By now, you’ve been deluged with Father’s Day gift ideas and menus for the brunch you could/should/will or won’t make for your dad/husband/sweetie. As I contemplated the upcoming Father’s Day, my thoughts were of my own Dad, not gifts or recipes.
I never saw Dad cook. He probably could have whipped up a breakfast to equal those Mad Men’s Don Draper dutifully makes for Sally, Bobby and Gene, but frankly I don’t remember ever seeing him fry an egg or make toast. He didn’t grill and though he made have made his own coffee, I don’t recall seeing him brew a pot for my mom or anyone else. He did carve turkey, but only when asked.
In Dad’s time, chefs and waiters in fancy restaurants were men and Craig Claiborne ruled the American food world. While he ate continental food (all the rage at the time) and expected white tablecloths in nice restaurants, but didn’t seem much interested in gourmet food. I suspect he would be horrified at what restaurant décor has come to in some quarters - visible ductwork painted black and roughly hewn wood tables - but more because of the cost of the meal than the ambiance.
Times have changed. Both my husband and brother cook for their families and enjoy more types of food than my Dad even knew existed. Even accounting for inflation, we spend more on special occasion restaurant meals than Dad ever would have.
Dad was a quiet guy. His strong suit was not the lecture or chatty advice, but the example he set. He was unfailingly honest in his business and personal dealings, kind in big and small ways to everyone no matter whether they could return the favor or not, and generous to people and causes that he believed in.
Those big picture elements of who he was are a constant source of inspiration. But they weren’t the entirety of his legacy.
- He always came home for dinner. When we were old enough to wait for him at dinnertime, we had family dinner. It didn’t seem odd or a burden to sit together, and there was never a sense that he would rather be with adults than sitting with his kids, listening to our tales of school days, neighborhood friends, or whatever else was on our minds.
- He kept an open mind about new foods. When my mom began using whole grains and more vegetables, ditched the sauces made from cans of Campbell soup, and experimented with recipes from Jane Brody, the Silver Palate duo, and Bert Greene, Dad gamely tried everything. I think he even grew to enjoy – and maybe love – dishes that he might never have picked on his own.
- He appreciated food others made for him. Whether it was a simple snack or a multi-course, he never took for granted food or the care others took in preparing it. Because of him, I grew up thinking it was natural to express appreciation routinely and not just save it for the spectacular meal or a special event.
In these days of more recipes available online than anyone could possibly need in a lifetime and online shopping with overnight delivery so you can still buy that present you meant to get last week, I’m glad I took a deep breath as a blogger and a daughter. I can’t bring my Dad back to give him a hug, but I can still learn from him. And I’ll bet that would have made him really happy.