As a kid, the perfect ending to a good day was when I’d walk into the kitchen at about six o’clock, after a long afternoon of backyard pyromania and brain-melting Q*bert sessions, and see the big Pyrex baking dish on the counter. Inside that dish were four or five or six pork chops — bone in, sourced from our local Safeway — marinating in white vinegar. This meant one thing: breaded pork chops for dinner. My mom, who was usually in her room with her “feet up,” would let the chops soak for an hour or two. After my dad came home and poured himself some medicine, we’d get to work on what passed for mise en place in my house in 1983. My mom would fire up her ancient electric frying pan and pour in some olive oil, and I’d help her dredge, coating each chop with flour, egg, and — this is key — Italian bread crumbs.
You know what tastes good? Pork chops frying in olive oil! I’d always ask for mine to be extra crispy, and my mom would oblige, taking the crust to the edge of burned. It was all about the crust. Well, the crust and the vinegary tang and the warm, crispy ribbons orf porky pork fat. (This was before I had to worry about LDLs and HDLs.) Damn, that was tasty. This was the meal I loved more than any other. It was what I requested on my birthday. It was what I chose for my pre-game meal on the night of the eighth grade dance. It was what my mom made for me on my first night home from college, freshman year.
It’s also what I’ve decided, all these years later, we should have for dinner on Father’s Day.
A word about holidays: Jenny and I are not big Father’s Day or Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day people. We’re birthday people. We go off on birthdays. But when it comes to the lesser holidays, we tend to go low-key. Put it this way: When I asked our seven-year-old what she thought we should do for Father’s Day this year, she responded, “Father’s Day? We never do anything for father’s Day!” To which I said, “Yes, that’s true, but what if this year, we did?” She didn’t respond, “That’s such a fun idea, Daddy, as I’ve been looking for an occasion to write a letter to you, detailing all the ways in which you amaze me!” She responded with, “Why isn’t there a Little Sister’s Day?” So we’re keeping the goals modest for now. Father’s Day, in our house, will be about nostalgia. It will be about breaded pork chops. And it will be about having someone else cook them for me. While my feet are up.
For the breaded pork chop recipe, we are sending you over to Bon Appetit, where this story appears as this month’s “Providers” column. Photos by Peter Van Agtmael.