Bixa, I never had to cook at home. I have two older sisters, one who has baked as long as I can remember and she is only 3 years older than I and the other a great cook herself, I was never needed in the kitchen until the dishes had to be cleaned.
I went from home to being married at 19 and my husband was 20. It was quite hilarious at the beginning, neither of us cooked but thankfully I did know how to clean and do laundry.
I quickly began taking notice of my mother or mother-in-laws cooking when we were invited to dinners, read their cook books, borrowed their recipes and did a lot of experimenting.
I do not need to follow recipes very often now, unless I am baking (rarely) and give all the credit to both of my mothers for my comfort food style of cooking and I would agree that my food is a combination of them both.
Growing up, I was impressed at my mother's adaptation to certain local dishes. Even though I grew up eating mostly French food in Mississippi, I also had my fair share of homemade fried chicken, stuffed crabs, shrimp gumbo, shrimp and crawfish boils, red beans and rice, etc. When my stepfather came on the scene, hush puppies became a major element of meals in which fried speckled trout were involved -- but he took over the cooking for those meals.
My mother was thrilled to have met a man who wasn't afraid of doing things in the kitchen.
I certainly think one needs to find a balance. A doctor once told a vegetarian friend of mine that she should eat meat every so often (whatever that means). NO! says my sister who will eat chicken but no red meat. She is a fanatical follower of Patrick Holford. At least she doesn't have gout like me, but I get told off about how meat doesn't digest it only putrefies....... yeah yeah yeah! My gardener HAS to be a vegetarian as he is allergic to meat. His skin breaks out in a terrible rash he tells me, when he has tried on the odd occasion to eat meat. He's a fit bloke but I sometimes worry that he doesn't know enough about nutrition to eat protein in other forms.