Pastrami From my Father

So my dad’s birthday was a few days ago, and in his honor I want to tell the world (that’s you guys) how great he is. My dad has had a huge impact on my relationship with food and myself. When I was just a toddler, my parents were running a business together, and often while my mom worked, Dad took me out to do fun stuff. This consisted of eating. Because what, other than My Little Pony, is more fun for a little girl than food? (I also, inexplicably, really loved toy trains.)

He is the reason I love pastrami. As a kid, those traditional Jewish deli sandwiches were HIS favorite food, and there was one thing he knew for sure: When he had kids of his own they were going to eat a lot of them. Pastrami has been a big part of my life. (Someday I’ll tell you about how pastrami factored into my relationship with my fiancé in the most romantic way imaginable. You read it right. Pastrami and romance.)

In photos of me as a kid with my dad, my face tends to be smeared with ice cream. Even though he’s a diabetic, he baked me a cheesecake on every birthday. While my mother has always emphasized eating healthily (she grew her own vegetables until very recently and doesn’t believe in dessert), Dad has always emphasized eating deliciously, even when delicious meant crushed oreos or a thorough deep-frying. In our house, we ate according (mostly) to Mom’s rules. Dad took my brothers and I out for secret junk food. Best of both worlds.

Dad cooked, too, and both he and Mom showed off the culinary knowledge they’d acquired as a young couple when they’d subscribed to Cooks magazine and made all the recipes together on a regular basis. My parents have always been an awesome team.

I remember once at my grandmother’s house, I think I had just been singing something with my great-grandmother, and my dad was talking to his brother. He said to his brother with his eyes full of tears, “Isn’t she beautiful?” I was eight. I still remember his expression perfectly. He looked caught off-guard. As though he hadn’t expected to find himself there, the father of a young daughter, and he was surprised at how amazing it was.

See the deli hat? I was bringing pastrami to his office at the time of this photo. Also, there are no normal photos of him. He's a total clown.

There has never been any doubt that my father thinks I’m beautiful. I can’t calibrate exactly how psychologically important that is, but according to a lot of very official studies and some much less official common sense, I bet it’s really, really, really important.

He understands that I can feel insecure sometimes, but he is confused about why I “have” to. To him, I’m a little crazy for thinking I might not be gorgeous.

Happy birthday, Dad! I love you!!!


Kate on March 29th 2010 in beauty, food, Uncategorized

16 Responses to “Pastrami From my Father”

  1. Amy responded on 29 Mar 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    This is beautiful. Dads are so important. I miss mine a lot. He could cook a steak or an omelet like nobody’s business, and he would help me power through a tough cookie batter. Thanks for telling us about your dad!

  2. Maggie responded on 29 Mar 2010 at 9:35 pm #

    This is the sweetest thing. I love my dad so much. Dads are so important. Happy (late) birthday Larry :)

  3. Cindy responded on 30 Mar 2010 at 12:17 am #

    This is the sweetest tribute EVER. LOVE that he snuck you out for treats and baked you cheese cake on your birthday

    and LOOK AT YOU with that gorgeous HAIR!

    I love pastrami too..with LOTS of mustard and pickles and that’s it!

  4. clare responded on 30 Mar 2010 at 3:09 am #

    oh happy birthday do your pop! what a happy post. i agree, it is important for a daughter to feel her father’s love in the sense of beauty. this is not something ive felt from my father, he doesnt express himself, and i guess i dont really know if he thinks im pretty or not. but my heart still and always yearns for him to be proud of me or to see my accomplishments. the dad-daughter thing is deeply important.

    and dang you look cute as heck in that hat.

  5. laura responded on 30 Mar 2010 at 4:42 am #

    your dad is so incredible and you are so so so so lucky to have a guy like him in your life. then again, he is lucky to have a daughter as amazing as you are too.
    happy birthday larry!!!

  6. Gaby responded on 30 Mar 2010 at 5:00 am #

    This is so sweet! Thanks for sharing! I love both of my parents more than life itself, and while my mom has become my BFF as I’ve grown up and we now gossip and chat just like any friends would, there are still those unexpected moments when I can simply feel how much my dad cares about me and it makes me SO happy.
    I love this story my mom tells about when I was little, maybe 2 or 3 year. To preface this, I have to include that my dad is a violinist so he practices/ plays for enjoyment at least an hour every day. At that age, my favorite story was Cinderella. So my mom was reading the story to me and we must have been talking about it and she asked me “where’s the prince?” and I said in my most, “DUH!” kind of way, “he’s upstairs playing the violin of course!”.
    Dad= prince :)

  7. Dad responded on 30 Mar 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    I couldn’t ask for a better birthday present than having you for a daughter. I knew that from the day you were born. (can you see me tearing up?) As far as beauty goes you know how I feel about that one. My daughter is beautiful and always will be. Now go eat the damn pastrami with coleslaw and Russian dressing.

    As far as sneaking you out for non-organic non-soy products I can assure you your mother knew it was happening. She is an amazing mother.

  8. Kate responded on 30 Mar 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    @Gaby– Thanks for sharing your adorable dad story!! Made me grin. Also, that’s so awesome that your dad is a violinist. I want to hear more about your family! (My dad is actually a Jazz pianist!)

  9. Kate responded on 30 Mar 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    @Dad— Hey, Dad! Thanks for writing back here! I’m always up for more pastrami. You know me.

    I think you balanced each other pretty well, since I ate rice dreams and ice cream in equal quantity :)

    Love you!!

  10. Karen responded on 30 Mar 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    What a touching tribute to Dad, Kate. He certainly took every opportunity to introduce you to all the favorite foods of his childhood and had a blast doing so. Aside from your memories about food and Dad, what comes to mind when I think of him and food is how he can make the food he eats look delicious. There were times when I wasn’t hungry at all and he would offer to make me something. I’d say no. He would then prepare a sandwich or whatever for himself. Watching him eat made me hungry. It always looked so good. I would admit that I wanted some and then he would make me one. What a sweetie!
    PS – I very much believe in dessert. In fact, I just finished my nightly melt-a-way – a delicious chocolate from Thomas Sweet .

  11. Kate responded on 31 Mar 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    @Karen— Hey Mom! Nice to have both parents represented here :) That’s SO true about Dad. I always want to eat everything he makes.

    Alright, alright, maybe I was exaggerating a little. But still, one chocolate for dessert isn’t very much…

    Love you!

  12. 'Elisse' responded on 06 Apr 2010 at 9:12 pm #


    It goes without mention that food and culture are inextricably linked to identity and self-perception. I cannot speak on behalf on the entire Hispanic/Latino(a) community, or even my own particular ethnic/cultural family; but I am happy to share some personal thoughts on this matter.

    Generally speaking, I think the culinary traditions throughout (within?) the Hispanic/Latino(a) community are very family oriented; food serves as a vehicle for sustaining and perpetuating family and cultural values. Interestingly, I believe that through food and its preparation, we witness an interesting exchange between patriarchal and matriarchal value systems. Hispanic/Latino culture(s) teems with machismo and yet, there is an undeniable regard and reverence preserved for Woman. On the one hand, cooking and preparing food can be seen as one of the primary means of tending to the Man, and the Family at large. And yet with that, there is power bestowed upon the Woman. I know, seems like a justification for typical patriarchal ideals but hopefully, you’ll see where I want to go with this. With the duty or responsibility of cooking/preparing food bestowed upon Woman, she is endowed with the power to act as Wisdom and Love Incarnate. She is the keeper and preserver of culture and family. She is the sustainer of her family’s heart, body, mind and soul.

    Secondly, I think the cuisines are a reflection of the myriad of influences that define and shape each country and its respective culture and heritage. In one way or another, the food reflects the influences of the colonial powers, namely Spain, the indigenous peoples, the slave communities and the vast array of immigrant communities from Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

    With regards to hearty Puerto Rican food’s impact on womanhood and self- image, it varies and ranges. But in my opinion, it always seemed to be the case that the Puerto Rican woman, or Latina woman in general, is a curvaceous, vivacious woman. She’s a woman whose appeal is partly derived from her relation to good food. Both Puerto Rican food and women are meant to be savory, comforting, enriching. Now because our food can be very hearty and rich, sometimes the physical results may not be so ideal. And of course, this is the case with any culinary tradition. But I suppose one of my main points is that, a strong, beautiful Puerto Rican/Latina woman is (typically) one with curves, a woman of flavor and spice.

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