Fathers Day

Three-DukesPeople would stare as we walked down the street. Not because he was famous but because he was different. He walked with a cane and a brace, tilting from side to side with each stride. Somehow he stayed upright. If someone stared too long, he might yell, “Whad’ya lookin’ at? It’s nothin’, it’s polio, I got it when it first came out!” Anyone else yelling at a stranger might come off as aggressive — he had a REALLY loud mouth — but Duke said it with a twinkle in his eye that set the person instantly at ease. It might even turn into a too-long stop-and-chat, but I was used to those.

I’d look up at him with pride and ownership. He was my daddy. Mine being the operative word. My mother told me the story many times. As a tiny preverbal baby, I had my arms thrown around my father’s neck, holding him as tight as I could, looking back at her with eyes that said, “He’s MINE.” As in, not hers. Her interpretation. Well, it was true.

Sometimes in late August or early September we’d go shopping for back-to-school clothes at Hank DeGoniff’s house. Hank’s “house” was a warehouse in seedy Hollywood. And unbeknownst to me at the time, DeGoniff wasn’t his family name. I wasn’t sure why Hank had clothes and winter coats for me along with lots of electronic equipment. But cash was handed over and I’d walk away with some new clothes. There wasn’t even a lot to choose from, but I wasn’t an overindulged child, so I was happy with what I got. I was in my twenties (maybe thirties) before I learned that Hank’s merchandise “fell of the back of a truck,” and goniff was Yiddish for thief.

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"This intense flavorful rub is great for any type of steak, but I prefer rib eye for barbecuing. This recipe is for indoor cooking, but you can also cook them on a charcoal or gas grill over high heat. Be sure and let the steaks rest before carving – I usually throw some olive coated vegetables (such as zucchini or asparagus coated with olive oil, sea salt and pepper) on the grill after I remove the steaks."

perfect steak Coffee Rubbed Grilled Rib Eye Steaks

3 tablespoons finely ground espresso
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon Spanish sweet paprika
1½ tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 bone-in or boneless rib-eye steaks, 2-inches thick, approximately 1 1/2 pounds each
Canola or olive oil
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F and adjust oven rack to center position. Combine all spices in a bowl and set aside.

Preheat a cast iron grill pan over high heat.

Brush each side of the steak with oil and then season each side liberally with salt and pepper. Rub 2 tablespoons of the coffee rub onto 1 side of each steak. Cook the steak, rub side down until nicely browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the steak over, cook for 2 minutes and then transfer to a baking sheet and cook in the oven to medium-rare doneness, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

– Recipe courtesy of Cook Like James

cartoon-of-dad-and-babyI have never purchased a Father’s Day card...never had to! Once, I jokingly told my mother I was going to give her a Father’s Day card, as she served as both my mom and dad, but she asked me to buy her a Manhattan instead. She was a great ol’ broad! Jim Beam 1, Hallmark 0.

My father left the family before I could remember him ever being a part of it, so two capable women – my mother and grandmother raised me. There were only a few times while growing up that I felt an uncomfortable absence of a father in my daily life, yet I harbored no ill feelings toward that “missing person.”

That can of worms was opened on June 5th, 1987, the day I became the father of a beautiful baby boy, named Matthew, and when resentment and deep disappointment toward my father bubbled to the surface. How could anyone not want to be a part of something as special and important as caring for his child?

Feeling unprepared for fatherhood and seeking the wisdom I was certain I’d missed without a “man around the house,” I joined a men’s group called “Sons Without Fathers.” After my very first session the moderator took me aside and told me how lucky I was that my dad wasn’t around. The rest of the “father-less bunch” had had their sperm donors living in their homes with them, but were emotionally absent. They were there and yet not there, which I can imagine is even more hurtful. I left the group a couple sessions later feeling sympathy for the men, but not enough in common to stay. Plus, I came to realize it’s not about the proximity, but rather input.

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davidandbarbara1950sWhen I was nine years old, my parents told me it would be fun if I made them breakfast in bed every Sunday. I was such a geek, I didn't know they were pulling a Tom Sawyer on me.

At first I practiced with something easy--scrambled eggs. I worked up to over-easy eggs and was very proud when I could plate the eggs without breaking or overcooking the yolk. My sister, Barbara, didn't like to cook. She could be coaxed into helping me with some of the prep, but she wasn't happy about it.

In time my mother felt I was ready to take on the El Dorado of breakfasts: an omelet. The first time I had one, I thought it was so great. The outer crispness contrasted with the custard-softness on the inside.

My mom taught me to use a big pat of butter to prevent the omelet from sticking to the pan. She made savory fillings, using a tasty piece of sausage, some mushrooms, spinach, and a bit of cheese. At times she'd switch gears and put something sweet inside, like fresh strawberries she'd cooked down into a compote.

For Father's Day one year she showed me how to make my dad's favorite filling: crisp bacon, sauteed potatoes, and cheddar cheese. Because he had an Eastern European sweet tooth, he liked his bacon dusted with sugar.

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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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