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Father's Day stories: "Dad's Signature Dish"

In honour of Father's Day, we're sharing some of the best stories about fathers that we received in our BloodLines writing competition. Here, Teresa Rice shares some of her father's culinary edicts and reveals the only good thing about his Christmas pudding.

"Dad's Signature Dish" by Teresa Rice

My dad was no budding Master Chef; in fact he had some strange and inflexible notions about cooking. He was Irish, one of nine children and I am sure he didn't have to do any food preparation when he was growing up. Irish men of that era didn't have to cook, there were always females for that.

My mother was an excellent cook but she passed away when I was a teenager, so I and my sisters did most of the cooking, albeit by his rules. Dad's favorite foods were any kind of meat, potatoes with gravy, bacon, eggs and sausages. Pasta was never on the menu at our house, rice was strictly for dessert, and fish was for Fridays. Woe betide us if we attempted to try anything other than "plain" food.

Some of Dad's culinary edicts were:

  • Mashed potatoes should never be spoiled with butter or milk (Irish mashed potatoes are dry and floury)
  • A goose should be roasted in lard even though it is already full of grease
  • Beef is always well done; rare or medium rare is not an option
  • Tea has to sit on the stove until it is stewed and black
  • Cabbage must be boiled for hours with pigs cheek or corned beef
  • Salad and cornflakes are not food.

Dad's version of Christmas Pudding was unique; I have never seen or tasted anything like it. Every year he would assemble the ingredients; flour, suet, raisins and heaven knows what else. The mixture would be stirred with a wooden spoon and moistened with a bottle of beer. Dropping silver sixpences into the pudding was a Christmas tradition so we always made sure some went in. For us, that was the only good thing about the pudding. The sticky concoction was then placed on a floured piece of cheesecloth, tied in the shape of a ball, and steamed for hours in a pot of simmering water. When the pudding was cooked and the cheesecloth removed, the result was something that looked like a football. It was an unappetizing shade of grey with a hard crust. Even garnishing the top with a piece of holly did not make it look or taste any better.

When I travel to England and get together with family, we always enjoy talking about the "old days". My Dad's signature dish left a lot to be desired, but it wins first prize for causing the most hilarity when I'm "strolling down memory lane' with my brothers and sisters.


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