How meals brought a father and daughter again jointly

I generally dream about sugar cane. Our household dwelling in Okinawa was built future to acres and acres of sugar cane, and back again in the late 1960s, the towering fields had been a extensive playground for me and my large sister, Janet.

I desire about machetes way too. Sweaty, tanned men would chase us with sharp blades immediately after we’d stolen a several sugary stalks for treats. Each and every time, Janet and I had to clamber about a wall, into our lawn, for security.

Precocious little girls, we would scream and chortle as we’d run to our dad for protection. He’d be out back again, generally grilling up burgers or steaks. At 6 foot 4, our American father was a large on the island. The locals never messed with Glenn Barnes.

When we offered him with our unwell-gotten gains, he’d slash off the outer layer of the sugar cane, and the three of us would stand there, bent above, next to the sizzling grill, sucking out the sweet juices. Then we’d spit the fibrous bits on the floor and, being the very little brat that I was — I’d wave at the angry adult men in the fields.

My father, who mostly worked as a musician, was the cook dinner at property. Our mother was active managing a productive nightclub, which meant she slept all working day. It was during the Vietnam War, and the U.S. had a substantial armed forces existence on the island. Just about every night, her club was loaded with younger adult men possibly on their way to or returning from struggle. I really don’t consider she at any time produced us a meal or even tucked us into mattress.

Janet, still left, and Jo in Okinawa in 1967.

(Jo Stougaard)

My father was king of the house and the kitchen area. Besides his backyard burgers, his favorites provided omurice (rice topped with an omelet), fried rooster, Okinawan pork stomach and vintage tuna sandwiches. He made use of to wake us right before sunrise and just take us fishing nearby. I hated fishing but I beloved all those sandwiches — often soggy — produced with tuna, mayonnaise and celery on squishy white bread and wrapped in crinkly wax paper.

Our dad’s 1969 “chicken pot pie Xmas tree” is family legend. We had to take in chicken pot pie for months, just so he could make a tree-formed decoration for the front of the household. He punched holes in the centre of the small, shiny pie tins, and then threaded twinkling lights by way of them. The decoration was the hit of our community — Takahara Heights — that year.

Then, in 1972, our parents split.

Divorce is challenging. Worldwide divorce is brutal.Our father received custody and sent his 50 %-Okinawan daughters to Los Angeles to live with his mother and father in rich San Marino. But we had been combined-race island girls and were being simply as well significantly for our getting older grandparents to handle. New preparations would have to be made.

A man holds a camera in a black and white photograph.

Jo Stougaard’s father in Okinawa.

(Jo Stougaard)

Then, to our surprise, our father took a occupation in Scotland (his mother hailed from Clan Maxwell), where he achieved and married his second spouse, Mandy. So Janet and I had been placed in the Masonic Property for Small children in Covina, Calif. My sister lived there for seven several years and I “served 10,” as I appreciated to say. The sprawling compound, 20 miles east of Los Angeles, is still there now (and serving retirees).

Not a moment passed that I did not pine for my father — I was only 7 when we separated. I called him Daddy and continued to do so as an adult. Above the many years, we’d generate letters to every other, and he’d send out care packages of Scottish merchandise (normally shortbread), but what I desired most was him.

A black and white photograph of a father and daughter on a merry-go-round.

Jo Stougaard with her father at Disneyland in 1966.

(Jo Stougaard)

Our grandparents, our legal guardians, did their greatest. During our time at the Masonic Home, we used holidays with them in San Marino. Daddy and Mandy visited a number of occasions, and my sister and I took a journey to Scotland when our brother, Greg, was born in 1980. But the truth is, my relationship with my father was fractured for many years. As a young woman (and younger adult), I couldn’t realize how he could depart me and my sister and commence a new lifestyle in Scotland.

In 2002, I did the hard point. I took a trip to Scotland to confront my father and request him to apologize. It was a single of the most tough moments in my life and I delayed it right until the working day I was to fly back again to California. We sat down together, and I said: “You require to apologize for leaving me in the dwelling, Daddy. You just require to.”

He did. We cried. We begun in excess of.

From then on, I frequented him often, occasionally two or three moments a yr when I’d come across a low cost flight. Scotland was in my blood and, additional critical, my father was in Scotland.

A father and his daughter, with her arm around him.

Jo Stougaard with her father in Scotland in 2006.

(Jo Stougaard)

I appear back at our email messages considering that that 2002 pay a visit to and every single single 1 associated foodstuff, with “must-try” recipes and back links to cooking films. When the Lee brothers produced their “Southern Cookbook,” my dad became obsessed. He sent me a duplicate and, 5,000 miles apart, we cooked through it with each other. On April 22, 2008, he emailed me and stated: “Run — Don’t Walk — to Web site 498 of the cookbook and try out the cornbread! Have built it 2 times and we just can’t quit consuming it!!”

We invested Xmas 2016 collectively at his house in Scotland and experienced the finest time re-building his notorious 1969 hen pot pie Christmas tree. This time all-around, I observed the used pie tins on eBay.

A father and daughter hold hands in front of a Christmas tree.

Jo and Father potpie Christmas in Scotland, 2016.

(Jo Stougaard)

My father was diagnosed with incurable lung most cancers the up coming 12 months. In early June, I flew to Scotland to be with him and support Mandy. She had just brought him residence from the healthcare facility, and he was weak and bewildered. I gave him a hug and he smiled when I informed him I’d be cooking for him. He said a faint “I enjoy you” and squeezed my hand tightly.

Immediately after months of approved, tasteless mush in the hospital, I understood my dad was completely ready for some real foodstuff.

My stepmom was so hectic caring for my father, I wanted to cook dinner foods for her much too. Mandy was the appreciate of his everyday living (they had been alongside one another 45 several years), and cooking was one thing I could do although she managed the a lot of products, health care devices, sorts, cellphone calls, caregivers, nurses and doctors. Caring for my father was a nerve-racking, complete-time work.

When Greg and Janet arrived, our family members was below the same roof for the initially time in years. Daddy was confined to a hospital mattress in a nearby home, but we ended up jointly. We skipped him about the supper table every evening, but we missed him a lot more in the kitchen area.

He did not eat much through the last months of his everyday living — generally just a number of spoonfuls at each food — but I used just about every working day cooking, hoping to fill his kitchen with love.

I would carry a pan close to his area and carefully blow on the steam to diffuse the aroma, hoping to get a reaction. Very little created me happier than when he quietly asked for some thing to eat.

A bowl of chicken in broth and a plate with spinach, avocado and tomato.

Jo Stougaard’s hen produced for her father in June 2017.

(Jo Stougaard)

The to start with evening I manufactured pork carnitas. Daddy grew up in Los Angeles and loved the Mexican food stalls on Olvera Road. I also produced rafute, the Okinawan pork tummy we used to try to eat when I was a youngster. The meat is simmered in sake, soy sauce and broth, and I could notify he savored the foodstuff memory.

Chicken-fried steak with gravy was usually a favorite of ours. But Mandy and I apprehensive that the crispy breading would be tricky for him to swallow, so I arrived up with a creamy “country chicken” that I produced in his force cooker. The final result was hen that was so tender, it did not seriously want to be chewed, and I served it with a vintage Southern gravy.

The night time just before he died, my father was so weak he could scarcely communicate. After a number of bites he requested, “The hen … how did you cook dinner the hen?” It was nearly a whisper, and I was taken aback, briefly, ahead of I explained:

“I applied chicken thighs, Daddy. You taught me they have the most flavor, and I permit every piece of rooster brown just before turning. You taught me to move again and be a affected individual prepare dinner,” I reminded him, incorporating:

“I included onions and garlic and scraped the brown bits from the pot. Then I pressure-cooked the chicken in stock. You taught me that having time to cook dinner for family members is 1 of the most effective gifts in the earth. You taught me that foods is, in truth, like.”

It was our closing conversation and his final food.

Here in L.A., I even now cook with my father every day. There’s a small photo framed in my kitchen — a photo of his village kitchen in Bridge of Weir, Scotland. It is up on the wall subsequent to ladles, spatulas and myriad smaller mixing bowls — correct exactly where it belongs.

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