have fun with my food.


My great-grandmother who knew just exactly how much butter and sugar to sprinkle on a pancake. Also, the same Depression-era great-grandmother who really taught me to reconsider the amount of peel I took off of a potato.

My grandmother’s bread recipes that are made with simple ingredients and yet come out beautifully every single time.

My step-grandmother who brought a pack of gangly preteens out to nice restaurants and showed us that there was nothing to be intimidated about–that the food and the love was still there and available to us.

Recipes of Christmas sugar cookies that have come down from every branch of the family, each similar but unique in the memories of the adults who ate them as children.


My mother-in-law who taught me the secrets of Southern food, squash, and pie crust. With that came learning just how to relax, knowing that the food would get to the table, even if there were six, or ten, or fifteen hungry people waiting for it.

Finally, of course, my mother who has always guided my hands in the kitchen, introducing me to new ingredients, and strategizing menu options with me over the phone as I plan out dinner parties.

My mother is just as capable at serving up curry, or filet mignon, or party appetizers for dinner. From her, I’ve learned to use the most local, fresh ingredients I can find, slice a bell pepper, and that sometimes it’s perfectly okay to make a yellow box cake–if that’s what your younger sister wants for her birthday…

What have you learned about food and cooking from your mothers and grandmothers (and great-grandmothers)? 

About Nikki Steele

Nikki Steele is a freelance writer who runs BookPairing, a blog about pairing wine and beer with books, and is a contributor over at Insatiable Booksluts. When she's not writing or cooking, she's probably roughing it outside with her two mutts. Connect with Nikki on Twitter: @BookPairing.