A simple meal. “Come on,” some of you may say, “I hear you go on and on about all the places you like to eat. I hear you over-analyze every meal you are about to put together let alone every bite you are about to take. How on the day you get to guarantee where the entire family is going to eat together do you concede that it totally doesn’t matter?”
Because it doesn’t.
It is true that some of the fondest memories of my life have to do with being around a table and dining on delicious food. The perfect double cheeseburger, the monster steak and perfect sides, the creamy pasta with a Caesar salad and the Sunday night Chinese food smorgasbord that defined much of my childhood. Of course I love all of that, but that is hardly the point on Father’s Day. The real essence of that joy was not the taste buds getting an exciting journey; the memories of those meals, and the excitement of the ones ahead, are about who is around that table.
I grew up in a fairly non-traditional home. My grandparents, who fled from Istanbul, Turkey in 1968, came to America and were living with my folks, my brother and me within two years, when my grandfather’s Parkinson’s disease was such that living alone was not really an option. For the next 14 years dinner was a Party of Six at 7:30PM (yeah super-late for a kid, but mom always needed to watch the nightly news first). Everyone had their assigned seats, me being the youngest I was kind of jammed in the back left corner where maximum verbal and emotional torture from my older brother across the way was a given. There were no separate schedules, “dinner on the fly,” staggered start times or different menu options depending on what the kids would eat. No, it was pretty simple, six for dinner, you ate whatever was on the menu that night and you sat there till everyone had finished. Time to tell about your day, listen to Mom and Dad discuss the politics or issues that mattered, or have you and your brother kick each other under the table until either your old-school grandfather or worn out Mom declared an end to it.
What was learned in these nightly communal gatherings? Everything. I learned what food I was partial to (meatloaf, egg noodles with butter, fried chicken), and what I was less thrilled about (any kind of that flaky white fish). I learned that drowning my veggies in ketchup worked, and that Turkish food was kind of cool. But mostly I learned what it means to be a family. A family that rain or shine, sniffles or twisted ankles, parents that were getting along or not, would always be around that table seven nights a week. It seemed pretty basic but really helped shape so much. It gave me comfort, stability and made me absolutely know where I truly belonged.
So on this Father’s Day in a family filled with tennis camps and ballet recitals, sleep-overs and play-dates, I really only wish for one thing: everyone together, around the table, being a family.
Does what we eat matter? Come on, you can’t cure me my food obsession in a flash. I always love the perfect tenderloin off the grill, or barbecue ribs that have been cooking low and slow for 3 hours. Of course I am partial to Sunday night Canton Cooks or the quick easy take out from Maggiano’s up the street, but yes I will truly say this: it doesn’t matter.
As long as my little princesses are close by at the ripe ages of 6 and 8 chiming in on the crucially important details of their day; as long as my 2 year old bruiser is wreaking havoc in his big boy seat; as long as my beautiful wife is keeping it all together just a seat away, and as long as my 74 year old mom is there for all of it, maybe a little less heartbroken on her 2nd Father’s Day without my Dad … then indeed Father’s Day will be a term I rarely use in this day and age: perfect.
Now as for who chooses dessert….