Sunday, June 20, 2010

You can teach an old dad new tricks

Mine has always been a life imbued with food. My mom makes the best hummus on earth. My brother can marinate and grill just about anything to perfection. Nearly all of my aunts and uncles and cousins are good cooks, with specialties ranging from curries to croissants to baklava. My close friends have each logged many hours over the stove with me. Romantic partners I have chosen throughout my life, at least the ones worth their sea salt, have shared a passion for culinary experimentation (or at least have been able sous chefs, adventurous tasters, and willing dishwashers). And if I were to choose one person who has most shaped who I am today, it would be the man who remains the first and greatest chef in my life: my father.

So many memories throughout my life involve me sitting on a stool in the kitchen while dad makes dinner. Sometimes I am helping mince the onions. Sometimes we're chatting and having a glass of wine as the rice simmers. Sometimes I simply watch him work as classical music in the background accompanies the chop-chop at the cutting board. Kabobs. Dolma. Spaghetti sauce. Ratatouille. Dahl. Curry. And every so often I teach him a new recipe. Broccoli with garlic, nuts, and raisins. Massaged kale salad with apples and goat cheese. As he once tried to sneak chicken broth and anchovies into vegetarian dishes, I subtly introduce fruits and vegetables into family meals. There is give and take.

The kitchen counterside talk is not always about recipes, but just as often literature, film, philosophy, religion, the nature of love, the way the world is changing. And there is the occasional Seinfeld reference. It is in the kitchen that our relationship has matured from that of a parent teaching a child to two adults sharing ideas. (He's still my dad, though, periodically asking if I "need a lift somewhere" or if I am "doing okay on cash." Dads will be dads. Put that $20 bill away.)

As I've been biking along, I've been thinking a lot about how different people have helped to shape the woman I have become -- my values generally and my relationship with food particularly. I've especially been reflecting on these ideas since Aaron recently was good enough to give me a copy of Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers." The book, in short, examines why and how some folks manage to undertake and achieve things well beyond the norm. (I do not have such delusions of grandeur that I align myself with the impressive subjects of Gladwell's study -- people like Bill Gates or The Beatles or Mozart -- but matters of nature and nurturing, of practice and hard work and luck, fascinate me such that I can't help but examine my own life.) People ask me all the time these days how exactly one comes to a point where she leaves her paying job, packs her life into panniers, and sets out on a bicycle for a year to barter her way around the country and immerse herself in learning about food. "It's... well, people just don't *do* that," they insist. Well, sometimes they do, apparently. It has been largely due to the love and encouragement of my dad that I am able to undertake such a challenging task as I have set out for myself. (He was not a fan of the solo bicycle riding around the country, though, for the record.)

Once again I am far from home on Father's Day -- last year I was in Connecticut with Felicity's family; this year I'm in North Carolina with an old family friend -- but dad is not far from my thoughts. Laura and I have been spending much of today doing what dad and I would be doing if I were home right now. Yep, cooking and talking. In fact, I think he'd be proud of the spinach-basil-walnut pesto I whipped up. Heavy on the garlic, of course. (Dad remains the master pesto chef among the Vincent clan.) He might not have put it into a quiche, as I did, but who knows. One can teach an old dad new tricks. Like the massaged kale salad he's been showing off at dinner parties lately. When folks ask for the recipe, he just smiles. (Busted.)

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

1 comment:

  1. Just catching up on the internet. Great post.


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