Even Seagulls Have Fathers

Father’s Day 2011

A fat seagull is sitting on the dink watching us enjoy a barbecued tri tip with a 2007 Phipps Family PFC Zinfandel from the Treborce single vineyard in Dry Creek Valley. The Phipps family are big growers who keep a selection for themselves and this wine is deep and full, rich with berry flavors. Perfect for barbecued beef.

(Yesterday, we had some of Cisco’s spectacular scallops and perhaps the best grouper any of us have tasted, barbecued with a variety of summer squash. We drank a 2004 Chardonnay from the Gamble Ranch in Napa. This is another world famous grower that keeps a selection for their own use and this Chardonnay is made from a ripe and heavy fruit. It may be a little pricey for every day drinking but it’s great value for a wine that has won numerous prizes. Robert Parker gave it a 96 rating.)

Right now, the seagull is gazing into the saloon, watching my father with a beady eye. Is it my imagination or does the bird twitch enviously with every mouthful Dad takes?

John has already charged the creature three times and three times the seagull has waited till the last minute before taking off, which either means he’s very stupid or very brave. John learned this particular maneuver from his grandmother, a fearsome box-built lady who protected her grandkids with sheer momentum, vehement Italian imprecations and a viciously wielded broom.

My father, too, was a protective and instructive parent and, while we had our moments, we stayed close through all the ups and downs of family life. Most Father’s Days he comes out with us for a couple of nights at the islands and we’ll recall moments from the past. He grew up in the old Los Angeles. He has a phenomenal memory and can paint vivid pictures of those days.

It was my father who sat me down after my first day’s real employment and explained cocktail hour. I had passed a milestone and now qualified for that magical ritual. He made me a gin and tonic and when I grimaced at the taste explained that I had to work at it. No one, apparently, fell in love with alcohol at first taste!

And it was dad, too, who explained the joys of coffee; drunk black, strong and with no sugar. Like cocktails, it took me a few attempts to get with the program – but, coffee and cocktails, these are two of life’s great pleasures. Thanks, dad.

Now, one seagull looks pretty much like another to us, but this one had an overly familiar attitude and I remember Father’s Day a couple of years ago. I had taken some spectacular veal chops out of the freezer and put them out to defrost. They were still wrapped in their butcher’s paper and sealed in heavy duty plastic bags. While they were defrosting, we decided to take a quick spin around the anchorage, in the dink, and it was only on the return trip that we saw the flocks of birds gathered on Poseidon’s foredeck.

Yup. They’d ID’d those veal chops through all the plastic and paper and by the time we were back on board, there was only a single bone left. Everything else gone. Who knew a seagull beak was sharp enough to de-bone a veal chop more thoroughly than any Neapolitan butcher.

So, now, watching this persistent gull, I begin to wonder: was his father one of the birds that robbed us of our veal chops? Did his dad tell him to look out for the boat with the cranberry strip and the oversize fork graphic (Poseidon’s trident)? Was he looking out for his perpetually hungry son the way our fathers looked out for us?

Probably not. Probably just another opportunistic seabird visiting on another wonderful Father’s Day.