Learning To Cook, Reluctantly: What Was Your Least Favorite Childhood Food?

Brussel sprouts.

You might think I am making that statement about me, but actually I am making it about you. Brussel sprouts were your least favorite food. Right? Right.

Good chat.

Why were they your least favorite food? They were my least favorite food because my mother only ever boiled them in hot water. I don’t know why. I guess  because we weren’t really home cooked meal people? We were more restaurant people? I have such fond associations with restaurants that when I see children under the age of ten eating gnocchi in a trattoria I feel immediately homesick for my family.

Do you find that? By “Italian restaurant” and “gnocchi” I really mean that every time I went to a piano recital my parents would reluctantly let me go and have two donuts of my choice at Dunkin Donuts as a reward afterwards. Every time I pass a Dunkin’ Donuts, I think about my parents sitting there in evening clothes, my mother eating a donut hole which she’d pry apart daintily, and me, at seven, trying to suck the filling out of a jelly donut with it clenched in my teeth, waving my hands around in a parody of children who could ride bikes. So, eating donuts like a monster. Like a weird fucking monster.

Seriously, being a kid at Dunkin' Donuts is the best

Was it like that for you?

I never feel like I deserve to go to Dunkin’ Donuts now.

Were you aware there was a TurDunkin' recipe? We have to try this.

So, basically it was only on Thanksgiving that we really did much home cooking, and one part of that was brussel sprouts, which were boiled in water and then served up like these horrible little dead martian heads.

Brussel sprouts boiled in water taste like lettuce that curled up in a ball and died horribly.

Actually, most of the Thanksgiving meal involved boiling things in water. Why didn’t we just go to a restaurant? That was absurd of us. Anyhow, we all ate them with a sort of steadfast diligence I think is generally best observed in convicts in Johnny Cash songs. That is to say we smiled and longed for death’s sweet reprieve. And coffee.

I called my mother and asked her why we never tried doing anything different with the brussel sprouts.

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    • Cee


      No, I’m not trying to be some health snob. I come from a Hispanic background and butter is pretty much unheard of. So, when I tried it, I found it to be pretty odd tasting and hard to like. Even now, I think I only like it in baked potatoes.

      • Jennifer Wright

        God, meanwhile I thought that one of the only lines that made the (terrible) movie Bride Wars tolerable was when one character finds out the other has been gorging on butter. “Wait,” she says “the International Butter Club? You mean you sat around eating sticks of butter from all over the world?”

        And I thought about leaving the theater to join that group right then. I mean, not to eat sticks but flavored butter is pretty excellent. Plain sticks of butter with the cow on them, not so much.

    • Vanessa Vieira


      • Melanie the Constant Reader

        Mine, too, until my mom found a recipe that took all the icky crunchy bits (read: vegetables) out and left the ground beef and breadcrumbs alone and pure so I could drown them in ketchup and pretend I was a caveperson at the dinner table.


    • Tania

      Man, your mom makes Canada sound like some food hell.

      It’s not! I mean, my great grandmother totally cooked the hell out of brussel sprouts, but in spite of our love of the queen, we are no longer where good food comes to die.

    • Ella Jane

      oh god, as soon as I read the title I was stricken by very specific memories of baked-open-faced sandwiches. My Dad was/is an AMAZING cook, but he would make this one thing that was just disgusting.

      Take bread. Butter it. Slap on 2 – 3 pieces of ham, then two slices of tomato. Put two huge dollops of mayo on top of the tomatoes, then a shake of Tobasco on each mayo dollop. Put in the oven at 400 for a few minutes, and it’s done.

      My Dad seemed to view them as some totally delicious indulgence. I couldn’t get past the soggy bread/crunchy ham/soggy tomato/rancid mayo/heartburn-inducing Tobasco combination.

      Seriously, so disgusting. Those sandwiches ruined any iteration of cooked tomatoes for me.

    • Lauren

      Sriracha is an Asian hot sauce that is pure magic. It’s thicker than regular hot sauce, and is made from chilies. I love it so much I have some in my desk at work to add to all my take out. It’s pretty much the greatest thing ever. Without being cooked its really spicy. When you do cook, the flavor becomes slightly less spicy and has a bit of a sweet taste too. I love it in hummus, eggs (if you add it before your eggs finish cooking it’s amazing, with a little feta cheese – delish!), hummus, chicken, vegetables, noodle and rice dishes. Pretty much everything tastes better when this is added. But it is more spicy than hot sauce, so if you aren’t huge into spicy food be sure to add a little at a time to not transform your mouth into a firestorm. I’ve never had it on brussel sprouts, but it sounds like a good idea!

      It’s not in the aisle with the hot sauce at the grocery store, it’s with the Asian sauces.

      • Tulip Jefferson

        Here’s how you do sriracha with brussel sprouts. Roast brussel sprouts until nice and dark. I like when some of the outer the leaves become a little crunchy. Put in a bowl and toss with sriracha, fresh lime juice and salt. You’ll love it.

    • BeccaTheCyborg

      I was a profoundly weird kid. When I was really little, the food-bribes for me to be good? Brussels sprouts and lima beans. Really. I still love them, but yeah, that was how you made sure a toddler Becca was going to be good or had been good.

    • AJ

      Sriracha = Rooster Sauce, it’s literally on every Asian fast food restaurant table. It’s the best! So good! Throw some other veggies in to roast with the sprouts (zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, asperagus, whatever) and then put your veggies over a grain/starch (white rice, brown rice, quinoa, whatever you like), sit down with a bowl of that and a bottle of rooster sauce, and you’re set for one of the healthiest (depending on how much oil, salt used in roasting), easiest, yummiest meals.

    • NotThumper

      Ham salad sandwiches

      Ugh, even thinking about it makes me shudder.

    • RM

      My favorite ways to cook brussels sprouts:
      1. Slice in half, blanche briefly. Brown some butter in a skillet, toss in some salt and slivered almonds, and sear those sprouts in it. YUM.
      2. Roasted or sauteed with olive oil and either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. The acidity in those really cuts the bitterness in bitter greens. Weird, I know.

    • Maria

      Jennifer, you are 100% wonderful. Your cooking is probably 86% wonderful by now. But your pictures are just always very blurry. Do you hold the camera directly into the hot steam coming off your food? Because that’s a bad idea. It would look so much more tasty if you took sharper pictures.

      Still you might have convinced me to face my childhood nemesis, the brussel sprout, again.

      • Jennifer Wright

        Oh, I know! And I think it is probably the steam, bcause I have the autofocus option on! On my iPhone! I am thinking perhaps I should get a real camera, but I am afraid that only way I know to upload pictures onto a computer is via iphone.

      • Maria

        I now you’re probably very hungry when it’s come to the point when pictures have to be taken, but try to hold back a little, step away from the food and don’t hold the camera horizontally over the plate. Voila! Also significantly lowers risk of dropping iphone into food, trust me on that.

    • Arnie

      Oh God those look amazing.

      I actually loved brussel sprouts as a kid. For many years they were my absolute favourite food, alongside mushrooms and blue cheese. Some of the other kids I knew took offence at this and I was teased relentlessly, but friends come and go, brussel sprouts will always be there for me.

      I really hated my father’s stew. He is English, and does not believe in salt. It tasted like meat and veggies had been put in a pot of water and left there until all of the flavour was drained out of them. Only last year, when I found myself unable to escape a stew without being incredibly rude, did I discover that it can actually be tasty, if done well.

    • MR

      What you did looks okay to me. See the problem is my grandfather – my mom’s dad – was a great cook, and he taught my mom. Most of the food we ate came from either of them. My brother and I learned, and I learned even more from the women in my life. I like food, preparing food’s fun and very social. So I can’t think of anything I didn’t like as a kid.

    • Eileen

      My least favorite food was probably tomatoes. I still only like them if they’re cut up, dried out, or made into a sauce.

    • Shellz

      salmon manicotti BLEHHHHH

    • tangerine dreamer

      I roast brussel sprouts with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey. They are really good that way, had them last night in fact.
      Get the Sriracha! It is delicious on everything. Especially scrambled eggs.

    • anna

      my mom is a chef so i liked all food growing up. i remember my favorite food being homemade sushi or pate sandwiches, and getting made fun of alot. i was a snob. i also wore ball gowns to all school picture days.
      i guess asparagus? i still don’t like asparagus. it’s gross and bitter