It'll take more than the kids' allowance to get Dad a copy of Modernist Cuisine at Home, but if he's already dog-eared all the Harold McGee in the house, spring for it. Given the highly scientific, super-professional focus of the 2,438-page original, I'd think this title was an oxymoron, if I didn't know a whole lot of tech-dude home cooks who already own the collected works of Achatz, Adria, Blumenthal, and Keller, and hang out at Le Sanctuaire like they used to at Amoeba Records.
These are gadget guys, and what they want to geek out about are knives--French, Japanese, or custom-made by a guy in Seattle with a 10-year waiting list. A good place for Heavy Metal Dad to talk shop is Bernal Cutlery, which offers both Western and Japanese knives, plus knife skills and sharpening classes. Hida Tool in Berkeley specializes in Japanese knives but also carries an assortment of small, useful, high-quality kitchen tools, including a perfect peeler and sturdy fish-bone tweezers.
But what if Dad's more of a party guy? Try Zakary Pelaccio's messy, exuberant, salty-talking Eat with Your Hands. As the chef of New York City's popular Fatty Crab and Fatty 'Cue restaurants, Pelaccio cooks big, full-flavored, turn-up-the-heat dishes, inspired in equal part by his Italian-American heritage and the spicy-sweet, irresistible cooking of Southeast Asia and beyond. (His beef rendang is still on my short list of Best Things I Have Ever Eaten--and happily, the recipe's in the book.) He's a fearless eater and an excitable cook who loves pig's ears, pig jowls, fresh sardine omelets, lardo, tuna belly, rabbit, goat, basically anything with a bone worth gnawing. About Whole Smoked Pig (The Guy), he writes,
A whole animal means a party. An animal of this size means a serious party involving serious excess. Divest yourself of inhibition. Have a real good time. Toward that end, serve the pig with some salty Oil-Cured Chiles, Pineapple Red Curry, Chile Sauce, or hell, anything you want. I can't think of one condiment from the condiment chapter that would suck with this. Some boiled and grilled fingerling potatoes and maybe corn too if it's a summer party. As with most of my cooking, nothing is precisely the same each time I make it, but the marinade here is almost always what I use when I smoke up those fatties."
He then goes on to give a list of the "bare necessities" for the 24-hour cooking adventure, including "2 cases of beer on ice, cans, not bottles; a couple joints; 2 bottles bourbon; plastic cups; iPod and portable docking station, fully charged; batteries for everything; head lamps; 4 folding chairs; a foldable tarp in case of rain; 40 pieces of hardwood; and 3 friends who like to stay up all night," plus, of course, the pig, which gets massaged all over with a killer cilantro/ginger/garlic/lime/coconut/chile marinade. In other words, awesome cooking for Bro Dad, courtesy of a really fun guy who knows his stuff and gives music and booze recommendations for every dish. One trip to Pacific East Mall should stock Dad's pantry sufficiently.
Still searching? Celia Sacks of Omnivore Books suggests giving the too-predictable booze and barbecue books a miss, and looking at food history, Spanish cuisine ("manly!") and Mission Street Food ("ditto") instead. Right now, she's recommending last year's excellent, technique-driven Paella, The River Cottage Fish Book, and Bill Buford's sweaty, meaty Heat.
To which I might add, for Non-Vegan Dad, Hank Shaw's Hunt, Gather, Cook. I had great success last year giving my own Reader/Eater Dad Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink, which mixes classic pieces by A.J.Liebling and Calvin Trillan with more contemporary essays by Adam Gopnik, Peter Hessler, and Anthony Bourdain. And yes, there are cartoons.