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Comfort food and books for comfort

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Christina Stock Photo Breakfast for dinner — a new treat for Father's Day. Portions can be easily doubled or tripled.

Treating dads with breakfast for dinner

and author Patricia Smith Wood

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

A big shout-out goes out to the good fathers and role model father figures everywhere, be it adopted, uncle or grandfather. Today is Father’s Day, and what better way to spoil one’s father than with a delicious dish that is easy to make even for younger children — with supervision — or they can help preparing.

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Before I get to the recipe, let me take you on a little trip around the world on what other countries and cultures do to honor their dads. Of course, I start with Germany where I grew up. In Germany, Father’s Day is actually a public holiday, because smart folks decided to put it on Ascension Day, which is the day Jesus ascended to heaven. It always takes place on a Thursday. Early in the morning, fathers head on out into the countryside with a large barrel of beer — hey, it is Germany after all — and picnic food to celebrate. Even when I was young, this traditional way of celebration was only found in rural villages in Germany. City folks celebrated it a lot like Mother’s Day, with Dad picking out his favorite foods and entertainment for the day.

We would always ask our grandfather to decide what he wanted. He was content being with “his” girls, he would say. As an artist himself — he was a big band conductor and played many instruments — he was rather introverted. Instead of going out to eat in a restaurant, he would order his favorite pizza from the nearby Italian restaurant and we would share.

Father’s Day in Russia is more a military event, it evolved from a tribute to all men. Fatherland Day parades celebrate the Russian armed forces and men can expect to receive small gifts from their female family members or girlfriends, no matter if they are fathers yet or not.

Many South American countries have a peculiar tradition to honor fathers, small campfires get lit and the fathers have to jump over the flames for good luck. France, on the other hand requires kids to gift their dad or father figure with a red rose. In Great Britain, Father’s Day resembles more Valentine’s Day with the family giving their dad or granddad flowers and chocolates.

Father’s Day falls often on a different date or day, depending on the beliefs and traditions of the country. Ours falls on the third Sunday in June. The latest day for Father’s Day takes place in Australia, which is in September. This makes sense because the seasons are different below the equator. The Australian families celebrate their fathers with lots of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In some regions, the community votes for their best dad of the year.

Japan celebrates Father’s Day a lot like the U.S.: With gifts and sporting goods. Additionally, fathers receive alcohol and delicious cuts of well-marbled beef or eel, which is very expensive there. Younger children fold a special shape out of origami paper and add a message card or a little gift in it.

On the African continent, various traditions exist. South Africa, which had been under control of the Netherlands as a colony, has pretty much the same traditions as the U.S. and Europe. In West African countries, such as in Nigeria, families give their fathers a new Agbada, which is a typical robe in bright colors, next to shoes, aftershave and the father’s favorite foods.

Now to the recipe:

Breakfast for dinner

Serves four

Eggs with caramelized mushroom sauce and seasoned sweet potatoes

4 eggs, very fresh

1 tsp unsalted butter

For mushroom sauce:

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

12 oz fresh large mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 green onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper

For the seasoned sweet potatoes:

2 large sweet potatoes, as fries or diced

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp coriander

Salt and pepper

In a large, heavy pan, add the butter and heat until it is melted, but not brown. Add the mushrooms and do not turn for 5 minutes (that makes them caramelize). Stir and wait another 5 minutes. Add the green onions and garlic cloves and stir. Add the chicken broth, turn down the heat and cover with a lid to let simmer.

Add the oil and spices in a large freezer or sandwich bag. Add the sweet potatoes and turn them in the bag until they are all coated. You can also use a bowl, but it is trickier to get all sides of the sweet potatoes coated evenly. You can either use the air fryer (depending on the model, check the manual) or bake the fries in the oven at 320 degrees F for 25 minutes. Turn after 10 minutes. Depending on the thickness of the cut, you may have to consider adding 5-10 minutes more.

Depending on how your family likes your eggs, cook to order. The fathers in my family preferred sunny side up. The trick to get a perfectly cooked egg — no matter which way you prepare them — is to cook them on low heat. High heat will turn them into rubber in no time.

You can easily double and triple the portions, add favorite spices to the sweet potatoes such as oregano or red Chile to give it a kick.

You may garnish the mushrooms with slices of the green onions or parsley.

Serve right away.

Books for comfort:

Kyle Zimmerman Photo
Author Patricia Smith Wood’s first mystery story Was inspired by her father. One book turned into a series.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to the New Mexico Book Co-op member whose books were inspired by her father: Patricia Smith Wood is known for her award-winning Harrie McKinsey mystery series.

In an email, she talks about her books and background. “All the books are set in Albuquerque, with references occasionally to other towns in the state. My first book, ‘The Easter Egg Murder’ was a book over 30 years in the making. I wanted to write a fictional account of the murder of Cricket Coogler from Las Cruces in 1949. Her body was found in a shallow grave in the desert about 16 miles outside Las Cruces on the day before Easter in 1949. No one was ever convicted of her murder.

One individual described in Paula Moore’s factual book about the murder, was Jerry Nuzum, who was a former New Mexico A&M football star who had moved up to professional status with the Pittsburg Steelers. Nuzum actually went on trial for the murder, but was acquitted. Practically no one really believed he’d committed the murder. There were too many better suspects who were never arrested,” Smith Wood said.

Smith Wood said that her father was one of the inspirations for her book and she learned more about the case when she moved to New Mexico. “My father became an FBI Agent in late 1950, and we moved to Albuquerque in June 1951, shortly after the trial and other connecting incidents, which involved the FBI,” she said. “I heard my dad speak of the case through the years, and I thought it so sad her murderer was never found and punished. It occurred to me in the late ‘70s, that I should work on a fictional mystery based on that case, but I’d have the advantage of naming a killer, and solving the murder.”

It would take more than three decades to bring her story to print. “When I first conceived the mystery in my own mind, I hadn’t thought beyond that one book,” Smith Wood said. “But at a writers conference in 2008, an agent I spoke with asked if it was a series. I was stunned by the question, but realizing series mysteries had a better chance at publication, I quickly said, ‘Yes.’ And the rest is history.

“I finally finished the mystery, found a publisher, and ‘The Easter Egg Murder’ debuted in March 2013,” Smith Wood said.

The Easter Egg Murder was a finalist in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards in 2013 and again in 2015 for the e-Book.

“My third in the series, ‘Murder on Frequency,’ became the Cozy Mystery winner in the same awards program in 2017,” Smith Wood said. “My latest book, ‘Murder at the Petroglyphs,’ was published in December 2019, and it has already won first place in the New Mexico Press Women’s 2020 Writers Communications Contest, and I’ve been notified that I’ve placed — first, second, third or honorable mention — in the National Federation of Press Women Communications 2020 Contest. So, even amidst the coronavirus shutdown, I’m a happy camper.”

For more information, visit patriciasmithwood.com.