Archive for April 4th, 2012

4th April
written by Loren

Today is my father Curt’s birthday. That may not seem germane to a food website, but my old man taught me almost everything I know about cooking. How to grill a steak, make a

Definitely dad's natural element: cooking AND camping!

tomato sauce, griddle a pancake, make gravy, you name it.  Dad was a master improviser; I’ve never seen anyone else who can just stare at a pantry for a minute or two, then know instantly what he was going to do with what was on hand. Got a couple of pheasants which have been in the freezer for several years, maybe some egg noodles and half a carton of sour cream? BOOM! You’ve got pheasant stroganoff. I’m still trying to refine that skill (and that recipe).

Dad could also teach life lessons through cooking. One of the great lessons of cooking is, of course, patience.  A few hours can turn country ribs from tough and gristly to juicy and sumptuous, and similarly waiting to stir or turn meat while searing it will build up a beautiful and flavorful crust.  One day in particular, this lesson was definitely impressed on me. We had spent the afternoon pruning the apple trees by the garden, and we used those applewood tree trimmings to barbeque snd smoke a few pounds of venison chops in the weber grill. I. of course, wanted to take them off after 20 minutes because the smell was driving me insane. Dad insisted we wait, and when we finally took them off the grill about 3 hours (and about 10 layers of maple-chipotle glaze later)they were falling off the bone and insanely delicious.

As a bit of background, my parents divorced when I was about 3. For as long back as I can remember, I only had two weekends a month with my father. When you only get to see your dad for 4 days a month, every moment really becomes precious. So when it was time to cook dinner, I wanted to help my dad instead of watching TV or playing with the dogs. Whether it was a once in a lifetime meal or just something whipped up at the last minute, that was still quality time that I got to spend one on one with my old man and I wouldn’t trade those nights in the kitchen for anything in the world.

As you may have guessed from the usage of the past tense, my old man is no longer around. I lost him to a car accident when I was in high school. I don’t have a ton of material things to remember him by. I’ve got the shotgun he gave me for Christmas one year, one of his old hunting knives and his dogtags from the Navy. But that’s OK, because he gave me this incredible gift before he left – he taught me to cook, to love cooking and to put love in cooking. I knew friends in college who made it to their mid 20’s without being able to make anything that didn’t come in a box with explicit instructions (my apologies if any of you are reading this now, but I’m pretty sure I already made fun of you for this to your face anyways). While they seem to be getting along fine, I’m not sure how.  I just don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t cook as well as I can. My absolute favorite thing to do is cook for my friends and family.  It gives me great joy to spend a few hours crafting something really incredible and then give that dish to the people close to me for them to enjoy.

So on this day, what would have been Curt’s 57th birthday, I want to say thank you Dad. Though we didn’t have anywhere near enough time together, the amount of skills and knowledge and character you passed on to me by the time I turned 17 speaks to how incredible you were as a father and a role model. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about you, especially when in the kitchen, and I am undoubtedly a better man today because of our time together.

Cooking was actually second to engine repair for my dad, both in terms of his interest and ability.