This icy Father's Day Cocktail is a riff off a classic cocktail- the Sazerac– a staple from one of America’s cultural hot beds, New Orleans. I'm adding extra chill because this father’s day, I'm playing it cool (like dad used to be).
Several years ago, I stood in awe, taking in the brand newness of Wigle Whiskey in its infancy. “Try this!” the owner said, as he stood in front of the shimmering new copper still. I dipped my finger under the slow drip and eagerly plunged my finger into my mouth, expecting that caramel-like, oak-aged flavor.
The wrongness of my false assumption hit me immediately. I tried to regain the composure I had surely lost. Today, that clear liquid has character, a deep amber color and the oak notes that tickle the nose and throat with a little heat. Today it is whiskey, but then, it tasted like I had licked a raw grain like a popsicle. Whiskey takes time, so much time and care.
I imagine parenting to be something like the smack of wheat that hit me when I was expecting maturity. A man might look at a baby bundle of little girl and expect his daughter to carry his belief systems, not to challenge him on everything, to grow up, choose a career path, follow that path and maybe settle down. But then reality hits like a drip from a still, and it’s dreadlocks, a tattoo, a wandering spirit, what some might call a restlessness and others would call curiosity. She’s opinionated, stubborn, a dreamer and a risk taker.
I imagine parenting to be something like the smack of wheat that hit me when I was expecting amber, oaky flavor. The process requires time, patience and a good deal of faith. I’m eternally grateful my parents put trust in the process, allowing me to carve my own path, supporting me along the way.
My dad is not a whiskey drinker, but I am. It’s just one of our many differences. However, the spirit is symbolic of our relationship. I was the surprise smack of wheat, but he was the one who aged well, who changed the most. He opened up, made himself vulnerable and supported me fully. When people say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” I grab a frisbee because my dad has changed more than anyone I know, and I am immensely proud of him for that.
I’m far away and belated (as always), but this is my Father’s Day dedication to my dad. Here’s to the man who placed me in front of a bull and believed I could herd that bull where I wanted him to go. Here’s to the man who handed me big ol’ truck keys long before the state would allow. Here’s to the man who cheered for me from every sideline and from every awards ceremony and then hauled me to my dream school.
Here’s to the man who reads my articles on glorified tea parties because they are my articles on glorified tea parties. But above all, here’s to the man who has wept with me when I needed him to, who shed stereotypes to be sensitive, who tells me he is proud of me and loves me. He made me tough, but he made me sensitive too.
This whiskey cake was for the local dads- the one who raised my Urban Farmer and the one who made that father a grandfather. It’s a cake for the way they melt around the new grand baby, the way they rally to build deck steps, the way they show up and support everything farm related. Here’s a belated ode to my dad, my local dads and to those who act like dads everyday. It’s not an easy role. It’s full of smacks to the face, and not everyone steps up to the plate, but to those who do, I salute you in the only way I know how- through cake!
Peach Whiskey Spelt Cake
About this Recipe: The cake batter will be very wet, but it yields a moist cake with a rich molasses flavor and a hint of whiskey. While the cakes cool, prepare the caramelized peaches, then the caramel and then the whipped cream. The recipe looks intimidating because of the many steps, but the whole cake comes together rather quickly. The alcohol in the cake bakes out, but the whipped cream will maintain the alcohol content, so this cake is not for younger eaters.
From the greeting cards to the gift ideas, Father’s Day tends to err on the side of grilling, golfing, and “man of the family” stereotypes. Perhaps one day, fathers will commonly receive bouquets and mothers will be equally associated with the grill, but in the case of this Father’s Day, I allowed myself to dip into classic gender divides. After all, as a child of the 80s, it was my dad at the grill, and those summer bbq’s are some of my fondest childhood memories. I shared this Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce locally, as gifts for the Urban Farmer’s father and brother, while miles separated me from my own dad. Though editorial calendars would shame me for a delayed holiday reference, this is real life, and in real life, sometimes you acknowledge birthdays, holidays and worse yet, true feelings, late.
As the “blessing child” [ie: an “oops baby”], I arrived on this earth significantly later than my siblings, keeping the nest occupied long past its warranty. As a little girl, the age gap was just a number. I had extra attention, more people to read to me and inspire a love of language, more people to take me on adventures and treat me to donuts! As I grew up, the age gap became isolating at times. I felt caught between alliances with my siblings and parents, wanting to defend each. By the time I was in high school, my sisters were settling down and starting families. My parents were grandparents!
Meanwhile, I was a blank slate with an intense need to see the world and carve my identity. I forged a path that took me to various continents, and seeing life through these different lenses changed me dramatically. I returned home a little different each time, a little less relatable. For parents who had literally taken horse-drawn carriages to one-room, country schoolhouses, the divide between our experiences was immense. I tried to remember this, tried to see the world through their eyes, but impatience and fierce independence often convinced me just to distance myself.
The baby of the family never fully shakes that “baby” role. If I grew up, it meant everyone else was aging too, so it was easier to continue to think of me as young, naive, misguided, weird, in a phase, etc. It was easier just to dismiss my differing opinions, stances I had worked so hard to carve for myself. The woman I had become confused my father more than anyone. Little QT never argued so much. She never objected to his beliefs. It hurt, so we both closed up, and I fled emotionally, until I one day realized, I too was ignoring the passing of time. I risked never saying or hearing the needed words because I was bottling them deep inside me under a stubborn lock. A friend encouraged me to be honest, to seek the exchange I wanted. In one grueling, vulnerable exchange, my father and I bridged generations, mended wounds and slowly moved forward.
He had wanted me to be tough, to stand on my own two feet, not to need him. He achieved his goal but at the cost of the encouragement a daughter needs every now and then. Had we never confronted our wounds, we both may have let too much time pass and fill with regret. Instead, we were able to sit in a cafe, and I saw and heard what I had so desperately wanted to hear- he loved me and was proud of me. It seemed so simple, but it was everything. For my part, I owed him respect he feared had vanished.
I wouldn’t be me without my dad. I wouldn’t have big dreams, a head full of ideas and an intense grammar fixation. I wouldn’t respect the farmers, growers and animal tenders without seeing his struggles and his passion. I wouldn’t see neighbors as part of my community if it weren’t for him, or see complete strangers as people who just need a laugh. I wouldn’t believe in the power of people to change if I hadn’t watched him change so dramatically though the years. He coached me to stand alone, but I’m grateful he’s still there wanting to support me.
Ignore clocks, calendars and prescribed days. Ignore your stubborn side because we babies of the family do age, and time does pass. Listen to that friend who tells you to say what’s on your heart. Celebrate a stereotype if it means celebrating your dad. Fire up the grill, and give flowers to your mom. My dad and I are in different states, and we still differ in so many ways, but I like to think we’ll be eating bbq burgers together soon. Part of me, will forever be his little girl.
Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce
About This Recipe: This is a nuanced bbq sauce, with so many flavors emerging with each bite! Smear it on burgers, or dip sweet potato fries in it. You’ll be tempted to eat it with a spoon! This recipe is intended to make several portions for the sake of gift giving. Reduce it if you’re just making sauce for a bbq, or freeze leftovers. To make it vegan and gluten-free, be sure to buy organic Worcestershire and Liquid Smoke, and double check the labels. I might make this again without Worcestershire, since so many of its ingredients are already part of the sauce. I added the bourbon at the last minute, to retain as much flavor as possible. The residual heat from the sauce should cook out the majority of the alcohol content. I used Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon for an extra special touch!