Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Food Memories

I grew up in a home of good food and my food memories are quite rich. While we did have the staples of sinigang and adobo, mechado and pansit, there many other dishes which, when I mentioned to friends back then and even today, would elicit wide-eyed questions about our family's culinary habits.

Let me go through a top of mind list of what were 'typical' fare that we had along with the staples mentioned above. The food is circa late 60's through to the 80's.

Tapadera - thinly sliced beefsteak, seared after a marinade in maggi and then arranged in a baking dish with upright slices of beef layered alternately with mashed potatoes mixed with sauteed bell pepper.

Red beans and mayo - boiled red kidney beans which was spoomed over rice and then topped with a dollop of mayo. This was eaten with a breaded beefsteak, seasoned on the table with Lea & Perrins.

Summer salad - back when only iceberg lettuce was available on the supermarket shelves, we would have Sunday lunches with nothing but salad and fixings - cheddar cheese cubes, sliced picnic ham, frozen peas, sliced tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, canned white asparagus all tossed with mayo and eaten with garlic bread. This was a family favorite.

Chili con carne - Beans and ground beef in a slightly spicy tomato-based sauce, eaten with bread. A later variation to this had no beans spooned over hamburger buns, eaten with pickles and fries...sloppy joes.

Tacos - when the only tacos available then were 'Tito Taco'in Uni Mart and the ones served at Nina's Papagayo, we would have tacos at home with shells from the PX store and ground beef, onions, cheese, onions, hot sauce and cabbage.

Corned beef casserole - This was a PX canned good fantasy and one of the first dishes my mom taught me how to cook. This was simple - a can of cooked Hereford corned beef, sauteed with onions, a can of Libby's sweet corn kernels and a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup. These would be layered in a casserole pan - corned beef, corn and cream of mushroom, like a lasagna..and baked in a warm oven for 10 min. Mixed with rice or eaten with toast, this was a 'hit the spot' meal.

Eggplant parmiggiano - Fried eggplant and sauteed ground beef layered alternately with parmesan and mozzarella cheese and then baked in an oven...delicious hot or cold.

Langlang - This was a recipe from my grandmother...a sotanghon soup on steroids...loaded with black fungus, carrots, chicken, shrimp, meatballs...a meal i itself.

Roast Chicken with bread stuffing - We'd have 2 chickens, roasted and stuffed with a very dense, very flavorful stuffing made from white bread, milk, celery, chicken liver and served with a pan giblet gravy - again a special Sunday meal.

Dolores Macaroni - A recipe originally created by my grandmother's cook, Dolores.  This was baked macaroni with chorizo bilbao, chicken, nestle cream, cheddar cheese - dense, flavorful food that was omnipresent for our birthday parties.

Roast Beef and Mashed potatoes - I don't know what cut of beef my mom used but we would have roast beef cooked, as I recall, well done or overdone but we didn't care and didn't know any better. It was dry in the middle but had a rim of crisp, flavorful fat on the edge of each slice. Served with buttered beans, mashed potatoes and a rich pan gravy, it was another special meal that yielded no leftovers.

Pizza - I already mentioned in an earlier post pizza day was a happy day in our home. Swift's beef pepperoni and Che-Vital cheese on top of a Del monte tomato sauce base..all washed down with Pepsi from Pedrong Kuba in the corner store.

Baked beans - Our baked beans were canned pork and beans amped up with a touch of molasses, catsup, onions all mixed in a casserole dish and topped with strips of bacon. We typically had this before Christmastime, when my mom would be baking fruitcakes, the dining table would be full of either fruitcake ingredients or fruitcakes cooling from the oven. We would eat baked beans and beef tapa on our own little TV trays.

Sukiyaki - Glass noodles, thinly sliced beef, carrots, chinese cabbage, black fungus, tofu swimming in a sweet'n soy broth.  Eaten with a raw egg broken into individual bowls.

Cabbage rolls - ground pork, seasoned with just salt, rolled up in wilted cabbage leaves together with carrot and potato slivers.  This was simmered in a broth and eaten with soy sauce and calamansi and for some reason, was served side by side with fried fish.

My parents like to host parties and also served up what I thought was atypical fare that grew more complex and varied as I grew up.

We sort of developed a rather sophisticated palate  as other dishes were added to the home repertoire - beef stroganoff, lobster or prawn thermidore, mock chateaubriand, smoked pig's knuckles, cannelone, paella, roast turkey with oyster or chestnut stuffing, cabesa de javali (a mix of pork face, chorizos, vegetables encased in aspic), ox tongue many ways -  estofado, pastel, con setas, coquilles saint jacque (scallops in a white wine and cream sauce), boulliabaisse. 

The food memories are endless, varied and memorable.  They became the basis for our preferences growing up and also instilled in us a curiosity to want to taste and cook more. We also learned to appreciate, be curious about and crave for a wider variety of food from a simple sinigang to a well-made shrimp bisque.

Food memories are different for everyone....mine have cut across the boundaries of home-cooked and expanded beyond to places I have seen or want to see.