Things Do Get Better With Time

spaghetti and sauce

Picture by bykst – Pixabay

You may have heard the old adage that things get better with time. I believe that it’s true.

Growing up, my mother did all the cooking because my father didn’t like to cook and didn’t know how to. Mom came from a large family where all the kids, boys and girls alike, were taught to cook. It was natural for her to encourage my brother, both sisters and me to learn to cook. In fact, she encouraged us to experiment. The only stipulation, and it was a reasonable one, was that we had to clean up our own mess.

My recipes are the result of having learned how to cook. Becoming a cook and then head cook at an extremely busy full service restaurant, and then a pizza maker and later a manager at a busy pizza parlor simply gave me extra skills that I wouldn’t have learned any other way.

There weren’t many dishes that I wouldn’t cook at home, given the chance, and the same was true of my brother and sisters. Each of us developed our own specialties. One sister is excellent at cooking meatloaf and is the cookie baker in the family, especially with peanut butter cookies. The other makes fantastic spaghetti and such wonderful pies that it is hard to limit yourself to just one slice. My brother is the barbecue king, particularly when it comes to barbecuing seafood. My expertise is with sauces and zucchini bread.

All four of us learned from an early age how to use herbs and seasonings to enhance and bring out the flavor in whatever we were cooking. I can’t even imagine making a sauce without using herbs. However, by the time I was in my late teens and cooking in the restaurant, I began to take it all for granted. I’d eaten my mother’s cooking and that of my siblings. All of them used seasonings constantly. Granted, there weren’t a lot of seasonings used at the restaurant, but that was on purpose, since some people don’t like seasonings in their food.

I got a wake-up call when I met Ella, whom I married shortly after I met her. I was quite taken with her, obviously, but I remember the first meal she made for me. I was honored and she did go to a lot of trouble to make pork chops, mashed potatoes and green beans. I told her how great it tasted, but that was a half truth. The only seasoning she used or knew how to use was salt and pepper. To say that the meal was bland would be understating it. I didn’t let on that this was the case, though.

Turn about fair play; a few days later I made her dinner. It was all day spaghetti, similar to my mother’s but still unique and using a nice, thick sauce that really did take most of the day to cook. Ella ranted about how great the spaghetti was (and it still wasn’t as good as my sister’s). Ella asked me what my secret was. I was honest and said that there wasn’t a secret, but if there was one, it was in the herbs and spices that went into the sauce.

Over the coming weeks, as we stocked the cupboards with a good selection of herbs, Ella would cook something and ask me what seasoning to put in it. Sometimes I’d cook and she’d just watch to see what seasonings I used. One thing she noticed is that often, I would open the bottle of seasoning and smell it. I’d then smell what I was cooking. Then I’d add the seasoning or put it away. She finally asked why I did that. The question took me by surprise, because I’d never thought about it.

It was something my mother always did and I explained to Ella that I knew what the dish was supposed to smell like when it was done. By smelling the herb and then the cooking food, I was able to gauge how much of that herb needed to go into the food to make it smell right. (Don’t laugh, it honestly does work. Remember, most of your sense of taste is actually your sense of smell, which is why things taste bland when you have a head cold and your nose is stuffed up.)

Before long, I noticed that Ella was smelling the herbs, then what she was cooking, before adding seasonings. Her cooking improved drastically and in a hurry. All of that happened a long time ago, but I’m proud to say that she has become a very good cook through the years. She’s even come up with some excellent tasting dishes that I wouldn’t have even dreamed of.

To this day, though, if she’s making a sauce, she asks me to spice it. That is particularly true of spaghetti and pizza sauce. I don’t mind at all and find it highly complimentary. Still, the saying is true. Things do get better with time, for instance, my wife’s cooking. She might say that I’m responsible for that, but I just showed her what I did, I didn’t tell her how to do it. She figured that out on her own.


    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      You had the desire to learn, though. That is hugely important and it is the difference between an okay cook and a good one. 😀

  1. Eva James

    I never thought of smelling the seasoning and then the food. But I grew up with fairly bland food as my mother dont use too many seasonings besides salt

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      Do you cook with herbs and spices now, or do you still prefer bland food?

    2. Eva James

      I use more than I grew up with but not extremely heavy either. My favorite is garlic.

    3. Rex Trulove Post author

      I love garlic, too. I use it a lot in my cooking, unless I’m making something for someone I know doesn’t like garlic. One of these days, I need to share my recipe for salt crust pork roast. It uses a lot of garlic, but it isn’t overpowering because the flavor sinks all the way into the meat.

  2. Gina M. Menorca

    Well, I wish I could teach my children the love of cooking like your mother. Because, when it comes to cooking I’m a failure. I can cook a little mostly fried and grilled and my children favorite which is spaghetti and our native dish sinigang. that is all.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      It is possible that you just need the right mentor. I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t learn to become a good cook if they wanted to. It does take patience to learn, though.

  3. Gina M. Menorca

    I did. I tried I have a boss which is a chef. He teaches me how to cook. This what happens. We cook the same recipe, same ingredients, at the same,time. I copy everything he did. The outcome not the same. many times I practice .Always the same thing happen.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      I would be shocked if I cooked the same recipe as someone else, in the same way, and had the same result. That might sound strange, but for the same reason, I don’t even cook the same dish so it turns out exactly the same way.

  4. Gil Camporazo

    Time heals too. Both of you are experienced cooks for you learn and improve your cooking recipes as the years go by. Perfection combination for resto business venture.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      It has been many years since I worked in or ran a restaurant, though. Still, I’ve thought about it. For a time, I was a consultant for a restaurant here in town and they used some of my suggestions. Mostly, I just enjoy cooking and like to come up with new recipes. 🙂

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      Having a mother who knew how to cook and who showed you and told you how is probably the best way to learn. I still remember many of my mother’s wonderful recipes and will sometimes try to make a dish many times, attempting to make it the way she did. It never ends up the same, but I can sometimes get very close.

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      I made a big pot of all day spaghetti just a few days ago. lol It was fresh in my mind when I wrote this. It really was a large amount, too, but it didn’t last very long. I like taking the leftovers, adding some water and heating it back up as spaghetti soup.

  5. Donna

    I have madesurevmy children know how to cook with spices and herbs, never thought to smell them though thanks for this

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      Teaching your kids how to use the spices and herbs is a gift they’ll benefit from for their entire lives. Good job!

    1. Rex Trulove Post author

      You might be surprised at how many mothers don’t take the time to do that, usually because they are busy with so many other things. The thing that most parents, both good and bad, seldom think of is that you can tell what kind of people the parents are by the behavior of the children. The children have other influences, too, but none is as important as the one between the kids and their parents (even if the child doesn’t want to admit it.)

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