My earliest memory of being involved in the kitchen is at my grandmother’s house, a few days before Christmas when I was a little girl. I don’t remember seeing my lola cooking, but my aunts, uncles and my mom were the ones busy in the kitchen.
One of our traditional Christmas fares is Halayang Ube. My uncle would plant the ube in time for harvest just before Christmas. He would then boil it, then peel and grind them before cooking them into halayang ube. Our job as little kids was to butter the serving dishes. Once the ube is cooked to perfection, my aunts would spoon them into the platters and we would smoothen them with spoons slathered with more butter. Another Christmas dish we prepared at my lola’s house was Valenciana – a popular dish in Gen. Trias, Cavite where I grew up. It is not paella, but it is the Pinoy version of the popular Spanish rice dish. Our Valenciana is cooked in a talyase, big enough to literally feed a barangay. My grandparents owned some farming lands in Gen. Trias, and on Christmas day, some of the farmers and their families would come over to celebrate with us. Likewise, relatives also come to visit on Christmas day, and food was always enough.
When my grandmother passed away, and as my aunts and uncles got older, we moved our Christmas celebration to our house in Kawit. While we continue to celebrate with my aunts, uncles and cousins every Christmas day, some of our traditions were forgotten, including our valenciana and ube.
As I got older, my love for food and cooking was fueled with exposure to many cuisines either through actual experience or by watching the cooking shows at The Food Network. I learned to cook not just dishes that I love to eat, but also dishes that challenge my cooking skills. On Christmas Day, my cousins would bring their specialty dishes, and I would prepare my own. While we enjoy these “modern” dishes, I missed our traditional Valenciana and Ube. So two Christmases ago, I decided to bring back tradition and served Valenciana and Ube.
I asked my mom to buy the ube, and I cooked it a day or two before Christmas day. I cooked the Valenciana on Christmas morning and enjoy it with my relatives over lunch. Memories of Christmas at my lola’s house came flooding back. Even my aunt (who is about to turn 90 this year – 2015) enjoyed the Valenciana and even asked for a take home pack so she can enjoy it when she gets home.
So that’s what Good Eats is all about. It’s about discovering new dishes that satisfy my adventurous palate. It’s also about rediscovering old favorites that trigger memories of a good life. Let me share my food discoveries with you. I might even share some family secrets. Bon appétit!
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