There’s a reason that so many classic American sitcoms feature a dining room set: it’s a gathering place that sees our families at their highest and lowest moments. For many parents, the dinner table is also a respite (or at least a brief hiding place) from a long day of breadwinning, child-rearing, errand-running, and homemaking, inviting them to put their truest selves on display. This Father’s Day, we’re looking back on the dinnertimes when our dads were, for lack of a better term, the dadliest version of themselves they’ve ever been.
I grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin when it was still a Factory Town. When mom had league bowling Friday nights, my dad would take me and my brother out for dinner. The destination was a steady rotation of Ron’s Place (home of the 5x5 hamburger), Poncho O’Malley’s (a mexican restaurant known for its Friday all-you-can-eat beer-battered perch), and Lily’s, a delicious Chinese restaurant between the fotomat and the savings & loan. We were creatures of habit.
When we’d go to Lily’s, the three of us would split two entrees. One was a Sweet & Sour Chicken; the other usually being more Sweet & Sour Chicken. Two entrees was enough for a grown man and two preteen kids. After our meal one night, my father was presented with the bill and two fortune cookies. He bristled and immediately approached the register, advocating that three people warranted three cookies, but the proprietor, Lily, held her ground. Still barely keeping his composure, dad doled out the cookies to his two sons and stewed about this incident on the drive home, and frankly for years on end. I guess he really wanted that cookie.
After this, Lily’s was out of the rotation. Despite my returning several times after that with others, I never went back with my Dad and I’m pretty sure he boycotted the restaurant until it closed. Although this happened when we were not at our home dinner table, I would argue that “throwing a tantrum and boycotting a restaurant over being shorted a cookie” is a very dad thing to do. —Nick Leggin, contributor
When I was a kid, my parents were pretty big on family dinners. I wasn’t allowed to read, doodle, or complain at the dinner table—that was family time, and family time was for my mom to share nail salon gossip while my dad shared concerning theories gleaned from AM radio. We ate dinner at my family’s thrifted dining set, complete with five mismatched chairs, until I was in junior high. At that point, my parents invested in a fancy high-top set with a sleek rectangular table and dark wood chairs. The chairs really classed up our eat-in kitchen—until one night, when family dinners were forever changed thanks to one auditory intrusion.
That night, we sat down with bowls of leftover Taco Soup, a Stone family staple that was positively brimming with beans. My mom made the soup the night before, so it had been a 24-hour Bean Fest in our household. We were eating in relative silence until—THWERCK!—my dad ripped the world’s sharpest fart. This wasn’t a whispery fart, nor a gurgly fart. This was the kind of fart that slingshots out of one’s body and ricochets off of the nearest surface. And that surface was my dad’s classy wooden chair. The fart pinged off of the chair, echoed throughout the kitchen, and caused the entire family to fall silent, mouths agape.
Sheepish, my dad tucked his chin to his chest, then raised his eyebrows and cracked a tiny grin. This was the beginning of my nightmare. I now live a state away from my parents, so I probably eat a total of six meals a year at that wooden dining table. But my dad’s sharp, sharp farts are always waiting to welcome me home. —Lillian Stone, staff writer
My parents are huge travelers. They try to make a big international trip at least once a year, and they’re the kind of wanderers that like to go off the beaten path by themselves. One time they got lost in Colombia but didn’t tell me until later, and I’m still mad at them for that one. Nobody around them could help due to the language barrier and eventually they found the right bus and got back, but jeez.
One summer afternoon, five or six years ago, I was home hanging out for lunch, having kalbi fresh off the grill with my family, when my dad grabbed a bottle of wine out of a cabinet.
“I got this in Ecuador for a special occasion!” he said. “Let’s drink it since we’re all here.”
Since my parents don’t usually bring much home from their travels aside from hundreds of digital photos, this was exciting. Plus none of my family members aside from me enjoy alcohol too much, so this was an even more special treat.
We cracked it open and sipped on it. I recall it being very sweet, and something just felt different about it. An instinct told me that this wasn’t an ordinary bottle. I turned it around and saw a chalice on the label, so I immediately googled the wine and realized we were drinking Ecuadorian Catholic communion wine with our Korean shortribs.
“Hey dad,” I said, “Did you happen to get this by a church?”
“Yes,” he said. “We got it next door to one.” That’s one heck of a souvenir.
Mom exclaimed, “After lunch we will be more holy!” My sister almost cried from laughter and my cheeks hurt from smiling just thinking about it.