It’s Mother’s Day, and I can’t think of anything more appropriate to write about then some of my favorite food memories with my own mom.
I know a lot of people say this, but damn can my mom cook. When I think of my childhood and my mom, I remember her in one of her aprons cooking a ridiculous amount of food for some party we were holding or would be attending. I think of lumpia and empanadas and pancit and turon and palabok on colorful serving plates waiting to be eaten. The house always smelled delicious, and now that I’m older, her house still has that smell like something is being cooked.
She is without a doubt probably the biggest influence on how I taste things. So here are a few foods that stick out of my childhood.
A common breakfast dish in the Philippines is tuyo with rice and vinegar. What is tuyo? Well my friends, it is simply salt dried fish that is fried. I know, not appetizing to a lot of people, but I love it. My mom is an early bird, so I remember the smell of fried fish just as I would be waking up. She would have tocino and eggs for my sister and dad because they weren’t (and still aren’t) fans of tuyo. Oh man, just the combination of salt from the fish and sour of the vinegar with plain white rice is just such a good combo. Dare I say, almost umami-like?
My mom is not just a savory chef. She is also a pretty good dessert maker. The first time I ever had baklava was made, of course, by my very own mom. I’m 99% sure it was for a party. I was probably in first or second grade, and my sister and I immediately loved it. The flaky phyllo and the sweetness from the honey and nuts. How can one not love it? My mom didn’t make this dessert too often, so it was always treat when we would notice it on the table.
When my mom was younger, she made her way to Italy to work as a nanny so that she could send money back home to her family in the Philippines. The family she lived with taught her how to speak Italian and prepare some Italian dishes. The one that my mom would cook for us is spaghetti alla vongole (spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, parsley, and baby clams). She made it in rossi which means with tomatoes and basil. That was probably the dish that introduced me to clams and what al dente meant and taught me the importance of adding what seems like a seas’ worth of salt into water for pasta. I’ve never had spaghetti alla vongole that beats my moms.
One last one, I promise. Shrimp with garlic and butter and a dipping sauce of soy sauce and kalamansi juice. This is probably one of the whole family’s favorite foods. My mom would make two to four pounds of shrimp in garlic and butter, and all of us would just kill it. There would never be left overs. What remained were bags of shrimp shells and shrimp heads. I learned to suck the shrimp heads because I watched my mom doing it. Sure it looks gross, but I swear, all juices and flavors end up there.
Basically thanks to my mom, I love seafood and Middle Eastern desserts. I can appreciate salty and sour flavors, and most importantly, I learned to love feeding people and making sure they are happy and satisfied.
Happy Mother’s Day, all!