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What I Learned from Dad About Food

Note: Dr. Michelle May wrote a book called Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, which is the basis of the Am I Hungry? program. Learn more here or at

Last year on Mother’s Day I wrote about Mom and weight and food, so I figured this year it was only fair to write some about my dad on Father’s Day, particularly what I’ve learned from him about food.

The home kitchen is not just for women.

I didn’t realize growing up how unusual it was that Dad cooked. It just seemed logical that he would have supper ready for Mom when she got out of work, since he was always home earlier. And given that he had been a professional baker, it equally made sense that he did the majority of the baking. Perhaps that’s why both my brother and I enjoy cooking; we realized it was equal opportunity.

Food made at home and from scratch is preferable to store-bought.

I truly don’t remember Dad using any mixes when I was growing up. If he decided he wanted something (usually a baked good but sometimes a main dish), he didn’t go buy it. At most, he would buy an ingredient he needed and then make it, even if it meant a bit of delay – but the gratification, when it came, was all the sweeter.

When preparing food, clean as you go.

Dad’s a stickler for keeping his kitchen neat and clean. Once he’s finished with an ingredient, he puts it away, and if he’s done with a utensil or dish, he washes it right away. I used to think this was excessive, until I lived with college roommates who were the opposite, sometimes leaving dirty dishes out for days. I prefer Dad’s way (although I wait to wash everything until what I’m making is finished).

Use common sense, attention, and experience.

My question: “Dad, how long should this be in the oven/on the stove?” Dad’s response: “Until it’s done.”

This drove me nuts when I was younger, and I do think some general timeframe is helpful (10 minutes, an hour, 2 hours). But I realize now how much truth his answer has. Stoves aren’t all the same, and it’s much better to use your judgment about when something is done based on other things (internal temperature, color, etc.).

Plus, he would sometimes tinker with ingredients, mixing them in different orders, substituting, adding something different, or trying a different cooking method if he thought it would taste better. It didn’t always (I remember an attempt to grill bacon that backfired horribly), but more often than not they did. It’s helped me remember that recipes are not ultimate truth, only suggestions and guides that you can play with.

Eat what you love.

Dad has never been shy about going for the foods that he truly wants (within his budget, of course), be it something with cheese, homemade baked beans, stews, sweets, etc. At the same time, he’s willing to try different things and discover new favorites, particularly if it involves me taking him out to a nice restaurant.

Love what you eat.

I would be hard-pressed to name someone who enjoys food more than Dad. He eats slowly, making the food last and savoring each bite. Even though I try to be mindful about eating, when I eat with him I realize that I still haven’t got the eating slowly part down quite as well as I should. But it also makes it fun to go out to dinner with him because he’s very enthusiastic and appreciative of the food, which heightens my own appreciation and enjoyment.

So, Dad, thank you for the food lessons, and to you and all the other dads out there, Happy Father’s Day!

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