On Dads And Cooking

September 28, 2011 at 4:03 am 3 comments

Ragu recently did something really distasteful. They tweeted to influential dads and asked them if their kids liked it when they made dinner, with a link to a video of moms bitching about how their husbands suck at making dinner. C.C. Chapman wrote about it, so I won’t reiterate what he’s already said perfectly well, but you should pop over there and read what he says for a little more info.  My first thought was that this campaign was a bad idea from someone managing Ragu social media who doesn’t really understand social media. But the thoughts after that have turned to dads and cooking and all of the memory and emotion tied to both.

My mom did almost all of the cooking in our home. When I was young my father worked a lot and wasn’t home much, and when I got older my mom would get frustrated by a messy kitchen and my dad’s penchant for buying ingredients he only used for one meal. He usually cooked things he knew and loved, meals that built slowly and were made great by his constant attention and tweaking of spice and flavor. I don’t remember why he decided to make sauerbraten with a starter of cold pear soup one night, but I do know that I’ve never had one as delicious as that first time. No chicken was ever as moist as that which came buried in a pot of arroz con pollo. And while I’ve come to modify his chili recipe to make it my own, I still dump plenty of cumin in it, remembering the day my dad taught me that the “chili” taste I knew and loved came not from chili powder but from cumin.

Dad's scrambled eggs from http://featheringnest.blogspot.com/

Image from Feathering My Nest

I cook exactly like the daughter of my parents would – I buy more expensive and exotic ingredients than did my mother, but I plan out menus and budget carefully the way my father never did until he started cooking and eating for just himself. Since I’ve been on bed rest, though, NJS has done a lot of cooking. By stepping back and letting NJS get a little creative, I’m seeing a side of his future dadness that I know our kids will come to love. He makes fantastic stir fry (mine is always too saucy, too salty, and too bland all at once.) His omelets are perfection. And he’s in the middle of perfecting his American Chop Suey with a hint of cinnamon.

One night when I was in high school, I went on a date. It wasn’t my first, but it was my first that didn’t also include the presence of a parent or older brother or other couples. I don’t even remember what that date entailed (probably the movies) but I remember coming home and finding my father awake in the kitchen. “Are you waiting up for me?” I demanded. “Nope. Soup is simmering,” he answered, my mother explaining to me the next morning that as soon as I’d left my dad had started chopping. Sure, it was a clever excuse to take out his aggression on some carrots and wait up to see what time I got home, but a dad knows that nothing, not even a boy who pays for the popcorn, can touch his daughter’s heart better than a bowl of soup her father has made for her.

My dad’s cooking meant a lot to him, and he did it to share his love and life with the people who mattered most. I see NJS putting more of himself into each meal he cooks and I know that to him, adding a sprinkle of goat cheese to my salad is a way for him to take extra care of his family. Don’t demean anyone in your life, especially not a dad, by assuming all they want to do in the kitchen, all they can do, is open a jar of sauce.

What are your favorite dad-made meals? 

Side note: I googled “dad cooking” to find an image for this post and came across a lot of great blog posts by writers talking about foods they loved that they learned to love when their dads made them. Really sweet.


Entry filed under: bed rest, dad, family, food, marketing, NJS, social media.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Meg Fowler (@megfowler)  |  September 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    My dad doesn’t cook at all. I don’t remember him doing anything more than melting cheese on tortilla chips. He doesn’t know how, and he doesn’t want to. Neither of my grandfathers really cooked, though my mom’s dad would invent weird lunches for himself that I had no interest in. Yet my brother DOES cook — in fact, he does the majority of the cooking in his household, and his wife loves it. He’s quite adventurous. The reason this happened was because my mom fostered a love of cooking, creating, and providing in both of her kids — and didn’t really think twice about gender roles. She also doesn’t resent my dad for not cooking, because she’s happy to do it. She PREFERS to do it. And he does all the laundry and vacuums and grocery shops, so there’s a balance. I think she got it right — she figured out what worked in her household, but gave her own son the opportunity to make his own choices about what he’d be good at domestically.

    Gradon has cooked many times, but that’s because he was a single dad — he doesn’t like it, and though he can do just fine with a recipe, he’s pretty frazzled by the end. Again, this ends up being totally fine, because I am a control freak and a cooking nut — and he’ll do literally any other chore in the house and go to the store for me, so we’ve got a great balance.

    To me, Ragu missed the mark because they cut out a market segment to try and appeal to another. That’s just bad marketing. It lacks foresight in spades.

    Anyway — my mom went away for a week once when I was little (rare — my parents haven’t been apart from one another for longer than that amount of time, and that only every few years or so) and planned to leave meals in the freezer for us. We didn’t eat out a lot, ever, and she made everything from scratch, so she wanted to ensure we’d have good stuff while she was away. But my dad confidently told her he’d make sure we were well-fed all week. And she went.

    My dad proceeded to get pizza / KFC / McDonalds for us every night, and we were IN HEAVEN. Not because my mom isn’t a fantastic cook, but because it was junk food wonderland. We loved it. It was a complete blast.

    My mom rolled her eyes when she came home and found out, but I gotta say: that week? Best meals my dad ever made. 🙂

  • 2. Jen Montfort  |  September 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Love this post; while my mom has always done the majority of the cooking my dad has a few recipies that he makes that I will always think of as uniquely his; chilli, scallops and pasta, venison sandwiches. I feel like he does prep work/deal with the nasty bits for my mom a lot; and if we ate lobsters he was the one to send them to their fate. He’s also the official turkey and stuffing cooker at Thanksgiving.

    One thing that is always uniquely his has always been Sunday breakfast. He somehow has always made bacon and eggs taste extra special and I have yet to replicate his home fries.

    Meg, that’s a great story about your Dad’s takeout week, I have the same story just reversed. Dad would be out fishing for weeks at a time and as soon as he left on a trip it was my mom’s chance to not have to cook a meal for dad and we’d have pizza and Chinese takeout. AWESOME.

  • 3. Theresa D  |  October 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    David does most of the cooking at our house… and while it’s not gourmet, I damn well appreciate it!


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