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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Belated Birthday

So, yesterday was my dearly departed mom's birthday. Being the first one since she passed away, I assume it won't be such a morbid thought every year, as long as ProFlowers stops sending me emails asking me if I want to send her flowers....

Anyway, I worked all damn day yesterday. I wanted to get a tattoo, but no time, or really money, but maybe later. So, I just wanted to take time to reminisce about the food my mom used to cook.

So, when she was growing up, she never learned how to cook, because the matron of the family did all the cooking. She was never the head of the household until my parents moved to Troy, New York by themselves. The first meal she cooked in their new apartment is like a legend to me. She made spaghetti with meat sauce and she burned the sauce, and my dad yelled at her.
Her spaghetti and meat sauce over the years was always too meaty, not enough sauce. I'm not sure if that was a generational thing or an ethnic thing. But it was always barely red because there was so much meat compared to sauce. One time, my sister made it, and it was very saucy. I remember my dad telling my mom she should make it like that next time, that he didn't like the way she made it. He's always been such a cassanova.

So, through the years, my mom relied on magazines, cookbooks and friends' advice. So, in the USA, she learned over the years how to cook Philippine cuisine and American food too.

I remember being young and having steak for dinner. I'm not sure what kind of cut it was, some inexpensive cut. So my mom would cook a few well done with onions, and serve it family style, as every meal was ever served. I wouldn't be able to cut the steak, and my mom would chide me as she cut it for me. She would say, what would I do if I was at a friend's house and I couldn't cut my own steak, ask someone else to cut it? Which, this was all nonsense, because we all knew I was rarely allowed to go to other friend's houses for dinner. After all, who knows what scary child molesting uncle might be over.

So, as the years progressed, she would put the dreaded MSG on those tough suckers. They were not as tough, but they had that MSG taste. Then one day, the steak was so tender and delicious. All because of a meat mallet.

Of course, she developed her own pancit, lumpia, flan and bibingka. I used to love that bisquick bibingka because she would just put those slices of philly cream cheese on top of the batter and bake it so that the slices were still discernable.

Her lasagna was delicious. She didn't make her own sauce or anything, but it was good, trust me. Once, I ate about a third of the pan. We also had corn and peas too. I ate a lot of that as well. I threw up about a half hour later, because I ate so much. I went back to the kitchen later and had another wedge of lasagna.

Her breakfast specialty was corned beef hash. Libby's corned beef usually. onions and potatoes. So good. When I went to college and I met the Food Pimp (here's his gratuitous name dropping he always scans for in the blog, diminished by me pointing it out of course), he introduced me to canned corned beef hash, which is different then canned corned beef. It was disgusting, soft and fattier - if possible, and pink. So I showed him how I learned to cook corned beef hash. Between you and me, I think that was when he fell in love with me.

One of the exciting things growning up was waking up or coming home from school to see what new recipe she had made. She was always getting recipes from her patients. She did her cooking early in the morning. She would wake up at some ungodly hour, 4 or 5 depending on what she was making and cook. Sometimes, she would have to start something the night before and wake up in the middle of the night to check its progress in the oven.

One day, my sisters and I came home to find a casserole. There were probably directions with it, as my mom would often do. She didn't ever want us to be hungry waiting for her, so she always let us eat before dinner if we were "starving". So, this casserole was in the one white corningware dish with the vegetables painted on the side. It was ominous. It was greyish and looked like dog food. Eventually, we tasted it, and it was defuckinglicious. It was like shepard's pie or something. Seasoned ground beef, Campbell's cream o mushroom soup draped over top, and tater tots pushed into the soup. This may not sound appealing, but I guess the flavor of the soup seeped into the ground beef during the baking process, and it had tater tots. I still love tater tots.

So, a food blog about my mom wouldn't be complete without mentioning her easy bbq spareribs. Of course, now that I'm looking for it, I can't find a copy of the recipe. Anyway, I can't remember the origin, Betty Crocker, Women's Day, some kitschy cookbook. But over the years, my mom became known for her spareribs. Any special occasion, Christmas, Thanksgiving, a birthday, potluck, she would make them, and people began to ask for them. Why were they any different than other recipes for baked ribs with bbq sauce? Because my mom made them.

And some of my more recent memories are of when she came to California. One time she made this shrimp and napa cabbage saute, and it was nothing special, but it was just so flavorful... and comforting. And then her shrimp ukoy. Yum. With rice flour and sprouts, they were so crispy and tasty just like I remembered. Shrimp ukoy was one of my favorite treats growing up, next to lumpia. Although, after it had been fried and it got soggy later in the day,or even the next day, it never was as exciting to eat, but we did not waste food.


Khanh said...

Has it already been a year? I remember missing your posts...then realizing what was going on. We also recently lost a Father. My thoughts are with you.

caninecologne said...

hi fh - what a very thoughtful post. thanks for sharing. i enjoyed hearing your stories about your mom and her cooking.

the food ho said...

Thanks to you both, Khanh and CC - I hate to give empty promises, but I'm really going to try to start posting more again!!!!