Growing up, it was my mom who did all the cooking. When I got older and my mom went back to work, I took over cooking on weeknights. Making our meals back then was the spark of a lifetime of love. My dad, on the other hand, was quite content to sit back and enjoy all the bounty. Sure, I remember my dad making us fried eggs with buttery crinkly, crispy edges on Sunday mornings, or his specialty, “eggs in a hole” topped with a slice of processed cheese melted on top. He also was the one to make traditional Lithuanian dishes like the ones he remembered from his childhood. I remember him grating potatoes for kugelis and making large pots of stinky cabbage and apples (which I grew to love). However, when my mom got sick, my dad was the one in the kitchen. And he wasn’t happy about it.
In January when I was back home, I spent a lot of time cooking. My brother and his wife had a brand new beautiful baby and I wanted to help make the transition easier by dropping off dinner for them. As well, making a big, comforting dinner after my mom died was a welcome relief for my dad. Whereas my brother and I had come to terms with my mom’s illness years ago, my dad couldn’t get there. He always believed she’d pull through, even at the very end. Having me around cooking dinners certainly didn’t soften the blow, but I know it was one less thing that my dad had to worry about and I was so glad I could be there doing my small part.
During the one and a half years that my mom lived at the hospital, my dad relied on his “cooking” which meant oatmeal for breakfast, tomato and avocado sandwiches for lunch, and either frozen pizza or canned soup for dinner. With my dad at the helm of the kitchen, he was getting gaunt. So one night when I was making soup, my dad started asking me questions about what went into the pot. He wanted to learn to cook.
After I came back to Vancouver, my dad would tell me about his wonderful soups that he was making. He was proud and I was happy that I could pass along a bit of myself to my dad. But then he goofed. He threw in too much spice and ended up throwing the entire pot into the toilet. He stopped cooking just like that. I was disheartened and wanted him to try again, to help him regain some of that new-found kitchen confidence, but I wasn’t sure where to start. And then this morning, while thinking about what to write here, I came across a photo of a meal I had made last week. It was so simple and it had all the ingredients that I knew my dad would love. So I sent him an email with a recipe and even a photo of the completed dish. I wrote it out in a way that I hoped would be easy for him to follow. It’s just a simple recipe that would suit his tastes and hopefully would coax him back into the kitchen. I’m not sure it’s going to work, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
fried chickpeas with sausage & kale
(adapted from Mark Bittman)
What you’ll need: 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, olive oil, 1 can of chickpeas, 2 uncooked Italian sausages, a bottle of beer/wine or some water, 1 bunch of kale or chard or spinach (rinsed & hard stems removed) chopped into bite-sized pieces
1. Chop up a small onion and a mince up 2 cloves of garlic. Put some oil in a large frying pan and add in the onions and garlic. Saute over medium high heat until onions get soft and start smelling good.
2. Add a can of rinsed chickpeas to the frying pan and cook them for 10 minutes until they start getting a bit brown on the edges. Stir them from time to time.
3. Cut up some uncooked sausage. Add them to the frying pan.
4. Once the sausages are cooked through, add some chopped kate or spinach or chard into the frying pan. Add in some beer or wine or water, a little bit at a time, so things don’t dry out. Toss around the kale until it’s bright green and cooked.
5. Eat in a big bowl with some rye bread. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if you like.