As we approach Father's Day, this recipe is one inspired from childhood and trips down to Florida to visit my father.
Just a phase
Like many others, I did not grow up in the same household as my biological father, though he did make sure that we saw each other a few times every year. I was fortunate to have a loving step-father who also helped to raise me. And, I still cherished every trip to visit my father in Florida. Even the times that I sat on a folding chair in the back of my grandfather's van as we made the grueling drive down to Florida from Michigan. (That folding chair was not secured to anything in the van, just for the record.) Even the summers that were so hot I had to sit in my bathing suit eating ice cubes on that folding chair were worth it.... as soon as I saw the love in my father's eye, everything else in the world was OK.
Phew. I can only imagine what a little hurricane I must have been coming to visit him around age 12! With all those new hormones and emotions.... oh and, my newly converted vegetarian diet. That's right, I had recently converted to a vegetarian diet and proudly made my announcement to the family on one of those trips down to Florida.
I remember my aunt nudging my father with a wink and saying, "Don't worry, John, it's just a phase. She'll grow out of it."
Huhn.... well, what do you do with this?
In case you are wondering, there weren't a ton of vegetarian food options in Central Florida in the late 80's. My poor father! An emotional, strong-minded 12-year-old who was hungry. More accurately "hangry". And a vegetarian who was rather disgusted that anyone could condone the horrific treatment animals endured. My father patiently simply brought me to get a plate of rice and beans at the local Cuban restaurant. It was probably the extreme state of hunger, but I fell in love with that plate of food. Seriously, it is like a vegetarian's first aid: rice, beans, plantains, veggies. And those spices?!
We have gone for a plate of Cuban food on nearly every trip I have made to visit him since, nearly 30 years later. So, I was pretty excited at Expo West when the guys at the Spicely booth offered me a sample of their Organic Cuban Spice Seasoning. It was a great excuse to buy some plantains, make some food, and reminisce about trips to visit my father as a kid.
Because growing up, there wasn't much better than having a plate of Cuban food with my father as he appreciated my trials and tribulations growing into adulthood.
Care enough to show up
You know that Facebook relationship status of "It's complicated"? Well, so was childhood. Like it was for many of us. This can make conversations awkward, situations confusing, emotions difficult to maneuver, and old wounds easily triggered. One thing is for sure, however. It is worth the effort. I sure am grateful that my father cared enough to keep showing up though, because there isn't much in the world quite like seeing the love in your father's eye as he looks at you. Not to mention being able to appreciate how great of a man your father truly is.
So this Father's Day, I will be making some Cuban food and trying to figure out new ways to talk my father into moving to California.
My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.