“I really think that if you were to have a spoonful of Indian Mustard, you’d go insane.”
These were the words of my father as he told me how hot peppers were for wimps, and that mustard was were it was at in the crazy world of “how hot of a food item can we put in our mouth” of which he was a minor player.
“If you think about it, which one is worse? Eating a habenero pepper or a spoonful of the hottest mustard out there?”
It was difficult for me to disagree with him. After all, this was the man that introduced me to Indian food, not to mention Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and his particular favorite, Southern Cuisine, particularly Bar B Que. The man knew his food,and was often ahead of the curve as to the latest and greatest.
Remember when Salsa was hitting it big? We were eating it ten years prior, not a small accomplishment when living in Pittsburgh in the seventies. When Mesquite grilling was all the rage, we knew it was already passe.
My Father was hardly a saint, as he was often off on business trips which allowed him to gather these samples of food from across the United States. But when he was around, he encouraged us to eat well.
When he would take us to Baskin-Robbins, as my siblings would pick their favorite ice cream flavors, Dad would allow me to go next door to the cheese shop and pick out various spreads and crackers, as much for his amusement as much as his encouragement.
He would bring us sourdough bread from San Francisco and Crab Cakes from Baltimore. He would order pizza from different places until he found the one that tasted just right (It was Fazio’s that eventually won out.)
If I get my enjoyment of cooking from my mother, then I certainly get my love of restaurants from my father. He took me to the new places that he had discovered, like Casa de Lupa, a decent Mexican joint, or Miller’s Restaurant just outside of Reading, Pennsylvania. It was he who taught me to explore the places that were privately owned, forgoing the more traditional corporate restaurants. As I grew older, restaurants were our neutral ground, where we would go to talk. The last two times I saw him were over a beer and a sandwich at Primanti Bros. in downtown Pittsburgh.
My father passed away this past Saturday, at the age of 63. He was cremated yesterday afternoon. And to honor him, last night I ate out at a local place, and hoisted one last glass of beer to my father. May he eat well, regardless of where he’s at.