I cannot exactly remember the time my inclination to food started, as what may seem to be considered as my awakening, my curiosity, on how a certain dish is prepared and what makes it a good one, but one thing I remember when I celebrate my birthdays during my tod years, my cake is the star, of course. I get to give a hand in decorating it. Details of this trip down memory lane is courtesy of my doting Mother. Stories of me on how I behave and gets too excited when my birthday is at hand. Maybe this inclination really started here, the birthday cake.
My dearest Aunt will buy a soft, lightly browned chiffon cake. She will then cook like a tart filing mixture combining eggs and condensed milk together, heated through over low flame, continuously stirring to achieve that thick consistency enough to be spread on the cake’s side without making it look so damp and heavy. Setting it aside to cool down properly. While waiting for it I will tear open Nips packs, like locally produced M&M’s , it is a chocolate filing with an outer shell in primary colors, you know, the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet. Calling my art teacher for correction. Once, the cake is cool enough, well, a quick tip is to put it inside the refrigerator, cake decoration 101 begins. The chocolate Nips is pinned by color along the sides of the cake or alternately aligned at the bottom. When Aunt is busy decorating to make sure a cohesive pattern of Nips, I will cryptically nibble some of it when she is not looking at me. She will not blow me off because I am the birthday boy. She then opens a can of fruit cocktail mix, draining the syrup and pouring it on top of the cake enough to cover it, spreading it and some little finishing touches and voila! My birthday cake is ready.
In retrospection on how this cake tastes, all I can think of is the richness of its tart “icing” mixture, full of sweetness, creamy texture and some tang from the fruit cocktail mix. I love to eat fruits. My favorite one is apple. Sadly, it is not part of the cocktail mix. Pineapple majorly comprises the mix, some papaya, nata de coco, and cherries. I am buying some time now to recreate that technique and recipe of hers in adorning that plain chiffon cake, I know with a little spread and spin around for sure it would be tastefully appealing with all those Nips and fruit cocktail. But I will have to send her emails first because she has been living in Alberta, Canada now. Mother cannot remember the ingredients and its exact measurements so I would have to really consult her. I am just hoping too she still remembers.
Another dish that might have propelled my inclination is my Mother’s leche flan, a dessert. Yes, that delicate looking dessert. Mother’s version is to die for. Steamed done to perfection from a mixture of eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and some rind to cut too much sweetness, all whisked in to blend together. The secret, I think it is all on the whisking part. But seriously, I really don’t know.
I remember helping Mother in making this hit dessert whenever our town’s fiesta comes. She prepares large batches of this dessert, her “llaneras” are not the usual oval type, she uses the loaf pans instead. Could be compared to a creme brulee but sugar is not blow torched on top rather have it sit and caramelized over low heat at the pan and that some burnt sugars just brightens the character of this creamy and sweet delight.
With these sweet endeavor from my Mother and Aunt, I tried to learn everything about food, propagating my inclination then feeding my interest. I became fond of watching cooking shows featuring culinary adventures, competitions and documentaries. When I was in high school, saving and compiling my Aunt’s recipe booklets sent to her monthly was a joy, she was a Del Monte Kitchenomics Club member then. I would legibly write notes of all my Home Economics subjects too, the knowledge on food preparation, various dishes, commercial cooking and baking and many sorts, I just want to capture it. I continuously read food articles in the newspapers, magazines, books and journals at the library during my vacant periods in college. I copied too the recipes I like. I was tempted to tear it off for convenience but roving student assistants were at bay, one could be at their mercy anytime once they hear a sound of paper being torn, besides I do not want to face that creepy libraby Director of my university. She stares sternly, with thick framed black glasses and that straight-like-Sadako hair in that petite frame. Imagine.
To this day, I enjoy watching episodes of syndicated reality culinary shows from local to international and reading food blogs and online magazines sites. I am collecting a food magazine. Soon I will try to discover other titles at my favorite thrift bookstore. Rarely do I buy cover price, I would scour the back issues. It relaxes me too while I am there. Planning to buy books, I have a lot of choices from local to foreign authors. I would want these books in their original state, I know, I know it does not come cheap. I just have to.
All sorts of pasta cooking kicks my interest, I want to learn the different techniques in making raw pasta and its dishes made out of it. Still considering of getting a culinary degree or short courses or just settle to self study. Anyway, I have a stash of magazines full of recipes all waiting to be tried on and I am patient. I like to experiment too. Drawn to kitchen appliances, gadgets, utensils, glassware china and cookwares whenever at the mall. What? All of this dragging me because of that birthday cake and leche flan? Damn!
I am hungry and thirsty now. Let me have, a macaroni and cheese, and pineapple juice, please. Thank you.