My Dad, Ira B. Zasloff, the Chef

My Dad was the one who taught me to cook and also the parent who gave me my first cookbook:  “The Settlement Cook Book.”  It’s still a staple on my cookbook shelf.  And, I think I really got to cook with my Dad because he enlisted me as his sous chef after he had a massive coronary and majorly revamped our eating habits when I was about 12 years old, which would have been around 1957.

Dad was a health educator and a do it yourself-er, so, after his heart attack he took over lots of the cooking and kitchen experiences.  Although my Mom continued to cook, Dad was clearly in charge.  Mostly, he was a super cook, but there were some activities that he never did very well, like mince and fine chop.  He mostly did rough chop.  So, I think I got recruited as sous chef because he thought I could do better mincing and also because I did the dishes.  Now I can safely say, I still detest mincing and still do dishes.  Nonetheless, we managed to create wonderful dishes despite the “larger” chunks of ingredients. No one ever complained about the food and the plates were always clean.

Although his emphasis was on healthy food and lifestyle because of his heart attack, his specialty eventually became Chinese cuisine …and he really did make a mean steamed Chinese sea bass.   Although I now wonder what we did about Soy Sauce/sodium issues, all the food we made was pretty darn good and tasted Chinese-ee.  I still use many of his and my Mom’s recipes.  Eventually, she handled the hot and sour soup we made at home.

We spent MANY Saturdays making Egg Rolls…and we didn’t just make a dozen we made easily 3 dozen or so…usually the number of wrappers in a package I imagine. Then we froze them.  I was the only kid in school who brought egg rolls for lunch…and if the truth be told, my friends were always eager to trade some “cafeteria” food for home made egg rolls.  I could count on getting some great Mac and Cheese or Chicken Chow Mein for an egg roll or two.  We never ate Mac and Cheese after my Dad had his heart attack and although I do like cafeteria food, I don’t eat it anymore….well, mostly.

Because my Dad had to watch his sodium intake, to this day I have trouble remembering to use salt in my cooking, although It’s always on the table for guests to use.

My Dad was an inspiration in my life in many domains and most especially when I am in the kitchen.  Every time I pick up an onion to cut it, I still make sure to tuck my fingers back, just like my Dad taught me.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad!