Dad Cooks (sorta)

Obviously, I talk a lot about the food I cook for Madison and her reactions to our meals, but I think it’s important for a space devoted to family meals and cooking for kids to give some history of the person doing the cooking.  I mean, I wasn’t just conjured out of thin air with a full, working knowledge of food preparation, nutrition and traditions.

I’ve mentioned my mom here a lot.  She was the one who taught me that butter is an essential ingredient of life.  She’s helped me plan menus and instilled food traditions.  Overall, she is the person most responsible for my learning to cook and she has literally pushed me out the door and told me to go out into the world and try new things, adventures and tastes.  She has always encouraged me and one of the best ways I know how to thank her is to share my stories about our food adventures.

My dad however, is another story.  While encouraging and supportive in his own way, he wasn’t always the most demonstrative parent.  And he most definitely subscribed to the dinner-from-a-can school of thought.  So my stories about him are few and far between.  But in his own way he encouraged having fun in the kitchen and above all – experimentation.  I now share with you some of my favorite stories about my dad in the kitchen.

Kitchen Lesson #1 As Taught By Dad: Always solicit feedback

I was a precocious child.  But by the age of two, I still hadn’t begun speaking much and my parents became concerned.  I was taken to the doctor who quickly assessed my parents’ intelligence level (high), level of involvement in my daily activities (high) and level of concern (high.)  From what I’ve been told the conversation went something like this:

Doctor: “Do you ask Heather questions, engage her in conversation?”
Mom and Dad: “Yes, all the time.”
Doctor: “Do you wait for her to answer?”

My parents were dumbstruck –they had forgotten to allow me to take part in the conversations they were having with me.

Shortly after our visit to the doctor, my dad was making lunch for me.  Our conversation went something like this:

Dad: “What kind of sandwich would you like for lunch, Heather?
Dad: “Peanut Butter and Jelly or Tuna?”
Dad: “I think tuna sounds good.  Let’s have tuna.”

As my dad started gathering the ingredients for tuna sandwiches.  All of a sudden he felt a tug on his leg.  Apparently, I looked up at him and said, “Actually dad, I’d like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”  My dad almost fell over.  It was the most he’d ever heard me speak at one time.  (I love the fact that my first fully formed sentence was food-related.  Go figure.)

Kitchen Lesson #2 As Taught By Dad: Have Fun in the Kitchen

Just this morning, I was making cinnamon toast for Madison and I remembered a game my dad and I used to play in the kitchen.  After returning home on Saturday morning after ice skating lessons, my dad would make me cinnamon toast.

He always made a big show of going into the kitchen, getting the bread out assembling the ingredients – butter, sugar and cinnamon – and placing the bread in the toaster.  When the bread was toasted he would say very loudly, “Yum, I can’t wait to eat some of this delicious cinnamon toast.  I’m putting the butter on now.  Ooh, here comes the tasty sugar and cinnamon.”

While he was “making his toast” I’d hide behind the counter waiting for the exact moment when he would put it on a plate and “turn his back” long enough for me to swipe it off the counter.  When he turned back around he would always exclaim in mock surprise, “Now who took my toast?  When I find the person who stole my delicious toast I’m going to eat them!”

35 years later I still think of my dad whenever I eat cinnamon toast.

Kitchen Lesson #3 As Taught By Dad: Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Flavor Combinations

Alright, so I’ll admit, most of the “flavor profiles” developed by my dad were awful: scrambled eggs with chili, corn flakes and tequila (not for kids, but it’s a story we heard many times growing up), spaghetti and beans.  It’s a good thing my mom didn’t take too many nights off.  I’m sure these awful experiments were the reason I began cooking at such a young age.  But I’m also not afraid to try new ingredients, techniques or recipes.

However, there is one successful experiment that we still make today – a homemade candy known as “Daddy’s Favorites”.  It’s basically a mish-mash of all of the sweet ingredients typically found in the kitchen.  (My dad has a LEGENDARY sweet-tooth.  Madison literally has to hide her Easter candy from him!)  Anyway, this “candy” usually sustained us long enough to fight off the hunger until my mom got home.  And my dad’s rationale was that because it contained peanut butter and honey it was good for you.  Umm, right.  Here is the recipe:

Daddy’s Favorites

1 ½ cup Peanut Butter
½ cup honey
½ cup brown sugar
2 ½ tablespoons powdered Hershey’s Cocoa
1 tbsp butter
Dash salt
Dash cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together, form into balls and refrigerate 30 minutes.

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7 comments on “Dad Cooks (sorta)

  1. This Italian Family
    February 8, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    This is such a sweet post. I love it.

    • Heather
      February 8, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

      Thanks! I always love your comments!

  2. Harry Weisberger
    February 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    “My dad, however, is another story.”
    Thanks a lot.
    Actually, Heather, I rather enjoyed being featured on “Cooking For Madison.” The “legendary sweet tooth” is all true, which is why I don’t keep that stuff around the house. Otherwise I’d look like your Uncle Thom x2.
    I appreciate your breaking out those old memories. They were, for me at least, pleasant ones.

    Dad

    • Heather
      February 8, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

      Me too. You might have been an awful cook but at least I didn’t starve and we always had fun in the kitchen.

  3. Susan Weisberger
    February 9, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    I remember your Dad making scrambled eggs. I think we sold that recipe to the military to use as a secret weapon.. But at least he cooked, that was great.

    @ Harry you haven’t seen Thom for awhile, he has lost 65 pounds..

  4. Auntie Roxann
    February 10, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    you made me cry reading and remembering your dads antics i wish we were still a block away from each other love your writing heather you have been blessed with a gift

    • Heather
      February 11, 2011 at 10:25 am #

      Thanks Auntie Roxann. I miss you too!

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