Cooking and eating lessons from dads

When it’s Father’s Day most people don’t say: “Thank you Dad for everything you taught me in the kitchen.”

I mean, typically more of us thank our moms for that, right? Anyway, I thought it would be really nice this Father’s Day to give a shout out to the dads in our lives who have made a positive impression upon us in the kitchen. Yes, they do exist.

Personally, I think I learned to use a knife in the kitchen because of my dad. There was a period of time on Sundays when dinner was his terrain, and he was on a stir-fry kick. I would sit with him as he chopped all these different veggies to go into the wok. Honestly, I can’t tell you what the specific veggies were or the other ingredients he used, but I can tell you he was a whiz with that knife.

I asked some of my nutritionist friends for their memories, and this is what they had to say.

[Read: How to Make 4 Meals With 1 Chicken.]

Oatmeal as Comfort Food

“My dad loved to cook … but it wasn’t any fancy meals that I remember most. He used to be up at 4 a.m., when it was dark outside, to go to work. He’d wake me up every morning to join him in having a steamy bowl of oatmeal, and then I’d go back to bed. That’s probably why even today, oatmeal is my comfort food.

As my dad showed me, I tried to show my three children that when you get together at the table, you share much more than a meal. My kitchen is the heart of my home, and that connection started long ago. ”

– Bonnie Taub-Dix, creator of and author of “Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table.”

Sit-Down Meals

“While my mom did most of the cooking growing up, my dad taught me the importance of leaving work to prioritize sitting down together for a family dinner each night. Today I use that lesson to remind me that no matter how busy the day is, it’s important to make time to sit down at a table to eat my meals. Not eating while I’m at the computer, standing in the fridge, or walking out the door, but really plating my food in a way that shows I matter and am deserving of a loving meal.”

DJ Blatner, author of “The Superfood Swap.”

Feeding Your Family Is Love

“I am 110% Italian (No. It’s not a typo.) My father taught me that cooking and feeding your family is love.

When you cook for people, and they love your food, all is good in the world. He also taught me about simple Italian dishes, such as anchovies and pasta, homemade, and bean-based soups that are affordable, delicious and based on foods consumed in the Old Country, which is now called the trendy Mediterranean diet.

I am a nutrition professor at Boston University, college-textbook author and science-based nutrition communicator; who knew that my first nutrition lecture came from my father?”

– Joan Salge Blake, nutrition professor at Boston University and the host of the award-winning nutrition & health podcast, SpotOn!

[READ: How to Cook With Spices to Add Flavor.]

Morning Pancakes

“My dad didn’t do a lot of cooking, but he was an early riser and often made pancakes for me and my sisters on the weekends. I used to look forward to our pancake breakfasts and thinking about my dad smiling while making this meal reminds me that cooking for someone is an expression of love. A meal doesn’t have to be a Michelin-star experience to be a loving gesture.

Also, less healthful foods fit into a healthy diet. Most of my mornings start off with a smoothie or plain yogurt with fruit and nuts, but I still love and enjoy pancakes when the mood strikes!”

– Samantha Cassetty, nutrition and wellness expert and co-author of “Sugar Shock.”

Grilling Tips

“My Dad was instrumental in teaching me how to grill especially my favorite – kabobs. I learned how to marinate the meat and veggies and make sure to put foods together on the same skewer that had similar cook times so I didn’t burn the veggies or end up with raw meat! If it wasn’t for his technique, not sure I would have had any nutritious veggies to enjoy with this meal.”

Tara Collingwood, sports dietitian in Orlando.

Creativity With Food

“Our dad taught us how to have fun and to be playful and creative with food so we could enjoy every aspect of it. While our mom focused on making sure we ate nutritious food, our dad always found a way to make eating foods, particularly salads and vegetables, more interesting and imaginative — whether that meant putting hot peppers in it or finding entertaining ways to display it, like making faces with it and even using it to make his own “rhinoceros” horns.

This became especially important to us as we got older because he helped us to gain an appreciation for eating healthy foods that we needed to fuel us for our sports and that we likely would have avoided.”

– Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos, aka the Nutrition Twins, registered dietitians and personal trainers, co-founders of and authors of “The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure.”

[SEE: Cooking at Home on the Mediterranean Diet.]

Creative Leftovers

My dad wore many hats — both in real life, and in plenty of fictional ones — including the chef’s hat of a French culinary expert who “specialized” in omelets. He’d take everything we had leftover in our fridge on weekend mornings and make one of his “specialty” omelets. If my memory serves, it was a combination of eggs plus veggies, cheese, rotisserie chicken, maybe some close-to-their-expiration-date cold cuts, bacon … whatever leftovers we had.

My dad considered the omelet his “blank canvas” for creativity in the form of food! Today, I LOVE experimenting with ingredients, and interestingly, I’m never NOT in the mood for eggs!”

Jaclyn London, brand/media consultant, author and podcast host.

Grilled Veggies

“While my mom manned the oven and stovetop, my dad grilled a lot growing up. One of his go-tos was grilling veggies, and to this day I love to add colorful vegetables to the barbeque! Most kids grow up eating grilled hot dogs. I grew up eating these too, but from an early age I learned that protein is best accompanied by a healthy serving of vegetables!”

– Amy Gorin, an inclusive plant-based dietitian in Stamford, Connecticut, and owner of Plant Based with Amy.

Family Bonding

While my dad is an incredible father with so many skills, culinary skills are not one of them. My Austrian father-in-law, on the other hand, is amazing in the kitchen. When I was taking culinary courses as an adult and not sure how to do things, my husband would intuitively know how because he grew up watching his dad.

Culinary modeling for a child is such a gift, which is why I’m so joyed now to see my five-year-old daughter cooking with her Austrian grandfather. From schnitzel to dumplings to apple strudel, she’s not only learning culinary skills to last a lifetime, but she’s also learning cultural history and experiencing family bonding in a way that only food can offer.”

Patricia Bannan, author of “From Burnout to Balance.”

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