Skip to content

Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

A Fruitful Day Off

December 12, 2007

A Fruitful Day Off

For 46 years I have been blessed with excess energy.

I seem to have been born with enough vitality and drive for two people. Though lately, I have been feeling my age.

Sunday I experienced my first “true” day off in six weeks. I planned to stay in bed most of the afternoon and treat myself to a full day of football for the first time since September.

My wife had to take my son to a birthday party and my daughter needed to stay home to work on a school project. Around 1:30 p.m. my daughter came into my bedroom wanting to know what we were having for lunch. I asked her what she would like, and she couldn’t decide.

As an offhand remark, I said, “Why don’t you go into the kitchen and make us a sandwich,” and turned my attention back to the football game.

When on tour or giving a speech, the most frequent question I am asked is, “Who does the cooking in your home?”

The answer is always the same, “My wife cooks for the family, and I cook for company.” It’s not written in stone. The roles reverse on occasion. If my wife decides to sleep late, I am happy to make a “Daddy Breakfast” for the children, or if she’s putting on makeup before the movie, I don’t mind throwing together a chicken casserole and salad. She, too, makes great lasagna, spaghetti, and pasta shells for company.

For the most part, we stick to our roles. Mom cooks for the family. Dad cooks for company and away from home. The children just eat.

Before long my 10-year old daughter came walking into the bedroom holding a tray. She was beaming. I know all of her expressions. This was one that I hadn’t seen before. It was an ear-to-ear smile filled with satisfaction and achievement.

On the tray was a triple-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Fritos, and a glass of milk.

I have eaten thousands of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my life. In my first six years on the planet, they were almost all I ate, exclusively. I have eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches prepared by my mother, by both of my grandmothers, by my babysitters, by my wife, by friends, and by my own hands. I have taken them to school in lunchboxes. I have eaten them at church and on picnics, I have eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my formal dining room and I have eaten them in sparsely decorated bachelor apartments. I can truly say that I have never eaten one that I have enjoyed as much as the one prepared and served by my daughter at 1:47 p.m. on December 9, 2007.

An hour later, she came back in the room with a plate of freshly baked oatmeal cookies and another glass of milk.

“Thank you, precious.”

“You’re welcome, daddy.”

The cynical reader might say, “What’s the big deal? It was a sandwich and a plate of Fritos.” That is correct, but it was so much more.

It was a small act of independence born in original thought. The look on her face signaled a sort of self-sufficient culinary rite of passage. She has now reached an age where she can go into the kitchen and prepare food, and she is happy about it.

In the last 20 years, I have eaten at some of this country’s finest restaurants. I don’t know if any of those meals can match the sheer joy I experienced having a Sunday afternoon lunch in bed, prepared by my daughter.

The smile on my daughter’s face was one that I will never forget. It was a look of delight, independence, and accomplishment all at once, and one that could only be surpassed— at that moment— by the look of pride on the face of her father.

Now when I am asked, “Who does the cooking in your home?” I will have to change my answer. My wife cooks for the family. I cook for company, and my daughter cooks for special occasions.

Miniature Smoked Tenderloin Sandwiches with Three Spreads

2 Tbl Bacon Grease, melted
1 Tbl Steak Seasoning
1/2 tsp Black Pepper, freshly ground
2 pound Beef Tenderloin, trimmed and cleaned
24 dinner rolls, varied styles and flavors, cut in half crosswise

5-6 cups wood chips

Soak the wood chips for 2-3 hours and drain well. Prepare grill or smoker to cook at 275 degrees.

Rub the tenderloin with the melted bacon grease and sprinkle with steak seasoning.
Cook the tenderloin for 45-50 minutes, to an internal temperature of 130 degrees. Add more chips as needed to keep the smoke flowing.

Remove from heat and let tenderloin cool completely.

Horseradish Spread

1/4 cup Sour Cream
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/4 tsp Black Pepper, freshly ground
3 Tbl Prepared Horseradish
2 Tbl Red Onion, minced
1/4 tsp Garlic, minced
1 Tbl Chives, chopped
1 Tbl Parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp Salt

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and store covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.

Chutney Mayo

1 Tbl Olive Oil
2 Tbl Yellow Onion, minced
1/4 tsp Salt
2 tsp Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Curry Powder
2 Tbl Sherry
3/4 cup Mango Chutney
3/4 cup Mayonnaise

In a small sauté pan, heat olive oil over low heat. Place onion, garlic, salt and curry powder in the hot oil and cook one minute. Add the sherry and reduce. Remove from heat and cool completely. Once the cooked mixture is cooled, combine it with the remaining ingredients. Store covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.

Honey-Spiked Creole Mustard

1/2 cup Creole Mustard
1 Tbl Yellow Mustard
2 Tbl Sour Cream
1 Tbl Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Honey
1 tsp Prepared Horseradish
2 tsp Parsely, chopped
1 tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves, chopped
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp Salt

Using a wire whisk, combine all ingredients. Store covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.

Slice 1/8-inch thin slices of the beef tenderloin and arrange on a serving tray. Serve the cut rolls and three sauces on the side and allow guests to build their own sandwich.
All of the sauces may be made three to four days in advance, and stored in the refrigerator until needed.

Recent Posts

Pizza Ground Zero

BARBERINO-TAVARNELLE, TUSCANY— Naples is the birthplace of pizza. It’s an ancient and historic seaside city that can be a little…

Read more


BARBERINO-TAVARNELLE, ITALY— As a kid almost every restaurant in my hometown was independently owned and local. Granted, there weren't too…

Read more


PETROGNANO, ITALY— It’s true that there’s no place like home, and I deeply and dearly love my hometown of Hattiesburg…

Read more