For the most part the meals of my childhood were made by my mom. I have the utmost respect for her because of this. She nearly always cooked from scratch, blessedly avoiding the prepackaged, Hamburger Helper-esque meals that most of my friends were eating. She also managed to put up with my sister and me who were woefully picky as children. We were more content to eat frozen par-cooked tortellini than real food (I still do this, though no longer in stead of a meal). Despite what I may have avoided eating as a child, I credit my mom for passing on her love of food. Now it's the two of us rolling our eyes at the picky eating habits of my sister, and sometimes my dad, rather than her attempting to find something to feed her children at which they won't turn up their noses.
Although she did a lot of the cooking there were certain things that were specifically a la dad if you will. He is particularly gifted at making grilled cheese sandwiches and Kraft dinner, which may not sound like much of an accomplishment, but for the longest time I wouldn't eat either of those things unless they'd been made by my dad. This used to irk my mom. After all, it's just Kraft Dinner. But he always makes the cheese sauce to just the right consistency and always manages to crisp up a grilled cheese sandwich perfectly without burning it. I still haven't mastered the grilled cheese sandwich. I always burn at least one side of it. Always. I think I'm too easily distracted.
He also used to make this concoction involving chicken, mushroom soup, and rice. I used to love this dish. The rice mixed up with the soup and the chicken and baked into a casserole type thing. The thought of it alone is now enough to trigger my gag reflex. Even just writing about it has made me slightly nauseous. I actually think my dad's love of mushroom soup, whether eaten as soup or baked on top of toast, is the reason that I can't even stand to look at it anymore. I simply ate it too much (though never on toast, I'm happy to say).
I just realized I'm making it sound like he's not a very good cook, which is inaccurate. He's great on the barbecue. Summer is full of food a la dad. Sliced potatoes with rosemary, delicious shrimp, chicken kebabs. And on the stove top he can fry up some mean bacon (another thing I much prefer when cooked by my dad). But if there's one item of food he has changed irrevocably for me it's scrambled eggs. I know scrambled eggs sound kind of boring. You can't step into a decent breakfast joint in North America without encountering scrambled eggs, but he does them differently. They contain the magical, if somewhat humble, ingredient of Cheez Whiz. Yes, it is decidedly un-gourmet, and processed beyond the point of meriting the title "cheese", but these are delicious eggs.
For the longest time my sister and I were under the impression that this was how all scrambled eggs were made. The Cheez Whiz was a given, as are many things that you encounter as a child until you find something different. Needless to say, my sister and I were being set up for great disappointment. I don't remember where we were exactly, I think out for Sunday brunch, when we had our first encounter with non-Dad scrambled eggs. We rushed up to the eggs with our plates and piled them on, such was the excitement that scrambled eggs inspired. Then we put a forkful in our mouths. It was a horrible experience. Like getting salt when you're expecting sugar. Except we were expecting cheesy and moist where we got bland and dry. When we asked what was wrong with them my dad replied simply that there was no Cheez Whiz in them. We responded with blank stares. We also never got scrambled eggs at brunch again.
Some people find this strange, even repulsive. I think a lot of it has to do with the nature of Cheez Whiz. It's a vibrant orange 'cheese' spread that doesn't even really taste like cheese, enough said. In my scrambled eggs is the only place I'll consume it. But to this day it's also the only way I'll eat scrambled eggs. Even when I make them this way myself they don't turn out quite the way my dad makes them. That could be all in my head, but I think they're like the Kraft Dinner and grilled cheese sandwich. He just has a special touch that makes them perfect.
Scrambled Eggs A La Dad
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp Cheez Whiz
Whisk together the eggs and milk and pour into a heated, buttered pan. Cook the eggs until they start to solidify. Add the Cheez Whiz and stir to melt and mix evenly with the eggs.
Feel free to add more Cheez Whiz if desired. Of course you could also add less, but I think it would rather defeat the purpose of including it in the first place.
Serve on toast, or an English muffin (as I did this morning), or just by themselves if you so desire. Really anything bready will work fabulously. Sometimes my dad will throw on some ketchup, though I'm not sure I can, in good conscience, recommend this. But, to each his own. Enjoy.