July 4, 2013

  • Dad In the Kitchen

    My father liked to cook. There were a few things that he made really well: Chili, Clam Chowder, Potato Pancakes, and anything grilled.


    Every now and then, Dad would cook up “experiments”… Most of which were inedible. Giant stockpots of inedible… that we would have to eat until it was all gone (“We’re not Rockefellers!”). I don’t know why these horrible creations always showed up in such large amounts; my theory now is that some ingredient was cheap in bulk.


    The black-eyed peas lasted a month. By week four, a Sunday barbecue, I couldn’t eat anymore. Our dog, Bullet, had stopped accepting them; he’d sniff our plates, whimper, and back away.


    My brothers all groaned when they saw the stockpot being placed on the picnic table that Sunday. My mother didn’t make a sound, but I could tell by the look on her face that she wasn’t happy, either.


    As I watched my father mound them onto my paper plate, I burst into tears.


    Black-eyed peas. Again. At a cookout!


    My father turned to Mom and pointed at me. “What’s the matter with her?”


    My mother handed me a napkin. “Dry your eyes.”


    Then she turned to Dad. “What? I feel like crying, too,” she said. “Those… things… are disgusting.”


    I began crying harder. I could see my father’s feelings were hurt. Then his face went angry as he turned back to me.


    “If you don’t eat them, you won’t eat anything else.”


    My younger brother, Tadpole, started crying, too. “No more!” he wailed.


    “Other little kids don’t get anything to eat for dinner,” my father said.


    I looked to my mother, pleading. She took her plate and sat next to me, but spoke to Dad: “This is the last time we will eat them.”


    To this day, no one in my family will eat a black-eyed pea. In fact, when I see them at the market, I feel sick to my stomach.  



    The black-eyed peas had barely been gone when my dad decided to make a three-bean dish. In the stockpot.


    I don’t know what my father put in that dish, but it tasted awful.


    At the table that night, Mom distracted Dad here and there, so that we could feed the beans to Bullet. He seemed to like them. (Poor Bullet. He spent most of the evening in the backyard. Whenever he came back inside, Mom had to let him out again; poor guy had the worst gas in the world!)


    Later, alone in the kitchen with Mom, I whispered, “I hope the beans don’t last as long as the black-eyed peas!”


    “Oh, they won’t,” she said.


    That night, Mom “accidentally” tipped the stockpot over. No more beans.


    About forty years later, whenever I am at a party and someone offers me three-bean salad, my appetite disappears.



    Our family was experiment-free for a while (I think it was an entire year, but I am not sure.). Then came the mackerel… A giant stockpot full of it.


    My mother named it “Unholy Mackerel,” and that seemed about right.


    I do not remember what else was in that dish. I only remember having to open about a case of canned mackerel. Until then, I thought that tuna was the only fish that could be purchased in a tin (and I didn’t even like that!). The smell! Just thinking of it now makes me want to gag!


    We all sat at the table and tried to eat some of this fish that my father had spent hours preparing.


    Bullet wouldn’t take any from me. Our cat, Familiar, sniffed it and ran away.


    That was the last straw for Mom. She slammed her fork down.


    “The fish is bad! Don’t eat any more of it!” She yelled.


    My father started to argue, but Mom won: “The damned cat won’t eat the fish! There is definitely something wrong with it!”


    My mother dumped it all in the trash, and then made hamburgers and French fries for dinner.


    After we all ate, I went into the parlour and sat on the sofa by my father. He looked so hurt.


    “Daddy, don’t feel bad,” I said, hugging his arm.


    “I should just stay out of the kitchen,” he mumbled.


    “Yeah,” I said. “Or… I bet Grandma could teach you how to cook!”


    “You think so?” he asked.


    “I bet if you call her up and ask her, she will teach you how to cook anything!”


    She did, too.



Comments (10)

  • Great story! My dad tended to make huge amounts of whatever he cooked, too, but it was usually pretty good.

    When we lived in the jungle, beets were one of the few vegetables we could get at certain times of year. I couldn’t stand them, but Dad always forced me to eat a couple of bites. One night I had a nightmare that a slice of beet sprouted feet and was walking around my plate. After that I refused to eat them, no matter how much Dad threatened.

  • I was little during WWII — we had very little money and my mother did the best she could with what she had.  We ate so much Mac&Cheese that I still won’t eat it.  But the worst was a fish dish — finnan haddie — made of haddock and I don’t remember what else.  It must have been easy to make, because it was the first thing I was ever asked to cook — even then, it made me gag, and I’ve never made it since!

  • Not very good sounding foods. I don’t think I would like them either. Your Dad needed a good cookbook.

  • Funny about the really large quantities. I’m sure it had to do with getting something on sale. I happen to like black eyed peas but I think food does it bad after a so long. It was good your mother sided with the kids. I’m glad he ended up being a really good cook . peace & sparkles

  • I’m glad your dad finally learned to cook.  Sorry he had to practice on you.  I don’t think my dad ever cooked anything.

  • I’m not a fan of most beans, except string beans, and your story has not made me feel any more interested in trying them, lol.  I seem to remember my dad grilled sometimes (badly) but otherwise is no use in the kitchen. And my mother doesn’t agree with him on matters of taste, either. Things he loves she despises and things she loves he is neutral on. If my father says something is “amazing,” well…get a second opinion. ;)

  • I wouldn’t have been happy about trying to eat those experiments either.

  • I commented this on your WP site…but I wanted to rec’ it here!
    PS…I was the kid they said, “You’ll sit there until you eat it all” to…and I outlasted them every time. If I didn’t like something, I wouldn’t eat it. Ha.

  • My dad used to be the cook. Sadly he is no longer around.
    I miss his cooking…

  • Sweet story Ness.Poor dad! Poor you.

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