An ode to my father

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Monkeys are funny.
I love you.

I’m not really one for writing lyrical odes, but the title sounded nice. This blog post is in honor of Father’s Day. I can always depend on my dad for comic relief, “that’s what she said jokes” and a supportive smile. He’s my parent who challenges me with math questions, tells me to read the newspaper and asks me about my physical health.

The first time I remember cooking was with my dad. He was making dinner, probably pork chops or cube steaks, and he handed me a box of Rice-A-Roni and told me to read the instructions. He’d watch me measure the water and add a tablespoon of butter, always reminding me to double check the directions. I had a bad habit of just putting all the ingredients in the pot when they really needed to be added in a certain order. I still do this. But things turn out. We’d sit down to eat and he’d always compliment the dish I’d make. What child doesn’t like to be praised by their parent? This ignited my love of cooking and I’ve fed on it ever since.

A parent can show their love in many ways. My father figures out what your favorite food is and makes it for you. When we came home from the hospital after our son was born, my dad made an entire leg of lamb for Easter dinner at our house – after he’d already made a dinner for another family hours before. He took our order and delivered dishes of frozen and fresh foods we ate for weeks while adapting to parenthood. My dad couldn’t physically be there with us often, but we always thought about him as we ate his delicious eggplant parmesan or polish sausage sandwiches.

My dad told me his father loved cooking while in the army and that sparked his passion for feeding people. He’s always been hard on himself for being a bad gift giver but my dad sure knows how to make people happy with his cooking. He’s always willing to make a big family meal. His nickname is “Three Meat Mike” because he never cooks just one entree. He roasts extra turkeys for Thanksgiving, even if he’s not hosting the party. At Christmas, he brought over a beautiful salt-crusted prime rib and I made all the sides. I tried so hard to make dishes deserving enough to sit on the same plate as his luxurious meat. Dutchess potatoes did the trick. Piped into little volcanoes, these mashed potatoes were puréed with heavy cream, butter and egg yolks. Such a splurge. And of course, my dad complimented them. 🙂

I was married on June 18, so Father’s Day is always close to our anniversary and every year I look through our wedding photos I find this one of me and my dad. Moments before it was taken, I’d told him I felt like I was about to cry my eyes out. He turned to me and said, “Don’t cry. People get married every day. It’s no big deal.” While that may sound a little diminishing to some people, I appreciated how he told me what I needed to hear to calm down. I kept my cool and made it down the aisle.

We went back to the Byron Colby Barn in Grayslake for family photos this spring, seven years after our wedding. Standing in the same spot, I could hear my dad’s advice echo in my mind. I hear my dad a lot as I go through daily life. Not only does his voice chime in when I’m looking in the spice cabinet for steak seasonings, but also as I decide what to feed my family and how to spend time with them. My dad has always been a big fan of spending time outdoors. He’s generous with his time and food – I don’t think there’s a better winning combination. Food is truly a way to the heart.


Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I hope my cooking makes you proud and my family makes you even prouder!

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