While organizing my manuscript notes, I came across a conversation that my dad and I had probably sometime last year, which I jotted down so I wouldn't forget and then promptly forgot. I remember the conversation well, though, because it's one we have often—just sub in a different vegetable. Let's listen in:
Him: You think because you like everything, it makes you special? It just means you have no standards.
Me: Oh, really!
Him: No standards whatsoever!
Me: No, it means I'm able to recognize the merits of a wide variety of things. Maybe if you tried some different foods, you too would learn to recognize deliciousness when it hits you in the face.
Him: Standards mean things have to live up to something for you to accept them. I like fewer things, ergo I have higher standards.
Me: Oh, for god's sakes, are you going to eat those artichokes or not?
Him: I don't like artichokes.
Children are easier to reason with!
Okay, okay, so I blew it. Technically, strawberry shortcake did not get made on Father's Day, as my dad so casually noted in the comment section of my last post. It's not the first time I've been flamed by my own dad, and surely not the last.
But, I mean, listen. The plan, at my dad's behest, was to take him out for giant sundaes at Cabot's and that's exactly what we did. The strawberry shortcake idea was a little something extra I thought of, which sounded good in theory but then didn't seem to make a whole lot of sense as the day played out. I mean, who can eat strawberry shortcake after eating a giant sundae and then half of somebody else's. No one, that's who. We were all rolling around the baseball field afterwards just trying not to throw up.
So, yes, it's true, the shortcakes fell by the wayside. I got an earful from my dad, believe you me (Italians are not known for keeping their emotions all bottled up inside). Was my dad deserving of shortcake? Of course he was. He is deserving of shortcake and more, but we all deserve things we don't get! Sometimes you have to ride the moment for what it is and be less fussy about the details. I sent him home with a quart of local strawberries I picked myself, as well as the book, Man with a Pan, a collection of essays about cooking by such fathers as Stephen King and Mario Batali, not to mention a cutting board, some sharp knives, and measuring cups. After all, my notoriously stubborn bachelor dad has recently taken to cooking some of Nonni's recipes for the first time ever. I'm so proud!! Perhaps this was the start of a whole new chapter in his life. The chapter in which he realizes he can have strawberry shortcake whenever he wants!
So go ahead, Internet. Strike me down if you must. But let's not forget the time I made a whole tray of baklava for my dad's birthday dinner a few months ago and he forgot to show up. So, ya know, nobody's perfect.
I still love you, Dad.
We had three Thanksgiving dinners this year. One with Nonni on the day, one with my Mom the day after, and then I cooked one for us at home on Sunday. I’ve never cooked a whole Thanksgiving dinner in my life because we’re always away. It occurred to me that this is one of the things I want to do before I die, and that maybe I should start working on that list sooner rather than later.
So, I roasted a giant turkey leg that I had procured the week before from Diemand Farm in Wendell, MA with Annabelle of Calamity Shazaam in the Kitchen and her lovely family. Alongside the turkey leg were roasted carrots from Waltham Fields and potatoes from Picadilly Farm. Then I made oyster and chestnut dressing with Wellfleet oysters (courtesy of Grandpa P), as well as the stale, half-eaten baguettes I’ve been collecting from Russo’s. Finally, I made roasted Eastham turnip with local shallots and apples. Husband followed everything up with a homemade pumpkin pie.
One of the great things about this dinner was that the kids actually ate it. Not only ate it, but liked it. I was definitely not expecting that. The dressing alone was “food on the food” at its worst: many of the ingredients were green (leeks, celery, thyme, sage, parsley), several were gross-looking (chestnuts, oysters), and they were all mixed up with stale bread doused in the drippings of a dead bird. I did not explain it to them in this way, however. Maybe that’s the secret.
After they had eaten every bit off their plate, and my dad had eaten every bit off his plate (yes, including the turnips), they had pumpkin pie and ate every smear of filling right out of the crust. Since when is pumpkin pie popular with kids? Now they suddenly adore it, which means Husband will be even more inclined to sneak downstairs in the middle of the night for secret pie.
Husband’s recipe is as simple as, well…pie. It’s the simplest pie you’ll ever make, put it that way. He makes it with canned pumpkin and a Pillsbury crust, so it’s super-quick to put together. If you don’t already have a standard pumpkin pie in rotation, I’d suggest starting with this one and building off it.
Now, all we have to do is marry his pumpkin pie technique with my homemade lard crust, possibly also real CSA pumpkin or squash, and then there will be world peace.
Husband’s Pumpkin Pie
His secret is to mix fresh, grated nutmeg along with the powdered stuff, half and half.
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar, lumps sifted down
1 can pumpkin pie filling (or 1½ cups cooked and puréed fresh pumpkin)
1 Tbsp. flour
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. salt
1¼ cups low-fat milk, heated (not boiled)
Preheat oven to 450°F. Let pre-made dough come to room temperature for 15 minutes to unstiffen. Grease the pie plate, line with dough, and crimp.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugars. Mix in the pumpkin, flour, spices, and salt. Slowly add the heated milk, whisking all the while, over the course of a minute or so. If you like your pies creamier, you can use whole milk instead or go up an extra ¼ cup on the low-fat milk. However, Husband likes his dark and firm. His words. Hmmmmm…
Bake pie for 10 minutes at 450°F, then lower heat to 350°F and bake 55-60 minutes longer. Let cool, then refrigerate until chilled. Serve with whipped cream or, as Husband prefers it, plain.
We drove down to New Haven for Easter to spend some quality time with Nonni and stuff ourselves silly with manicotti, porchetta, and Italian cream pie. We discussed many things including why the demise of newspapers has to mean the end of good journalism (it doesn’t), the insurmountable deficit and how we’re all China’s bitches (maybe not in those exact words, though), and whether or not I could steal off with my dad’s much better digital camera for a week to see if my photography improves (he said yes, but don’t get your hopes up).
As it always does, the conversation deteriorated to who would be leaving with what leftover food items, and how much of it would be shipped to my dad’s younger brother in Seattle. As far as my dad’s concerned, it’s always too much. Here’s what passed between him and Nonni:
Him: So I’ll take the porchetta, the manicotti, the meatballs, the potatoes, the bread, the ice cream, the pies, any cappellettis you have in the freezer, the kids’ Easter baskets, aaaaaaand Tammy can have the leftover peas. Oh, and I want the crescia, too.
Her: The crescia’s for Eddie.
Him: Go ahead, send him all my crescia. He was always the favorite.
Her: No, I don’t have favorites.
Him: Gimme a break. Even Sis knows it. (To me) She once asked Mom what would happen if all three of us were drowning and there was only enough time to save one of us.
Me: (To Nonni) And what did you say?
Her: I said I would rather drown with all my children than save just one.
Me: Wow. That’s a good answer.
Him: Yeah, except for the part where we all die.
And that, my friends, is the problem with society today. Precious few would make such a grand gesture on principle alone. Once again, Nonni puts me to shame because I don’t think that option would have even occurred to me. Of course, we won’t talk about the stash of stolen plastic bags from the grocery store I found in Nonni’s cabinets, still compressed and stuck together from being grabbed from the bagger’s station and stuffed into her purse. That wouldn’t have occurred to me, either.
Today, my Dad came over to play with the kids, so I made him a very manly hot pastrami sandwich (hold the frisée), along with blackberries from Guatemala and sugar snap peas from god knows where. Both kids were happily munching on their pea pods when my Dad declared himself to be done. With a big pile of untouched snap peas on his plate.
Him: What’s for dessert?
Me: For you? Nothing. You didn’t eat your peas.
Him: I had a bite. I don’t like them.
Me: You don’t like peas? But you ate them in the artichoke risotto just last week. Remember how you were picking out all the artichokes, and I asked if there was a single vegetable on earth that you liked, and you said peas?
Him: Yeah, cooked. Not raw and still in the womb.
Me: But they’re really good this way.
Him: I like my vegetables cooked. I don’t eat sushi peas.
(Swear to god, he said “sushi peas.”)
Me: Kids, do you think Poppi should get dessert if he doesn’t eat his peas?
Me: Sorry, Dad, those are the rules.
Him: How about this? How about I just get back in my car, turn around, and go home?
Me: …Tell me again what flavor of ice cream you wanted...
Free babysitting. That’s why tough love doesn’t work on your parents.
Oh, the complaining. Every week I ask myself if it’s worth the free babysitting.
Him: Why can’t you just make real food when I come over?
Me: This is real food.
Him: No, REAL FOOD. Like hamburgers and French fries.
Me: You can get that anywhere. Plus, don’t you get sick of eating the same stuff all the time?
Him: No. At least I know I like it.
Me: You’ll like this.
(Which, for the record, was a somewhat manly version of bruschetta: crusty, garlicky bread with ricotta, chorizo, pickled onions, and frisée. But it was really light on the frisée, I swear.)
Him: I can’t even pronounce what you make half the time.
Me: You don’t have to pronounce it.
Him: Plus, it’s taking too long.
Me: It’s only been, like, ten minutes.
Him: Yeah, but it should only take 10 seconds from the time I walk into the kitchen until the time it hits my mouth. No longer than it takes to open a can.
Me: Wow, Dad. Them’s some high standards!
There it is, Michael Pollan. The “omnivore’s dilemma” in a nutshell.
My dad, employing his usual tact, mentioned that I forgot to post the story he wrote about his first trip to Yankee Stadium as a kid. And it’s true. I did forget. This was supposed to go with his other stories about growing up in New Haven in the 1950s: bringing home the Italian bread, the cherry tree in his backyard, and his love affair with baseball cards.
But, the Internet is a flexible and forgiving medium, so I’m posting it out of order. I’m sure we’ll all survive. Well, all except, perhaps, a certain Red Sox fan who shall remain nameless. Here it is:
New England is Red Sox country. Or, at least, most of it is. But, if you were a 10-year-old boy growing up in southern Connecticut in the late 50’s and the only baseball games your outdoor TV antenna could pick up were Yankee games, well, you tended to be a Yankee fan.
I loved baseball. My dad who had played some amateur ball in his younger days also loved the game but hated the Yankees (they were too successful!). His hatred of my team and his well-known reluctance to part with money always tempered any hopes I had that I might ever see a Yankee game other than on television. So, it was with shock, exhilaration, and pure joy that I received his news one summer day in 1958 that we were going to a Yankee game at Yankee Stadium that weekend.
What a day that was! We traveled by train and I remember my excitement at seeing the facade of Yankee Stadium for the first time. As my dad took me around the outside of the park, I thought he was giving me a tour. I soon realized that he was looking for an opening in the perimeter fence through which he could sneak me in and save the cost of a ticket (did I mention that my dad was tight with a buck?). I was mortified. All I could see was my being arrested and thrown in jail!
Fortunately, the Yankee organization wasn’t one to allow for dilapidated fencing around the park, so after a while, my dad resigned himself to paying for two tickets. With the turnstiles and the fear of incarceration behind me, I walked up the ramp into the light of the grandstand area. I can never hope to better Billy Crystal’s description of a kid’s first glimpse of the field at the stadium. And, yet, even Billy’s words don’t really do it justice. Words like “majestic” and “marvelous” come to mind before they are unceremoniously discarded as inadequate.
I don’t remember who the Yankees were playing that day but I do know that they won the game, and that I came away with both a Yankee pennant and a Yankee cap. As for my dad and me, we, unfortunately, were never as close as a father and son could hope to be. But, our love of the game was the one thing we always had in common. And the memory of that one golden day in the Bronx!
New Haven, CT – Worcester, MA
Next Recipe: Tortiere
(Previous Recipe: Beanie Weenies)
It has come to my attention that my Dad gets jealous when I write about anyone else but him on this blog. This includes my “no-good husband.” As well as “complete strangers.” And especially doesn’t rule out “girly vegetables.” How you can be jealous of a parsnip is beyond me.
So, fine, Dad, I’m writing about you. You who gave me life and a conscience that burdens me daily. Thanks a lot.
I was trying to spare you this next recipe from the family cookbook, but my dad feels it’s important. In fact, it will probably give you some insight into how I might have inherited my love of hot dogs. It might also give you a frightening peek into the life of a bachelor. That’s right, ladies, all this can be yours. You can put your phone numbers in the comment section.
So, without further ado, here's my Dad.
This is Freddie Donroe, third from the left, as a navigator on a (what kind of a plane is that?) in the Air Force in the early 1970s.
Then, it was off to Vietnam. Despite his nickname, Wrong-Way Al, he didn’t die. (YAY!!!!)
I was born at some point after his return. I’m a little fuzzy on the details of my birth, but I know it took place at a naval hospital in Kittery, Maine. I imagine the accommodations were luxurious. I didn’t think the Navy would let the Air Force use their hospitals, but I guess even hardened military men are afraid of laboring women.
The rules at the time were that the dads were not allowed in the delivery rooms. No siree, they were required to do the manly men’s work of smoking cigars in the waiting room. But, not my dad. They tried to kick him out but he refused, and when push came to shove, he pulled rank. The doctor was a measly lieutenant or something, while my dad had worked his way up to Even More Important Guy. As a reward, he got to stay and witness that living hell. I’ve been a Daddy’s girl ever since.
Here’s his signature dish.
Can of beans
Hot dogs (preferably thawed)
Open can. Pour contents of can into microwaveable dish. Cut hot dogs into half-inch sections and put into dish. Stir until you achieve a lumpy consistency. Microwave on high for about 4 minutes. Remove Beanie Weenies from center of dish, avoiding the burnt layer around the edges. Add ketchup to taste.
New Haven, CT – Worcester, MA
Next: Yankee Stadium
(Previous Recipe: Seven-Layer Cookies)
This is my dad, Freddie Donroe, in grammar school in the mid-1950s. He has this story to share about bringing home the Italian bread:
Hot, freshly baked Italian bread. Now that’s Italian! For me, no meal is complete without one or more loaves of Italian bread fresh from the oven.
My infatuation with the long loaf with the crispy, light brown crust began at a young age. In 1956, my family moved out of New Haven and into one of its growing suburbs, Hamden. It was part of a larger migration of ethnic, mostly European groups out of the city. Many Italians were part of this migration and an awful lot of family names in our new community ended with a vowel. For this reason, a number of shops and stores sprung up that catered to Italian tastes and habits. Bakeries were among them, and it was there that as a youngster I first delighted in both the taste and aroma of bread straight from the brick oven.
Over the years, I made my way to a number of these establishments to pick up a loaf or two for my mom. Most of them were storefront type businesses located on Dixwell Avenue, the main street in the town. But the bakery I remember most was located on Church Street, a small side street where my grammar school sat. This neighborhood was made up of mostly two- and three-family homes with garages in the back. One enterprising family had converted part of the garage into a bakery. It held only one small counter, a tiny prep station, and a large brick oven. As a result, every part of the preparation was done right out in plain view.
It was a treat to watch your own loaves being prepared from scratch, from the kneading of the dough to placing it in the oven with the large, wooden paddle. The wait was excruciating, as the aroma of baking bread swallowed me up. Finally, the loaves were removed from the oven, slipped into long paper sleeves, and placed, piping hot, into my eager 8-year old hands. Then came the hardest part: how to walk all the way home with two deliciously hot loaves of Italian bread under my arm without snatching a hunk for a quick snack! To be honest, I couldn’t always resist the temptation. But my mom was pretty understanding. I always suspected that she ordered two loaves specifically so that one might make it home unscathed.
Eventually, the little backyard bakery went the way of all such ventures. Either the enterprise failed or was so successful that it moved to larger quarters in a more commercial environment. I hope it was the latter. Whatever the reason, I was forced to start frequenting more conventional establishments. And although the fantastic aroma still accompanied the loaves I brought home, the overall experience was never quite the same again.
And that’s the reason why we don’t have a family recipe for Italian bread. So sorry to disappoint!
Next Recipe: Chicken Potacchio
(Previous Recipe: Stuffed Artichokes)
One of my favorite features of this family cookbook I’m writing (besides the recipes, themselves) is the collection of stories from family members. Usually, they’re short anecdotes that I relay in the context of a specific recipe. But, sometimes the stories have special significance, so they deserve their own space and to be told in the voice of the original storyteller. This is one of them, written by my dad, just in time for cherry season:
I grew up in New Haven, Connecticut during the early 1950’s. My family rented the lower floor of a triple-decker in a lower middle-class, ethnic neighborhood in “the Hill.” Originally called Sodom’s Hill, it was initially the Irish section of town before the Irish moved on and the neighborhoods were turned over to the newer Italian and German immigrants. My childhood address, 163 Spring Street, was very much a part of the Italian community, which was centered on Columbus Avenue about four blocks away, with its beautiful parish church, Sacred Heart.
Our landlords were a wonderfully ethnic Italian family known as the Mell’s. The house itself was a wonder to me, with its high ceilings and wood floors. The stove in the large kitchen was huge and had a very large vent pipe (according to my parents, that was the way Santa Claus got into the house since we had no fireplace). My sister and I shared a bedroom with a walk-in closet, long before we thought it was anything special. The cellar was old and unfinished, and one of the highlights of the day was evening time when my Dad took me down to put coal in the old coal-burning furnace. TV was an old black and white nine-inch RCA set and the memories of my donning a red towel around my neck and flying around the living room during and after “The Adventures of Superman” are still vivid.
Outside, a very long driveway ran to the left of the house. It continued on past the main yard and Mrs. Mell’s vegetable garden before widening out to a gravel-surfaced area leading to a three-car garage, a chicken coop, and a rabbit hutch. I, of course, assumed that the Mell’s chickens and rabbits were pets, and I loved to help feed them. Near the garden was an ornate birdbath that I would fill to overflowing whenever someone would be nuts enough to give me the hose.
Past the garden, two white stone blocks bordered the driveway. They appeared to be crude benches, but Mr. Mell told me the terrible, secret truth: they were the tombs of Mr. and Mrs. Mussolini! Back then, I didn’t know who the heck the Mussolinis were or why they were buried in the Mell’s yard, but I knew they must be important, for just to the left of one of the “tombs” was a very large and very old cherry tree. It was the only cherry tree in the entire neighborhood, to the best of my knowledge. It seemed so out of place as it towered over the more typical elms and chestnuts.
For most of the year, the tree was like any other on the property. Since I was too young for climbing, trees were just obstacles to be avoided while motoring around on a tricycle or pedal toy car. Then, in the spring of 1951, something enchanted happened. Roger Mell, the landlord’s eldest son, climbed the tree and began raining bright red cherries down on to the ground. At first, my sister and I didn’t quite know what to make of it all. But Roger invited us to help ourselves and we did. We gorged on the juicy, fresh cherries, laughing out loud and running around, grabbing them off the freshly cut lawn as Roger threw some here, some there, so we all got a share. My sister and I competed for who got the most. She was bigger, but I was quicker, and we both got all we could eat.
The tree became my treasure. I became so protective of it that I once rashly challenged some high school kids who were picking cherries from the branches that had grown over the fence into the next yard. Thank goodness it was 1953 or those kids would have found a way to stuff me into Mussolini’s tomb!
To this day, I have never tasted cherries as good or as fresh as that. I spent the whole year waiting, often pelting poor Roger with the hopeful question, “Is it time, yet?” I was afraid he wouldn’t remember, but he did. The cherry festival went on every spring for a few more years and was as anxiously anticipated as Christmas or my birthday.
My last memory of the cherry tree is circa 1955, when our family was evicted so the Mell’s newly married daughter could move into the apartment. Still, it’s hard to be mad at them: they gave me something worth remembering for a lifetime!
New Haven, Connecticut
Next Recipe: Italian Cream Pie
(Previous Recipe: Pignoli Cookies)
With Freddie Donroe a casualty of the war in 1944, my grandmother, Dora Barbaresi, was left a widow with their infant daughter. So, how is it that I carry the name Donroe two generations later? Let me explain.
After a long period of grieving, Freddie’s brother, Albert Donroe, stepped in to ask Dora to marry him. Albert was actually the Best Man at Dora and Freddie’s wedding (he's standing to the right of Freddie in the picture of the wedding party). In my mind, I’ve concocted all manner of noble reasons for this proposal. To provide for Dora the way his brother would have wanted. To bring up his brother’s child as his own. To help keep Freddie’s memory alive. It may have been all of those things, but, let’s face it, she was also cute.
In an attempt to pick up the pieces of her life, Dora wed Albert and, in doing so, retained Donroe as her married name. So, Freddie wasn't my grandfather — Albert was. That marriage turned out to be, um, less blissful. But the union did produce two sons.
This is my dad, who was born in 1948. He was named Freddie in memory of the late Freddie who would have, in effect, been his uncle. Indeed, as adults, there is a striking resemblance between the two. His brother, Eddie, was born six years later.
As family lore has it, when my dad was born, the doctor declared him to be not only the most beautiful baby in the nursery, but also the most beautiful baby the doctor had ever seen over the course of his career, and maybe even in the history of the world.
Albert was very proud of his newborn son and was swaggering around by the nursery window when another proud papa and his entourage arrived on the scene. That father was singing the praises of his newborn son, but he was pointing at baby Freddie. Albert turned around and said to him, in no uncertain terms, “Who the hell do you think you are? That’s my son. That scrawny one over there is yours.”
And maybe now my dad will stop complaining about how I never write about him on my blog, anymore. Here’s a manly recipe to boot.
Nonni serves these with her lasagna and manicotti. They are the best. There’s no convincing me otherwise.
½ lb. ground beef
½ lb. ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 handful fresh breadcrumbs
1 handful Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Using your hands, mix together all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Roll into round balls. Heat oil in a large frying pan, and cook, turning meatballs often to maintain their shape, until browned and cooked through.
Dora [Barbaresi] Donroe
Next Recipe: Pignoli Cookies
(Previously: World War II)
Last week, I had the most delicious chocolate mousse pie. A gift from my dad!
It was his third and best attempt. He brought the whole pie over in a cooler with a bag of frozen cappellettis from Nonni. I was psyched. Chocolate mousse pie AND cappellettis? Turns out, he was only using the bag of cappellettis as an ice pack, and he said he needed them back. Curse you, father. (In the end, he gave those to me, too. This blog has been working out great in situations like this.)
We wasted no time cutting into the mousse pie. I was slightly pissed off to realize that it was, frankly, better than mine. Really. He said mine was lighter, but his was plenty light and, more importantly, his was chocolatier. Guess what wins out in my book? So, I think we’re going to have to arrange some sort of chocolate mousse pie exchange program so that he makes one for me if I make one for him.
Anyway, in my haste to wrap up the pie and get it into the refrigerator before my kids started using my sharing lecture against me, I forgot to take a picture like I promised. I had already stuck toothpicks into it like a porcupine to keep the plastic wrap from pulling off valuable whipped cream. Then, I ate it all. I’m a bad blogger and a bad daughter.
By the way, I don’t mean to withhold the recipe, it's just that it's part of the family cookbook. I got it from my beloved cousin, Karla, after she wowed everyone at a family reunion with it a few years ago. So, you’ll just have to wait. Unless, of course, you can con my dad into making one for you.
My dad recently celebrated one. We won’t go into the specifics of his age, but according to my calculations, it would be somewhere in the ballpark of the seventies. Right, Dad?
Anyway, his cake of choice is chocolate mousse cake. Not the kind with a thin layer of chocolate mousse sandwiched between two slabs of chocolate cake, but the kind with chocolate mousse sandwiched between even more mousse. I make it for his birthday, and then, for the remaining 364 days of the year, I get to listen to him complain about how long it’s been since he’s had a chocolate mousse cake. So I nearly went into shock when he asked for the recipe.
I was immediately suspicious. Was he planning to start a rival blog with all the same recipes interspersed with embarrassing pictures and factoids from my awkward adolescence? Because he damn sure wasn’t actually going to make the cake. Was he?
Yes, he was. So smitten by chocolate moussiness was he that he was willing, at least temporarily, to shed his unapologetic bachelor ways to don a frilly apron instead. I could hardly believe my ears. But I had to change my tune from incredulousness to supportiveness pretty quickly because this was my ticket to some peace and quiet for a change. So, I sprinted up the stairs to print out the recipe.
When I returned:
Dad: The only thing is, I don’t have a cake pan.
Me: Here, take mine. Take all of them.
Me: Do you need spatulas, too?
(Later, over the phone.)
Dad: And what does it mean to fold the chocolate into the whipped cream?
Me: blah, blah, blah, blabbity blah…blah, blah, blah.
(It doesn’t matter what I said here because it made no sense to me or anyone else. There’s no way to explain good folding technique over the phone, especially to a scientist. I tried using sundial analogies, orbiting planet terminology, nothing was getting through. So, I gave up and said gently stir. Just try to keep the cream whipped.)
Dad: Okay. But, I don’t have an electric mixer, so I’ll just use the blender.
Me: Wait a minute. Hold the phone. You can’t use a blender.
Me: Because you’ll overwhip the cream. You’ll get butter.
Dad: Well, I’m not buying a mixer.
Me: They cost like $20.
Dad: But then I’d have to leave the house and spend money, both at the same time. I didn’t semi-retire so I could go on wild shopping sprees like some kind of a girl (he didn’t actually say this, but I know what he was thinking).
Me: You could use a whisk?
Dad: Forget it. I’m using a blender.
Me: All righty. Have fun with that.
To make a long story still too long, he didn’t end up with butter, but judging by the volume of the whipped cream, there wasn’t nearly enough air in there. He said there were stiff peaks, but I don’t think he knew what I meant. Compared to what? The original unwhipped cream? What was supposed to be a three-inch high cake was maybe an inch high. In case you’ve ever wondered, don’t use a blender to whip cream.
Still, it was a valiant first attempt. I thought I’d lose him at the cookie crumb crust. He powered through and the cake was edible. For his second attempt, he did finally decide to spring for the mixer after coming to the realization that an Andrew Jackson was a small price to pay for a lifetime supply of chocolate mousse. Armed with the proper technology, he was rewarded with a two-inch-high cake. Go, Dad! I have high hopes that once we work on his folding technique, he’ll find himself with a soaring velveteen chocolate mousse worthy of a guest appearance on my very prestigious blog.
Next stop, baklava.
I love when my dad comes over because it means I won’t have to think too hard afterwards to come up with a blog entry. His latest visit was no exception:
Him: When are you going to post some real recipes?
Me: What do you mean?
Him: You know, some manly recipes. Nothing crazy like Mulliga-whatever-it-was.
Me: You think my recipes are...too girly?
Him: Yes, too girly. Where’s the meat?
At first, I was offended. There was a little bit of chicken in the mulligatawny, after all. And, okay, maybe coconut milk is a tad girly, but that’s what the spices are for. To put some hair on those breasts. But, I mean, this is coming from a man who takes his margaritas frozen with no salt, and only when piña coladas and strawberry daiquiris aren’t on the menu. Who are you calling a girl?
But then, I realized he had a point. Where is the meat? I checked my recipe archives and the only things containing meat were the borscht and the Chinese dumplings. Except they're meat mixed with vegetables, which might as well be tofu.
Have I gone stark raving mad? Have the Californians finally forced upon me the Kool-Aid? Because I can totally put away Sloppy Joes like nobody’s business. We just haven’t gotten to that part of the family cookbook, yet.
Anyway, I’m somewhat ashamed of myself. So, to make amends, here’s a manly recipe of the manliest sort. It’s something even my dad should be able to master.
1 hot dog (or more)
Hot tap water
Jab hot dog with fork. Run under hot water until it’s, you know, hot. Eat straight from the fork.
Suggestion: Use Hebrew National if you want God on your side.
Regarding the rice pudding of my previous post, I nearly forgot about the conversation I had with my dad. I don’t know how it could have slipped my mind, especially because he specifically told me not to write about it on this very blog. I’ll have to remember to be more punctual in my acts of disobedience.
Now, I didn’t really want to share the rice pudding with my dad, truth be told, but he did take the kids off my hands for a few hours so that I could, you know, blog instead of taking the nap I so desperately needed. This is more or less how it went:
Me: Do you want to take some rice pudding home? (please say no, please say no)
Him: What’s for dessert?
Me: Rice. Pudding.
Him: Come on, that’s not dessert. It’s a vegetable.
Okay, fine, a vegetable. If that’s my free ticket, I’ll take it!
I had to make an emergency trip to the store on Sunday because we were running dangerously low on anchovies. This is not an acceptable situation in our house. I love anchovies. I love them salty and brown. I love them vinegary and white. Those little fishies rock my world and they need to be available at all times.
You may recall a conversation I had with my dad about anchovies and how much he despises them, despite loving Caesar salad. Interesting. So, I decided to further test the hypothesis that my dad is crazy. I gave him some beet soup to bring home, soup that was laced with a certain secret ingredient.
Let’s see what our taster thought:
Me: How did you like the soup?
Him: It was good.
Me: Really? You liked it?
Me: You ate all three servings?
Him: I like beets.
Me: Then you like anchovies, too.
Me: That’s right. I put anchovies in your soup. HA HA. Take that.
Him: You know, I’m not going to keep eating the food you give me if you keep sneaking things in that I don’t like.
Me: Yeah, right. The point is that you DO like these things. You just don’t know that you do.
Him: I know I hate anchovies.
Me: Uh-huh, sure.
Him: Anything tastes good in a million to one ratio.
Me: Eight percent. It was 8% anchovy.
Him: I know ratios. I’m a scientist. I’ve been working with solutions all my life.
Him: I hate anchovies.
You may not have noticed, but in these conversations, the same person always has to have the last word. However, it’s worth pointing out that his last word was not that he hated the soup.
Here’s a snippet of conversation that I had with my dad this weekend:
Me: How’s that Caesar salad?
Me: I love anchovies.
Dad: Yuk. I hate anchovies.
Me: You do? But, you like Caesar salads?
Me: Then you like anchovies.
Dad: No, I hate anchovies.
Me: You see that salad your eating?
Me: There are anchovies in it.
Me: In the dressing. Ground up anchovies in that dressing.
Dad: No, this is good.
Me: Then, you love anchovies.
Dad: No, Tammy, I hate anchovies. (under his breath: Anchovies in a salad. Ridiculous.)
Me: Let me have a taste.
Dad: No, I hate anchovies.
Actually, I was pretty sure there weren’t really anchovies in the dressing since we were not in a particularly upscale restaurant (Friendly’s, if you must know). However, we could have been at the Ritz eating a salad dressed in 100% anchovies and we’d be having the exact same conversation.