My dad was a scary dude to me growing up. I spent most of my childhood in my room because it was a haven away from the devastating words he used as effectively as wielding a sword to my burgeoning child psyche. I tried to spend as little time around him as possible.
But at a time in my life when we couldn’t talk to each other, no…., we couldn’t communicate with each other, I managed to absorb two passions of his, nearly by osmosis. The first was boxing. This was back when boxing meant something. Mohammed Ali. Leon Spinks. Angelo Dundee. Mills Lane. And yes, in later years, Tyson. Boxing had heart then. Two men. Two sets of determination. Two different skill sets. Get in a ring and let the best man win.
For this, I would actually emerge from my safe place and sit in front of the telly, and we’d share some time cheering on our champion. These were glorious moments.
My dad’s only other discernible passion was food. Preparing it. Finding exotic recipes and replicating them. Going out to eat to places my peers never went to. Hell, I never ate at a McDonald’s until I was 18 years old because he considered it garbage. Kids I went to school with didn’t eat pate or escargot or caviar. They ate macaroni and cheese or chicken fried steak and such. My dad would fix borscht. He’d make his own sausages. He didn’t discriminate, and cooked dishes from all over the world.
Me, eh, I loved eating it but preparing it, having that passion just didn’t exist. Somehow though, his cooking commentary, and his willful education of my palate made a huge impact on me without my even knowing it at the time.
Later in life, much later, I just started cooking one day, and I’ve never stopped. All that rabble he would summarily explain when he cooked stuck in my head somewhere. Now, I cook the most amazing kick ass food, and it has all come so naturally to me. I dream of food and wake up with the taste of it in my mouth. I visit other countries and my goal is basically to eat my way across it.
We’ve all got our shit when it comes to our parents, and I’m no different. I never did really connect with him. But still…. there is a part of him in me, in my DNA, that he delivered up to me because he had a passion for it, and my life is better because of it.
Thanks Dad. This was a good thing you did and you never even understood that it was a gift you gave me.