Father's Day Lessons Learned from Kramer vs. Kramer

Although my dad loved the movie Kramer vs. Kramer, there was one scene in the movie he hated with a passion. The scene takes place the morning after the Meryl Streep character leaves the Dustin Hoffman character - it's the first time he's had to do a dang thing for himself, apparently, and making french toast for his young son presents Hoffman with a series of Herculean challenges. If you haven't watched this scene, you must; if you've already seen it, watch it again:

My parents separated when I was six, and my father took a lot of pride in being an involved dad - not a clueless one. Scenes like this one, he felt, presented dads as helpless buffoons; good for bringing home the bacon, but not for frying it up in a pan. My dad turned out to be good at both (although, truth be told, he might have preferred frying bacon to bringing it home). He didn't appreciate the stereotype, and he didn't deserve it.

On Father's Day, I'm especially grateful to have been brought up by this type of "liberated man," as comfortable in the kitchen as he was behind the wheel of his speedy red 1979 Pontiac Firebird. My dad (and my mom too) helped teach me that cooking - and feeding one's family in the most literal sense - is a responsibility that defies stereotypical gender roles. And yet even today, at a time when (at least) every other celebrity chef is a man, these stereotypes continue to exist for a reason.

To be honest, I'm not all that great a cook. I can manage okay, especially when the ingredients are fresh and local to start with and there's olive oil or butter, sea salt, and cracked pepper handy. But in the kitchen (or at the grill), my greatest assets are as follows: I'm not completely clueless, I know how to follow a recipe, and I'm not too picky. I'm also not proud. My wife is the better cook, for sure.

I'm not sure why the fantasy of breakfast in bed served by the kids is reserved for Mother's Day. Maybe it's because dads have a reputation for being good at making pancakes. Truth be told, I make a mean french toast too - my wife and kids ask for it every week, and they're not just being nice. I'm making it for them in honor of Father's Day. My secret (if you can call it that) is starting with good bread; adding half and half, cinnamon, and brown sugar (not too much) to tasty, fresh eggs; and serving it with both Rochdale Farms hand-rolled butter and Sapsucker Farms pure maple syrup.

My other secret is not burning the food, dropping the pan, or swearing at my kids - hopefully.

Lee Zukor is the founder of Simple, Good, and Tasty. E-mail him at or follow him on Twitter.