My father died in October, 1992. He was on my mind today, so I thought I’d jot down some of the things he taught me about food.
He loved hard rolls bought at the Strip, and hated Wonderbread. To demonstrate that Wonderbread consisted of little more than air, he once he took half a loaf of the stuff and squeezed it in his hands until it was reduced to nothing but a small ball of dough. As a kid, I loved Wonderbread, and couldn’t understand why on earth he’d ‘ruin’ those pieces just to prove his point. Who cared if it was all air? It was light and tasty, especially when sandwiching bologna, tomatoes and Miracle Whip. (I haven’t always been a food snob.) He was so right. Sometimes when dinner conversation escapes me, I’ll play with the soft “mollica” of the bread, pressing it into little balls.
He also really liked salame and “stinky cheese”, AKA fontinella, a cheap American substitute for a sharp Italian provolone. Penn Mac’s website claims it’s their best selling sharp cheese. That’s no surprise given all the aging Italian Americans in Pittsburgh. My dad would have been about 80 now if he had survived the stroke. He didn’t need to convince me about the cheese. I used to like it even more than Velveeta (which I also thought was delicious sandwiched on Wonderbread). I think the last time I even ate Velveeta was on baked grits, at Eric’s “white trash” brunch, at least 9 years ago. While I’ve certainly not bought fontinella since my days as party hostess, I’ll take a sharp cheese any day over a creamy Camembert.
My father enjoyed making and eating aglio olio: pasta with garlic and oil. I hated the smell of that stuff, especially because he often burned the garlic. My friend Paul used to come over and eat it with him. They loved it! I never understood why. This is one dish I haven’t grown to like. Garlic flavor should always be hidden, IMH(and neurotic)O, used only to accent other flavors.
I once sold my father for a box of chocolate covered marshmallow cookies. (I was very young.) I’d buy a hundred boxes of the things today in exchange for the chance to sit down and eat a cheese sandwich with my dad. Sigh.