Cooking with Dad: Memories that Inspire Me to be Creative, Curious and Always Keep Good Company at t
With Father's Day approaching, we asked Stephanie Covello, The D.C. editor of Bitches Who Brunch, a food and lifestyle website in D.C., Chicago, and New York City, to reflect on fond culinary memories of her late father, Jerry Covello. For recipes, entertaining tips, and brunch reviews, follow her (@stephcswan) and the Bitches (@bitcheswhobrunch) on twitter and instagram and at Bitcheswhobrunch.com.
Dad's Important Mozzarella Advice
"My father certainly wasn’t a stalwart in our family kitchen growing up, in fact my mom was always the top chef in our house, making a proper homemade meal for us every night. But, when my dad was in the kitchen we knew it was bound to be epic. My most vivid memory was of him teaching us how to make fresh mozzarella from scratch, an ambitious attempt to instill the importance of our Italian heritage in my brother, sister, and I. All under the age of 15, the three of us sat wide eyed at our kitchen island while he explained the importance of finding the “curd” — “never trust a store that claims they sell fresh mozzarella if they can’t sell you the curd”— in between grimacing faces from kneading the cheese in a bowl of scalding hot water. We humored him and rolled our eyes. Now, I never buy fresh mozzarella unless I see a sign for “curd.”
It wasn’t just in those epic kitchen moments where my father helped instill confidence and creativity in me. Outside of the kitchen he would bring me along to fishing trips or opening trout day. I think one of the proudest I’ve ever made him was when I caught the first fish on opening trout day, and I was by far the youngest, not to mention only girl, on the trip. We took it home like a trophy to show to mom, before he taught us how to scale, season, and cook it properly.
The Story Still has Our Family Laughing 20 Years Later
Despite the annual opening trout days, he was a pretty crappy fisherman. That could be a whole separate saga, but I always remember his love for lobsters. One summer we took a trip to Nantucket and on the ferry to the island my dad proclaimed to my family (my siblings and I were under the age of 10 years old) that he was going to eat lobster at every meal throughout the duration of the trip. He always had a way of making everything an adventure. We told him it couldn’t be done, which only fueled his fire to prove us wrong. From the lobster benedicts, to the lobster rolls, to the lobster ravioli, the man did it and had us giggling and cheering him on by the end. On the last day I remember all of us waiting in the packed car for dad. He finally gets into the driver's seat and goes to grip the steering wheel only to reveal that his hands had turned into lobster claws--”I ate so much lobster, I turned into one!” he yelled in a sort of “I’m melting, I’m melting” Wicked Witch of the West kind of way. We died laughing and came to find out that he had purchased two lobster claw christmas ornaments to trick us. That story still has us laughing 20 years later. Dad was an all or nothing kind of guy -- a trait I think my family would agree I’ve inherited.
Family and food were second only to sports in our house. The older I get, I really cannot tell you how my parents did it. We were involved in every organized sport on the planet--ice skating at 6am before school, ballet, soccer, crew, baseball, track and field, and hockey. In the “off” season we were dropped off at a little brick building called Dorthea's House, for Italian lessons and cooking classes. We loved it, but it also kind of felt like an extra day of school. I’d give anything to go back to those classes on Saturday afternoons. These classes were in preparation for our family trip to Italy when I was 11 years old. On that trip, my dad somehow convinced a local chef in Positano to come to our villa to teach us how to make a home cooked traditional Italian meal. He had a knack for finding authentic experiences and had the gift of the gab. I think a lot of my passion for discovering local flavors and intimate experiences stem from his example.
What My Dad Did Inspired My Husband's Wedding Gift
For my Sweet 16 he and my mom helped plan a weekend at our Poconos lakehouse for 20 of my friends. It was one of my fondest high school memories, not because it was a perfect weekend, but because I remember my dad tried to make it perfect, despite two days of torrential rain. My friends were troopers, but my dad was next level. He insisted that his business partner and my uncles throw on ponchos and help him make us brick oven pizza in the oven he built on our dock, specifically for this occasion. To this day, I blame him for my passion to host epic parties. I must share this memory countless times, because it inspired my now husband to buy me a pizza oven as my wedding gift.
Although, I can no longer experience these intimate, humorous kitchen moments with my father, I’m certain the memories will continue to inspire me to be creative, curious, and aspire to always keep good company around the dinner table--values I hope to pass on to my kids someday."
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