Throughout my adolescence, my mother expressed the true love language of an Asian mother, bringing cut cantaloupe, persimmons and mangoes to my room while I did my homework. “Tin … anak … mangan na ka (You eat now),” she told me. No wonder Filipinos don’t say hello and ask if they’ve eaten yet.
For me, being a foodie has always meant enjoying other people’s cooking, whether it’s my mother’s, my sister’s, my grandmother’s or Tita Rita’s cooking, but I don’t dare to learn or replicate Why would I do that when I can just enjoy the fruits of their labor? I learned to cook great food. Garlic noodles made with lots of butter and my Loro Pepe catfish adobo recipe. My mother, of course, passed on to me — no measurements, of course. It depends on what was in mom’s fridge that day. I always wanted tomatoes that were soft enough to thicken the sauce without being noticed. Sometimes lemongrass. My mom would make it for me whenever my partner was in town.
I no longer have my mom, Laura Luz, and Tita Rita, who passed away in January. It’s up to my sisters, cousins, and me to keep those food memories alive, just to connect our past to our future. Together we try to continue the tradition of Kapampangan. It was roasted and served with an already carved turkey fillet. Mainly for aesthetics, but also to feed our extended family.
At her memorial service this past January, I made corn pudding for my family and quietly pointed out the difference in taste due to the use of oversized eggs and the fact that the dough was not brought to room temperature before baking. Even dead, mine couldn’t compare. I plan to complete it for Turkey Day this year and every year.
A few months after my mother passed away, in that brief moment when things opened and closed just as quickly amidst the pandemic, I was able to secure a tattoo appointment. For representation, I chose a photo of her in her youth and a young San Francisco skyline with the Bay Bridge in the background (without the Salesforce tower in sight). At the bottom are the words “Frisco Queen” in scrolled script. This image represents my mother’s choice to move to this very place and make it our new home when she came here to build a new life as a nurse. They took me out of school for the day, shopped at FAO Schwartz (RIP) downtown, and took me to the Mission dress shop after going to the dentist. She was the one who dealt with my first bee sting on Mission 14, and she slammed once loudly on her thick nursing book.