Not Another Food Blog?!
Not just another food blog. Well, it is, but I'm trying to accomplish something big here, so I try not to call this a food blog. I've been working on a cookbook of my grandmother's recipes and Filipino cooking, writing more for the second, third, fourth generation Filipino-Americans. I could lie to you and say that Filipino cooking is so near and dear to my heart but it wasn't at first when all this time it should have been. It was with my aunts and my mother that I learned to cook, but I wasn't always welcome in the kitchen. Making food has always intrigued me. My earliest memory is wanting to help bake a cake out of box and I help turn the bowl so that all the ingredients were mixed well. Sometimes, I spun the bowl too fast; I wasn't allowed to help after that. It's not a great first memory like Rachael Ray's burning her thumb on a flattop at restaurant or that I have a great photo of me as a little one with an apron and flour all over myself as I attempt baking my first cake. I don't even know if one exists. I wish there was some kind of social media back then where my babysitter could share the disastrous attempt at my baking a cake, where Istarted a fire in the oven because I mixed flour and water into a plastic bowl and plopped that all in the oven while she was on the phone with her girlfriends. I was 7. Hey, I thought that if you could put Shrinky Dinks in the oven, why couldn't you bake a cake in a plastic bowl?
Anyhow, I digress.
Even while I was at school at the California Culinary Academy, I vehemently refused to cook any Filipino food. And the dumb irony of it was I would get upset if someone cooked a dish wrong; I should have done it anyway. It was my last chef instructor, Chef D, who told me that I should stick to what I know well and do well. So what if I have all this classical training under my belt. Now I should be able to do everything better. Right???
Earlier this year, I found my grandmother's recipes tucked into a mish-mosh of recipes from one of those mail-order places that sends you 12 new recipe cards every month. I was such a whore for those when I was a teenager. I loved to read cookbooks and recipes. Yeah, you hear that a lot of cooks and chefs read them like novels, I totally did. I used to take Marion Cunningham's Fannie Farmer's Baking Book to bed with me to read every night and I imagined how each step would be executed and how the final product would look and taste. I devoured a 35 volume cookbook series my mother bought for herself but never cooked from like they were comic books. At a young age, I learned about international cuisine, techniques and strange and wonderful ingredients. Thus began my obsession with cookbooks and recipes. However, learning to cook was still kind of a taboo for me in my house growing up. Learning to cook was so you can cook for your husband and your family. Not something that was for fun; it was a necessary skill to learn. When I found my grandmother's recipes I learned that these were written down for my mother because during that time (I was probably 8 or 9 years old) my mother did not know how to cook. My father was a US Naval officer and we were stationed in the Philippines and so we always had the opportunity to visit our relatives in the provinces. We frequently stayed with my father's family and there my mother learned to cook everything my grandmother knew, especially her own recipe for Batchoy. According to my mother, this is the recipe that should be handed down to all the grandchildren and not be lost. There are a couple dozen recipes but this one is what started it. I learned from my mother that this kind of tradition should not be lost, especially now that Nanay has been gone for a while now. It struck a cord in me. I was turning my back on my heritage and my culture for another cuisine I don't have ties to other than my name and my education. I could hear Chef D's words, echoing, "Do what you know well and do well." So now I am albeit slowly. I'm an avid reader so believe me when I say I have read a lot of cookbooks especially Filipino cookbooks. There's not a lot of them out there and many are poorly written, badly published, bad pictures, ambiguous cooking techniques, all of which can be overwhelming and frustrating. I'm going to attempt at making this blog/cookbook as charismatic as possible with the help from some friends. (more on that later) But I also hope that anybody reading my blog will also provide some quality feedback on everything I post. Some days I might not post specifically about grandmother's recipes. I'm still a mom to a picky eater teenager and I work too, but I'm always thinking about food and blogging for me is my chance to think out loud. I'm always thinking of food and ingredients. Oh the myriad of possibilities of an ingredient....that's the most fun.