It was the doughnuts that did it for me.
Picking up a dozen doughnuts was a weekend errand in my childhood that turned into a ritual, and it was a ritual with dad.
The doughnut run was a rare instance of pickiness for my father. He was usually pragmatic about food, unconcerned with brand names and unmoved by food trends.
And yet, even though we were just going for a dozen jelly filled or maple frosted to have around the house on a Saturday morning, it was clear this was special. We wouldn’t go just anywhere. We went to a shop all the way across town, about 10 miles from our house (I grew up in Rhode Island and the shop in question is an independent of local renown called Allie’s Donuts).
To a kid, this trek qualified as a long journey. It was exciting because of the destination, and it was significant because it meant time with dad, one on one. On the drive, he’d tell stories, mainly about our family or his exploits before I was born. The doughnut run was downtime for him. The doughnut run was dad time for me.
Father’s Day does not have the same fanfare as Mother’s Day, and the holiday brunch or dinner out doesn’t have the same obligatory status. But while we think about dads leading up to the day, it’s natural to think about the rituals we’ve had with them. Not surprisingly, a lot of them involve food. In my family, I later came to realize, food was a framework, a way of sharing some father-and-son time without scripting it as such.
This is one of the ways that food culture becomes personal, not just a reference point in cookbooks, travel shows and foodie memoirs. I would like to think that if I had grown up in Louisiana, this might involve the crawfish boil, the oyster bar or the po-boy shop. But as it happens, it was doughnuts.
Dad time is different now. Alzheimer’s disease has taken a lot from my father, and now I’m the one who tells the stories and narrates our car trips. But we still have our rituals. And when I’m back home we still make the doughnut run.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.