Today is Father’s Day. As always, a bittersweet reminder for me of a sweet and gentle man who passed away too young. It’s been over twenty years. He missed out on my children being born; he would have been a wonderful grandfather. And they will never know him.
Today is also a day to celebrate all the fathers out there and honor our memories. Of course, for me, that involves food. My father was an old school meat and potatoes man, except for the occasional salmon steak, (note the word “steak” has to be in the name). I know healthy eating was not as publicized or so relevant during that era, but when I think now of how he ate then, I have to smile. It made him happy to eat the way he did. I certainly understand that. He enjoyed dining out in fancy restaurants. He loved The Jolly Fisherman, still an institution in Roslyn, New York. Or, of course, a great steak at Peter Lugers. That was his joy. Regardless of whether or not he could afford it, a fine meal was his way of feeling important, spreading his love to his family, and getting us to be together. I guess that’s what fueled my food obsession.
My dad loved sweets. No secret to anyone that knew him. I remember the Schrafft’s chocolate ice cream in the freezer. A whole shelf of Drake’s cakes, Yodels, Twinkie’s, Ring Dings, and Devil Dogs. The boxes of Entenmann’s, Danish Rings, Marshmallow Iced Devil’s Food Cakes, and donuts piled high on our kitchen table. (My friends loved coming over.) Every time my father brought another box home my mother would be angry, yet have a big grin on her face. “Oh Bud, why do you do that?! …get me a fork”. It gave him such pleasure to torture her like that.
My dad never gained weight. I used to laugh because he would weigh himself with his clothes on and a pocketful of coins. His diet consisted of red meat, potatoes, ice cream, bread, butter…did I mention BUTTER? Breakstone Butter, we went through tubs of it. I mean, isn’t everything better with butter? The amounts he would put on his bagels would give a cow a heart attack. Add to that the heavy cream he would use for his coffee…or better yet, pure whipped cream if he wanted to be fancy. Oops, I almost forgot the sugar. Yes, spoons and spoons of it added to his coffee and cream.
My dad didn’t quite get the concept of sharing, either. He never wanted Chinese food. We always had roast beef and potatoes on Sundays. We didn’t order in Chinese like most families on Long Island. When we finally convinced him he would like the old-fashioned “pepper steak”, he was hooked. It was steak, after all. But it was his dish. No sharing allowed.
My dad was a very kind man with very simple needs. Family, friends and good food. He lived his life eating rich foods. I guess that is how it made him feel.