What happens when you interview your dad about foodie culture
I don't know about your dad, but mine has reached the pinnacle of suburban sexagenarianism. He works from home, rising each day before the sun for an email rampage that sets up his first nap of the day (also before the sun). He is an expert at pretending to do the dishes, post-WWII industrial history, and sitting on couches. Passion for and knowledge of this wild, rich culinary culture, on the other hand, comes less easily -- he buys generic-brand tuna in bulk, barely cooks, and occasionally snacks on frozen peas directly from the bag.
But this being for Father's Day, and me being a hack/writer at Thrillist, I thought it only made sense to interview my father, Nick Infante, about annoying foodie stuff like gluten, unnecessarily bitter beers, and Stumptown coffee. It went well, despite the fact he didn't understand what he'd agreed to. “How many people are you gonna interview for this story?" he asked as we sat at the kitchen table of my childhood home. I explained the interview was specifically about his opinions. "It's just about me? Holy sh*t!”
So yeah: it went well. Read on to hear my dad preach on food and drink culture. Happy Father's Day, Pops.
What is kale?
“Seafood. Sea... uh… no it’s not. It’s a bitter lettuce/cabbage-like vegetable. Kelp is what I was thinking about, right?"
Do you like Sriracha?
“Never heard of it." [It’s a hot sauce.] “I don’t like any hot sauce.”
Can you have your cake and eat it too?
“Of course you can. I guess it would be a cake you buy in a store, then you go back the next day and get some more.”
Remember the Atkins Diet?
What is the key to a perfect burger?
"Freshness, the proper proportion of, uh, leanness or fat to meat. Always grilled, never fried, and not overdone, like I cooked them yesterday. Sorry about that.”
On a scale from one to 10, how super are superfoods?
“Six. What’s an example of one?”
Which is better: gluten-free or free gluten?
(Long silence) “Am I allowed to say it’s a stupid question?”
Chemex, drip, or French press?
“French. I don’t like drip. Oh wait! Drip is what we make! Can I change my answer?”
Would you rather only eat barbecue ribs for a year, or tell a barbecue pitmaster that his ribs sucked once?
“The latter. I don’t like eating ribs because I get all the sauce in my mustache, and it’s too much work to get the meat. I like using a fork and a knife. ” [But what about the pitmaster?] “I see myself saying it while running away from him.”
McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy’s, or other?
"Duchess." (A Connecticut chain that serves hot dogs & tuna sandwiches)
Do you fold your pizza or eat it straight on?
Do you put ranch on it?
“No. (Horrified face) No way. Absolutely not. That’s disgusting.”
BEER OF THY FATHER
What’s your favorite kind of beer?
“St. Pauli Girl, for its everyday drinkability. Also, because I used to work for St. Pauli Girl.”
If I was a bartender, what would you order?
“St. Pauli Girl.”
Fruit in beer: yay or nay?
“Absolutely not. If beer tastes good, it tastes good. You shouldn’t have to doctor it.”
Let’s talk IBUs.
“International bitterness units. Um… I think it’s a pretty established and renowned and accurate way to measure the bitterness of beers and ales. It’s a way to keep selection of hops consistent.”
So do you like IPAs?
“Most of them are too bitter for me.”
How many beers do you think I can drink before throwing up?
What do you make of all these people who blog about food & drink?
“To each their own. I think the extent to which people talk about food is a little ridiculous. I like food -- I’m not a gourmet, but I think it’s a little crazy. But to each their own.”
Where do you stand on foie gras?
“It’s not for me… I’ve never really even had it. It sounds disgusting.” [I tell him about California's recent ban on it] "I'm not surprised. California does a lot of goofy things. Where does it come from? A goose?”
What’s your favorite cooking show?
“The one with Guy? Diners, Dumps… is that a cooking show? Yeah, that one.”
Is mixology real?
“Yes! OF COURSE IT IS! It’s the scholarly learning of being a consummate bartender. It’s absolutely an art and a science.”
Do you think the donut will eventually become too big to fail, like the cupcake craze of 2011-’12, or the macaron craze before it?
"The donut?! They have been around for a million years. Yeah, they made it! They’re here to stay!”
Have you ever eaten something farm-to-table?
“Oooof. (Scoff/fart noise) Maybe had eggs, somewhere along the way. Yeah.”
GREAT MOMENTS IN DAD-FOOD HISTORY
How/where did you meet Mom?
“I was a beer salesman, and she worked for General Foods. We met in a supermarket at 8:30am in the morning, and we just hit it off. I wanted to ask her out but I was too shy, so I called the supermarket later and asked for her number, and the receptionist was like ‘no way’ because she thought I was some nutjob. So I called again the next morning and some other receptionist -- a temp! -- gave it to me.”
What’s the weirdest meal you’ve ever had?
“Rattlesnake in Arizona. It wasn’t really a meal, it was one bite. It was so bad I only had one bite. I don’t know if it was really bad, but it was in my mind that I was eating a snake.”
Have you ever eaten two meals at the same restaurant in the same day?
“The only time I can remember was driving back to Connecticut from California, and we purposely went through Castroville, California for a restaurant called the Giant Artichoke. They had the classic 30ft tall artichoke in the parking lot and everything. They had artichoke burgers, ice cream, fried, boiled, artichoke soup, I betcha French-fried artichokes… they had a long list of things. And it was good… or good enough, and we weren’t really in a hurry, so we ate lunch, then kicked back in the car and waited around until dinner time, and ate again."
SPEED ROUND! DEFINE THESE TERMS:
Russian River Pliny the Elder: “Russian River is in California. Pliny the Elder is some philosopher from a million years ago. I don’t know how they’re linked.”
Quinoa: “How do you spell it? Oh! That’s a grain, like a grain I think. Like, uh… yeah, a grain. Somehow it ends up in beverages, too. Maybe that’s quinine?”
Offal: “That’s brains of animals.”
Stumptown: (Silence…) "Never heard of it.”
Cage-free: “I think that refers to free-range chickens, or other animals. Or nefarious criminals who get out on parole.”
Heritage pork: “A brand name of pork. (Throws hands in the air) I dunno.”
Charcuterie: "How's it spelled?" [I spell it out for him] "That's a... a Belgian ale. With pomegranates in it.” (Nods confidently)
Are you proud of me? Interviewing my own father about food like this for a living?
(Laughs; starts talking about me in third person) “I think that my son's content veers too much into the ‘drinking a lot of beer’ and debauchery shades of human behavior, and I can only hope that he doesn’t do this on such a regular basis as he makes it seem in his writing."