Dad doesn’t cook for himself. If my mom isn’t present, but if I am, I have to do all the cooking and cleaning. (Unless one of my sisters is also home, in which case they do some of the physical work and I verbally walk them through every step of it so Dad doesn’t get pissy.) If nobody’s home, he orders the most expensive take-out ever.

If you are cooking for my father, you need to know the following:

  • Proper dinners consist of a meat dish, vegetables, and toasted whole wheat bread with a small dipping dish of olive oil. If potatoes are present, he might not eat the bread but it’s better to provide it anyway.
  • Dad does not eat leftovers except leftover venison from Thanksgiving.
  • Dad does not eat “white” dinners. Meaning, dinners where all the food is white. If you serve him cauliflower, chicken, and rice, he’ll throw his food out.
  • Dad’s bread must be served on a separate bread plate. Always.
  • When plating Dad’s bread, set the bread so it is slightly on the raised edge of the bread plate to minimize toast sweat.
  • Bread should be toasted at the number 4 setting on the toaster.  If it’s toasted on the wrong number, don’t try to fix it by re-toasting on a lower number to get the bread to the brownness of number 4 setting toast-ness.  The toast is ruined.  Throw it out and start over.
  • Dad only eats whole wheat bread.
  • Dad does not eat with disposable dishware. Ever. He actually agreed to let my mom raise their children as Presbyterians instead of Catholics because she promised to never make him eat off of disposable dishware with plastic flatware again.
  • Dad requires two vegetables of contrasting but complimentary colors with every dinner.
  • One of those vegetables MUST be dark green.
  • Salad is considered one vegetable, and is not considered green. Nobody knows why.
  • Salad cannot be served with a ranch or Cesar style dressing. Basically, none of that white cream stuff.
  • Salad also cannot have bacon or croutons in it. Then it’s not a salad. It’s junk food pretending it’s salad.
  • Dad does not believe fruit is a dinner food. Do not serve fruit with dinner. Dad saw apples being served with pork at a restaurant once. Dad will now eat cooked apples with pork. But this is the ONLY fruit he will eat with dinner.
  • Dad will not eat red meat two nights in a row except on weekends, when he’s been able to attend Krav Maga and strength/conditioning classes.
  • Dad won’t eat pork more than once a week month, and would prefer it be served less than that.
  • Dad will only eat the following vegetables: Broccoli, peas, carrots, asparagus, green beans, salad, beets, butternut squash, brussel sprouts, red cabbage, rutabaga, corn, cooked spinach, broiled cauliflower, red bell pepper, tomatoes, and this weird frozen quinoa+green shit thing Mom found at Whole Foods.  (He will say he also eats kale but that’s actually a breakfast food and you can’t serve it for dinner.)
  • Butternut squash has become the Y of vegetables.  It is sometimes a vegetable, depending on the rest of the meal being served.  It’s better to just consider butternut squash a side-dish than attempting to figure out when it’s considered a vegetable.
  • Don’t serve cabbage more than once a week because Dad doesn’t actually like it as much as he says. Dad now only eats cabbage once or twice a month.
  • Never serve the same vegetable combination twice in a row. Or the same vegetable twice and a row.
  • Cooked carrots and raw carrots count as two different vegetables but only do one after another once a week, tops or they’ll stop being two different vegetables.
  • If Dad complains about a lack of “variety” in his food don’t actually try to fix it. He literally only likes the things on the provided list. Give him one vaguely-Asian vegetable once, he’ll tell you to never serve it again, and happily go back to the foods on the provided list.  (Broccolini- or as it’s known at home, “what the HELL is this?”- has already been used for this purpose and probably won’t work a second time, so you should pick something like bok choy or rabe.)
  • Serve broccoli with the stalks pointed downwards/hidden, so it looks like a green lump. Dad thinks it tastes better that way.
  • Dad prefers all cooked vegetables to be steamed. Except for asparagus, cauliflower, rutabaga, red bell peppers and brussel sprouts. Those should be lightly coated in olive oil and broiled. Butternut squash should be broiled, then pureed with some shallots, celery, and coconut oil.
  • Dad does not believe shallots, garlic, mushrooms and onions are vegetables but will enjoy them as side-dishes if you choose to saute or roast them.
  • Do not salt food while cooking if Dad can see you, Dad is afraid eating salt will give him a heart attack. But make sure to salt while he isn’t looking, because he actually really prefers his food salted.
  • Dad doesn’t eat butter.  As far as he knows.
  • Never give Dad a butter knife with his food. The implication that he might eat butter upsets him.
  • When making a chicken breast, Dad really likes it if you slide a few patties of butter under the skin before cooking. But NEVER tell Dad you do this, or he’ll stop eating chicken because he’s afraid of butter.
  • Do not serve Dad fatty foods. (More accurately, food he knows is fatty.)
  • Do not serve Dad sugary foods.
  • Dad doesn’t use chopsticks.
  • Do not serve Dad foods from non-western countries. He’ll claim he likes “good” east Asian food, but he’s lying.
  • Russia doesn’t count as a western country.
  • If you tell Dad a certain dish is Irish, he’s more likely to enjoy it. But don’t try to substitute Irish soda bread for the whole wheat bread. Irish soda bread is like an extra desert you eat with dinner.
  • Do not serve pasta-based dinners more than once every other month. Dad loves them, but hates eating them because he thinks they’re unhealthy and may kill him.
  • The above applies to fried chicken. Dad loves it, but won’t eat it often because he thinks it will kill him.
  • Dad doesn’t like rice of any variety. He’ll say he likes wild rice but he’s lying.
  • Dad doesn’t eat spicy food. The most he can tolerate is table pepper.  (Dad will *say* he can eat spicy food, but he’s thinking about food with pepper on it.  Just don’t serve him spicy food.)
  • Dad doesn’t like broccoli nearly as much as he claims, and rarely finishes it. You can still serve it regularly.  (The same goes for brussel sprouts.)
  • Dad drinks a glass of lemon or lime la croix, with a piece of citrus squeezed into it, with dinner. He will make this himself. Do not try to be nice and do it for him. It won’t be right.
  • Plate food nicely, because then Dad thinks it tastes better. He likes garnishes.
  • If Dad will be home while you are cooking, time everything to be done at once and make sure it’s served to him hot.
  • If Dad will not be home while you are cooking, it doesn’t matter when everything’s finished, but it has to be in the refrigerator, covered in saran wrap when he gets home. (Do not ready his bread in this case, he will do that himself.)
  • NEVER let food juices mix. Everything should be separated.
  • Don’t try to separate Dad’s food with one of those kiddie plates. He gets really, REALLY mad when you try that.

Congratulations. You are now ready to cook for my father.

Occasionally, Dad changes the rules on everybody.  The list is updated to reflect those changes.