My dinner with Dad.

Let’s be honest.  This week hasn’t exactly been the greatest, PR-wise, for dear old Pops.

He’s said a few things in the media over the past several days that have caused those close to him, as well as ESPN commenters and pundits, to headdesk multiple times.  There is one thing I will say on the subject: First of all, Dad already got the riot act read to him by my mother (Her reaction was not unlike Nancy Kerrigan – “Why? WHY?!”), so he’s not out of the red yet.  Secondly, It is a collision of factors.  Lack of attendance can be blamed on several causes, all of which are easily fixed.  So let’s get butts back in the seats.  We all can be instrumental in this change.  That means the building management/treatment, the fans, the school.  All of it can help.  Let’s do this.

Moving on.

There were a few fantastic things about this week that managed to slip their way under the radar due to some untimely comments by certain people in my family.  First off, it was Dad’s 57th birthday on Wednesday, and I managed to give him a pretty good present – I got into the English graduate program of my choice.  I found out that morning and managed to get Dad on speakerphone as he drove into work.  His reaction nearly broke my Blackberry.

(In case you were wondering, yes, I will be attending UCONN.  This past year was a ‘catch-up’ year, in which I took triple the average course load in order to obtain the credits necessary to feel confident in a Masters program.  I am attending UCONN for the following reasons: It’s close to home, it’s a great university, and they have an English program that is not only challenging, it’s a little bit more realistic for me than stretching for an out of state program that requires more experience than I have at the moment.  It’s also where I did my undergraduate work, so I’m familiar with the campus.  Also, because of my non-degree study this year, I can matriculate the graduate credits into the Master’s program. I could have my Masters as early as the spring of 2012 instead of 2013.)

This weekend marks the Eastern Regional, which just happens to take place in my father’s hometown of Philadelphia.  Well, technically his hometown is Montella, and then after that it’s Norristown, PA, but Norristown is a close suburb to Philly.  My mother, sister, brother-in-law, and Lovebug drove down yesterday morning so that our extended relatives could meet the baby.  I will be driving down with Dad and the team this afternoon, however I will not be staying for the Elite Eight game if we are blessed to make it past Sunday.  I will be driving home with my sister after the Sweet Sixteen, because I have a little thing called “two three-hour seminar classes” on Monday.  If I’m going to miss any classes, I will miss due to the Final Four (knock wood).  Priorities, people.

Because my mom and sister drove down already, last night would be just me and Dad for dinner.  Dad.  And I.  Alone.  For dinner.  Lord, help me.

This is what I want you all to think about whenever you hear my Dad spouting off at the press conferences next week.  Think about the insanity I endure, be thankful you don’t have to live with it, and pray for me.

My father and I have completely separate palates.  He’s a meat-pasta-potatoes guy with a profound hatred of garlic, whereas I just recently have transitioned to a mostly gluten and dairy-free diet due to allergies.  A dinner we could both enjoy without killing each other or setting the kitchen on fire would be a magnanimous feat.  Factor in the knowledge that Dad usually looks at my dinners like I’m about to enjoy a bowl of owl pellets, and I was worried he’d set me on fire.

I told Dad I’d be out of my yoga class at around 6, and he told me he’d be home around 8.  I usually take the 6 PM class but I knew Dad wanted to have dinner and 7:30 would have been pushing it.  Plus, I wanted to make a really nice dinner for us and I wanted that time.

After my practice I hopped on our elliptical machine in the basement for about twenty-five minutes, just to kill some time, and thought about what to make for Dad and I that we’d both like  The options were limited.  I came upstairs from the basement and stared into the abyss of our fridge.  Chicken.  Potatoes.  Soy cheese.  Asparagus.   God, help me.

I slowly started seasoning a piece of chicken with a rub that was laced with garlic.  I had no idea what Dad wanted on his chicken but I knew if I put garlic on it he’d go postal, so I left it uncooked.  I also stuck some asparagus in the oven.  By this time, it was around 7:30, and I was getting to the point of hunger where you start thinking about choking people for no reason.  Dad was nowhere in sight.  I dialed his number numerous times.

Finally, I hopped into the shower, came back down to the kitchen, and started cooking my own piece of chicken.  I also threw together a big salad for us to share with some spinach and red onion.  I topped my share of the greens with a strawberry balsamic, something I really like but I didn’t think Dad would.  I didn’t know if he wanted rice or a potato, and our loaf of ciabatta bread had been sitting out and had gotten stale to the point where you could easily beat up a burglar with it.

Around 8 PM, I was so hungry I considered spraying Pam into my mouth.  I cooked my piece of chicken, topping it with some roasted red peppers and a slice of soya cheddar.  I had just sat down to my dinner when Dad walked in.

“Hey! Did you make anything for me?”

“There’s asparagus in the oven,” I said quickly, housing some of it as I spoke.  He looked over at the stovetop.  “Is that the chicken?” he asked.

“Yes, I didn’t know what you wanted me to do with it, so I didn’t cook it.  Just throw it in the skillet.”

“Okay.  Can you just put some oil and salt and pepper on it?”

I got up and did so.

“Can you put it on the skillet? Do we have any potatoes?”

“Yes, I’ll put one in the oven for you.” I opened the oven.  But wait! His asparagus! “Do you want some of this?” I asked, waving the pan in his face.  He shook his head.  Ah, well, more for me.  I dumped it onto my plate after poking the potato with a fork, washing it, and shoving it into the oven for about an hour.  Dad proceeded to take over the chicken cooking on the skillet so I could have a few more bites of my dinner.  He stared at the salad I had cobbled together.

“What kind of lettuce is this?”

I looked up.  Disbelieving.  It’s spinach.”


“Oh.  Is it good?”

“I eat it all the time.” Which is true.  I practically buy out the supermarket’s supply of Olivia’s Organics.

“What do you put on it?”

“…Dressing?”

“Oh.  Okay.  Do you want wine?”

Can I put a straw in the bottle?

I think by this point you can see what happened next.  I got slightly schnockered and proceeded to coach Dad through the preparation of his chicken and salad.  If you follow my Twitter (@alysamarsiella) you can see that all of the above events are true and did in fact happen.

I tease, but Dad actually did a great job.  He put some of his fra diavolo sauce on the chicken, as well as some hot pepper flakes and chili powder (I had a bite and I’m shocked I didn’t immediately get an ulcer). He also had the brilliant idea of putting roasted chestnuts into his portion of the salad, along with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  It actually turned out to be an amazing dinner, despite some hiccups.  He was very proud of himself, and I think he should get a gold star and an extra ten minutes at nap time.

The potato looked done about 45 minutes into cooking, so I took it out of the oven and presented it to Dad.  He cut it open and looked as if he had been given a piece of raw fish.  “This isn’t cooked! Put it back in the oven! It’s raw!”  I did, but I may have shot him a look that would level several Vulcans.  It was a bit of a blessing in disguise, however…the potato, when cooked sliced open, had the consistency and flavor of a large French fry.  I may have found a new favorite way of cooking potatoes, and Dad loved it.

Aside from a slightly awkward moment at the beginning of the meal as Dad attempted to convince me to go on to PHd after I receive my Masters (one step at a time, Pops), we managed to get through the meal with laughter and good feelings.  And wine.  Obviously.

After dinner, Mom called, and I overheard Dad say to her “Dinner was great! I made some chicken and  a baked potato.” To which I emphatically yelled “I PUT IT ON THE SKILLET.”

Silence.  Then – “Yeah, Ally helped.”

Glug glug.

We settled into the couch and watched the end of the UCONN game as well as the beginnings of the Duke and Butler games.  We finished off the night with wine, Ben and Jerry’s (for him), chocolate-flavored tea and fruit(for me…gave up dessert for Lent because I’m a masochist, and trust me I was craving some chocolate), and several viewings of e*trade baby commercials I found through youtube that caused us to huddle around my laptop, howling with laughter.  Dad’s favorite one is the ‘Solitary’ spot, where the baby is given a time-out for riding the family dog around like a horse.  Apparently it’s ‘frowned upon in this establishment’.

About halfway into the Butler game, Dad looked at me with concern.  “You’re up late! Shouldn’t you be in bed?” I looked at the clock.  10:30.  I’m usually upstairs and in bed around 9.  Which says a lot about my social life.  Although in my defense, I go upstairs around 9 and then just sit around watching reruns of Criminal Minds and The Late Late Show until midnight.  Wait, did I say that? I meant I study.  All night.

I nodded, and got up to give him a hug.  He gave me a kiss on the cheek, thanked me for dinner, and said the best birthday present he got this year was the call telling him I’d gotten into grad school.

And suddenly…a frantic night, a carafe of wine, a nearly-exploding potato, and a demanding/picky eater didn’t seem so bad after all.

Happy birthday, Dad.

ally

PS.  I did get Dad a tangible present as well as the announcement of my continuing education.  I purchased him a jar of roasted chestnuts.  It seemed right.  I almost put a bow on it, but that would have been too on the nose.

PPS.  The quote of the night comes from Dad telling me about the young man who won the National Wrestling Championship, despite only having one leg.  “Ally.  He can do an 8 minute mile on crutches.  I can’t even do an 8 minute mile on a bike.

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5 thoughts on “My dinner with Dad.

  1. what Jim said

    my first wife was staring center at UConn from 1969 to 1971 (just after they started playing 5 person basketball) so I know first hand where this program has come from

    Like

  2. Thanks for sharing your evening with us…. It's fun to read abut your Dad as, well, a Dad!!! Great images of him cooking. So excited about the games this weekend! go UCONN! And congrats to you on grad school. Go YOU!

    Like

  3. Beautiful. I appreciate a love that breathes naturally, without fanfare. I treasure your Dad's Book. Me huge UConn fan. Best to you, Ally. Thank you for your lively writing.

    Like

  4. “Around 8 PM, I was so hungry I considered spraying Pam into my mouth.”

    That made me laugh so hard I choked. As the daughter of a father who looks at the kitchen like it's an alien life-form, I empathize. I laughed all the way through this entry. Great stuff.

    Like

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