Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Do you remember the first time you did your own laundry, or cook your own food, or shine your own shoes? How old were you?

When I look back at my younger days in Masbate, there is only gladness in my heart now. I couldn’t have lived through life away from my parents beginning at the tender age of 13 had it not for years of learning, albeit resenting at times, all the things they taught me then.

I remember the words of my father who would admonish all girls in the family, telling us that our place inside the house was at the kitchen; that we should not be wasting time doing useless things and instead be present there where cooking was happening. “Girls should learn how to cook,” he would lecture, “what would you feed your husbands?” Whoa, that was scary—I didn’t know any better then. Who would? I was barely in my teens. Was that about “the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?”

Next was the laundry, and ironing, and going to the market, and lighting the Petromax, and cracking the coconut including grating the meat. It wasn’t long enough when we were taught husking it, too. The bolo was too heavy for us, I thought. But, there was not escaping the ire of parents who were only concerned with teaching us life skills.

I knew then that starching clothes, especially those worn for work, including my school uniform, was a must. The starch had to be cooked in water, and let cool before dipping the clothes. And sprinkling dry and starched clothes with a little bit of water and rolling them to soak for a while before ironing. I remember that I had fun looking at the creases disappear when the hot iron touched them. I now understand why ironing clothes is one of my favorite chores, minus the starching, because starch today comes in spray cans.

Pablo and Monina are great teachers. I wouldn't have learned all the things I know today had it not for their patience to teach me, and my siblings.

In the market, telling fish from one another was such a challenge. But, we had to learn that, too. One kind was good for grilling; others were best for frying, or sweet and sour, or paksiw. The eyes had to be bright, the meat firm, and the stomach intact—these reminders would ring in my ear as I navigated through the fish stalls in the public market. Imagine what needed to be learned when it was shrimps, or crabs, or squid that I was asked to buy. Getting fresh meat was the easiest for me, because I thought that they were slaughtered in the morning and should stay fresh. I never saw any frozen things in the town market. And plastic bags. The bayong was our only way to carry our purchases.

When did I start learning all of these, and many other “skills” like how it is called today? I remember cooking my first boiled rice at age nine or ten. Pardon, but there was no electric rice cooker then. Your middle finger was your only measuring device to make sure the water was just enough so the rice would not turn out undercooked or overcooked. Otherwise, the entire meal is ruined, even if you had the best ulam.

I thought I had paid forward my parents’ sacrifices and persistence and determination to teach me all the life skills I have used since I left home to pursue my studies. I have five children of my own, all adults now, and I should say I am fairly successful at continuing the tradition my parents had set out for me and my siblings. We have no household help, and five children are an entire crew to be able to live without it.

My first granddaughter, insisting that she joins in washing the clothes. Too early? Not quite.

Life skills are not to be undermined. They are one of the best things we can hand down to our children, much more important than jewelry or property or money.

When do you teach them life skills?


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Nose for Good Food

If you have five children who have become adults, feeding them can be pretty challenging especially if you have trained their palates to know what is good food and what is not. And my brood does not only have trained palates, they have trained noses, too! What smells good in the kitchen tastes probably even better.

Good food does not have to require elaborate ingredients, or complicated cooking. Take for example this one I cooked last night. It was “too good,” says my daughter, that dinner was too much of a simple dinner. It was more like dining in a restaurant.

It takes only 10 minutes to whip up Shrimp Satay with Spinach. And all you need are shrimps, satay sauce, native spinach, and the ever present garlic, onion, and ginger, and sili pang-sigang.

Allow me to leave it up to your imagination how to put the ingredients together!

I was brought up in a home that cooked good food. There were no processed food on my mother’s table, except for the Masbate longganisa made by the town’s popular lonnganisa maker, Tia Kaykay.

Breakfast items such as tapa, tocino, longganisa were all home-made, prepared just in time for a meal, without using any preservatives or extenders or food colorings.

I somehow carried the tradition with me, putting on my dining table dishes that would properly nourish my children, while liking them, too.

And now that they’re grown ups, they know what is good food, and safe ones. No instant noodles, microwave cakes, instant this and that. Manufactured foods are somehow scary, they now know.

And perhaps when they have their own children, who will be my apos, I hope they carry the tradition, too.

My mother used to make candied kalabasa for dessert. Have you tried it?

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