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Too Many Cooks: What Weird Food Was Your Mom Eating?

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You'll be hearing from the staff at FOOD52 every week in Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more.

Today: Maybe your mom baked cookies, grilled steak, and poached fish. Or maybe she didn't. Either way, we are betting that there was one weird food she passed down, whether you wanted to acknowledge it or not.


All of us have weird eating habits: Some, we picked up in college; some are thanks to our significant others; and some came from books, movies, and the all-powerful internet. But the truth is that a lot of the best, and weirdest, food habits in our lives come straight from our childhood kitchens. And since Mother’s Day is upon us, it's only natural to remember the strange foods that Mom cooked (or didn’t) during our formative years. 

Chances are high that you will be able to relate to at least one of our staff's moms' strange food habits. Like the fact that chips and dip counted as a well-balanced meal. Or hiding vegetables and leaving candy out as a pretty sneaky (and effective) bit of reverse psychology.


Either way, we understand that sometimes, no matter how weird, your mom’s cooking is something you will always remember fondly. Which is precisely why we asked the staff at Food52: 

What weird things did your mom cook for you? Did you ever discover these strange meals were less than "normal," or are you still eating pickle-and-American cheese sandwiches every Thursday night? 

How about you? Do you abide by your mom’s kitchen rules? Do you love the same strange combinations? Or have you firmly rejected your mom’s bowls of smashed pickle salad? Tell us in the comments below!

Rachel: My mom is neither a cook nor a baker, but she is a firefighter and a nurse, so I don't hold it against her. 

She made brownies from box mixes all the time for our after-school snack. They were great—as I maintain all brownies from box mixes are—but she made them in a 9- by 13-inch pan and they were apparently extremely flat brownies. I never thought twice about it until I brought them into middle school once (for whatever stupid thing that kids need to bring desserts into middle school for) and my friend made fun of me. We stopped being friends from that point, duh.

Jackie: My mom wasn't a firefighter or a nurse, but she worked in real estate and my dad traveled a lot for business. One treat we'd have when my dad was away was breakfast for dinner—salami and eggs, more specifically. Nope, it's not from a Dr. Seuss book; it's real, and it's good. Another favorite she'd make me for lunch, which I don't think my peers in the elementary school cafeteria totally understood, was cream cheese and jelly sandwiches on challah. That's right. Dessert for lunch. Thanks, Mom!  

Jane W: Ditto! Why do moms only do breakfast for dinner when dads aren't home? It's like they think it's a cop-out or something.... I love my mom, I love my dad, and I love breakfast 24/7.

Kristen: My favorite mom treat was on Valentine's Days, when for some reason my dad would often be away at conferences so it was just the three of us. She made my brother and me egg in a hole—but the hole was cut out with a heart cookie cutter, and then the heart itself became cinnamon toast. 

Leslie: My mom brainwashed me as a kid. She put all of the candy out in the open and told me I could eat it whenever I wanted, but she'd hide the vegetables and tell me I could only eat them as a special treat at dinner. It worked. When I was six, I asked if I could have a bowl of brussels sprouts for my birthday instead of a cake.

Jaime B: My mom always considered a bagel toasted with tomato and feta to be a great snack/dinner.

Leandra: My mom makes the best tuna salad ever. Always using the same players—Bumble Bee Tuna, Hellmann's mayo, and occasionally currants (don't knock it until you've tried it!) or celery. 

What makes this weird? She always made it in the same light blue tupperware that we named Tina (as in Tina Tuna, as in Tina Turner). Also I ABSOLUTELY cannot eat tuna salad unless my mom has made it, to this day. If my sister and I were ever subjected to tuna salad not made by my mom—the horror!—we hated it because of the specific flavor that we named "Other People's Tuna." I think the only time I have ever eaten or ever will eat tuna salad is by my mom's hand. I request it every time I visit. 

Lauren K: Chopped black olive and mayonnaise sandwiches, anyone? My mom made these for me because my grandmother had made them for her (and because I loved them so much it bordered on obsession). I thought they were a relatively normal thing from the 1950s, but the internet has told me otherwise. Regardless, I assure you they are very delicious. Now that I'm thinking about them, I'll probably have to make one. 

Hillary: My mom always made very sensible meals, but she promised to make any cake we wanted for birthdays. Of course, I chose the most elaborate Teddy Graham pool cake, which I'd spotted on the cover of Family Circle (don't ask why I was reading a mom mag). It tasted very strange, but I was happy.

Hannah P: When I was growing up, my mom and I lived off of her signature onion dip (Lipton's, Mountain High yogurt, plus ten-ish lemons) and Baked Lays. I would have been content to eat this dinner nightly, but then my step-dad showed up and started cooking "real" food. I would have been fine had I never learned that our weeknight dinners of chips and dip were out of the ordinary, but sometimes you are forced to face the facts. Needless to say, dips remain a meal-planning staple in my life. 

Stephanie: It's not that weird, but it certainly felt weird as a child. My mother never ever cooked Kraft Dinner (macaroni and cheese from the box). This was because when she was a kid, her brothers told her macaroni was made from worms and she never recovered.

Bridget: I was always horrified to serve my friends (but secretly loved) my mom's "weird" take on grilled cheese. I later came to realize it was a version of Welsh rarebit that she learned to make WHILE SHE WAS A SERVANT IN SCOTLAND. #BAMF

Toast bread, slather with grated cheddar cheese that's been sitting in milk for 15 minutes and tons of black pepper, broil open-faced. So amazing.

Jenny: My mom's main cooking objective was to make vegetables unavoidable. Her "secret" recipes included lettuce blended into mashed potatoes and zucchini grated beneath the cheese on pizza. She would even make my friends eat carrots before they could have birthday cake at my parties. 

Victoria: When I was little, my mom told me Saltine crackers were called cookies. I loved "cookies" and legitimately thought they were Saltine crackers for longer than I am willing to admit on the internet. One day I had a real cookie at a friend's house and knew instantly I had been hoodwinked! Luckily, my mom made delicious chocolate chip cookies to make up for the deception.

Amanda H: My mom was so Brooklyn way back in the 70s! She was always pickling, and making bread, and foraging for wild asparagus and such. (Which reminds me that my childhood best friend once cried when my mother served asparagus for dinner.) But one of my favorite things she made was with pie dough scraps: She'd gather the scraps into a ball, roll them out into a circle, sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar, and bake it. It was like a big, flaky cinnamon cookie. And it was such a smart thing to do because she'd often bake a pie the day before she planned to serve it, which meant her four kids would be dying, waiting for pie time—and this gave us a little taste of pie in the interim.

Merrill: My mom is actually a great cook, but she did make us a few things that others have informed me since were not really "normal." I think the best example is bologna and cottage cheese "roll-ups," which are exactly what they sound like. We loved them.

Amanda S: My mom was known to serve Hawaiian bread—she's take a quarter of the loaf, slice it into 2-inch pieces, and fry them in butter on both sides—as an incredibly nutritious start to the day. She also made "Husband's Delight" for dinner more often than I will admit: egg noodles, ricotta cheese, sour cream, and meat sauce in a layered casserole situation. For balance, I guess, I was dealt cucumber sandwiches in my lunchbox (white bread, mayo on both sides, cucumber slices, lotsa salt), which is still one of my favorite meals to date. 

Sam: I always woke with a jolt on Saturday mornings because I knew my mom would be downstairs, making chocolate chip pancakes (from Bisquick). But what really strikes me now is that she gave up maple syrup for my whole childhood. I really hated maple syrup when I was a kid (I would only eat the fake sugary kind) and she never tried to sneak in the real stuff; she just bided her time until I came to my senses. Bless moms.

What mom-food has left a lasting impression? Any weird foods your still coming to terms with? Share with us in the comments below!