Friday, August 15, 2014

Filipino Food: Kitchen Tales And KUSINA tales

Chicken lumpia--mmm!
I love food. I love eating it, cooking it, and (if you're lucky) sharing it.

My kids are also passionate about food, which pleases me to no end. I'll cook for them and with them. I take them on food destination trips, like finding the best crepes or Italian ices or tacos. I love that they have strong opinions about cilantro and know there are different types of tomatoes. And while we eat every type of cuisine, the consumption of Filipino food is always a more personal affair. Of course it's because I am--and they are--Filipino Americans.

Whenever I make Filipino food, I corral my kids into the kitchen about two hours before we sit down to eat. I'll begin with a story about my Mom and how she prepared the dish we are about to make. I'll paint a picture of a ramshackle kitchen in Brooklyn that was overrun by Tagalog speaking adults, mostly women gossiping as they pounded garlic cloves or peeled carrots.

And as I fill my kids' ears with my family kitchen tales, I'll let them chop onions or measure ingredients or stir the pot. Sometimes they'll stop and gawk at a part of my story that seems incredulous. Like the time my Lolo (grandfather) painted the toilet seat in our bathroom and didn't tell anyone. (Somehow that was part of our kitchen tales; my Lola would always bring it up in the kitchen.) Or when my Mom mistakenly used sugar instead of salt in her arroz caldo. I couldn't eat my favorite dish for years after that. And even though my Mom has passed and my "titas" are scattered to the wind, my kids learn what I was taught in that old kitchen. They learn to be a little bit more Filipino than just by the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes. They learn through the oral history that is thus far my life. And I teach them in my own kitchen.