Cooking ng Ina mo

by Evans Yonson

I hate cooking and I don’t know why. Perhaps it is the smoke that makes me cry. I let Ben do all the cooking for me and the family. She cooks the best pancit sotanghon[1] with chicken and shrimps and dinuguan[2]. The kitchen becomes her kingdom. No one is allowed inside except me. She works wonders in the kitchen. She prepares the ingredients the night before our meals or parties. She would wake up early at the sound of the rooster. No one else in my family knows how to cook as good as my wife. Ben should have taught the children when they were younger. I have always encouraged eating fish and vegetables everyday. It was not only cheap for the family budget but it was also healthy for the body.

My children hate my cooking. I fry everything from eggs to pork chops to chicken wings. They call me the frying queen. If there is one thing that I am good at cooking, it is Chinese sweet ham. I have perfected the recipe that my officemates and friends order from me during the Christmas season. I am a meat lover person. I hate the smell of fish or any seafood. We could go on for days without eating vegetables or fish. This must be the reason why I developed a goiter after my fifth pregnancy. My doctors always remind me to have a balanced diet but I never heeded their advice. I remember the agony that I had to go through with the goiter and the operation that I had. Today, my children have learned my lesson. Always have a calcium and protein-rich diet.

I am a good cook and I learned how to cook from Tatay. I remember how we would gather around the kitchen and watch him do wonders. What I could not do is prepare for more than 20 people on the feast of Saint Augustine. My favorite recipe is adobo and the lentils with coconut milk and shrimps. My adobo has many herbs and spices making the meat’s savor come out fully. While lentils soup is served hot and spicy. I also cook fish in vinegar sauce with garlic, pepper, and olive oil. After I had my cholesistectomy in 1992, my doctors advised me to lessen my red meat intake. I have tried a pesco-vegetarian diet for three months and I lost 10 kilograms. I love cooking Chinese food most of the time but without the monosodium glutamate, which gives me headaches all the time.

My parents enrolled me in Kong Hua, where Chinese kids went to school. My paternal great grandfather was an immigrant from Southern China. We lost our Chinese heritage because of an interracial marriage. I was given a Chinese name, Yang Shi Wan. In the morning, I did subjects like History, Grammar, Social Studies, and Elementary Science in the English language. In the afternoon, I attended Chinese Fookien grammar and mathematics classes. It was cool learning two languages in one day. I would be reciting the English alphabet in the morning and writing calligraphy for the rest of the day. Any failure in tests meant a whipping in the hands with bamboo sticks. I went home bruised and crying. After my first year, I received awards in my English classes and I almost failed in my Chinese classes. That summer, my parents made a decision to hire a Chinese teacher to give me special classes. I learned Fookien fast because my teacher was good. I stayed in the Chinese school for another two years.

Nanay and Tatay decided to transfer me to a religious elementary school for boys. The main reason was I will act as Jojoy’s keeper. I was told by the school registrar that my English and Mathematics levels were a year advanced that their regular students. I saw it as a compliment but it was not for long. On my first day of school, I felt lost in a jungle of young boys running, shouting and playing with their friends. Everything was new to me. There were masses every so often. We confessed our sins on a weekly basis. We recited the Rosary everyday. We memorized long prayers. I had difficulty finding friends in class because I was used to having girls and boys as classmates. After several months I finally found friends. In the next three years, I became just an ordinary student among the crowd. Vya started school when I was about to graduate from elementary. I became the older buddy of my two younger siblings. I was responsible in keeping them safe and seeing that they eat their meals on time. I made sure that they were not dirty when we got home. We went to school together and I brought them home myself.

(to be continued)
[1] Vermicelli noodles.[2] Pork blood stew.

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