Ian McNulty: Father’s Day brings up food talk

Photo by Ian McNulty - Even the simplest foods can bring people together.
Photo by Ian McNulty - Even the simplest foods can bring people together.

Dad cooked a lot of the breakfasts when I was growing up. Pancakes were usually the order of the day, but no matter what he was making the meal usually included a little baloney.

Cooking seemed to put dad in the mood for stories, and as the syrup and butter went on the pancakes so the exaggeration and embroidery built these stories up to Paul Bunyan proportions.

I later figured out the tall tales were told mostly to entertain the young kid staring at him from the table. But also, in his way, this was a form of bonding. The framework of a meal together, and the light tone of his stories, propped open the door for a dad who has never been the sort to gush over heart-to-heart chats.

The same thing could happen when we were sitting in the car outside our favorite donut shop, working through a dozen along with some father-and-son discussions. Dad shared best when a third party was involved, and often food could fill that role. I suspect others can relate.

If you’re only now thinking about Father’s Day plans -- and, let’s face it, with four days to go most of us just are -- a spot around the table together might be the thing. The key, I think, is to find the place where dad feels both at his ease and like he’s being looked after. Maybe that’s at the steakhouse or over burgers and beer, like so many of the Father’s Day marketing messages suggest. Then again maybe it’s at the oyster bar, where the aesthetic of unfussy indulgence and the cadence of talking and slurping sets the stage for easy face time.

But I’m not suggesting this sort of gathering has to happen at a restaurant. After all, Louisiana men cook like nobody’s business, and if your dad is at his best around the smoker or the seafood boiling pot then let him do his thing. Assist or admire from a safe distance as your own experience with dad’s cooking dictates – the point is to be there with him. If your dad is anything like mine, you probably shouldn’t believe all the stories that come out at times like this, but certainly you can savor them.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.