I grew up eating rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We always had lakatan, mangoes or whatever fruit it is in season for merienda. During the rainy season, my mother would boil camote that we would all generously dip in muscovado. Even toasting cashew nuts has become a family affair that I always look forward to. Food for us is whatever a small inherited land offers.
Family matters are discussed over sumang balinghoy, failing grades and misbehavior would mean grinding corn that would later be pulvoron. I never got to grind corn because of failing grades, but boy, see how my biceps grew.
This is how the romance between food and the misbehaving probinsyana blossomed. I took interest on how mother would patiently boil, squash and strain sampalok for sinigang. At an early age I took pride of my knifing skills. I could easily grate 10 ears of corn without injuring any of my ten fingers. The most important lessons in life, I have learned in the kitchen. Patience, hard work, perseverance, frugality. Where my mother’s rod failed in teaching me, the kitchen succeeded.
My nanay told me that food always should be prepared and served with love. You could serve tuyo and boiled camote tops and your loved ones will enjoy the meal. But morcon and menudo will taste like paper if prepared by a wounded heart.
Now who can blame me for being shocked when this charming man whom I have chosen to spend my life with turns out to be a hotdog fed, “what’s-the-point-in-eating fruit”, and “will-eat-because-I’m-hungry” kind of guy.
Not to be discouraged, I slaved my self cooking my best recipes so that he will realize that sunny side up egg is not the most complicated, most challenging dish to prepare.
Refusing to take any shortcuts, I hunted for sampalok so I could cook sinigang for him the way my mother prepared it for us. The gata of my ginataang manok did not come from a tetrapak. Expecting rave reviews for my meticulously prepared meals he just ate them and said it was “okay”.
Demanding a reaction, I purposely did not put vinegar to the adobo. I asked him how it was and he said that it was “okay”. I surrender. Why this man who can write a news head line out of smelly socks but cannot make a decent comment on what is served to him is beyond me.
So one day I asked him, “What is your favorite food”. Silently pledging that whatever it may be, I, to the best of my culinary abilities will cook for him. Guess what his answer was. “Wala. Pare-pareho lang ang mga pag-kain.” And that was the last ditch. I may need to find another way to his heart because his stomach is impassable. I would have to take the road less traveled by.
Sensing that I was growing tired of his indifference to my personal crusade, he told me, ‘kahit pancit canton na lang”. I could have jumped with glee. Finally. But the pancit canton he was referring to is instant pancit canton. Oh no, I won’t let him eat food that has anything on it that I can’t spell. And I refuse to take part of him injecting himself with carcinogens.
But hey, he wants it. That is what he is going to get. I cooked instant pancit canton and he ate it with gusto. So much for home cooked meals.
Reflecting on this, I’ve realized that I’ve got a man who is not hard to please. Will eat anything that I serve him. Because it is instant, it is easy to cook (if you may want to call boiling water, cooking), easy to prepare. I am not too tired to enjoy dinner with him. And most importantly I have realized that he needs me not in the kitchen.
It is honestly quite hard to admit but one of the things that I enjoy doing is eating pancit canton with him. I am still dreaming for the day to come that he will tell me that it is my old-fashioned sinigang that he craves for. But for the time being, I might as well enjoy my chemical romance with instant pancit canton. And savor the feeling of how this doe-eyed man found his way to my heart with monosodium glutamate.