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Honor Thy Father

By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area


The author’s father, Mickey Fishman, an officer and a gentleman
The author’s father, Mickey Fishman, an officer and a gentleman

Father’s Day is one of my favorite “Hallmark” holidays. It’s just after schools let out and before the kids are off to camp or their summer activities. It’s often celebrated outside on the deck, patio or in the yard. These outdoor meals are great for the cook too because a typical menu includes something hot off the grill or out of the oven, accompanied by room temperature sides. Easy-peasy to serve. Don’t forget the disposable plates and, hey, this is almost a holiday for moms!

What I love most about Father’s Day is the true honoring of our fathers, whether they’re still with us on earth or just in our hearts. I reflect on who my father was and how he influenced me throughout my life. I know I speak for many of us when I say that our fathers were among the most significant people in our lives. They set the tone for the household, guided us, offered stability, a great wealth of knowledge and unconditional love. Unfortunately, this is not true in all families. Fortunately and gratefully, I had a dad who was an amazing man.


The Fishman brothers from left to right: Manny, Ben, Herman, and Mickey
The Fishman brothers from left to right: Manny, Ben, Herman, and Mickey

My dad, Mickey (Milton) Fishman was the youngest of four remarkable brothers, all bright and very athletic. Their father emigrated from Russia with nothing and managed to build a successful insurance company. My father and his brothers grew up in a lavish home in Detroit. Plenty of food, a car to drive, summer camp in New York, and a good college education after high school. Fact: the Fishman brothers, to this day, were the only four brothers in the history of the University of Michigan who all lettered in sports.

Unfortunately, after the Depression, their father fell on hard times, like many others, and Mickey, being the last to leave home, had to pay his way through college by washing dishes at the Michigan Union, a meeting place in Ann Arbor, Mich., with restaurants and student services, while playing pool for money on the side. After graduation, he enlisted in the Navy during WWII, attended midshipman school at Notre Dame, and was off to the Pacific arena as a lieutenant. His brother, Herman, his closest friend, was fighting in Asia. Before they left, they made a pact to build a boys’ sports summer camp in Northern Michigan.

My dad was a dreamer and he and Herman made it happen. From 1946 until 1966, they successful ran Camp Michigama adding a girls’ camp, Michigama Hill, in 1952. Dad had four girls, so where were they going to go to camp?! Over the years, he was Uncle Mickey to hundreds of city kids who waited all school year to come to camp.

Herman (left) and Mickey Fishman both pitched for University of Michigan, Herman went on to the minor leagues
Herman (left) and Mickey Fishman both pitched for University of Michigan, Herman went on to the minor leagues

For the remaining nine months of the year, Dad would hustle steel and scrap metal and sell anything that wasn’t nailed down. He would go to auctions and then weird stuff would show up at our house. We had an enormous billiard table with solid wood legs the size of easy chairs. We had a full-blown 6-foot shiny stainless steel soda fountain in our basement, outfitted with a whole collection of banana split boats, soda glasses, and sundae bowls. You get the picture.

Mickey was generous to a fault. He gave away money like it grew on trees, even when he didn’t have much. His bank account went up and down like a roller coaster. When he was at a low point in his life, he remained positive that things would turn around. If one of his daughters had a great idea, he would support it to the nth degree. Dad even gave me his last dollars to open my first bakery because he believed in my ability to succeed.


The author and her dad watching her son’s high school track meet in 2000
The author and her dad watching her son’s high school track meet in 2000

I inherited some wonderful traits from my dad. I got his athletic genes–he taught me to golf and I love swimming like he did, I’m a good problem solver, I have a positive outlook and am even-tempered. Not so gratefully, I got his bad feet and his ridiculously impatient nature.

In the spirit of honoring our father's, I’m offering one of the few dishes my dad could cook: Baked Pizza Bread. It uses ground beef, which was all too common for soldiers returning from WWII. Ground beef was a staple for them and upon their return from service in the ’40s, it became quite popular. I don’t know why this recipe is called Baked Pizza Bread because it doesn’t really taste like pizza. At the end of my recipe, I offer other combinations of seasonings and ingredients.

Let us know here at The Insider how you honor your father. Happy Father’s Day!


Baked Pizza Bread


Yield: 6-8 servings


Baked Pizza Bread
Baked Pizza Bread

1 1/2 lb. ground beef (or ground turkey or mixed)

1 lg. egg

3/4 c. finely diced onions

2/3 c. sour cream or Greek yogurt

1/2 c. bread crumbs

1/4 c. catsup

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. dry mustard

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 1lb. French or Italian bread

catsup for garnish



shredded cheddar cheese for garnish

Mix together the egg, onions, sour cream, crumbs, catsup and seasonings. Add the ground meat. Mix together with your hands until incorporated but not overworked. Fold in cheddar cheese. Add the ground meat. Reserve.

Preheat oven to 350°. Slice the bread in half horizontally keeping the top and bottom pieces as even as possible. Lay out 2 large sheets of foil. Place a piece of bread on each foil, cut side up. Divide the meat between the 2 halves, spreading evenly over the surface. Cradle each bread with the foil so the crust is covered but the top is exposed. Spread a thin layer of catsup on the meat.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Sprinkle on additional cheese. Bake for another 15 minutes. Cut on the diagonal crosswise.

Variations:

Italian pizza:

2 minced garlic cloves

1 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. basil

Substitute 1/2 c. grated Parmesan for the cheddar cheese

Top with marinara sauce or pizza sauce, and grated mozzarella

TexMex:

2 minced garlic cloves

1-2 minced jalapeño peppers

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. oregano

Top with mild tomato salsa and shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Mix together the egg, onion, crumbs, catsup and seasonings.
Mix together the egg, onion, crumbs, catsup and seasonings.
Blend in yogurt.
Blend in yogurt.
Mix in cheese.
Mix in cheese.
Blend in ground meat.
Blend in ground meat.
Slice bread in half horizontally.
Slice bread in half horizontally.
Spread half of the meat mixture on each piece of bread.
Spread half of the meat mixture on each piece of bread.
Smooth catsup on top of the meat.
Smooth catsup on top of the meat.
After 30 minutes of baking time, sprinkle on cheese. Note how the foil cradles the bread.
After 30 minutes of baking time, sprinkle on cheese. Note how the foil cradles the bread.
Take out of the oven and place on a cutting board.
Take out of the oven and place on a cutting board.
Use a sharp serrated knife to cut crosswise on the diagonal.
Use a sharp serrated knife to cut crosswise on the diagonal.

 




Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.

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