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From bringing home the bacon to barbecue, dads do

June, 2010

Moms make. Dads do. There’s the fundamental difference.

It’s not a difference between the sexes. It’s a job description.

I support equality on all counts until children enter the equation. Then the roles are performed differently, the expectations of parents shift, the obligations come out. It is a constantly changing dynamic that depends on so many factors: the age of the children, the genders, the expectations of the child, the hopes of the parent.

Consider that a metaphor for this is oil and vinegar and how they are used in a recipe. Both ingredients are valued on their own and work very nicely when brought together. Everyone agrees that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

However, add an egg and we no longer have a dressing, we have an emulsion. The addition of the egg radically changes the character of the other two ingredients. It is an improvement, a richer experience with more body, and it is able to attract and sustain all sorts of interesting elements: spices and herbs, warmth and cold, lots of other things that we might want to play around with.

That little egg makes a heck of a difference as we leap from salad dressing to hollandaise and beyond. But back to moms and dads. Moms make, or as one dictionary has it, they “form (something) by putting parts together or combining substances; construct; create.” Creation is not part of doing, it is part of making. Moms create, Dads do.

When I was growing up, this was most true at mealtimes. Mom worked from recipes and from tradition, but kept an eye on what was new. She passed on her heritage even as she experimented with new ways of cooking, with blenders and mixers and new ingredients. Brisket and fish made it to the table, but also soufflés and quiche. Mom made all the courses from soup to dessert. She made a meal. Dad, on the other hand, did things. He has never looked at a recipe in his life. Do, in the same dictionary, is defined as “performing a particular task.” He did eggs for breakfast. He could do a melted cheese on toast. He did barbecue with a strict regime that consisted of steaks and hotdogs, grilled salami and burgers, and charred chicken.

There is a pedant quality to this. In the 1950s, when I was growing up, it may have been the dads who were tasked with “bringing home the bacon,” but it was the moms who made it.

So here’s to dads, plodding, pedantic, doing dads. My dad, going on 98, is still doing. He hauls earth around the garden in springtime and rakes leaves in the fall; he helps me move furniture in our house when the family comes for dinner. And, when I turn to the grill, he is at my shoulder, drink in hand, overseeing me at the barbecue.

Now that I am a father, I take on the dad role and wear his doing proudly.

A phone call from our daughter at college, a Visa payment to be made, furniture to be hauled to her apartment. This is what I was raised for.

All the doing my dad has done in his life eclipses all the woulda, shoulda, couldas. These are the damned parentheses of our existence. They make us human. But in the end, dads do.

Dad’s Famous Salami

This is great on the grill.

All-beef salami is essential: Ask the butcher to cut it on a meat cutter set for No. 8. This is much thicker than you would use for sandwiches. The salami should be several inches in diameter.

Make a cut at one edge so that the meat doesn’t curl as it cooks. Set the grill a dad’s hand’s-span (about 5 inches or 12 cm) above a hot flame or coals that have burned so white ash covers them.

Cook the slices until they almost char and then flip them. Be careful that the grease doesn’t cause the grill to flame. When they are done, set them on paper towels to drain any remaining grease.

Cut them in half and serve with yellow mustard.



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