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How to find out these things about food when I've never had a mum, or been taught?

(20 Posts)
pipkin35 Fri 22-Jul-11 09:02:17

Not sure if this is the right place to post this...? But, will give it a try (might post in housekeeping section too).

Sounds silly but I was never brought up in any kind of situation where I was 'taught' how to do things - how to cook, iron, housekeep - anything like that. Spent most of my life in care.

Myself and OH have no family nearby us. And he was so molly coddled by his mum that he doesn't really know how to do anything domestic. Now I have 2 DCs of my own - toddlers.

A friend came round yesterday and was horrified that after the kids tea, I threw the remaining cold pasta away. She said I could easily keep it for a few days by rinsing it and putting a spoonful of oil in it. Which I did - delighted to not waste it - and put it back in the fridge.
I explained that I had no idea about things like this since I'd never been 'taught' IYSWIM. She was appalled at how much I waste, (which I suppose I must do) - but I've no idea about 'rules' to do with food etc...I was glad I could save the pasta but I was actually too embarassed to ask her for how long I could keep it!

Anyone have simple advice? I suppose its mainly about food - I've no ideas about reusing stuff, how to freeze, defrost, what you can and can't put in the freezer/fridge...how much attention I should pay to sell by dates and use by dates etc...but I also feel a bit inadequate now about my housekeeping etc...I mean, I've never ironed anyhting in my life for example mainly because I'd have no idea how to go about it.

How can I learn this stuff now? Is there any good books or anything that I can turn too?

Flisspaps Fri 22-Jul-11 09:06:16

This website might be a good start for your food queries. I see you found the Housekeeping thread on here too, that's also a good place!

CotesduRhone Fri 22-Jul-11 09:08:19

Aw, pipkin, that's brought a bit of a tear to my eye :sap:

Well my mum was kind of in a similar position (neglected and abused by her own mum, wasn't allowed access to food at all let alone being taught how to cook) and she had to start from scratch as well. One thing that helped her was having a kindly aunt, but the aunt wasn't very domesticated, she was more the shooting/hunting/how to fell a tree type. grin

So my mum learned a lot of this stuff from Home Economics books intended for schools, which in the 1950s were very much designed along the "how to run a household" lines, everything from cleaning and storage to budget management. I don't know if that's how Home Economics books are designed now? She also joined the ICA which I suppose would be equivalent to the WI.

But those books really helped her get the basics, and I always remember her as being very accomplished at making a home, as well as discovering that she had an amazing flair for baking. Of course those aren't the only reasons she's a wonderful mum, but I wouldn't turn down one of her cakes. wink

Good luck!

OracleInaCoracle Fri 22-Jul-11 09:11:12

Hi pipkin, welcome to mn. If its any consolation, I was never taught either. You learn as you go along. If you make too much cottage pie, you can either keep it in a container for a couple of days. Buy large packs of meat etc, separate it (most asda packs make at least 4 portions) and freeze with labels stating date. They last for about 6 months

HoneyPablo Fri 22-Jul-11 09:11:45

Well, I never knew that about keeping pasta.
As for keeping food, I have a 3 day maximum rule for left-overs. But I always smell it first, and as long as it looks ok and smells ok, it should be fine.
The same goes for use-by dates.
Most things, I learn by trial and error and through necessity.

pointydog Fri 22-Jul-11 09:14:05

For starters, don;t feel the least bit embarrassed. I, and thousands of others, would have thrown away cold pasta too. There is no one Right Way of doing things with you being the only person who knows nothing about it.

Your friend was perhaps being a bit mean to make you feel so bad about chucking away a bit of cheap-as-chips old pasta. One of the best and cheapest ways would be to feel comfortable enough with friends to ask them for a few tips every now and then.

worldgonecrazy Fri 22-Jul-11 09:14:32

Is there a modern version of "Enquire within upon everything". I have the old-fashioned version and it's amazing how many times I have to drag it out and look something up.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 22-Jul-11 13:07:22

I do have a mum but she has to be the worst cook in the world, poor thing. smile When I left home age 18, I got a copy of Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course book and I literally started at chapter 1 & read the whole thing, making various dishes on the way. That was (pales at the thought) nearly 30 years ago now and it's been a learning process ever since. I'm still finding out new tips for food... magazines, MN, friends, TV progs. I think there are whole books written on 'what to do with leftovers'... library might help you there.

supergreenuk Fri 22-Jul-11 13:22:59

Use by v best before. Best before you can use after the date but it might just be past it's best for example it might taste a bit old or fusty but wont harm you. Use by is more important. Don't use after the date as it will may be off and could make you ill.

Don't leave food in open tins as the lining of the tin breaks down into the food and isn't good for you.

I never really learnt from my mum either. You just pick up stuff as you go along.

I also use the 3 day left overs rule.

Absolutely second Cogito Delia's Complete Cookery course is brilliant.

Whenever I make a bolognaise/mince I tend to do double and freeze it in individual portions. I also throw in a couple of extra portions of spaghetti when I'm cooking that. I don't bother with the rinsing/oiling of it though. FOr the next evening's supper, for about 150/200g spaghetti from the previous day) whisk two eggs, seasoning and a generous handful of grated parmesan/cheddar, then add the cold spaghetti (this doesn't work so well with freshly cooked spag/pasta). Melt 1/2 tbls oil with 1/2 tbls butter in a frying pan over a 3/4 heat. Throw in the mix and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Slide it out onto a plate and flip over before cooking the other side for the same sort of time. Cut into pizza wedges - great hot, warm and cold for picnics too. I sometimes throw some ham in or sweetcorn, peas, spring onions etc etc to beef it up.

Yet to meet a child that doesn't enjoy it and it's one of the best ways to use up left over spaghetti.

Try to get into the whole batch cooking frame of mind - one weekend in four making bolognaise/savoury mince, simple pasta sauce which will keep in the fridge for a week in a sealed pot, I do:

2 tins tomatoes
onion onion roughly chopped
couple sticks celery roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
good handful of fresh basil
dried oregano
salt and pepper.

Heat some olive oil in a saucepan, add onions and garlic on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, lob in tomotoes, oregano, half the basil and cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes (I sometimes add a splash of red wine if there's any knocking about too). Add the remainder of the basil and whizz it with a stick blender, check seasoning and that's it. This will easily keep in the fridge for 7-10 days in a kilner jar/tupperware - throw a tablespoon or two per portion of (toddler) pasta, some grated cheese and that's supper sorted for them. You can also turn this into a nice soup by using the base, adding 5 or so chopped fresh tomatoes, 1 pint of chicken or veg stock and some dried red chillies. Any old veg soup is very easy to do and a handy fall back when you either can't be bothered, or don't have time. 2 pints of chicken or veg stock, with, for example - 1/2 medium onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 medium carrot, half head of broccoli, 1/2 head of cauliflower, 1/2 courgette, 1 stick celery and a tomato. Soften onion and garlic then throw the rest in, simmer for 30 minutes, whizz and season. If it's too thick just add some more stock or milk, if it's too thin peel and cook a couple of potatoes in the 'thin' soup, then whizz once again, or buy some tiny pasta strands (like lots of broken up spaghetti) and cook them in there for a few minutes.

As said upthread, I also use the 'if it smells ok, it will be ok' food safety method! When you open packs of ham and cheese, wrap in clingfilm/put in tupperware and they'll be fine for about 5-6 days.

Another great cookery book for relative beginners is the Good Housekeeping one. Very easy to follow instructions, great illustrations and meals for every possible occasion. The baking sections are also very good.

I could go on and on with tips and recipes...if there are any particular things that you want to know how to cook/etc, do PM me and I'll be more than happy to real a load off for you.

KirstyJC Fri 22-Jul-11 13:39:04

Although my Mum did cook and would've been happy to teach me, I decided yellow curry with raisins and tastless casseroles weren't really for me - so when I moved out I bought a copy of Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook and worked my way throught it. It is one of the best cook books I have ever seen - and everyone who has looked at it has also bought it! (Should've been on commission!!)

It is in sections eg baking, meat, pasta & rice etc and at the start of each section it has loads of advice on choosing, storing, cooking. It covers freezing, defrosting, difference between fresh/dry items (eg herbs, yeast etc) and also includes how to carve different joints of meat.

It deals with everyday basics like simple pasta sauces or toad in the hole and also has some quite fancy recipes too. The start of each section lists the recipes in 'time' order ie less than 30 mins to make, over 60 mins etc which is handy when you are first starting out too!

It is fantastic. Highly recommended!

Pootles2010 Fri 22-Jul-11 13:41:58

Don't feel bad, you really didn't do anything wrong! It helps to re-use stuff, but as others have said, pasta is hardly expensive.

I guess you pick it up as you go along - i do a lot of copying other people.

I'm not overly imaginative with left overs - a lot of mine and dp's leftovers get clingfilmed for ds's lunch the next day, or i just have it for my lunch.

As for freezing, most stuff can be frozen tbh. If you've bought something, it has a little blue symbol on the front with a snowflake type thing if you're allowed to freeze it.

If you get something like mince out of the freezer and it defrosts, you have to cook it (eg make bolognese sauce) before you can freeze it again.

The love food hate waste website is good, also just try googling whatever it is you've got leftover - eg 'recipes lamb leftovers' for example.

It does same moey to re-use things, but it hardly makes you a bad mum!

violetwellies Fri 22-Jul-11 13:53:42

Bless her, my mum now deceased was an 'interesting' cook she often replaced vitalbh ingredients with things best put on the compost heap, mince always ended up grey and curry yellow. She didn't always do sauce with pasta and couldn't understand why I wouldn't eat tripe. So I've just learned as I've gone smile

NasalCoffeeEnema Fri 22-Jul-11 14:07:25

Jamies ministry of food is pretty good for basic cooking. Not only that he has lists at the beginning for food store essentials and also basic equipment.

My mum wasn't particularly domesticated. I love the net because you can ask and be faceless if you feel like bit silly but people will always answer you.

I would never have rinsed pasta. I may be extra macaroni cheese in the fridge or freezer etc but would never have bother washing it.

tabulahrasa Fri 22-Jul-11 14:18:27

I wouldn't keep pasta, what am I going to use it in? I just had pasta, I don't want it again for the next day, lol

any dates for fruit and veg - I ignore completely, you can see when they've turned

bacon Sat 23-Jul-11 18:03:01

I would never throw anything out on the basis of a date. If you buy fresh from a butcher then you dont get a use by date you have to use common sense.

Use by dates are open to interperation. It doesnt mean you cant eat it especially with such good hygine in food production now plus seals on products are so good. Yougets for example easily last for 4 weeks after the date. Milk until it smells funny. Any cans or died products totally ignore unless you understand that they do deterioate hence effecting the eating quality. As for meat and fish - your nose is the best indicator.

Also for meat and fish it would depend on the mositure content - including how efficient and dry the fridge was. Mositure can deteriate products and dry out.

What I cant understand is why people think that past 12 o'clock on the last day the product becomes a danger to consumption!

At the end of the day just because its on the turn doesnt mean its going to hurt you, I remember my mum always scaping mould off jam. Its inadequate cooking that effects you (say chicken) or products that have been contaminated at source that can be a danger (say prawns)..... Colours of moulds are a good indicator - say on cream cheese - blacks and pinks. Saying that my husband consumes anything and is never effected.

Life existed pretty well before these dates. A lot of it is about shifting it off the shelves, rotation and supermarkets making more money.

We recycle most food waste - it its not worth saving then the dogs or cats consume saving on foods for them.

bacon Sat 23-Jul-11 20:37:01

Have to add, I had a pretty good up bringing and mum was an adequate cook but very basic so I never learnt a thing from her. We had very cheap meals but always proper homemade from scratch. As a 70's child we had very little money but we never eat takeaways or processed foods.

Most of my education came from reading good books like Hugh Furnleigh Whittingstall, Jamie, forums, the internet and the TV.

As for household chores again I never lifted a finger at home, my mum did everything I never made my own bed either. So I just picked it up when I first got married.

Strangely, I am what I would call a very good home maker, I have pride and like to do things to perfection. If I dont know how to do something I google it or pick things up from other mums. In this world there is endless media so your never too old to educate yourself....best of luck!

tigercametotea Sat 23-Jul-11 20:59:16

I was never taught anything about cooking or food prep by my mother and had to learn it from scratch by myself after I became a mum. Lots of cookbooks, online tutorials on Youtube and the like, online research - there are lots of sites to Google for whatever you are thinking of preparing. I only started keeping food for leftovers a few years ago - I just put them in a food container wrapped up in cling film or in a plastic food storage box. I've never rinsed cold pasta or put oil in it to moisten though. I either eat them cold the next day or reheat it in the microwave slightly to warm it. I've never gotten a bad tummy but that is only for vegetarian dishes. If there is meat in it I would either eat it cold or if I reheat I will make sure its reheated until its piping hot. I learnt to cook/bake mainly with the tips and trying out recipes contained in the cookbook The Tante Marie's Cooking School Cookbook, but I'm sure there are lots of other alternatives I don't know of yet... Lots of practise and perseverance, and you will learn eventually through trial and error. Also might be a good idea to enrol in some evening or weekend cookery classes at your local community colleges or something like that if they are available.

Littlepurpleprincess Sun 24-Jul-11 11:36:57

I taught myself too. It began when I started weaning DS really and I learn as I go, going at his pace.

I started with one cook book and gradually collected more. I can recommend Jamie's Ministry of Food for really good, basic home cooking. Also Economy Gastronomy is great. It starts with one recipe (say for sunday roast) then has tumble down recipes for the rest of the week. All the recipes are cheap and easy to do, and its full of other good tips for store cupboard essentials, saving money, how and where to shop etc and using leftovers. It also saves time because the tumble down recipes are cooked at the same time as the first, so you don't have to cook again for a few days, or you can freeze them.

Herecomesthesciencebint Sun 24-Jul-11 20:51:04

have you looked at 'love food hate waste' website? has loadsof info on it.

I reckon you should be really proud of yourself for even caring that you dont know that stuff or even wanting to know. Plenty of people who were brought up by both their parents have no idea at all about cooking or even care to so well done you!

Agree with the gove it a sniff philosophy! and the 3-4 day leftover rule. unless you freeze it, then wil last average 3months or so. I often freeze a portion of bolognaise then defrost for say one DC to eat and cook fresh pasta to go with it.

have a look in your local library at cook books. everyone has their own favourites but its very personal and you need to find someone who strikes a chord with you. at least that way you can take a few home to look at and not waste any money on one you dont end up using at all.

your DCs are lucky to have a mum who cares so much!

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