Dining with Dad

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When was the last time you played a round of Would You Rather? The game is great for conversation starters, road trips, or late nights around the campfire. It goes like this. Would you rather only eat ice cream or pizza for the rest of your life? If you said pizza, so did 60 percent of people in a Seventeen Magazine survey. Try another one. Would you rather eat breakfast or dinner (and when I say dinner you may say supper)?

For me, breakfast would win. Hands down! Can I get an Amen? For as long as I can remember I have loved breakfast. I blame my Dad.

Dad loved to cook. For him, cooking was a two-pronged event. First, he loved serving people. Second, he loved good food. Cooking provided a time for conversation with those he knew just a little and for those he knew a lot. Also, cooking was a means to an end for him and he savored the whole process like one might a perfectly grilled medium-rare filet mignon. Just last week my Mom and I were reminiscing about how Dad loved grocery stores. If a Kroger, or other large grocery was near a mall, Dad could be found walking up and down grocery stores aisles hoping to find unique products or specialty items while we girls shopped till we dropped. He read labels, tasted samples, and compared prices. He was a foodie before foodies were foodies.

Lately, breakfast has been receiving more ink and airtime than usual. Last fall, McDonald’s started serving all-day breakfast. Reflective of the market research gurus they are, the McDonald’s brass know people love eating the most important meal of the day all day long. Now, other food companies are hoping to expand their offerings beyond the a.m. hours.

The Quaker Company wants people to eat oatmeal sometime other than its normal eating occasion, i.e. the morning. Increasingly, people are eating foods such as oatmeal, yogurt, and cereal as snacks throughout the day. So, Quaker wants to capitalize on this trend with a twist. The twist is to make oatmeal more akin to rice by adding more savory ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes and cheese. Sounds interesting. Tasting a spoonful of this type of oatmeal might be a little like tossing back a drink of milk when your taste buds were expecting lemonade. Ewww! You know the feeling. According to a June report in The Wall Street Journal, Quaker is so serious about this concept they have hired a consultant known as the “Creative Oatmeal Officer” to develop new taste sensations. I am guessing we will find out more about these concoctions soon enough.

My Dad was all over breakfast as an all-day event. Growing up, many an evening we would consume breakfast for dinner. What a trendsetter. The best breakfast for dinner days were those including fresh ground sausage from his buddies. If I close my eyes, I can still taste it. Although I have spent many years searching for sausage to match the delectable taste of the Stenger brothers’ sausage, the quest continues.

What also continues is the breakfast for dinner trend for the third generation. My children often request it on their birthdays; my daughter did this week. We made Paula Deen’s hoecakes with sausage links.

Thankfully, Dad shared both his love of cooking and some of his secrets with me. How to prepare a killer-breaded tenderloin was one of the last cooking mysteries he revealed to me. Dad liked to begin with a whole tenderloin, sliced thin. Then, all of the day’s frustrations would melt away as he beat the pieces into submission with his pink-handled meat tenderizer. Next, he dipped the pieces in a milk and egg mixture, and then covered them in a cracker crumb and salt and pepper blend before frying them to a golden brown. Put one of these delectable slices between your favorite bun (I recommend one from Schmidt’s Bakery in Batesville.) and you have heaven on a plate.

Hopefully you have your own fond memories of dining with your Dad. Better yet, I hope you have a chance to dine with him this Father’s Day. Breakfast, anyone?

(This column was originally published on June 16, 2016 in The Versailles Republican.)