Father’s Day: 4 things I have learned from my dad about food and cooking

It is important to make time to sit down at a table to eat meals. Picture: Pexels/Valeriya

It is important to make time to sit down at a table to eat meals. Picture: Pexels/Valeriya

Published Jun 12, 2024


Fair or not, moms get most of the kitchen credit. But dads are often just as involved with cooking, shopping, and planning meals for the family.

For me, one of the greatest influences on my love of cooking and food has been a father figure. I learned how to use a knife in the kitchen because of my dad.

There was a period of time when breakfast and supper were his departments - and daily without fail he always brought his A-game.

I would sit with him as he chopped all the different vegetables to go into the pot. Honestly, I cannot tell you what the specific vegetables were or the other ingredients he used, but I can tell you he was a master with that knife.

When it comes to monthly grocery shopping, both my mom and dad would take turns with the shopping but whenever it was my dad’s turn I would ride with him to the shops.

Before going to the shops he would plan ahead and write everything he would need to buy in advance, and that taught me a lot about meal planning.

Below, allow me to reminisce about the good old days I spent with my old man in the kitchen and all that he taught me about food.

Samp and beans. File Image

Nutritious and delicious meals don’t have to be complicated

Growing up, I learned that putting a nutritious and delicious meal on the table does not have to be complicated. One of my favourite recipes from my dad is one with the fewest ingredients: umngqusho (samp and beans).

So simple, but it is how it is prepared and cooked that makes it so delicious. He also taught me how one ingredient can change the flavour of a whole dish.

For example, how you can use Holsum when cooking samp and beans without toning down the flavour of the dish.

Porridge as comfort food

My dad loved to cook but it wasn’t any fancy meals that I remember most. He used to get up at 4 am when it was dark outside, to go to work.

In his morning routine, he would still make a hot pot of isidudu (porridge) for us which I enjoyed very much with milk, sugar, a cube of unsalted butter or peanut butter, or with the now-discontinued concentrated juice Brookes Oro Crush.

That is probably why, even today, porridge is one of my comfort foods.

Porridge. File Image

Sit-down meals

My dad also taught me the importance of prioritising sitting down together for supper each night. At home, supper would only be dished out when everyone was seated together in the lounge.

Today, I use this lesson to remind myself that no matter how busy the day is, it is important to make time to sit down at a table to eat my meals, and not eat while I’m at the computer, standing in the kitchen or in bed.

I also try plating my food in a way that shows I matter and am deserving of a loving meal.

Let things be or stir things up

When cooking, it is incredibly tempting to want to stand over the pot and stir constantly, if only to feel like you are actively doing something to keep the dish going.

However, many foods - especially meat and vegetables - benefit from staying put in the pot so that the ingredients simmer and cook together.

My dad always supervised me and let me know when to stir and when to let a dish sit.

Over time, these teachable moments have formed into a type of memory as I cook on my own today.

And the brilliant thing is, this concept applies to life as well, we need to learn when certain situations require rest and when they need action.