Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Fathers' Day - a Tribute to my Dad

Happy Fathers' Day to all you fathers out there. I started my memories of my Father yesterday morning with breakfast. Sometimes when we were small, Dad would make scrambled eggs and add in a can of salmon. I was not crazy about these eggs with salmon back then, as a child. I happened to have some salmon I had cooked and had some leftover, so I decided that after all this time, maybe I would actually LIKE scrambled eggs with salmon. I made it with Dad in my mind. Sorry, Dad, I still don't like that combination. Dad passed away in 2001, but his memory lives large.
My Scrambled Eggs with Salmon

Long ago, in our childhood in the '50s and '60s, Dad would sometimes make us
Dad in the Army
breakfasts on the weekend. He had learned to make omelets when in France during WWII. In his version of omelets, he would sometimes insert a bit of jelly in the middle for us children. While omelets were not my favorite way to eat eggs at the time (boy, has THAT ever changed!), we ate them and it was fun, because Dad made them, instead of Mom. Mom was a very good cook. She cooked day in and day out, and with the family expanding to seven children over the course of 1950 to 1963, she cooked an awful lot. Those were the days of having a full breakfast every morning, a lunch of often soup and sandwiches if at home, and a full dinner on the table when Dad got home from work. Having Dad at home to cook was not usual, as he was working, but sometimes he did on weekends, and it was usually inventive. Dad was innovative. 

Dad & Mom1948 Just Married

One Sunday when I was around 12 years old, Dad decided to try something out that he saw on a cereal package. At that time, along with the regular large pillow-shaped shredded wheat cereal, there was another kind that came in a round disk shape, about 1/2 inch thick or so (see them here, if you haven't seen them!). The idea was to use this disk shaped shredded wheat cereal instead of bread to make French Toast. Dad was all about bacon and bacon grease, and this was his plan, to make scads of bacon and make the French Toast deep fried in the bacon grease. 
Dad, Grillin' - summer 1962

Taking this all one step further, Dad decided to make this a breakfast picnic, and make everything out in the back yard, on the grill. We would eat at the picnic table there. 

Dad with Five Girls in 1960
Me & Dad, 1952
Now, from this remove, I can look back at that scenario and really admire Mom. I know this was a huge undertaking for her. Though she would not be making the breakfast food, she was in charge of getting all the foods, utensils, pans, griddle, the table settings, condiments and everything else in order and out to the back yard (and then everything in reverse once breakfast was done, plus washing up!). Let me say that we had a very large back yard. This was not a situation where you walk out the back door and there is the table. At this point in time, the picnic table was waaaaaaay out back, requiring a significant amount to legwork to get there and back. I am sure that Mom thanked God for us children to do some of this legwork for her, but it was still a large undertaking, and while she may or may not have quibbled over this idea of Dad's, she did it.

My Dad's love of innovation in the kitchen has inspired me to do the same in my life. Mom's good cooking gave all this a start, but it was Dad who always pushed the envelope as they knew it. Dad grew up on a farm. His love of planting things stayed with him all his life. As I mentioned, our back yard was large, and Dad had a significant part of it planted as a vegetable garden each year. He grew corn, beets, carrots, scallions, green peppers, beets, cabbage and many, many other things. Mom canned and froze vegetables all summer long. On one occasion, Dad planted eggplant. I don't think Dad or Mom liked it either, because he never planted it again, but at the time, they couldn't say that, if they expected us to eat it too. So I ate eggplant, and hated it. Thankfully that has changed. While it is not my #1 favorite vegetable, I do eat it.

When my sister Diana was in grade school, around 1965, she made a red and green felt bow tie. Dad was presented with this bow tie, and he faithfully wore it every Christmas after, right up to the last Christmas we had with him, in 2000. Dad never, ever lost his sense of humor. Dad could move us to sobs when he had to have a stern "talk" with us when we misbehaved (often!). Dad never ever stopped wanting to learn new things, even after heart attacks and strokes, diabetes that impaired one eye severely. He kept endeavoring to learn new things on his computers and keep apprised of events. When email became the thing, he delighted in sending out emails to all of his children.

Dad making Stew, in 2001
Atlantis Launch from KSC
When quasi-digital cameras came into being, Dad bought a Sony Mavica around 1997 or 1998, using a small floppy disc for the photos. Once this happened, Dad took photos all the time and would email us these photos. Photos of foods he had made, served in a pretty setting of Mom's devising, such as Bean Soup (or "Ham Bone Soup" as they sometimes called it), or a stew of some kind. With fresh vegetables from the garden he and Mom always canned what they called "Stewed Tomatoes." I do not have their recipe, though it was a combination of tomatoes, onions, celery and possibly green peppers. The sauce was sweetened a bit. I came to like it very late in the game, and now I wish I had that recipe. But even with that, Dad was always tweaking. I recall his gigantic zucchini, and that he also added that to his Stewed Tomatoes recipe towards the end of his life.

Dad took photos of his flowers, animals that strayed into the garden, his garden veggies, space launches. Dad and Mom lived in Deltona, FL, about an hour away from Daytona beach. If there was a shuttle launch from Kennedy Space Center, Dad would do his utmost to get photos, such as this one here, taken possibly either 1997 or 2000. I do not have the exact date for this photo. Dad was sweet and kind, yet very no-nonsense. He was a wonderful father to seven children, always with time for us all. We love you!