Fathers Day

juggling.jpgOne of the few food memories I do have of my dad is his trying to make the perfect fried egg. He had supposedly been a cook at the start of WWII. But military mess food then was powdered eggs, ersatz coffee, canned and mystery C-rations covered in “chocolate.”

My sister and I were 7 and 5 respectively when he decided to show us he could cook breakfast in our newly renovated “modern” (for 1962) kitchen. He braved the spattering bacon and fired up a separate frying pan for the eggs. He put a pat of butter in to melt and was explaining about the difference between fried, sunny side up and over easy, boiled, poached and scrambled eggs. 

Any line or short order cook will tell you that working the breakfast rush is a particularly miserable gig because every egg order is a “custom” order. Every diner has a personal relationship with his eggs, given his childhood experience. “Scrambled” can mean “scrambled wet” or “ scrambled dry.” “Lightly beaten” can mean where threads of the whites show in the yellow. “Sunnyside up” might mean with a set, cooked skin on top gained by putting the pan in a broiler or salamander for the last 5 seconds. But "over easy" always means: “no popping the yolk.”

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lobsterrisotto.jpgI've got the best Father's Day gift idea!

– It doesn't involve neck ties or golf shirts.
– There will be no trips to Lowe's or Home Depot (you're welcome, ladies).
– You get to enjoy it too.

So what is it? Risotto made with fresh Maine lobsters from Sagamore Lobster.

Now that we live in Southern California instead of New England, we really miss fresh Maine lobsters. A couple of months ago, I wanted to make risotto with Maine lobster instead of with smaller spiny lobsters (which are plentiful here on the West Coast).

Not only did I have trouble finding fresh Maine lobsters here, but when I did, they were prohibitively priced -- about $50/pound. Thankfully, Sagamore has made it cheaper to buy live lobsters and have them shipped 3,000 miles than to buy them in a store here.

Though lobster is often best enjoyed simply boiled, there is something sumptuous about a creamy lobster risotto. That's because chewy Arborio rice is cooked to perfection in flavorful broth, dry white wine, and savory San Marzano tomatoes. Silky butter and aromatic fresh parsley only enhance the flavor of the succulent lobster meat. Dad won't soon forget this dinner.

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fathersday-kipner-shhSome men BBQ ribs. Others grill hearty steaks or shrimp with an array of specialty South American hot sauces. My dad, however, does not. He holds myriad talents, but cooking is not one of them. Or, so I was led to believe.

Since I was old enough to ask for dinner, my dad has continually told my brother and me that he can’t cook. "Lizzie!" he'd yell to my mom, "Quick! The kids need some food!" His panic palpable and contagious. Before long, we’d all be yelling for our mom’s swift and seemingly effortless intervention. Initially, she tried to tell him to make it himself, but each time he would make it so poorly - too much butter, too little jam, toast with too burned edges - that we decided we would never ask him to make anything again. Even the simplest jobs would go awry. "Oops!" he'd exclaim with questionable enthusiasm from the kitchen. "I've charcoaled the popcorn again!"

Realizing his efforts would cause more cleanup than help, my generous mom (who admittedly loves to pamper those whom she loves) began a routine of breakfast in bed that she’d never be able to get out of. Once my mom spoils you, there’s no going back. “Lizzie!” he’d call out from their room, desperate for more attention. It became an addiction, this attention. It was like crack. “WMC?”

We came to understand “WMC” to be an acronym for “Where’s my coffee?”

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Here is this year's list of Things We Love for Dad...

APPLE TV - $99


Stream MLB games, Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, and all your iTunes purchases. Plus they can turn their Mac or iPad screen into a big screen TV wirelessly.

Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys


Steve Raichlen's new cookbook. We just can't get enough.

4G USB Cufflinks - $100


Stylish, yet useful. A little Bond tech for the nerd in your life. You never know when a data-retrieval emergency will hit.

Waterproof Ipod Shuffle - $140


Great for swimmers, beach-goers, and dudes who sweat a lot. Add a pair of the best goggles to complete the gift.

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brendadad1I met my father when he was fifty, I was a newborn and he was in the twilight of his life. He attached like a lion protecting his fold and he never let go in a tender and loving way. My dad was a paradox. He migrated from Albania at the young age of 5 with nothing to carry because they had nothing and anything was an improvement: simply arithmetic. James Anthony Athanus was a force to be reckoned with, he knew who he was and he knew what he wanted out of life. You either loved him or not, but if you didn’t embrace him believe me it was a fatal judgment call on your part.

My Father was all of 5’8” but he ‘operated’ like he was 6’4” with all the trimmings. Charismatic, handsome, impeccably dressed, full of common sense, fine manners and always right - oops, did I say that? Well that has taken a while to admit it slipped out and I fear his wrath if I delete it.

He was a delight and he was MY dad. Older and a whole lot wiser than all my friend’s fathers and he was a true hedonist of the old-fashioned kind. No, not a Diamond Jim Brady but he knew good food and critiqued a dish until it was ‘proper’.

So, the unanswered question still - how did a five year old migrating from Albania who struggled to find food since birth, which continued for a few more years in America, be SO discerning? Don’t look at me, I still haven’t any answers but he has my respect and admiration after all these years. I still don’t understand him - he was a royal maybe not in this life but definitely in his last one.

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