My father, like just about every father in these parts, was the biggest Bills fan I ever knew. He died last year on a Sunday in November in the middle of a Bills game – no kidding. In hindsight, we should have seen that coming.
When I think back on the time we spent together, I view it as unique and special, of course. When I talk to my other friends who lost parents, I realize the grief is special to me, but not unique. There are common touchstones we all share. Birthdays. Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Thanksgiving. Christmas or Hanukkah.
There were two moments when his loss hit home with a thunderclap: The first time I opened his mail and when midnight hit on New Year’s Eve absent a phone call.
I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but after talking it out with friends, I realized the most common day I would miss him was Sundays between September and December – Bills season. We watched games together regularly. Afterward, we celebrated or groused together. And then, like we all do, we ate.
My father was a Bills game chef and I was his sous. In this town lately, Sundays are more often than not a day when parents teach children how to love in loss. We bond, commiserate, hug, curse and kick.
Of course I’ll miss watching the game with him. Oddly, the thing I’ll miss most about my father is his Bills game goulash recipe:
Gary’s Bills Game Goulash
• On Saturday night, chef should dice 1 large onion and put it in a baggie in the refrigerator because sous chef never does it right.
• Brown 1 pound ground beef in first quarter, when there’s still hope.
• At some point, add into preposterously large pot 1 precut onion, 1 huge can of crushed tomato with juice, 1 itsy bitsy can of tomato paste, garlic salt (because doctors recommend more garlic and salt), 1 can of tomato soup (or 2, if you’ve got them), arbitrary amounts of dried basil and oregano. Simmer until until halftime.
• At halftime, eat cheddar cheese, pepperoni and crackers on couch with sous chef while grousing you don’t even know the guy who won the pool.
• Tell your sous chef right at kickoff to get up and add ½ box elbow noodles to giant pot, cover and “turn it down.”
• After first series of second half, chef should check pot and tell sous chef, “I said turn it down.”
• Continue watching game. Each time Bills must punt, chef should direct sous chef to stir goulash en route to refrigerator to get chef a beer. Important note: Chefs should question offensive play-calling, why that guy wasn’t covering that guy, and all flags for holding, lack of holding, pass interference and lack of pass interference. This has an incalculable yet unmistakable effect on goulash flavor. Sous chef may disagree with chef, but it will result in additional trips to “go stir the goulash.”
If the Bills win, chef will order goulash removed from heat while chef’s brothers and sous chef’s brother are called to discuss the outcome of the game.
If the Bills lose, chef will order goulash be served bubbling hot while denouncing CBS broadcaster and former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.
• Shred leftover halftime cheese over goulash and enjoy your time as a sous chef. The goulash will never taste the same without your chef there to supervise.