When my sister and I were of elementary school age, we tried making our dad a Father's Day cake. Tried, I say, because despite careful preparation, we managed to create an oozing chocolate mess.
Today, our baking skills have improved and Dad has even joined in the cooking on Father's Day; we usually do a big breakfast or backyard barbecue.
You could say we've been simply following tradition. A review of old Los Angeles Times clips shows food appearing as part of Father's Day celebrations in stories dating back to the 1950s. Along with the requisite new tie, socks and pipe, Dad in The Times was treated to a picnic in the park with cold drinks, a hot grill and a seemingly endless supply of hot dogs and hamburgers, which he would be called on to cook.
Or he might get breakfast in bed. According to a June 18, 1964, article in The Times, the meal "should be of gargantuan proportions," consisting of juice, stewed fruit, eggs with ham or bacon, French toast or pancakes, hot cereal and "plenty of hot coffee" arranged on a tray.
Originally, however, Father's Day and food seem to have been unrelated. It's difficult to find an association between the two in the years immediately following the holiday's appearance just after the turn of the century.
This is puzzling because the 19th century saying, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach," was popular at the time. It even had been incorporated in the title of a 1901 cookbook by Mrs. Simon Kander, "The Way to A Man's Heart . . . The Settlement Cookbook."
There are various explanations of how Father's Day began. Some sources say that a Father's Day church service was first held July 5, 1908, at the request of Mrs. Charles Clayton of West Virginia. Others say that on Mother's Day, 1915, Harry C. Meek of Chicago came up with the idea of honoring fathers. He promoted it among several Lions Clubs chapters and picked the third Sunday in June (the Sunday nearest his own birthday) as the date.
Still, the person widely considered the "mother" of Father's Day was Mrs. John Bruce Dodd of Spokane, Wash. While listening to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909, Dodd thought of her father, William Jackson Smart, who had raised six children alone after his wife died.
The next year, the city of Spokane agreed to hold a Father's Day service, and Dodd chose June 5, her father's birthday, as the day. But because the ministers needed more time to prepare their sermons, the date was changed to June 19, the third Sunday of the month. At Dodd's suggestion, each child arrived at services wearing a red rose in honor of a living father or a white one if the father was deceased.
News of the Spokane observance spread, and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson took part in the celebration by pressing a button from his White House desk that unfurled a flag in Spokane. He did not go so far, however, as to proclaim Father's Day a national holiday, as he had for Mother's Day two years earlier.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recommended that the day be recognized by each state but did no more. Subsequent resolutions to formalize the day introduced in Congress failed, and pleas in 1957 by Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine were ignored. Not until 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed a congressional resolution, was the third Sunday in June officially declared Father's Day.
Despite its long lack of official sanction, Father's Day caught on. Hallmark began issuing Father's Day cards in the 1920s, Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School magazine, American Cookery, had offered a Father's Day picnic menu in 1942, and Collier's magazine had printed half a dozen special dessert recipes for dad in 1952.
To celebrate this year, consider making a Father's Day favorite from 1964. A recipe for smoky turkey roll appeared in the Los Angeles Times Food section on June 18 of that year.
SMOKY TURKEY ROLL
1 teaspoon minced sage
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
1 teaspoon minced marjoram
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup sweet white wine, such as Sauternes
1/4 cup oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 (3- to 4-pound) boneless turkey breast
Soak sage, rosemary, marjoram and garlic in wine 1 to 2 hours. Whisk in oil, lemon juice and salt.
Place turkey breast skin side down and flatten slightly with meat mallet. Brush skinless side with marinade. Roll up jelly-roll style and tie securely with kitchen twine every 1 to 2 inches.
Insert spit rod of rotisserie through center of turkey roll, then firmly insert skewers. Baste with marinade. Grill over hot coals on outdoor grill or over electric rotisserie, basting frequently with marinade, until meat thermometer inserted in center of breast reads 165 degrees, 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours.
Remove from rotisserie and let rest 20 to 30 minutes. Remove twine and slice.
6 servings. Each serving:
259 calories; 283 mg sodium; 105 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 42 grams protein; 0.08 gram fiber.