Some of my fondest memories of my childhood have been centered around the kitchen. Pots clanging, water whishing and splashing, the snap crackle and tap of a wok being tossed in a small colonial L-shaped kitchen with a double sink with a window above it. The figure working busily away wearing an apron isn’t my Mom. It’s my Dad. Yeah, in my household this has always been the case. I’ve read that in recent times that men are not only bringing home the bacon, they are cooking it too more and more these days. I thought to myself…humpf…this is what my Dad has been doing all along…what a trailblazer, what a trendsetter!
Yeah, at a very young age many of the great bonding moments between my Father and I have been kitchen lessons. Let me say a few things for the record just in case my Mother reads this…my Mother IS also a good cook in her own right. It’s just that her cooking style lends itself more towards the utilitarian side of things. My Father cooks with love, passion and imagination, you can see it in the food he cooks, the way he seasons things and the happiness that he gets from the people who he cooks for. In other words, he cooks with the same feelings that I do. I am my Father’s son…and I am so thankful for him to have taught me his passion and style.
When put to task about writing about my Father and a culinary experience. It is very hard to name just one as there is a lifetime of memories between us as it relates to food. I’d like to share just two that stick-out.
My very first recollection in the kitchen was the day that my Father first taught me how to cook rice. It’s simple now and I am sure many Chinese kids grow up learning to cook rice at an early age. But for me, this opened my eyes to a new world more exciting than after-school cartoons, homework and hanging out with my Big Wheel Gang on our dead-end street in Mississauga. After my Father got home from work, I would be in the kitchen ready to cook rice, listen to him, observe and eventually emulate. I watched with an amazement as if he was a conductor of an orchestra, adding oyster sauce - just a dash, adding garlic and then ginger, pinch of this and a pinch of that. It was in a word awesome. The sights and the smells…oh the smells were intoxicating. Gradually, as I got older, my Father taught me how to use a Chinese clever and to curl my knuckles just so – in order to not to cut myself. I learned how to slice ginger, to cut against the grain of meat to ensure tenderness. These are all tricks I learned as a boy before I was even 13yrs old. At a young age, I knew how to season meat, dice vegetables, sauté in a cast iron wok and yes make rice. I also learned that my Father cooked with such passion as a way to take care of us and showed how much he loved us.
Another memory that sticks out that revolves around food and my Father and I was during a Summer BBQ. If you follow my blog, you will see that I love to BBQ and have written many posts revolving around this great activity. My Mother is and has always been a social butterfly. She loves to entertain! Her summer parties have become the stuff of legend – just in the past two weeks she has had almost 100 people over for dinner! It was at one of these parties that my Father passed on the torch to me and taught me the ways of the BBQ. By this time, I was a young teenager and had gained a pretty good repertoire under my belt in the kitchen but never really got to the grill outside. This was and sometimes still is my Fathers kingdom. Beer in one hand, kitchen tongs in the other, it was his ‘thing’ at these parties. He relished hanging out with the men that came with their wives to my Mother’s parties. Didn’t realize at the time this was called Male-bonding but it was. He relished these times and he always laughed the loudest, shared a joke or two and had a great smile during these parties. I loved watching him in his element.
But the day came and it was at one of these parties, as he was prepping for a party. He came up to me and placed me in front of the BBQ grill. He showed me how to start the fire, taught me about hotspots, taught me about the marinade and other important grilling hints that I have kept with me to this day. He told me that he wanted me to not just watch anymore, he wanted me to do. It was a benchmark moment in our relationship. A passing of a torch if you would, between Father to the Son and has on occasion sparked many a conversation as to who does the better BBQ? We can get pretty competitive, trying to outdo the other but it is always in good fun. Now that I’m older, he and I can share a beer, tongs in my hand and a book in his while I cook in front of the BBQ. It’s funny to mention that even just as recently as last week he had the nerve to say that his was still best…oh well. He is the master and I always the young apprentice. Between you and I, I still think my Father makes a pretty darn good BBQ…just don’t let him hear me say it!
That’s my Father, in a nutshell. Passionate cook, lover of food and his family. To this day, he goes to market every day, sources out the freshest meat, vegetable and fruits, takes them home and cooks for his family. When I have my own family to take care of, I can only hope to aspire to be just like him.
Happy Father’s Day! To all the Father’s everywhere.