My father is the original foodie. He’s not the most verbose man on the planet – I’ve always maintained that he says five things a day, and they’re all hilarious – but he lives to eat, and doesn’t mind telling you all about it. Whether it’s the crappy excuse for a hoagie he had in New Mexico in 1981, his much-adored pescatore recipe or the latest “chow-down” with my parents’ friends, he can recall almost every meal he’s ever had with an impressive clarity and describes them with sometimes overwhelming passion.
In fact, sometimes he’ll call me simply to talk about food. I’ll know food is going to be the topic, because he starts with my name instead of “Principessa,” which is how he starts when he’s just calling to chat.
“Chris. It was pastine soup weather today. Oh man, was it good.”
“Chris. Your mother’s gravy was a hit again this year.”
“Chris. We did a Sharon Chen’s run last night. Mehdi had like 900 crab legs.”
“Chris. Your grandmother made gnocchi. I think I hurt myself.”
For Father’s Day, then, I thought it fitting to post a picture of my father doing what he loves best: eating dinner. If you’ve ever been a guest in my parents’ home – and there are legions of you – then it may come as a surprise to see my father eating anywhere other than at the head of that enormous marble table in their dining room. But when it’s just us we each eat when we’re hungry, which for my father is right after an early shift.
He works in a grocery store, so he calls the house each day to see what he needs to bring home for dinner (even if we’re eating at separate times, we usually eat the same thing). Well, wait. First, there is a discussion about what to have for dinner that he starts in one of three ways:
- “What am I bringing home.” He has no idea what to have for dinner, and is praying my mother and I have thought of something, which is unlikely.
- “What do you think of this.” He’s been mulling over an idea all day, and is ready to spring it on me.
- “Put the water on.” We’re having pasta.
This last one, much to the chagrin of my carb-averse-but-pasta-loving mother, happens a lot.
For those aforementioned legions of you, what he’s doing in the photo should be obvious: he’s putting some fried hot pepper seeds on a bowl of pasta.
My father’s hot peppers are legendary. He fries up seeds and flakes in olive oil until they almost burn and no one can breathe, then transfers them to a container. Actually, several containers:
- The main jar at home
- Another jar at my aunt’s house in Florida, where my parents spend the winter
- Smaller jars at various cousins’ and friends’ homes throughout the tri-state area
- Several orange prescription bottles for pasta emergencies while dining out
While it’s true that I have many of my mother’s mannerisms, I am my father’s daughter when it comes to food. I’ve inherited my father’s love of pasta and, within the last 10 years or so, his affinity for these hot peppers. However, I’ve never had them in my own home. But when I was in Rome earlier this year, I found a huge jar of seeds and flakes that were begging to come home with me. Since then they’ve sat patiently on the shelf until it was warm enough to have all the windows open while frying them up.
Well, that day has come. I’ve fried up those bad boys, and drained off the oil into a bottle. (It’s the hottest oil I’ve ever tasted, holy crap.) The seeds and flakes went into a Bell jar. And on this Father’s Day, even though I’m thousands of miles away from my father, I’ve felt the call and I’m going to put the water on.