My Dad, Richard Henry White, aka Grandpops
By Sandy Kay Haines
The exotic spice, a new type of pasta, an unusual offering from the farmers market, craftsman cheeses…the single ingredient that sparks kitchen creativity…This is the excitement, the mystery and artistic expression of cooking.
I learned the thrill of adventure cooking from my father, Richard Henry White. A creative design engineer, scientist, musician, historian, consummate lecturer (sigh), cartoonist (Donald Duck was drawn on my book covers by him for many years), and of course, our family’s adventure cook.
I have very early memories of pulling over our stepping stool (the chair with the swing out steps), climbing up, and peering into a giant over-sized Tupperware batter bowl that looked like a giant measuring cup. I stared with awe at the bubbling, oozing pancake batter with a “secret ingredient” that my father would make Saturday mornings. I would imitate his culinary mystery out in my sandbox, mixing up wet mud, pebbles, and MY “secret ingredient”… earthworms – yum!. I made my pancakes and placed them on the hot concrete to cook knowing, in my heart of hearts, that IF you could eat mud pancakes, mine would taste delicious.
An avid food scientist before it was fashionable; my father would keep experimenting with a dish until he perfected it. His clam chowder, BBQ baked beans, fried rice, Anthony’s Pea Soup knock off and Hawaiian chicken were legendary. However, there were two culinary misadventures that were nothing short of epic. Homemade prickly pear candy setup harder than a lollipop never released from the plate (the plate broke, the candy didn’t). But the vulcanized marshmallow topping poured over ice cream, frozen, then named “baked Hawaii” is worth a place in the Hall of Fame for Culinary Amazements.
Circumstance never deterred my father – a gift he passed down to me. Regardless of where you are, you can always create a memorable dining experience. Tent camping in Canada may have been rustic, but he pulled off an impressive dinner of lobster with fresh baked bread and a very unfortunate reaction to too much drawn butter. Picking too many cherries on one vacation inspired him to can his own cherry jelly – not an easy feat in a cramped trailer kitchen.
My favorite cooking adventure with my father centered on an Asian inspired Saturday night menu. Off we went to the store to buy the unusual ingredients for the night: soy sauce, ginger, Chung King egg rolls, crispy noodles, and DRAGON TONGUE (aka Fruit Roll-Ups that he cut into snake-like tongue shapes). Side by side we cooked, talked, laughed and enjoyed a really special day. Then he got down the special dragon tea set that he bought in Japan when he was in the Navy. It was my job to wash it. To this day, I remember touching the intricate design on it, knowing how special this dinner would be. I took for granted the generosity of his time.
Many years ago, I heard that people get their view of God by looking at their father. That must be true because I believe that God is strong, loving, and way smarter than I ever will be. He will always provide for us, challenge us, make boundaries that help keep us safe, but allows us to grow. It seems so “right” to me that our Heavenly Father reaches out to us with HIS supper – complete with Salvation, HIS secret ingredient.