Today would have been my Dad’s 74th birthday. He passed away almost 10 years ago, but every year on his birthday especially, my thoughts are of him. He and I were close, and some of my favourite quirky food memories are of times with him. So it seemed only fitting that today’s entry would be in his honour…
When I was a kid, my diet started out with rather small parameters. My mom says I used to eat mostly fruit as a baby, and that sausages were one of the first – and only – proteins I liked. I did get over that picky stage, but we were a Prairie family and my dad was a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy back in those days. My mom cooked what he liked. Pork chops and applesauce, or meatloaf with mashed potatoes and turnips were regular stand-bys. My dad’s contribution was the traditional grilling component: he did cook a mean steak, and he mastered vegetables in a tinfoil package with butter and herbs, steamed over the coals. (I still love doing these with steaks in the summer.)
I was a baker long before I was a cook, but my dad never had much of a sweet tooth. He loved a good cookie (not too crunchy, of course – we agreed on that) In true Prairie fashion he also loved apple pie, with a slice of cheddar cheese. But his favourite dessert was jelly roll.
When I was a teenager, my parents took a trip to California. After that, food changed. All of a sudden we were having nachos with salsa, and eating more fish. Then the stuffing for the turkey at Christmas had nuts, and there was no going back. By the time I was an adult, my mom could cook anything and he would try it. My dad had started to cook and even bought cookbooks. He made salads with dried cranberries and toasted pecans, veal piccata, ice cream sundaes.
My favourite foodie memories with my dad are in the years when I was first married, and we both lived in Vancouver. My hubbie was working some nights and so Daddy and I had a standing date on Friday for appies and drinks. We would while away the evening over tidbits he had made and wine I had brought. Our conversations ranged from trivial tidbits to solving the problems of the world. I would often bring dessert, as I was working at Senses, a gourmet food store and bakery that featured the treasures of Thomas Haas. My dad finally gave up jelly roll as his favourite dessert, replacing it with Thomas’ Stilton Cheesecake with Rhubarb Compote.
In later years, we didn’t get to share many meals between the miles and my dad’s ill health. I am very grateful we shared so many memories for me to enjoy. Every time I taste jelly roll, or salad with dried cranberries and toasted pecans, I think of him. When I taste something new and exotic, I smile and think of how he would have enjoyed it.
I’m also due for a piece of Stilton cheesecake on my next visit to Vancouver. Just for old time’s sake.
My Dad was a fellow who loved life. He had his foibles, as any of his friends would gladly tell you, but he certainly enjoyed sharing a good time. Food and drink were always an important part of our family life as I grew up, and once my parents discovered the range of foods available with expanding grocery stores and their own travels, this “meat-and-potatoes” guy was born again.
Today would have been by Dad’s 69th birthday. He died a few years ago, but I still think of him often, and always when I am enjoying a special food experience. Some of my favourite memories are from Friday nights we used to share at his Treetop Bistro (the corner table at the window of his 3rd floor apartment in downtown Vancouver, amongst the branches of overgrown greenery). We sampled Stilton cheesecake with rhubarb sauce, we created pork skewers with a piquant Asian sticky BBQ sauce, we paired obscure wines from the south of France and Tasmania with our delicacies. We also solved the problems of the world, and laughed and toasted our successes.
I shall raise a glass in Daddy’s honour tonight at dinner, and I vow always to remember to taste every mouthful of life to the fullest. I have posted one of his favourite recipes if you want to join in the celebration – Jelly Roll was what we always made for his birthday.