After many requests to start a blog, I’ve finally started one with the intention (and determination) to keep it alive, well, and updated.
Hopefully you can see in the picture above, beneath the mountain of rice noodles, vegetables, and meat, our kaldero which, translated from Taglog to English is “cooking pot.” For as long as I can remember, we’ve always had this kaldero in the family. Growing up with an older sister, five aunts who were close in age, parents, and lolo (my dad’s dad), there was always a need to make enough food to feed an army, on a budget, and preferably in one pot.
Luckily, my parents had these mastered. My dad fit the bill more so since he was a soldier in the army, so he had a good idea as to what cooking for an army entailed. As the eldest of five who immigrated from the Philippines, he had the budget and one pot cooking down pact.
Dinner was comparable to dinner service in a restaurant except we all only had one option on the menu and that was whatever dad cooked. He was the head chef, my sister was the sous chef, and whoever was in the house helped prep the ingredients. As the youngest in the house, I wasn’t made to prep anything, but I was placed on a stool and told specifically to “watch and learn.” I did have one job and it was to get the kaldero.
Meals made in the kaldero were usually stews made from cheap, but tough, cuts of meat, dried legumes from a seemingly bottomless bowl of legumes that were soaked overnight, vegetables usually from the local Filipino store or from the garden, and of course a pot of freshly steamed white rice.
As a kid, I envied my classmates and kids on TV that got to eat pizza or hot dogs for dinner. I envied them more when I had to pack a lunch from the leftovers to bring to school while my classmates ate their school cooked meals. To me, “American food” was what I considered normal. I have a feeling that I have a few readers who know exactly what I mean by that.
Can you imagine bringing a container of rice and a dark stew that looked like melted chocolate but was really various chopped meats stewed in a pork blood and vinegar? Easy fodder for the “normal kids” and their “normal food.” The stew, commonly known as dinaguan, is one of my favorite Filipino dishes regardless of my “traumatic” childhood experience with it.
We’re all older now, with lives of our own but, we all have a deeper appreciation of the meals of years past. I–we miss it, since my father’s passing in 2007 and, try as we might, the meals that he made us are missing him too.
The occupancy of our household is down to four and there’s no need to cook for army. We still have that old kaldero, hanging in the house. When it is brought out, it holds a complexity of meanings and memories, good and not so good, for all of us who grew up in the house. They are meanings as complex as the flavors that have been developed in it throughout the years.
It’s a special occasion.
Home-cooked, Filipino food that instantaneously takes us all to our childhood is about to be made.
We’re going to be fed and fed well.
Dad is right there with us.
We’re all together as a family.