With Father’s Day coming up my dad has been on my mind a lot. I lost him a long time ago, but he lives in my heart. There are so many funny stories and fond memories that always bring a huge smile to my face, but this is one of my favorites.
When my father was growing up during the Depression, food was scarce and his mother stretched her pennies as far as they could go. Thank goodness she was a wonderful cook (and I got to learn from her). When my dad graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and married my mother, times were challenging. World War II had just ended and the country was recovering. A young ensign in the Navy didn’t make much money so they scrimped and saved wherever they could, and that meant a lot of casseroles and cheap meats for dinner.
Four children later and still not making a lot of money, he changed course and became a stockbroker. Once again they were broke because starting out he had to find each and every one of his clients and work his way up the ladder. He spent many evenings at the office working late into the night to make a living and support all of us.
Of course we never knew we were poor – it was a fun and boisterous family with my three older brothers always creating mischief and hours of laughter around the dinner table each night.
As my dad’s career advanced, he became manager of the local brokerage office, running a team of highly successful brokers. He was finally making some good money and wanted to splurge. He wanted steak; big juicy tender steaks. He wanted them every night because to him it was the ultimate proof that he was successful.
He loved steak so much that he bought a barbecue and put it on the back patio of the office. He would buy beautiful cuts of meat and be out there happily grilling and making lunch for his team. There was always an excuse to celebrate and break out the barbecue.
I can see him at the grill, smoke billowing into the sky as he lit up enough briquettes for 100 steaks – moderation wasn’t his strong suit. He always had a big squirt bottle of water next to him and he invariably needed it because the fire was screaming hot and he always got flare ups. But it didn’t matter because he loved manning the grill. For years I thought all barbecued foods were supposed to be charred on the outside. Too bad they didn’t have TRU-Infrared technology in those days.
When I grew up, I knew that I could always please him when I pulled out my own grill and cooked up some steaks for us. Simply seasoned, we let the luscious flavor of the meat speak for itself. And when I had a chance, I would make us homemade steak sauce to jazz it up a little.
My dad loved my dinners and the sauce I made. It is zesty and a little sassy, just the way I like it. You can buy the bottled versions, but once you make your own, you’ll be spoiled. Start with my recipe and adjust it so it is perfect for you and your family. Recipes are guidelines so you can create your own masterpieces.
I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating the men in your life this Father’s Day. Maybe some steaks on the barbecue and a pot of this sauce bubbling on the stove will be the way to make them feel special just like I did for my dad.
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Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook