Happy Father’s Day

June 12, 2014

Well, another Father’s Day is upon us, just a bit more than 51 hours from now. I’ve now been the subject of 21, and shared a total of 44 with my father.

I like Father’s Day. Lots. I have my two-part ritual, honed over the past decade or more and missed only once, when I attended an old friend’s memorial service back east in 2009.

Part one involves watching the last day of the U.S. Open. I don’t play golf anymore. Too painful for me, and even more painful for those with whom I am paired. I don’t even watch golf anymore on television, but for one day a year.

I really enjoy the last day of the U.S. Open. I love the schmaltzy commercials that play up father-son relationships and how serious golfers are about their golf. I enjoy the stories that get created for every Open about the leaders’ relationships with their dads. I like how hard the course always is. And in most years there’s one heckuva finish. Not always, but usually!

Now, if I really tried to just watch the golf, I’m sure I’d fall asleep. So there is part two:  I polish all of my shoes. One of my least favorite tasks! For some pairs, it’s an annual event. They all surely welcome the moisture and the chance to shine, and for me it’s a little something that lasts, after the day has passed.

This year I ran across a special piece by Mark Bittman, Bagels, Lox and Me, from the April 29, 2014 issue of the New York Times. I’ve been saving it for this post, and will get back to it in a bit.

Food was a big deal in our house, growing up. I’m sure the Depression mattered. My dad was born in 1933, and his father was an attorney, so I think my dad caught the tail end of something that was less than awful for his family. Still, my American history knowledge tell me everyone—save some, and only some, of the wealthiest—felt the impact of the bad times. Maybe there was more to it. I never asked, and am wishing I had.

Food mattered in funny ways. We always had lots of cans. Canned food lasts, and I’m sure it was “in the genes” that no one will take it away.

Whatever we bought, we had to buy good brands. No store labels. White, albacore tuna in water. S&W vegetables. Heinz ketchup. Etc.

My dad was always a three-meal-a-day man. Later in life, travel with him was a challenge, for we’d have a late, large breakfast, worry about lunch, and not want to eat dinner too late. Trips were organized around meals, and while the stomach I own has never been designed for three squares a day, restaurant-style, we soldiered on! (In more recent years, I have developed an appreciation for the Caesar Salad, light on the cheese, no croutons, and dressing on the side. A bowl of fresh Romaine lettuce gets you ready for the next meal very well!)

Two food memories stand out for me. First, my dad liked smoked oysters. Actually, like many Jews whose grandparents observed Kashrut laws, he rebelled as an adult, so we ate plenty of traife, which included shrimp, shellfish, pork, Chinese food, and pepperoni pizzas.

Smoked oysters were special, though. They were a delicacy. And they got shared, but only on a “one child at a time” basis. Not so often that they became ordinary, but often enough that I have the memory of a shared treat. A special memory!

And the other ritual involved Sunday brunch. I have very fond memories of brunch when I was in law school and my sister Pam was in college. Family, sorority sisters—cute—who my sister brought home, and plenty of good food! I don’t know how much lox we had—I’m sure it was more than the half of a quarter the Bittman family bought for six in the 1930s—but we always had a nice spread, and lots of banter back and forth.

With these happy memories in mind, may you all have a delightful weekend, an especially fine Sunday, and a very happy Father’s Day.

P.S. I heard a report on National Public Radio by Frank Langfitt about Chinese people buying doctor’s note over the Internet, so they can watch the World Cup game late Sunday night and sleep in on Monday. Very funny report, short and worth a  click.

No doctor notes from here, but if it’s OK with your boss, knock off an hour or two early on Friday. It’s OK by me! No charge, either!!!

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