Food Memories with Dad

Cooking is a huge part of my dad’s well-being and he finds no greater joy than making and sharing his signature fried rice, Portuguese bean soup, and mochiko chicken. Of course I think it’s among the best and I appreciate all the times he’s made these dishes for us.

Food is comfort. Even more so when it’s prepared or given to us by someone we love. So in celebration of Father’s Day, we put together a collection of food memories with our dads. Have your own story to share? Please add it in the comment section below.

“My father, Shigeru, made the best shrimp tempura. They were puffy, light, crispy, and so delicious that they didn’t need a dipping sauce. To this day, I think they were better than any tempura you can get at any restaurant or okazu-ya. He made them only once a year. I tried to recreate the recipe once with merely adequate results. I haven’t tried to make it since then, but it’s been in the back of my mind for a long time. I think it’s time to try again. It was the best shrimp tempura ever. And my father was the only one who could make it.” – Marlene N.

"My mom is an accomplished cook, which meant dad stayed out of the kitchen unless she was sick or away from home. When he did get the chance to cook, he always made us breakfast food like bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, pancakes, waffles, and – his favorite – sausage and jelly biscuits. My brothers and I would sit down to heaping plates, inhale our food before the butter finished melting into the pancakes, and fight over the last slices of bacon. We’re not so small anymore, but we still fight over bacon (because bacon) and breakfast food still holds a place in our hearts, especially when we make it with dad.” – Christa H. 

“My dad likes to hunt, which meant there was always a freezer full of venison. Since wild game can be difficult to cook without becoming tough or tasting like leather, my dad had a “special marinade” (which, in retrospect, was probably store-bought Italian dressing) that he would use before grilling, either outdoors or on the stovetop. It’s not easy getting kids to eat anything but chicken nuggets, but I still love venison and jump at any chance to eat it. I think it will always remind me of my dad.” – Colleen C. 

“Thanksgiving always felt more significant than any other holiday. It was the one day of the year that my dad would cook, using recipes passed down to him from his mother. He was in charge of everything, from the turkey to the stuffing. Every Thanksgiving morning, he would wake my brother and I up by 6 a.m., and we'd start preparing the stuffing. Sometimes I'd imagine my father in my place, helping my grandmother put together Thanksgiving dinner. I hope to someday carry on the tradition.” - Matthew N. 

“My dad wasn’t the cook but he did bring home the bacon! He worked in Chinatown and would take me to work once in a while and buy me my favorite sticky rice and hot tea with lemon. Satisfied with my treats, I would hang out in his office while he worked.” – Tai M.  

“My dad is an amazing cook! From Hanamaulu chicken to chex mix to his famous clam dip, his cooking just feels like ‘home.’ My favorite dish he makes is chicken fricassee. The chicken thighs with potatoes, carrots, and gravy over white rice is so comforting and warm. It’s the first thing he makes for me when I go home to visit.” – Maile A. 

“My dad grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Whenever it was his turn to cook dinner for the family, we looked forward to eating his savory jambalaya!” – Rachel K. 

“I love my dad dearly but he is completely incapable of cooking. His kitchen skills are generally limited to instant ramen. I’ve seen him boil eggs once for my mom’s birthday. However, none of these facts have stopped him from claiming that he has "hidden Chinese skills" in making fried rice (and the only thing stopping him is his lack of a proper wok). My mother and I are skeptical, but it’s an entertaining running joke. Maybe one day, I’ll actually get to taste this mysterious fried rice!” – Jennifer H.

“When I’d visit my dad on weekends, he would always make us breakfast on Saturdays. Since he liked to grill, I have fond memories of him making me special treats like a leftover steak sandwich. He always made sure that we had a balanced dinner (protein, starch, and vegetables) and that we ate together at the dining table instead of in front of the TV. I also remember that he’d run to Kilani Bakery in Wahiawa once in a while for their famous brownies. My dad was good at teaching us to enjoy nutritious, balanced meals as a family.” – Denise L.