Friday, March 27, 2009


My father told me the other night he was inspired by my blog to do some creative cooking of his own. Fending for himself for dinner while my mom was out of town, he decided to make an omelet.

First, he microwaved a vegetarian black bean burger slightly to thaw. Then he chopped it with a chef's knife into small pieces. At this point, it resembled ground burger.

He had a hot pepper that had been sitting in a small dish on the auxiliary heater all winter. It was, in his words, completely dessicated. He used a mortar and pestle to pulverize the pepper, reducing the whole pepper (seeds included) to powder. This he sprinkled over some olive oil in a pan and put on the heat, allowing the pepper flavors to bloom. [I was particularly impressed with this part, as it's something I found out on my own after much trial and error. If I fry the crushed red pepper flakes first, the oils and the heat is activated and also infuses the oil itself, thereby flavoring all of the food that absorbs the oil evenly.]

He added the burger to the pan and gently fried it to brown it a bit. He noted that the burger absorbed much of the oil. At this point, he used a knife to shave some 5 year old aged cheddar cheese over the burger. He poured Egg Beaters over the whole mixture and allowed it to set, lifting the edges and tilting the skillet so that it didn't scramble, but formed what I would think of as a fritatta. He covered the skillet and turned the heat to low.

While the omelet set up, he made himself a few pieces of toast. Omelet onto plate and voila, "I et it." Dinner is served.

I'm flattered that my father thought of me while he made this meal, but I'm not exactly surprised. My mother has always been the one to do the cooking in that house, and my father is very appreciative of that fact. He has famously said, "Going to a restaurant isn't exciting to me. I eat better at home." And it's true, people, it's so true. My mother is a phenomenal cook. They have been married over 40 years, and there's no reason for his culinary skills to be very developed. Once, when I was a teenager (or maybe summer break between semesters in college? I can't quite remember) my mom went to France for a couple of weeks. My father put the food money for the week in a cigar box and we took turns being in charge of dinner. The money was to buy groceries or buy take-out, and it was a pretty good system. I was rather a novice in the kitchen, but we certainly didn't go hungry. That being said, I do recall a handful of occasions when my father did cook. The one that sticks out in my mind is doctored up spaghetti-o's with blue cheese and hot sauce. Or was it ramen noodles with blue cheese? I'm pretty sure it was "sketty oh's," as I still say. I tasted them. It wasn't bad. Wasn't my cup of tea, either, but wasn't bad. I wonder if he remembers that dish, and whether or not he enjoyed it?

I know he enjoyed his omelet the other night. One thing I have no doubt about is that my father's plate, with the toast and the omelet, looked beautiful. He has an eye to the aesthetics of presentation, and infinite patience. Go to a buffet with him and he will create these lovely plates of food worthy of being photographed and displayed. If we do, as they say, eat with our eyes first, his cooking will always taste good--at least at first. :o) Love you, Daddy...


  1. The secret ingredient in Spaghetti-O's with cheese and hot sauce... a splash of Fish Sauce! Made in the Philippines, it is an extract of a "blend of scads, herrings, sardines, mackerels, silversides, slipmouths." It looks like soy sauce and tastes a lot like anchovies.

  2. Ha ha, really? I forgot about that part! I saw a show once on how they make it... basically, they put all these pieces of fish in a big vat and let it sit for months, then open a spigot on the bottom. I think they must distil it or something after that, but fish sauce is a bit like sauerkraut or kim chee. You're best to eat it and like it before you know too much about it. :o)

    I just looked up fish sauce quickly to see if they do distil it (it wasn't mentioned) and the Wikipedia entery noted that the longer it ferments, the less fishy it is, and the more nutty and cheesy. Cheesy?!!

  3. Did I mention that it lasts without refrigeration forever? (The fish sauce, not the Spaghetti-O's.) Like soy sauce or Worcester or salt. And, can you imagine how long it takes to use up a liter bottle? Remember that bottle I had when you were a kid? Your children might inherit it!

  4. Interesting thought! Maybe someday they will take it on antiques roadshow. Do you think it improves with age once it has hit the bottle?

    Fish sauce is frightening stuff, but a must for pad thai and other thai food. And I love thai food.

  5. Here is another cooking tip I discovered and thought I should pass along. After crushing dessicated hot peppers, wash your hands before rubbing your left eye. (I imagine the same would be true of one's right eye, but my experiment did not go that far.)