Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Childhood Food Memories Meme

Yikes, my first meme. Tagged by Stef of Stefoodie, and I didn't know until I read her post. Um thanks, I think. :)

Generally, childhood memories that come to mind are avoiding some horrible looking frogs on a cement ledge in the back of the school and getting all scratched up for my efforts, the many times I had to have minor knee surgery by my mom (she'd remove all the little stones and stuff I'd get when I would skin my knees), reading in bed which my mom said was bad for my eyes, but I did it anyway. And the cats, my never ending line of pusakals (stray cats). From the one mama cat that bit my cheek when I was 6 (and I imagined for weeks that I had a big gaping hole in my cheek), to my favorite tabby imaginatively named Orange who used to streak round my tiny room, to settle late at night on my face or near my neck. Poor thing died without me around as I was in college by then. Of course thinking of him prods my guilty conscience as I've just moved to a new place and I have had to leave my newest feline companion with my parents until 2007 (my current housemates are allergic to pets). Ok, enough with the somewhat negative and morbid nostalgic streak.

Food had a share of the better memories, particularly around the holiday seasons and birthdays. Birthdays for instance, always began with a bowl of misua (very thin egg noodles), with the meat and mushroom mixture in a separate bowl and the rich chicken broth in another. Then the condiments of fried garlic, thinly sliced green onions, peanuts and a boiled egg, all spread out around the table. The egg had to be colored red the night before for that extra touch of chinese authenticity. I don't know if it's true, but my parents would say that the misua represented long life. So we had to eat it on our birthdays or be banished from the family forever (maniacal laughter here). Erm, no that last bit is not true, but we would get into major doodoo if the egg was not red or if we tried to dash out of the house without eating the requisite bowl. Mind you, I loved misua and loved mixing the noodles and meat and broth, then add enough of the garnishings to feed a village. But some birthdays were on weekdays and school days which meant getting up at an ungodly hour just to gulp down the food.

Cake - where would birthdays be without cake? Hizon's in Manila was where we always got our chocolate cakes and it is always the arbiter for a classic chocolate cake. It was a moist, chocolatey cake, with enough of the dark chocolate icing to lick off later. Nowadays, we are inundated by great chocolate cakes all over the place, but no other bakeshop will have a place in my heart as Hizon's.

Speaking of cake, I remember that the best Easter cake we ever had was the humongous ice cream cakes Magnolia used to make. One Easter, after the mom-mandated fasting, no ice cream and no lusting after ice cream for three whole days, my dad brought in a big box and we beheld (or is it still behold?) this castle of a cake, pink and yellow, and just at the point of melting in the heat. Didn't take much for us to cut the cake and dig in. Don't think that cake had a chance to melt. And I don't know if Magnolia still makes ice cream cakes. The ones at Haagen Dazs are just way too pricey; would rather get a pint instead.

Sometime in my later childhood years, when I was allowed to get close to the knives and fires of the gas stove, it became a regular part of the repertoire to do homemade barbecue, and for some weird reason, we all wanted chicken barbecue. So I would take it upon myself to slave over the hot coals, basting the bbq-ed legs and wings and breasts for the parties. They were good and spicy but honestly, I don't know why I did it.

If we have to have a balance of the good and bad, I hereby admit that I abhor and still avoid like the plague ampalaya (bitter melon). I don't care if it is the miracle cure for the ages, I will never like the taste and it doesn't help that I have memories of my mom forcing me to eat it. Ditto on chicken liver sauteed in oyster sauce in chinese restaurants.

But back to the good memories, and as I wrote the last sentence, I can't post this without reminiscing over the Sunday meals after mass, when we'd head out to Ongpin and either eat at the original Smart Panciteria (oyster cake, steamed fish, those darn chicken livers, beef with kailan, and other seafood, plus a variety of soups and fried rice), or a dinky dive that served the best oyster cake and oyster soups, plus anywhere my dad felt like eating in the maze of Chinatown. I still get lost when I'm in the area, but the smells bring me back to the late 70's and early '80's, walking behind my dad, with my mom, sister and brother, dodging horse puckies on the road.

There are too many other memories flooding back right now (these memes are addictive), and if I find time to put them back onto blog paper, I'll catch up with my green mango/bagoong addiction, pan de sals with a myriad of fillings at the school cafeteria, and those never ending fruitcakes that took up space in the refrigerators.

I may have to do another blog soon as I can't think of who to tag. Give me a day or two.


stefoodie said...

hi mila! so glad you saw my tag -- been meaning to tag you guys but didn't get a chance to sit down and e-mail 'til today. thanks so much -- hope you had fun -- i certainly had fun reading your answers; we sure have some distinct pinoy food memories, don't we!

Mila Tan said...

Hi Stef,
Thanks for tagging me, although what do I do now? Maybe my blog will be the new place where meme's come to die.
I did enjoy that nostalgic trip down food memory lane, will have to find time to do another post as I promised.

Mona said...

Mila , found your comment on 'year in food' and wanted to check your blog out. It's always fun bein' tagged for the first time, right? I had a lot of fun writing about childhood food memories, and it seems you did too!

Google Page Rank 6 said...
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Mila Tan said...

Hi Mona,
Yes, I enjoyed my first tag. Thanks for visiting my blog, though it's not a food blog or any specific topic blog. I'll visit your site soon!

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