Reader’s share stories for Father’s Day
In South Louisiana many Dads and PawPaws know their way around a kitchen. They can throw together a mean pot of gumbo or boiled crawfish, grill a tasty steak or toss a great salad. Others are better at eating and praising the cook.
The stories about the fathers and grandfathers featured here in honor of Father’s Day on Sunday come from our readers. We thank them for sharing their family’s food memories.
Most of Jennifer Roy Oliver’s first memories of her dad “involve either food or him fixing a broken boat. (Is there another kind of boat?) He was always fiddling around in the kitchen making things which I’m sure annoyed my mom. On Saturdays he’d go to the store and buy French bread, salami, ham, cheese and olive salad and make these huge muffalettas. He always topped them off with Durkee’s dressing, then go lay on the floor and ‘watch golf’ (snore).”
A few years ago, he decided to perfect his crawfish bisque recipe. It takes hours to stuff the heads and simmer the dish, but he told his family, “I can make it because I’m retired.”
Vic Roy’s Crawfish Bisque is “the most heavenly thing I’ve ever tasted,” Jennifer Oliver said.
Willie T. Miller
Terri Miller Piper says, “I always wondered why my dad was such a good cook until my husband pointed out, ‘Of course, he was a good cook because he was a fireman and he had to cook well or there would be some upset coworkers.’ ”
Her father was Willie T. Miller Jr., chief of the Baton Rouge Fire Department from 1973 until his retirement in 1981 and Louisiana State Fire Marshall from 1986 to 1988.
“Daddy always joked that Mama could not boil water when they married!” Piper wrote. “Anyone who knew my dad would know he was a great cook. One thing my daddy was famous for was his dish called ‘Willie Beans.’
“I asked my daddy one day to teach me how to make Willie Beans. He said, ‘OK.’ I got my paper and was ready to write down measurements and step-by-step instructions. But Daddy said, ‘No, you have to watch and learn.’ I stood by him and watched and listened and learned as he brought these wonderful beans together. He taught me when to add the brown sugar, the secret ingredients and the type of baked beans to use.
“I cherish that day my daddy made me stand by his side and learn to make those beans. I have made those beans several times since he passed in 2003 and, when I make them, I can hear him say, ‘Now, Baby, take your time and don’t rush it or you will burn the beans.’ ”
Mike Buchart, of Baton Rouge, recalls the days when his family lived in the Old Golden Shores Subdivision in Mandeville. “During the 1960s when my dad, Larry Buchart, and his brother, Carlton, cooked blue crabs we caught in Lake Ponchartrain, they would steam them in our house in a pot of vinegar, beer, lemon and lots of seasonings.
“Besides the delicious meal he would prepare from the simple steaming, I will never forget how that vinegar would take my breath away when I entered the house. It was worth every breath robbed.”
The Bucharts also “spent many occasions collecting lake clams off the Mandeville shoreline. I’m talking washtubs full,” Mike Buchart wrote. “Dad and I would thoroughly rinse the clams, purge with cornmeal for hours and rinse again. The steaming recipe did the trick, and our family and friends consumed plenty of lake clams chased with Dixie, Pearl and Falstaff. (Mine were chased with a bottle of king-sized Coke). We did not eat as many clams as the Chinchuba native Americans did many years ago but definitely our fair share and alot more beer. We survived.”
Edward Grant Jr.
“My sweet daddy, Edward Grant Jr., didn’t do a lot of cooking while I was growing up, but there is one thing he made that will forever stick in my mind,” Kate Grant Seba wrote. “My mom, Diane Grant, would buy and prepare a box of Jiffy White Cake Mix, and Daddy would make his special chocolate sauce” to serve over the cake.
“I can remember stirring and stirring and stirring with him watching over my shoulder. As you can see from his recipe, nothing is exact, but both humor and love are apparent! Even though, at 89 years old, he no longer cooks this sauce, I do cook it for my children and it brings back such happy memories.”
Abigail Cohen, 21/2, the youngest of Mike Cason’s four grandchildren, lives in Austin, Texas. Her grandmother, Dottie Cason, wrote, “One of the highlights of her visits to Baton Rouge with MawMaw and PawPaw is to help PawPaw cook two of her favorites: PawPaw Beans (white bean with hot sausage) and banana pudding.”
The pudding is a special treat because the Casons let her eat from a ‘grown-up’ dish, a footed dessert glass, and “she thinks she is so special. She gets quite a lesson from PawPaw in sorting those white beans before cooking.”
Herbert “Rookie” Michael
“My mom was pure Italian and Daddy, Herbert ‘Rookie’ Michael, was pure Lebanese. Needless to say with that combination, we had many wonderful meals!” Beverly Michael Hess said.
“On holidays, when the rest of you were having turkey and ham, our Thanksgiving or Christmas feasts consisted of kibbeh, cabbage rolls, tabbouleh and shish kebab.
“On Thanksgiving Eve of 2006, we gathered at my sister Becky Bourg’s house and had a kibbeh lesson. We filmed Daddy giving us instructions from where to order the meat and who to talk to at the store, to what kind of onions to use, yellow not white, and which pans to use. You see, he had no written instructions. It was a ‘handful’ of mint, etc.” … He said you have to look at the color of the seasoning mixture; you want it more light green than dark green when blending it. We are still trying to get it like his and are very close, but it will never be as good as his was.”
He was also great at barbecuing and boiling crawfish, Hess said, adding that her husband, Tommy Hess, grills the best steak and baby back ribs. “Can’t find better in a restaurant.”
When Linn D. McNary was growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s, she says her mother, Barbara McNary, “often made a great tuna noodle casserole for dinner. And during the summer on many Sunday afternoons after church and before going to the swimming pool club, we had tuna sandwiches. It wasn’t until many years later when my dad, Virgil McNary, was visiting my home and we were having tuna sandwiches did he mention that he never really liked tuna fish. Who knew!
“He had a real sweet tooth — we had a cabinet in the kitchen designated just for cookies. And he loved coconut, so whenever I have coconut cream pie or white Lady Baltimore cake, I think about my dad and smile.”
Leyla Mocan says cooking and eating together are the center of her family’s life. “Yet salad eating is an event all on its own for us, and I have never had a meal at home that was not accompanied by a salad on the side.
Without a doubt the salad champion of my family is my father,” Naci Mocan, an economics professor at LSU.
“Last time I came home my parents had dinner waiting for me and there was — as expected — salad. This time my father had taken it to a new level, complete with pomegranate syrup and little surprises of fresh parsley and mint. He’s been known to make a side salad with up to 14 different vegetables at one time and then proudly list all the included vegetables to whoever might be joining us for dinner.
“In retrospect, I feel a bit bad for all the friends who have come to dinner at my house over the years. I always ask if they will eat salad and most say, ‘Yes,’ even if just to be polite. I’m sure what they get is not what they’re expecting. Not only does my father create an excessive explosion of vegetables, hailing to his Turkish roots, he dresses it in only olive oil and vinegar, the complete opposite of the American love of heavy dressings.”
Leyla Mocan said her father has no self-control when it comes to preparing salad. “He will make a salad for only a few in a bowl large enough to serve an entire party. Then he will serve it to our guests and eat his portion out of the serving bowl so that he can savor all the extra balsamic vinegar that drains to the bottom and, believe me, there is a lot. Now that I’ve moved out of the house, I’ve continued the tradition, eating a small salad with dinner and always enjoying the extra vinegar at the bottom of the bowl.”