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Where Y’Eat: On Father's Day, Food is a Must, the Baloney is Optional  

Bill McNulty, father of the author, celebrating his 70th birthday
Ian McNulty
Bill McNulty, father of the author, celebrating his 70th birthday

My dad cooked breakfast a lot when I was growing up. Pancakes were big, but no matter what he made the meal usually included a little baloney, and I don’t mean the sandwich meat.

Cooking put my dad in the mood for stories, some about his days in the army, some about the dubious adventures his brothers got into when they were young. As the syrup and butter went on the pancakes, so the exaggeration and embroidery built these stories up to Paul Bunyan proportions.

Later, I figured out dad’s tall tales were told mostly to entertain the kid staring at him from the table – me. But also this was a form of bonding. My dad was never one to gush over heart-to-heart chats. But a social setting always got him going, and even just talking over a meal, the most natural thing in the world, propped open the door for better father-and-son time.

Dad shared best when a third party was involved, and often food could fill that role.

This brings us to Father's Day this weekend. Father’s Day does not have the same fanfare as Mother’s Day, and the holiday brunch or dinner out doesn’t have the same obligatory status. But while we think about dads leading up to the day, it’s natural to think about the rituals we’ve had with them.

In my experience quality dad time was always more about what we were doing than where we were going. It wasn’t so much about restaurants. The hands on work of making some special food together feels right.

If your dad is at his best around the smoker or the grill or the seafood boiling pot, then let him do his thing. Assist or admire from a safe distance as your own experience with dad’s cooking dictates – the point is to be there with him when he’s at his ease and in his element.

And if your dad is anything like mine, you probably shouldn’t believe all the stories that come out at times like this. But as times go on, I bet you’ll savor them.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.