June 14, 2017

‘Cooking is our conversation’: A father reflects on time well-spent

Photo: Father's Day, 2014. From left: Preston Maring; Luna, 15 months; Harry Elefante; Ben Maring.

Editor’s Note:

Ben Maring and his father, Preston, share a special bond: Both are physicians, avid home cooks and fathers. Before starting to practice as a primary-care physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center, Ben Maring trained as a chef in New York City. Growing up in Berkeley, he was inspired by his father, an ob-gyn at the same medical center from 1971 until his retirement in 2013. Preston Maring was an enthusiastic home cook who founded Kaiser Permanente’s first farmers market in 2003 (as well as the original Food for Health blog). The Marings enjoy sharing recipes and preparing meals together for friends and family. And, they both contribute recipes to the Food for Health blog!

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I woke up especially early last Sunday to put some thoughts down about what this Father’s Day means to me. I thought I might steal 30 minutes, or even a whole hour (!), before my children, Luna (4) and Max (1) woke up. Nestling into my chair and opening my laptop, I heard Max’s sweet voice coming from his crib. He was wide-awake. We ended up playing on the rug for an hour, reading books, making lion noises and tickling each other with a stuffed baby gorilla.

This epitomized Father’s Day for me this year: No matter what else is going on, I want to strive to always be in the joyful moment with my children. Busy work lives and daily stressors try to intervene, but I hold this hope this year for every father of a child and every child of a father: Be in the moment with each other.

When my father and I find a moment together, we tend to end up in the kitchen. This has been a treasured place for us, where we can be together, work side by side, ask each other questions, check in with each other. Oftentimes, however, no words are said. No words are needed. Cooking together is our conversation.

I am grateful to my father for a lot of things. He absolutely loved going to work every day at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center. I took note, and now, I do too. He was always in the kitchen with my mother, cooking, while a younger me looked on, learning that men, too, need to shop for groceries, cook, clean up and do the dishes. Now, my wife and I get to show our children what it’s like to make a home-cooked meal.

These days, when all three generations of my family are in the kitchen together, we tend to gravitate toward a few favorites, like Pizza with Prawns, Leeks & Feta, Kale Caesar, Blue Cheese Turkey Burgers, and Rainbow Chard and Roasted Cauliflower Pizza. Luna and my mom are professionals when it comes to “Instant” Chocolate Pudding.

I am excited for the next time Max and I find each other up early in the morning. You might just see us on the kitchen floor, prying open the pantry door, thinking about breakfast.