How Have Your Tastes Changed Compared to Your Parents?

Years ago, my mother used to subscribe to Good Housekeeping, and one day when I was maybe eight or nine years old I remember her laughing at a joke in one of the articles. It went something like this:

You know you've had a long and successful marriage once you buy your second bottle of Tabasco.

That's just hilarious. And I'm not sure if it's funny because of how tastes have changed, or if it's funny because of how marriage has changed. Maybe both.

Of course back then the largest size bottle of Tabasco you could find was the tiny 2-ouncer, and one shake of that stuff was all people could handle. Particularly my parents, who grew up in rural Ohio eating mild, midwestern cuisine.

The irony, though, is a 2-ounce bottle of Tabasco is barely enough to make one batch of Paul Prudhomme's Cajun Meatloaf. Heck, you can buy Tabasco in 1-gallon jugs now, and Laura and I go through a 5-ounce bottle of Tabasco every month or so. (Wait--what does that say about our marriage?)

The bottom line is this: tastes change enormously from generation to generation. It certainly keeps modern cuisine interesting, doesn't it?

So, readers, here's your chance: What's different about your tastes compared to your parents--and your kids? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Related Posts:
The History of Tabasco
How to Make Your Own Tabasco Sauce
Casual Kitchen: Seven Ways to Jazz Up Your Morning Eggs

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Julia said...

Ha! We didn't even have Tabasco when I was growing up... black pepper was about as spicy as my mom could take!

I remember when I was 16 and determined to like spicy foods (Ethiopian Food was all the rage). So a friend and I went to an Ethiopian Restaurant, ordered a random assortment of food and a pitcher of water. We cried, we sweat and when the pain dulled we were converted. I'm so grateful I've been able to expand my palate past my parents because it opens up a new world of culinary exploration.

Anonymous said...

My husband could write an essay on the differences in taste from before he met me to after. (His mother is on her first box of ground black pepper - you can't even buy spices in boxes anymore!)

I eat more real foods than my parents. My mom's pantry was always neat because everything was in a box.

Allie said...

My parents seemed like adventurous eaters to me as a kid; I think they've just settled into a set of easily-made, tried-and-true recipes, and stopped eating out as much. My dad still says he'll eat just about anything, but the meals they cook at home are almost uniformly meat-potato-veggie combinations. (Sometimes there's a pasta dish - also with meat.) My diet, on the other hand, consists largely of single-dish vegetarian (and quite often vegan) meals, often using major ingredients (such as quinoa) that they're totally unfamiliar with.

I still love the food my parents make, but when I moved out on my own and started learning to cook, I a) was uncomfortable handling raw meat (and trying to cut down on my meat intake anyway), b) was very busy with my day job and art on the side, and so wanted big pots of leftovers that would stretch throughout the week, and c) found it easier to work from blogs like this one, rather than cookbooks. The sheer amount and variety of recipes available online really made my horizons explode.

I actually plan to give my mother a set of new recipes as a Christmas gift, though; if they like those, maybe the taste gap will narrow a bit.

Emmy said...

Oh, this made me laugh! I grew up in a culture fraught with salt, pepper, and celery seed (PA Dutch). I was so IMPRESSED that my parents owned and Actually Used red pepper flake on their spaghetti! Today, I'm married to a hot-pepper-ophile, Penzeys website is my porn, and I drool uncontrollably when thinking of whole toasted cumin seeds or cardamom! (hold that thought, I need a napkin...)

Makes you wonder which direction our kids are going to take, doesn't it? :)

Sally said...

Compared to my parents, I'm a gourmand. I don't think I'm a foodie, but I do like good food.

My parents would be in their mid-to-late 90s now. I don't think either of them ate Mexican food and I know my mom didn't cook "foreign" food. Chinese was at a restaurant owned by a friend that my father met during WWII.

I remember reading about different foods when I was younger and most of them just were not available unless I traveled a couple of hours to Chicago -- and even then some could be difficult to find. I remember being ecstatic when I found chickpeas in my local grocery.

Over time and due to a move, many of these things are readily available now. If I can't find something locally, I can order it and have it delivered to my door. And sometimes I miss the days when I couldn't find things as easily.

And I find myself cooking the simpler things that I grew up eating. I eat the other things when I eat out, but I rarely cook them.

I'm finding that my daughters cook more like I do now -- and they both cook mostly from scratch. They ask for recipes, but not my killer hummus (or similar things), but things like hamburger goulash or meat loaf or chicken and dumplings.

Marcia said...

Funny! My parents (and I) grew up in rural Western PA...very mild food, like OH. My mom likes spice - banana peppers and horseradish is about it though. I really couldn't handle spice much either.

When I moved to DC in the Navy, there was a little Mexican place half block from my place. They had the spiciest salsa. My mouth would burn, and I went anytime I had a head cold.

But now, 18 years later, I wonder...would it STILL be spicy? I love spice. Mexican, Indian - sriracha, cholula, tapatio. I generally go with the hot sauces on top now because my kid can't really handle too much spice.

My mother and mother in law both ask me "aren't you sick of cooking". After 40 years or so, they are. But they are cooking the same bland food day after day to please picky husbands. I'm cooking Mexican, Italian, Indian, Thai, Greek, Middle Eastern, Chinese, name it. So I'm not sick of it yet. Our mothers are more adventuresome than their men.

My mom gave me a free year of "Taste of Home". It's the one food magazine that I can never find a single recipe in it that I want to try. I'm not sure why. Too much meat and dessert I think.

Stuart Carter said...

My parents emigrated to China before I was born, so I grew up eating a strange mix of traditional British meat-n-two-veg and Hong Kong Chinese dishes! That's probably why I eat and cook such a huge variety, and why I can the extras for later - like my mum I like to make a huge pot with lots of leftovers, but you also want to keep them good.

Where I differ sharply from my parents is that I will, on occasion, cook and eat v*gan cuisine... usually at the end of the month which is also the end of the meat!

Angela said...

Growing up in the 80s when microwaves and convenience were all the rage, we ate a lot out of a box, bag, or can as kids. As an adult, I have certainly expanded my horizons a lot - and have been trying to teach my family about good food they've never tried: grains other than (white) rice, veggies other than corn and peas, and meatless meal options. I make meals out of ingredients instead of packages and the Internet has been hugely instrumental in this peresonal evolution. Thanks to all the food bloggers for sharing so much good info!

Dave said...

My Mom still has the full spice set she got when my folks were married almost 60 years ago. Only the salt, pepper, and a little of the chili powder have ever been used ;). Aside from meat and potatoes, almost everything else in my childhood came from a box. Mexican was a word on seasoning packet. Chinese meant La Choy. Cheese was Velveeta. We once got her an oregano plant and asked her how she liked it - she said it had little flowers and smelled funny. I asked how it tasted and she looked at me as if I were crazy.

That all said - sometimes I'll make her McCormick® Italian-Style Spaghetti Sauce Mix, not because it tastes like spaghetti sauce, but because it tastes like home and love.

Heather Solos said...

I knew my husband had acclimated to the South when I saw him reach for the Louisiana Hot Sauce for his collards.

He's from Minnesota, but I don't hold it against him.

What I don't understand is why the lids never last as long as the bottle.

Aleria said...

I'm definitely more adventurous than my parents. My mom isn't too bad but she won't cook weird food - she's more than willing to eat it if I make it, but my stepdad complains if I don't make 'normal food' aka meat, starch, veggies. At home I eat semi-vegetarian, and often inspired by different cuisines.

Also, my stepdad complains when we go out to Japanese restaurants because "there's not enough food to make me full" - I don't get this, at all. You shouldn't be 'full', you should be 'satisfied'.
However, spice-wise, my stepdad loves hot stuff, and my mom has stomach problems with it. I like a little bit but not too much. I still want to taste the food, not just the spice.

Sally said...

I'll have to admit that none of us like spicy food very much. I still don't keep Tabasco or any other hot sauce in the pantry. I do have some sriacha, but I use it by the drop! I don't like hot peppers, either.

I've been cooking for 40+ years and am more excited by it now than I have been in years. Oddly enough, I think it's because I've gone back to basics and trying to see how much I can do with more limited ingredients in my pantry. I pretty much stick to Midwestern and Italian food. My pantry, refrigerator and freezer have less in them than ever, and I do more with what I have.

Joanne said...

Oh where do I begin! My parents like very bland foods. My father hates all spices. He can handle basil and oregano in VERY small quantities but anything else is a no-go. personally, I think this is because he's a xenophobe. But...I won't go there. My parents also only eat Italian or American food. No crazy ethnic cuisine for them! I'm basically the polar opposite. I love spice, big flavors, and crazy cuisine. Oh how times have changed. The only reasons my parents go through a bottle of tabasco is because of my younger brother. He inhales the stuff.

Anonymous said...

I remember as a kid my dad would put 2 drops of Tabasco on his eggs. My mom was horrified by the spiciness potential. It's been 35 years for them, and they are on their 3rd bottle (but I think I used half of one) and still just as in love as ever

I love to experiment with food and I am terrible at getting a meal on the table on time, but DH doesn't mind cause I give him a salad and a cookie and get back to cooking. We don't have kids so its not a problem now, but its something that I admire about my mom cause she always hits 6 PM on the nose.

What I like about my parents is they will try the "adventuresome food" (a real quote BTW) I make, such as coconut rice with hawaiian chicken or eggs with salsa verde and chorizo (REALLY Good, food memory from mexico) and admit they aren't as bad/scary as they thought it would be. And I add my tabasco on the side:)

AP said...

Interesting topic. My tastes are very different from those of my parents/grandparents.

When I was young in the the South in the 80s/90s, my mom cooked mainly from mixes, prepackaged kits, and cans. I grew up hating vegetables because the only veggies I knew were canned green beans, peas, and corn heated up in the microwave. We had Shake and Bake porkchops or Hamburger Helper on a regular basis. Mom/grandma made a few from-scratch, regional staples like red beans and rice and banana pudding, which I cook on my own to this day. But rarely did we have fresh vegetables cooked in any other way besides casseroles or boiled.

I grew up to become a registered dietitian, and now I cook all the time. I am semi-vegetarian, eat lots of different veggies, and cook mostly from scratch. I try to avoid highly processed foods.

On the one hand, my family gives me grief about my choice not to eat factory-farmed meat. On the other hand, my mother, encouraged by the Food Network (and by me), is expanding her cooking skills every day. She still puts cream of mushroom soup in everything, though.

Daniel said...

These are some excellent comments. I'm certainly not alone having grown up in a non-spicy food household!

One other thought: despite the railings I often see elsewhere about how Big Food controls everything we eat, the comments I see here suggest that today we have a diversity and availability of food that was simply incomprehensible to our parents and grandparents in their era. To me that's truly encouraging.


Gigi Centaro said...

My mother was an awful cook and all she ever wanted to eat were sweets. I learned to bake when I was 8 years old because it made her happy. I still love sweets and need a sugar fix daily, but I'm a much more sophisticated eater than my mother. With the exception of liver and tripe, I eat and cook anything!

Unknown said...

My tastes really haven't changed from my parents. But we were an military family. 6 countries in 9 years gives you a lot of culinary variety.
I taught my husband a lot about ethnic cuisine and he has taught me a lot about spicy food. He's really increased my heat tolerance. Isn't marriage a wonderful thing?

Amber said...

Vegetables. My husband and I both bemoan that our childhoods were filled with boiled veggies of all kinds. Boiling seemed to be the only way both our sets of parents knew to prepare vegetables (and they overcooked them to boot) - and thus we hated them as children. Now we roast, sautee, mash, include in soup and all other manner of delicious preparations. I'm convinced that if children were fed *delicious* vegetables, they wouldn't hate them so. I have no idea why my parents' generation seem to universally be incapable of properly cooking vegetables.

Brittany said...

I second Allie--from meat/starch/bland veggie staple midwest cuisine to one-dish mostly veggie excitement. Also, I never buy processed food (mix of financial needs and taste preferences). The last few times I've been home,I've been struck by just how processed everything tastes. I know my family,especially my mom,are very busy, but I keep wanting to take the frozen pie dough out my my sister's hands and replace it with a tasty one I made myself in a few minutes. I have been trying to cook for them as much as possible--wholesome, cheap, easy-to-prepare from scratch food. They loved your arrabiatta sauce today, Daniel! Tomorrow we're busting out the crockpot. I'm going to try to sneak some lentils in the beef stew to see if anyone notices.