Monday, September 6, 2010

Food Blog Part II: My Father Don Gipson

My Father

To explain my father's approach to cooking I'm going to have to let my geek out for a little bit. In Dungeons and Dragons there are two primary classes of spell casters – sorcerers and wizards. Sorcerers are innate spell casters. They are able to conjure the forces of the arcane because they understand the relationship between those forces and the forces of nature. They don't learn magic, study magic, or debate magic. They just do magic, and that is enough for them. Wizards are more academic. They have schools and devote their lives to not only the practice of magic, but also to the study and preservation of magic. Magic to them is governed by complex laws and theories and the more devoted you are to a magical education the better you will be at it. They pour over old tomes, execute the greatest precision when brewing potions, and utilize great amounts of time to prepare spells before they cast them. With this analogy it isn't hard to see where I'm going.

When it comes to cooking, my mother is very much a sorceress. She uses her intuition and senses to prepare things. She rarely follows a recipe. She measures things in "bitsy bitsy's," "glugs," and "squirts." She waits until "the juices run clear" before her steaks are done. She is anything but academic when it comes to the kitchen. My father, however, was the polar opposite. He was a wizard in the kitchen in the truest sense. In fact, he had a creed that typified an academic mindset when it came to cooking, a creed he dedicated himself to – "If you can read you can cook." He poured over cookbooks like the old wizard engrossed in a huge book. He measured everything exactly. Everything was always pre-chopped, pre-poured, pre-everythinged before the oven or stove was even lit. He was the epitome of cooking wizardry, and for him, somehow, it worked marvelously.

While my father didn't cook the wide array of dishes my mother cooked, he did do some things very well, and there are a few things that stand out in my mind. Like I stated before, my father was one of three people in my family who excelled at biscuits and sausage gravy. His gravy was a little darker than my mother's and he didn't skimp on the amount of black pepper he put in the finished product. They were different than my mother's in a lot of respects, but still very good. He made a pork loin with a red wine sauce that would, in his words, make you "wanna slap your mama." And on Christmas 1997 (I think) he made a bid for best standing rib roast of all time. At 5:00 a.m. that morning he began the process of slow cooking a standing rib roast weighing in at somewhere between ten and twelve pounds(seven sections altogether). He cooked it on a low temperature for seven hours. At noon we arrived at his house where he had a feast of mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, salad, gravy, hot rolls, and of course, the roast itself. When he took the behemoth out ofthe oven it looked like the slab of ribs the waitress brings Fred Flintstone at the end of every episode, so big it weighs his car down and causes it to fall to one side. We each (seven of us) got a section of roast, and the meat was so much that it filled nearly our whole plate. I cannot recall much beyond this, only that for the next hour we all said nothing except for the occasional, "Oh fuck that is good" or "Holy shit!" When we finished, every member of my family and myself were laying on the floor. Those who lacked the foresight to wear sweat pants had their top buttons undone so their bellies could unfurl. We were all moaning and panting, suffering from what my sister would later coin as "the meat sweats." All of us would come to recall this time as the Meat Orgy of 1997, and it would live in the annals of our memories even to this day. But even this, even this Meat Orgy is not the thing, if given the chance, I would want my father to cook for me again. There is yet one more thing my father understood better than slow cooking a standing rib roast – eggs.

My father was a genius with eggs, masterfully cooking them in all the various styles. As good as they all were, there is one thing above all I think I would rather him cook for meat this point than anything else – an omelet. For him omelets were all about science. He had a special omelet pan, he knew exactly the right speed to stir the eggs, the correct way to lift the eggs so the uncooked part rolled under, the right time to add the cheese, and his omelet wrist flick was ballet. With some hot sauce and bacon, my father's cheese omelet is easily one thing from growing up I crave even today. This may be a strange choice given his prowess with rib roast, but truth be told, my oldest sister makes an excellent standing rib roast in her own right, and that's something I can get whenever I want. My mother makes an excellent baked salmon. And as I've previously stated, there are several biscuit and sausage gravy aficionados in my family. Nobody makes an omelet like my dad did, not my mother (who cheats and uses those omelet plans that smash the egg and cheese together), not my sisters, and certainly not me (I really suck at omelet making). For me this was the clear choice.

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