Tag Archives: family

Peach of a Summer

Summer sun sure adds sweetness.  Long afternoons, glowing heat and tanned skin, and the true miracle of peaches.

If the Big Man spent time trying to find a lure able to coax yours truly deep into a  stifling hot field for hours of sweaty effort (where sports and loving were not involved), summer peaches would be hook, line and sinker reliable. It’s that bad.

I suspect the family knows this quirk about me.  At any rate, shortly after every Fourth of July it seems they all suddenly find themselves without a free weekend.  Dental appointments crop up, along with important and unavoidable back to school shopping, tire rotation, and mystery tummy ailments, that make it impossible to drive any farther than the mall or beach.

I first met stone fruit with my own parents many years ago, when we’d pick and load lugs of them, warm from the trees, into the trunk and onto the seats of my father’s hot black Plymouth, and breathe their suffocating fragrance with the windows down all the way home.  What followed were days of mason jars and bubbling great pots, juicy wet newspapers covered with pits and peels, my mother’s longest spoon, and perspiring forehead.  We had a great green bureau down in the coolest corner of the wood frame garage, that held a year or more’s worth of that summer’s bounty:  jams, jellies, and whole fruits, with golden lids neatly dated in black crayon in my dad’s hand.

And, there were my siblings, out on the summer porch, arms and bare chests covered with dripping, sweet flavor, unbelieving that a colorful bite could produce such sugary liquid mouthfuls.

“Good sun this year”, my Dad would say, and carefully remind us, every summer, that the trees and the farmers put real sunshine right in our hands. We were thankful.

“Good sun this year”, I say to my wife one morning, with the kids running out to play.  She looks to the calendar on the kitchen wall, with it’s messy code of exes and times.   I don’t mention I’ve already got the list of ripening and variety reports from a dozen growers out to a hundred miles in my back pocket.

“Peaches?”, she says, with a glance, like I’ve just proposed to try and win the car back in one last craps game.

“It’s good for the kids, healthy.  And real, fresh fruit,” I remind her.  She remembers the aisles and bins of wood-like substitutes they’re passing off at the supermarket.  Maybe she knows about the hook, line and sinker, too.

And on the road with the kids laughing in the back, under the blue hot dome and out in the blazing white sun, I’m thinking about sticky forearms and that first, unforgettable, juicy mouthful.

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10 Worst Gifts for Men Who Cook

Here’s what Dad hopes he won’t be finding under the Christmas tree.

This time of year there’s plenty of bustling and whispering behind closed doors about what to give Dad for Christmas.

If the man’s been spending time in the kitchen – or you wish he would – food and cooking gifts may come to mind.  What could be better?  It’s either that or the matching tie / socks set.

As a helpful shopping guide, I’m leaving this post lying around the kitchen table as a subtle reminder.  When it comes to presents, it’s really the thought that counts, and we’ll be happy with anything our loving family gives us, but here’s a list of goodies that are guaranteed to gather dust and / or make present opening a huge disappointment.

1. The Encyclopedia of Cooking A two-volume set.  Dad seems stressed in the kitchen, and this looks like it would be a big help, right?  Wrong.  As a Christmas present this intimidating opus just lets Dad know he’s now under big pressure and high expectations.  And, it has way too many words.

2.  Colorful Apron I’m sure there are men who wear bright, cheery, colorful aprons in the kitchen at home. I don’t know any.  I wouldn’t.  Instead, if you’re looking for some truly unique, funny, manly gift aprons for cooking, as an alternative to him just wiping his hands on his tshirt, then be sure and check mine here at Dad’s in the Kitchen! Shop and overlook this shameless plug.

3. Food of the Month Club At first this seems really fun and interesting.  Then you figure out that for half the price you can go to the store once a month, pick up much the same items and mail them to the house, and have them go bad while he tries to find something to do with them.

4.  Food Storage Containers The  ‘cook once, eat twice’  approach can really save kitchen time and trouble when it comes to family meals.  And a good set of containers for leftovers makes it even easier.  And this gift is right up there with drain snakes, home insulation, and hedge shears.

5. Personal Deep Fryer This handy appliance can turn out french fries, donuts, country fried steaks, deep-fried cheese and veggies….  Do we really want to go there?

6.  Kevlar Cut Resistant Gloves Nothing shows how a family really feels when they see dad sharpening the chef knife than a pair of these.

7. Electric Carving Knife See above.

8. Pasta Maker There’s probably nothing dad looks forward to more than dashing home from work to whip up dinner for the kids and pulling out the pasta maker to produce spaghetti from scratch, rather than grabbing a packet at the market for a buck.  And that’s why this wonderful device will live at the back of the cupboard.

9.  Cooking Torch w/Fuel Gauge When it comes to really tech and manly cooking tools, this one’s very hard to beat.  His second reaction will be, what the heck do you use it for?  The answer is, nothing at all comes to mind.  So, do you really want him experimenting to find out?

10.  Smoking Gun According to its manufacturer, this handy device ‘adds a smoky flavor to foods before or after cooking. Gentle enough for use on delicate fruits and vegetables without changing texture or temperature’.  What could possibly go wrong?

Now, feel free to make up your own mind about what he’ll get.  But if you’re looking for some ideas of what food and cooking presents he might like and appreciate, you may want to check the Last Minute Gift List For Men Who Cook over at http://www.dadsinthekitchen.com.  Things the kids can make, you can find, and he’ll actually use. They’d make me smile.

House Fire for the Holidays

fire in the kitchen, kitchen fire quiz, cooking fire advice

Cooking oil flames burn fast and high.

Tis the Season for most deadly kitchen fires, say authorities.  How safe is your family? Can you pass the quiz below?

I was drifting between channels looking for something that didn’t involve reality, when reality intruded. A hysterically loud, tinny skreeeling from the smoke detector in the kitchen.

My record for not burning things is pretty good, but I hustled in there anyway.  There was a tang and haze of smoke, all right.  I tracked it back to the oven, which I’d left to pre-heat for dinner.  I checked for flames, popped the door.  After the cloud rolled out I could see something had spilled onto the oven bottom, and it was now busy pumping out special effects in the kitchen.  I  started throwing open windows and doors, then waving cookie pans.  The alarm kept up its nerve-grating howl, and the kids appeared, hands over ears, at the dining room.

“It’s ok”, I shouted uselessly, then smiled, trying to clear the air.

The whole episode got us talking about fires, what to do, and not to do, and I decided to brush up.  Which is how I found that home fires are actually part of the Holiday tradition.  With men spending more time cooking, it pays to stay up to speed on kitchen hazards that can affect the family.

Here’s a little quiz to check if you’re up to date on important fire and safety knowledge.  Answers at the bottom.

1.  The most common cause of home fires is:

a)  candles

b)  cooking

c)  heating and chimneys

2.  The greatest risk for starting a kitchen fire is:

a) broiling

b) baking

c) frying

3.  What percent of all deaths due to fire occur in the home?

a) 24

b) 58

c) 81

4. What percent of American homes have fire extinguishers?

a) 36

b) 47

c) 64

5.  The most common reason cooking fires start is

a) leaving food cooking unattended

b) spilling food on the stove

c) overheating appliances

6. You should only use a fire extinguisher if

a) the fire is confined to small area and isn’t spreading

b) everyone else has left the building

c) someone has called the fire department

d) the room isn’t filled with smoke

7.  You’re more likely to end up in the emergency room with a scalding burn from

a) using your microwave oven

b) spilling a boiling liquid

c) taking a dish out of a conventional oven

8.  In the US, this many home fires are started by microwave ovens each year

a) 880

b) 4400

c) 6600

9.  The recommended place to keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen is

a) very close to the stove

b) very close to the microwave

c) next to an exit from the kitchen

HERE’S THE ANSWERS *

1. (a) Cooking fires account for nearly 40% of all home fires in the US.

2. (c)  Frying is by far the most likely to start a fire.  Oil will flame if it gets hot enough.

3. (c)  The home is a much more dangerous place than work.

4. (b)  Less than half of all homes have one in the kitchen.

5. (a)  Nobody plans to start a fire.  They’re just distracted from the stove by something.

6.  Alright, it’s a trick question. Authorities say you should NOT use an extinguisher unless you have a, b, c, AND d.  They also point out that three out of every five non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occur when victims tried to fight the fire themselves.

7. (a)  Microwave ovens boil the same way as open flame, and carelessly handling or opening a covered dish is an invitation to burn.  Eleven percent of scald burns, and 5% of all microwave oven injuries are to children under five years of age.

8. (c)  6600 fires a year.  Everybody knows how to use them.  But what if the food inside starts to burn? Keep the door closed, turn it off.  Don’t open the door if there’s any chance it hasn’t gone out. And get it checked before using.

9. (c)  If your extinguisher is too close to the fire, you won’t be able to reach it. And if you use an extinguisher, you should have your back to the exit and be ready to bolt.

* If you want to see the National Fire Prevention authorities checklist about being prepared and what to do, I’ve put their entire cooking fire safety information and instructions at Kitchen 911, with links to more  sites.

It’s worth the time and effort to brush up, for the kids.

Information above is from the National Fire Prevention Association.

Winner By A Nose

It seems about the Homemade bread cooking Dadonly way for a Dad to succeed with kids today is to grab them by the nose, sit them down at the kitchen table, and put your money where their mouth is.  Let me explain.

Being a father’s always been a challenge.  Some of us spend a lot of time out of the house, so we have to wear the name tag and introduce ourselves on a regular basis.  But I don’t think men ever had to compete for kid’s attention the way we do today.  When I come home and say, ‘let’s go play’, I hear ‘I’m busy’.  What ever happened to kids being bored stiff and wishing somebody’d want to go do something?

The problem, it turns out, is we’re now sharing the house.  With a whole crowd of visiting families.  Cosby started it. Now we’ve also got Homer and Bernie Mack, George Lopez, Billy Ray Cyrus, Peter from Family Guy, and the list just goes on.  And all day long there’s this stream of tweeters and facebooking fans, inhabitants of farmville, and busloads of characters from gameland all tramping through.  Getting elbowed aside by Shrek and the whole Hollywood universe.  It’s a miracle to get a word in edgewise.

My brood was becoming a bit like snow leopards, rumored to exist but only occasionally spotted.  They still dished out hugs and smiles when they saw me, but sightings were rare.  And, it occurred to me, if I wanted to protect them, I was only one voice in a very big and noisy wilderness.  When it came to having an influence on what they think, and how they saw things, some food corporations managed to get in more messages a day than I did.

I decided it was time to compete.  Time to tag and track.  Rebuild the pride.

And the one guaranteed place I knew I could catch them was where they came to feed.  The kitchen.

The question was, what to use for bait? Candy, chips, fast food they could find anywhere, and shouldn’t.  I needed something they’d come out of hiding for, and come back for, and keep them purring while we spent time getting comfortable together.

It didn’t come to me til I was out in the garage one afternoon, feeling low.  I came across a bread machine, still boxed.  I couldn’t remember where it came from.  But, for some reason, I decided to give it a go. Instructions didn’t look hard at all.  It looked like something I could do.

I can tell you, if you haven’t experienced it yourself in a while, there’s nothing quite like the warm, wafting scent of fresh baking bread in the nostrils to grab attention.  It’s a primal thing.  A raise-the-head-up and wonder where that smell’s coming from kind of thing.  And no loaf in a wrapper from the chain store has it.

I lit the thing up one evening after dinner and in an hour had a crowd standing around waiting for a slice.

In the end, I’m not sure what the best thing about it was.  Everybody chatting around the warm oven like long-lost relatives around a campfire.  Mouth watering homemade bread.  Dad holding court and doling out slices for toast and jam.  Or, over the years we’ve been doing it since, the things we’ve learned about each other, and the memories we’ve made. With something truly special, they can’t get anywhere else.

I do know this.  In my family, we have a tradition.  One that’s stood through good times and teary nights.  A simple loaf and a little time in the kitchen. And Dad, a part of it.

Top 10 Reasons Men Should Cook

Ok, this list came to me while I was cooking. Actually, I was standing by the oven explaining to my son for the 18th time when dinner was going to be ready. Actually, at that moment I was trying to decide what would happen to the chicken if I was to crank the temp up to 5o0 F.

‘Why should men cook?’ I heard myself asking, to the rhythm of the knife on the cutting board.

Maybe you’ve got some good reasons you can share. Let me know. Here’s mine to get you started.

1.  Pride I don’t know about you, but deep down, I refuse to done in by a dead raw chicken.  My inclination when the smoke alarm goes off is to open some windows and gear up for round two.  I said I was going to put dinner on the table, and dammit, I will.  If it takes all blinking night.

2.  It’s Sexy. Not to me.  To her.  That’s what most women say, check it yourself. Something about a guy serving her and her taste buds. Taking charge, showing some skill and moves.  Or, maybe, being vulnerable enough to get in there and show her just how badly you really need her help.

3.  Survival I often wonder how those TV survivor guys would do if they dropped from a chopper into a kitchen with an empty table and a roomful of hungry kids.  Sure, you can open a can with your bare teeth, but can you get them to eat something you whip up in thirty from what you can scavenge from the back of the fridge?  Arrrgh.

4.  It’s Manly I don’t need to point out how many of the world’s top chefs, restaurant owners, food inventors, and TV cooking personalities are testosterone primed members of the y chromosome club.  But you want to prove your masculine prowess? Toss a pizza in front of a crowd of third graders.  And their mothers.

5.  It’s Cheaper If you’re dating, or not any more you’re not, there’s no question your wallet will be fuller if she fills up at your place.  And if it’s the whole family, then you could buy a small car with the bucks you save in a year not eating out.  And if you know how to cook, you can turn out some fine eats with not expensive ingredients, so you don’t have to look as cheap as you really are.

6. She Needs a Break Men got lucky when women decided to work outside the home, because nobody told her she didn’t still have to put food on the table too.  We just quietly minded our own business, let her make a career, and asked what was for dinner like nothing had changed.  Well, it’s a sure bet, if you don’t man up and give her a hand once in a while, she’s going to figure that out, and then where will you be?

7.  It’s Healthier Guys are immortal and bulletproof, so there’s not much reason to care about what we eat.  It’s just a meal. Or two.  Or in a few years, an open invitation to invest in pharmaceuticals and try out for the big money, as poster boy for the weight loss industry.  What’s the difference between a box or bag of mystery ingredients and knowing what’s in your food? Time will tell.

8.  Eat Something You Like Ever since your mom stopped delivering your favorite dish, just the way you liked it, you’ve had a hankering for it. Admit it.  And come to think of it, there’s more than a few things you’d rather eat than what’s staring up at you from the plate.  There’s one sure way to get the food you want.

9.  Family As in, being a part of.  Hard to do long distance, and nothing’s closer to home than the kitchen.  Sooner or later, every member of the brood passes through it.  And if you’re in there, you’ll be surprised what gets passed around over a snack or drink.  Set an example.  Everybody on the team pitches in, everybody feels like they belong. Including you. Especially you.

10.  Make Memories When the years roll by, that’s all anybody’s got. Are you making any? The time you tried to deep fry a turkey. That one dish everybody remembers you did.  The way you always tried to scrape off the burnt bits in the sink and thought nobody noticed. How proud they were to tell their friends about something you made.

Well, chicken’s done, gotta put it on the table.  If you have some good reasons of your own, stop by the forum on my website and leave em, www.dadsinthekitchen.com.