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What Our Fathers Taught Us About Food

Photo: ullstein bild / Getty

Most dads, even if they're not the home's primary cook, teach their kids a little something about cooking, even if accidentally. From hilariously tragic to bittersweet, these stories reflect the multitude of food lessons our staff learned from their dads.

Father's Day is right around the corner, and that has us thinking about how fathers can affect our food choices and kitchen habits. Whether it's a special seasoning, a word on food safety, or just how to make the perfect steak, dads have an impact on their kids in the kitchen for their entire lives.

We polled our editors and gathered their favorite food-centric advice and stories all about fathers:

"Always add milk, never water, to scrambled eggs. Bisquick is the best pancake mix in the world—and to quote dad 'especially with mashed bananas.' Always clean your BBQ before and after grilling, and he taught me how to grill flank steak perfectly every time"
- Katherine Flynn, Cooking Light Diet fellow

Photo: Iain Bagwell

"If my dad has taught me anything, it's that when cooking steaks, a timer (a digital one, not human) is oh so very important. My dad loves to grill. It's maybe his favorite pastime (besides watching football). But he has this habit of underestimating how much time meat has been cooking, specifically steaks. His medium-rare steaks are always, well, very rare. We laugh about it each time, but some of us have taken to going outside after he takes the steaks off the grill and just cooking ours a bit more because we know what we're about to cut into. He fusses a bit, but we're all happy in the end."
- Kimberly Holland, CookingLight.com editor

"Something my dad instilled in me from a young age is the importance of using up all your food before it goes bad. Throwing out food is his WORST nightmare, not so much because he's concerned about the environment, but because it's a waste of money (the most dad-inspired reasoning ever). But he always gave me tips on how long certain foods would last in the freezer, fridge, or on the counter, and how to take vegetables that were past their prime and turn them into delicious stir-fries or salads. I am a pro at grocery shopping for myself because I know exactly how much food to buy and how long it'll last me. And if I overbuy, I know just how to turn it into a stir fry or something and be on my merry way."
- Sara Tane, CookingLight.com fellow

Photo: Brian Kennedy; Styling: Claire Spollen

"Be thankful for what you have. My dad didn’t cook. Leaving him alone meant you’d find him eating half a head of iceberg lettuce on a plate propped up with a spoon so the leftover rinsing water would run off to the side. He’d add a fresh tomato, dig in, and call it dinner. My mom cooked every meal, and my dad always ate, sometimes without raves, but never with a complaint."
- Ashley Kappel, Cooking Light and MyRecipes.com Digital Content Director

"My dad was not the head cook in our family, but when he did cook, it was always such a fun adventure. I LOVED going to the grocery store with him because he would have no plan; he would just go and see what was available that day. We'd buy things that had never come into our house before, ingredients like (now, keep in mind that this was in small-town Mississippi in the 1970s) Major Grey's chutney, gumbo file powder, or plantains. We'd have no idea what we were going to make with these ingredients, but that was part of the fun. Not all of Dad's concoctions were a success, but they were always memorable. My dad taught me to be adventurous and playful and always open to trying new things. It's a good reminder, especially when I'm stressed and busy and worried about getting a good meal on the table. Food shouldn't be too serious and certainly shouldn't feel like a burden, a chore. It can always be fun, if you're open to it."
- Ann Pittman, Cooking Light Executive Food Editor

"The best (or only) advice my dad gave when it came to food was that a triple-decker peanut butter sandwich was wayyy better than the boring original. Also, there is apparently an art to the perfect peanut butter to bread ratio. My mom did most of the cooking."
- Bethany Adams, Video Optimization Specialist

Healthy Grilling Strategies