Fathers Day

stevedadIn many families, grilling and barbecue are rites of passage. Son or daughter reaches the age when he or she can handle fire without disaster. Dad passes the tongs and secret family recipes and a new barbecue generation is born.

Well that’s how it works in theory, although in my family, my mother did the grilling and my father kept strangely silent on the subject.

So in honor of Father’s Day, I asked three barbecue masters what their fathers taught them about barbecuing and grilling. Whether you’re teaching or learning this year, Happy Father’s Day! You’ve earned it.

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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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dinner.jpg My father got me laid – twice. I’ll get to the food part in a minute.

The first was a cute, spunky doctor who worked with him in his Radiology department in a VA Hospital on Long Island. She told me she was in Los Angeles and my father had told her to call me. She added, laughing, ”Like for a good time.”

"Come on up", I said, "I’m in Benedict Canyon.  I’ll make you dinner." We bonded on my living room couch. Later, in the early hours of the morning I thought, “Gee, thanks, Dad.  A nice present.  And, it was my first doctor.”

The food. Growing up in a tiny town in upstate New York there weren’t any restaurants, just a luncheonette where if you asked for an egg salad sandwich the owner began by boiling an egg. The River Tavern Bar and Grill had a bar and no grill but in the summer you could get a pizza pie and in the winter they would defrost one for you.

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