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Basking in the afterglow of Father’s Day

  • Robert St. John says becoming a father was, unquestionably, the best thing that ever happened to him.

By the time this column is published Father’s Day will be several days in the rearview mirror. That may be the case when it comes to the calendar, but I’m still basking in the afterglow of that fine day.

There was nothing monumental, or out of the ordinary, that happened this Father’s Day. At least not in typical terms. I didn’t travel to an exotic locale or eat a multi-course meal in an exceptional restaurant. I barely left the house.

I have been running hard over the past year or two and double-hard since February of this year. Over the course of those five months there hasn’t been much downtime. Yesterday (I am writing this on the day after Father’s Day), was a welcome respite.

Every day I am in town, I am in the bakery at Loblolly by 5:30 a.m., then sitting at table 19 in The Midtowner by 6:45 a.m. That’s every day, never skipping a day. Yesterday was a rare skip day when I let the restaurants do their thing. I slept until 6:30 a.m. and then got up and made pancakes using my grandmother’s recipe. After that I started a “Mission Impossible” movie marathon, had barbeque for lunch, and tacos for dinner. Again, nothing special.

The most special part of the day was getting to spend time with my daughter. My son is off at culinary school and will miss the next couple of Father’s Days until he moves back to the area and goes to work for us.

They ask me every year what I want for Father’s Day and the answer is always the same, “To spend time with my kids and maybe go to a movie.”

Again, seemingly nothing special. Just a rare day off relaxing. But it was special. Very special, actually. It was Father’s Day.

“I hate Father’s Day” That’s what I used to tell my mom when I was a young boy. At our church all the kids in Sunday School wore red boutonnieres on that day. Since our father had died, my brother and I were made to wear white boutonnieres. I hated that. Looking back, it seems like a cruel tradition to make kids stand out that are already walking around feeling different than everyone else.

Though there is something about not having a father that made me want to be a father. Even in my early teen years, when no kid is thinking about being a father, I dreamed of it. As life would have it, I was 36-years old before I became a father.

It was so worth the wait.

These days I love Father’s Day.

Becoming a father was, unquestionably, the best thing that ever happened to me, and will remain the best thing that ever happened over the course of my entire life. I love being a dad. I believe it— like the restaurant business— is what I was born to do. I’ve been on this planet for over six decades and have seen enough people who are in jobs and careers that they hate. I believe that everyone has a purpose and a unique talent, and one of the early challenges in life is finding that skill set and pursuing it. The fortunate ones do, others don’t. I believe, to my core, that I am doing exactly what I was born to do, careerwise. I also believe fatherhood was something I was born to do. Have I been perfect at it? No. Have I loved every minute, even the challenging times? I believe so.

I have a lot of job titles– restaurateur, chef, author, columnist, tour leader, tv host, tv producer, etc. But, by far, the best job title I will ever have is “dad.”

There are only two photos that exist of my father and me together, but my grandmother used to have our senior portraits side by side on a table where she could see them every day. I have tons of photos of my kids and me together. I realize how blessed I am to be able to have them.

I don’t know if little boys still wear red or white boutonnieres to Sunday School these days. I hope not. But if I could tell those kids one thing, it would be, “Don’t sweat it, embrace the uniqueness. There are great days ahead. You can’t fathom it now, but there is a box hidden deep in your heart, and when your children are born, that box opens, and you discover that you have the capacity to love other human being more than you could have ever dreamed.”

Father’s Day is the BEST day.


This Week’s Recipe: Zucchini-Squash Casserole


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ pounds Yellow squash, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 ½ pounds Zucchini, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Creole Seasoning
2 Tbsp Unsalted butter
½ cup Yellow onion, small dice
¼ cup Red bell pepper, small dice
¼ cup Celery, small dice
2 tsp Fresh garlic, minced
½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Black pepper
¼ cup Green onions, sliced thinly
1 Tbsp Fresh basil, chopped
½ cup Sour cream
¾ cup Smoked cheddar or provolone cheese, shredded
1 cup Coarse unseasoned bread crumbs
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup Fresh chopped parsley
2 Tbsp Melted butter


Preheat oven to 400.

Toss the olive oil, cut squashes, first teaspoon of salt, and Creole seasoning in a large mixing bowl. Spread the squash onto a large baking pan and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, melt the butter over a medium heat in a small sauté pan.

Remove the squash from the oven and place it into a colander. Gently press the squash to remove as much excess moisture as possible. Add the yellow onion, red bell pepper and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the garlic, salt, pepper and green onions and cook for 3 more minutes.

Place the cooked squash, the onion mixture, fresh basil, sour cream, and cheddar cheese and in a large mixing bowl. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to gently fold the mixture together until the sour cream has been incorporate well.

Lower the oven to 325.

Place squash mixture into a 2 quart baking dish. Combine the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley and melted butter and top the casserole evenly.Bake for 20 minutes.

Yield: 8-10 servings

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