baking / julia child / memories

My Dad Ain’t No Julia Child

My dad is one of six kids, and was born in 1927 in New York.  One of his first jobs at the very young age of 5 or 6 years was to sweep the floor of the candy store below their apartment.  You had to know my grandmother to understand the rest of this story.  She worked full-time for many years, as did my grandfather.  Her kids were often left to their own devices, and my dad says that “the best dressed kid in the family was the one that got up first.”   She could handicap a horse with her eyes closed, and she knew the season’s racing schedule by heart, but she herself would have told you about her lack of cooking skills.  She could burn water.  Grandma was no Suzie Homemaker.chococake

My grandmother’s one claim to culinary fame was her pot roast.  My mom makes it from time-to-time, but it really is a lot of work and the onions really stink up the house.  The pot roast is always yummy, and if you didn’t know that it had ginger snaps or vinegar in it you would never know!

So.  Back to my dad (and where I’m going with this) …

I was about 10-years-old and very interested in cooking and baking.  I remember one Saturday asking my mom if I could make a cake.  She said sure, and got out a box of Duncan Hines cake mix.  My dad, sitting at the table having his coffee and reading the newspaper, was horrified.  He launched into a story about how he used to bake cookies and cakes when he was my age and he NEVER used a mix!  So, me being the brat that I was, I challenged him, “So, dad, why don’t you show us how to make a cake from scratch if you can remember how.”

My dad rose to the challenge and said, “Sure!  Why not!”  I remember my mom saying, “Great.  Just clean up the mess when you’re done.”  I asked my dad if he needed a recipe from one of mom’s books, and he said “Recipe? Now way! I remember how to do this from memory!”

My dad set out to make a complete mess of the kitchen.  He sifted flour, measured out this and that and mixed things up by hand (“The way I did it when I was a kid”).  I remember this like it was yesterday.  There was flour everywhere, egg shells on the tile countertop, and the oven heating up.  My dad greased and floured the two cake pans, filled them with a yummy chocolate batter, slapped the pans on the countertop “to get the air bubbles out of the cake,” and popped the two rounds into the oven to bake.

Hmmm.  The smell was divine.  The timer went off.  My mom and I came into the kitchen to check out dad’s cake.  He, with a big smile on his face, put on the oven mits, and reached into the oven to take out his cake pans.

Hmmm.  The look on his face!  It was as flat as his cakes!  He was horrified!  He looked at me and my mom and mumbled something about the oven, or the eggs, or the bad baking powder  … Oops!   Baking powder, you say?

That mishap occurred about 40 years ago.  That was probably one of the last things my dad ever tried to bake or cook aside from the occasional boiled hot dog.   I’m not even going to go into the time that he “baked the steaks” in the oven at 200 degrees for 4 hours or the fact that he still calls the microwave that “new fangled thing.”


18 thoughts on “My Dad Ain’t No Julia Child

  1. Microwave ovens are just a fad. They’ll never catch on. Actually that reminds me of an old episode of “Barney Miller” where some old guy gets arrested for going around destroying microwave ovens (which at the time really were newfangled things) at an appliance store, and later on the cops confiscate an atomic bomb that someone built, and the microwave oven guy in his cell is giving the bomb the stinkeye and finally asks, “Is that a microwave oven?” One of the cops (Dietrich I think?) says, “That is an atomic bomb.” So then the microwave oven guy is like, “Oh, okay” and stops worrying about it.


  2. My dad cooked — his favorite thing was mixing Campbell’s tomato and pea soups and putting sour cream on top. That’s about it. On the other hand, I never ever heard him complain about the food he was served — anywhere. He was pretty easy to feed. My husband and I were talking about him yesterday (my dad died in 2002) and one of my husband’s favorite memories was seeing my bald father eating HOT Indian food, wiping his head with his napkin, and saying, “Oh, that’s GOOD!”


  3. One of my earliest memories is when my mom had to be hospitalized and dad had to cook for us. He was never much of a cook, but he did try. He made us french fries. As I recall, they were beyond burned, they were so hard & brown but I also remember we ate all of them. To this day, anytime any of us make french fries, we remember dad and his attempt at cooking. These are the type of memories that are really wonderful to have and a lot of fun to remember.


  4. Lovely story, don’t think grans are made of quite the same stuff these days…and gosh yes, I too remember the times when most of the cooking was from memories handed down.
    I was drooling waiting for those pans to come out of the oven…I thik the illustrations was of a Betty Crocker…and that reminds me, time to make my own BC for the weekend, with three August birthdays to celelbrate.

    Congratulations on winning POTD


  5. Your dad sounds like he was a pretty industrious kid who turned into a capable man. It was especially unusual for someone born at his time to be cooking and participating in the kitchen. He sounds like a great guy.


  6. my parents still tell the story of my moms first cake she made for my dad…complete with toothpicks to hold it together, which she forgot to take out….making it particularly crunchy…ouch. funny post. congrats on POTD!


  7. Delightful story, delightfully told!

    And did YOU continue with your interest in baking?

    I’m married to a “Baker,” and if I didn’t believe that people long ago came by their last names by virtue of their skills (“Smith,” “Carpenter,” “Mason,” etc) before I married, I certainly do now. He and our offspring are excellent bakers.

    I get hives just looking at a cooke recipe!

    Congratulations on POTD!


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