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A Father’s Day Resolution: 10 Things I Want to Teach My Son About Food

Jun. 13, 2013

By: Andrew Fippinger, Slow Food USA member and volunteer

Food was not particularly central to our family when I was a child. We did gather for dinner regularly, but we rarely discussed our food and, in fact, rarely cooked it ourselves. This was largely because I had two very busy working parents. It may also be because we were typical New Yorkers of that time, ordering in or microwaving many of our meals. And, now that I come to think of it, perhaps there was a gender dynamic: I had two brothers and no sisters, and I wonder if my mom would have felt an obligation to pass on some sort of kitchen smarts to a daughter. (Apologies to my Dad who did, admittedly, teach me how to light a grill and mix spices into burger meat.)

A Father’s Day Resolution - 10 ThingsAnd now I have a child. My wife and I both work. We live in New York City. And my child is a boy. Same setup, more or less. So I’ve decided that my gift to him this Father’s Day will be to come up with ten resolutions – ten things I want to teach my son about food.

I’m going to post these on the fridge, and hopefully they’ll hang there for some time. He’s a little over one year old now, but I’ve already started talking through what it is I’m doing when he stares at me in wonderment as I brandish a knife over a cutting board full of Brussels sprouts.

Oh, and these apply to any other sons or daughters I may be blessed to have. (I should mention that the lessons have already begun. We’re currently working on the concept that you don’t need to put all the food on the plate into your mouth at once. And also that when you’re done drinking your water, you don’t throw your sippy cup on the ground.)

  1. Don’t be afraid of the kitchen. It’s not as complex as most cookbooks and TV shows make it out to be.
  2. Grow something. Start simple with an herb in a window box, but dream big. Maybe you’ll have a garden someday. Make that connection from a seed to a meal.
  3. Buy yourself a skillet and keep it seasoned. (I’ll show you how.) I didn’t learn about this until I was thirty and – trust me – it really does change the game.
  4. Develop one specialty, something that’s a little different. Maybe it’s pickling or making your own beer, or making bitters and extracts from scratch. You don’t need to be an expert at cooking if you aren’t a chef, but it’s really fun to feel like you’re approaching mastery of one little niche of the culinary world.
  5. Try everything. Don’t like it? Try it again. Still don’t like it? Try it in a year. Tastes develop, and some of my favorite foods now are things I used to hate.
  6. Talk to farmers. Go to farmers markets, visit farms, hey, go work on a farm! There’s nothing more valuable when it comes to food than learning how your meal fits into the long chain from seed to plate. And every meal is different, so this can be an endlessly rewarding experience.
  7. Don’t let gender dictate your food interests. Learn how to bake pastries if that excites you. I’ll tell your sister, if you ever have one, to learn how to grill meat. These archaic gender distinctions are ridiculous.
  8. Learn some meals that you can make in large batches and reheat. When I get busy or stressed, I find it so easy to drop the ball on cooking. That’s where a giant couscous salad or frozen lasagna that you made over the weekend can save you.
  9. Buy a silly apron. Or five. Wear goofy stuff when you cook, and then you can’t take yourself or your cooking too seriously. Cooking shouldn’t have to stress you out.
  10. Have the courage of your convictions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to make some sort of food commitments (becoming vegetarian; only eating meat that I know was humanely raised and slaughtered; not going to cheap fast food restaurants, the list goes on…) and caved either because I didn’t want to be a nuisance to other people or because I was too darned lazy. Stand up for what you believe in; people will respect that. (This does not include standing up for your right to eat at McDonalds more. Actually, if that’s what you want to stand up for, then go for it. That’s how lively debates get started.)
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