I’m always going on and on about growing up with and being inspired by my Mom’s wonderful cooking, but what about dear old Dad??
Ahh, Summertime. Bettertime.
Although he wasn’t the primary cook in the house, I have very specific and fond memories of my Dad in the kitchen from when I was young.
If he wasn’t on a canning kick (we still have mason jars filled with homemade bread & butter pickles lining our basement shelves 20 years later! PS How sick is it that I can say things like 20 years later?!) he was whipping up a big, spicy batch of his famous gumbo.
Gumbo is my Dad’s DISH. He’s got this super secret recipe that he always and forever intended to only share with the men in the family (pssht!) but accidently emailed it to me in a moment of fatherly-love induced weakness a few years ago.
It wasn’t, and still isn’t, uncommon to walk into my parent’s kitchen on a freezing cold Saturday morning in the winter and find my Dad surrounded by mountains of gumbo making ingredients.
Oodles of onions, cups of celery, and butt-loads of bell pepper would be sautéing in bacon grease, while chopped, smoked kielbasa (which I loved to steal pieces of!) and chicken waited to join the party on nearby cutting boards.
I’d beg my Dad to go easy on the cayenne pepper he liberally added to the tomato-based broth the ingredients would soon be swimming in, and he always did his best to cater to my sissy needs, while keeping my spice-loving brothers happy.
Regardless of the heat level, lots of love always went into those big pots of homemade, Iowa gumbo, and we’d all come back to dunk our bowls in it over and over again throughout the entire chilly afternoon.
Lots of love also went into the big brunch we could always count on Dad to make after coming home from church on sleepy, Sunday mornings. He never failed to wake us all up by 7am sharp (by clapping, I might add) so we could attend 8am service, but he more than made up for it with the boundless buffet he’d make when we got back.
It was a free for all, I’m tellin’ ya. You wanted eggs? You got eggs. Any way you wanted em’. Scrambled for me, ’til I hit 13, then over-medium was all the rage.
You wanted bacon too? No problem. Toast? Done. A three-tiered iced cake? He’d make you chocolate AND vanilla.
The thing I requested more often than not though, was Dad’s French Toast.
I don’t exactly know how he does it, but my Dad has got the lock and key on the technique to moist, luscious, perfect French Toast. The outside was always golden brown and just slightly eggy, while the inside was creamy and chewy. The ratio of egg to milk was always just right, too.
He’d serve it with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, at my request, that just so took it there, and I was as happy as could be.
‘Til Sunday morning chores commenced. Can you say, buzzkill?!
At any rate, it was my Dad I was thinking about when I decided to put a little twist on his classic French Toast for dinner tonight, and make Pumpkin French Toast Bake.
Pumpkin French Toast Bake combines cubed bread with a thick and richly spiced pumpkin-flavored custard-like batter.
The batter sinks into the bread to create a mix between French Toast, and bread pudding. Mmm.
The whole thing is topped with a sugary crumb topping then baked until bubbly and golden brown.
The smell of this dish when it came out of the oven was intoxicating. I could not WAIT to dig in!
Well, it turns out I should’ve waited a little longer…it was terrrrrrible. Terrible, I tell you!
The custardy batter? Yeah, more like gloopy ball of dough that is now sitting like a softball in my stomach. A few bites was more than enough of the semi-tasteless, bad-textured terror. BLECH!!!
Ahem, excuse me! That is to say, I’d rather be eating my Dad’s timeless, tasty French Toast right about now. Good thing he’s a 2 minute drive away!
Who was the main cook in your kitchen growing up? Mom, Dad, siblings, grandparents?