Excerpt from the Introduction
by Chris Johns
WHAT A TIME IT IS TO BE A DAD.
In the bad old days, people worshiped rock gods, professional athletes, and movie stars. Not anymore. Now there’s no one, with the possible exception of billionaire space pirates, cooler than dads.
Dad jokes, once relegated to the gutter of humor, are now the height of comedy. Dad jeans, long mocked for their weird fade and general dumpiness, are now the fashionista’s ultimate aspiration. And as for the dad bod? You may not like it, but that is what the ideal male body looks like. We’re not suggesting that being a dad in the early 21st century is without its challenges: global pandemics, unhinged politics, and impending climate disasters are nobody’s idea of a cakewalk, but there’s still never been a better time to be a dad.
If there’s one area where dads don’t fully dominate the zeitgeist, however, it’s food. Somewhere along the line, we think all of us, but especially the fellas, were sold a bill of goods. Thousands of years of patriarchal conditioning taught us to believe that cooking was a chore and something that, if it had to be done at all, should be over and done with as quickly as possible. We couldn’t disagree more with that outdated notion. The idea that a woman, or anyone else, should do all the shopping, cook all our meals, and constantly clean up after us seems bizarre, antiquated, and, frankly, unappealing.
Besides, cooking is a blast. Hunting down the best ingredients to feed your friends, your partner, your children, and your family healthy, delicious, lovingly prepared food is a gift. That doesn’t mean every meal has to be a six-course blowout, but even simple meals assembled in a hurry or put together from leftovers are an opportunity to share pleasure.
Conveying that pleasure was a big inspiration behind writing this book. We wanted to help dads conquer the final frontier, to become culinary heroes as well as ass-kicking, name-taking, general life-conquering Superdads. We also wanted to make a book that recognized the role today’s dad plays in the modern household.
Cory and I both come from restaurant backgrounds—Cory as an owner and chef, and me as a critic and itinerant food writer. When we first sat down to discuss the idea of working on a cookbook, to figure out how to best get Cory’s food into the hands and mouths of readers, we realized that although we share a deep and abiding love of restaurants, what really excites us is cooking at home.
We could easily have filled a book with the dishes Cory made his name with from his days running the Harbord Room, or his collection of Flock Rotisserie restaurants, or his work with the Cactus Club Cafe test kitchen. We both realized, however, that home cooking was its own unique beast and that there are things cooks can make at home that simply can’t be managed in a busy restaurant kitchen, at least not nearly as well. While some of the recipes he’s included here have made appearances in one form or another in his restaurants, they were all tweaked and perfected at home, and most of them are pure home cooking. The recipes are all Cory’s and the headnotes for the recipes derive from our conversations about food in general and those specific dishes in particular, so you’ll hear his voice throughout those.
We’re operating under the belief that the modern dad isn’t clueless when it comes to food. Our culture is saturated with cooking shows and cooking competitions, and food porn is as ubiquitous as that other kind of porn. Even people who rarely, or even never, cook have an understanding of food and ingredients that previous generations simply didn’t have. It is within living memory that fried calamari was considered an exotic specialty item only to be indulged in by the most adventurous of eaters. Your grandparents—unless they were Hawaiian, in which case, lucky you—probably never had poke tuna in their lives. Now there are six poke places within walking distance of my house. My point is, people’s food knowledge has expanded exponentially in the past 20 years, and naturally, that includes dads’.
We’re confident that you know how to boil water, light a barbecue, and conjure up a decent grilled cheese sandwich, so we’re starting with an assumption of baseline understanding. That said, there are recipes in this book that complete novices can accomplish with ease and those that might teach even more practiced cooks a couple of new tricks. Nothing is beyond your average dad, and all of the recipes are well within reach. Even more than just a list of ingredients and instructions, however, this book aims to give readers the confidence to apply some of the ideas and techniques contained in these recipes and become more capable and confident cooks with whatever they’re preparing. Think of these recipes as templates that are designed to give you the skills to accomplish that particular recipe, and then add your own interpretation as you see fit. Cory’s designed these recipes to build cooks, not just people who can follow instructions.
While this is first and foremost a book written by dads for dads, it is also for anyone who might one day consider becoming a dad, and anyone with a dad. Of course, in the selfless eating-the-crust-ends-from-the-loaf-of-bread tradition of dads everywhere, moms, daughters, sons, uncles, aunts, and everyone else are welcome and encouraged to cook from its pages as well.
Let’s do this.
Copyright © 2023 by Cory Vitiello and Chris Johns. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.