Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chicken Adobo, Humba, and Homemade Love

While I was heedlessly living the "bachelor's life" in the big city, my meals more or less consisted of takeouts, canned goods and noodles, or leftover bread with instant coffee. I've never learned to cook, and was even lazier with the dishes. Besides, food wasn't that much of a big deal to me- except when I go home to the province. Being in Tacloban after months of living on overly-processed food proved to be extra special occasions when I get to eat real food which didn't come from a foil pack (or something I ate right out of a can).

My late mother loved to bake, but my favorite food was chicken, which she prepared in almost every imaginable way: fried, grilled, curried, and of course adobo. I do not think great chefs would find anything spectacular about that dish, I mean she had no secret ingredient or elixir to make it extra savory, but as the vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic cooked the chicken to perfection- there was a certain magic and fragrance. Maybe I'm biased, because even if my mom just prepared instant pancit canton I'd say it was the best I ever tasted.

My grandmother whom we all call Nanay was Mama's mentor when it came to cooking. Her specialty was the Visayan dish Humba (Braised Pork Belly with Sugar and Peanuts). She prepared it meticulously, with the accuracy of a chemist, and at the same time the versatility of an artist. She can make it sweeter or a little tangy. She can serve it in large chunks or smaller, softer pieces. The dish came out always, with no exception, just right. And seeing her brows knit in concentration as she mixes the ingredients, or having that smug smile as she receives praises for her dish must have been the special ingredient that made it better than what a chef in an expensive restaurant can cook.

Nanay is now in her eighties, and after my mom's passing, the responsibility for her care has recently been claimed by her children. While Mama was still with us Nanay had also lived with us since we were kids. Now I stay in our ancestral home, but without Nanay's presence it seems empty. I have begun eating in fast food joints again. I've stocked up on canned goods. Making this adjustment is more than just my palate missing her cooking- my heart is missing my mother's love.

1 comment:

<*period*>; said...

i love how the analogy.

maybe someday, you'll get to learn how to cook just like how your mother made it.

at siyempre, iyon din ang magbibigay sa iyo ng daan pabalik sa kaniya

samen sa batangas, meron dinng humba, kaso hindi kasama ang peanuts.



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