Recipes

Welcome to my table: How recipes tell a story

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I believe every recipe holds a story. The ingredients, the instructions, the tips and tricks used behind the scenes, the suggestions of how to serve it – all of these play a significant role in a making a recipe unique.

I grew up in the kitchen with my mama and my grandmas and my aunties. I loved being in the kitchen (even to do the kid jobs like mixing the sauce in the pot and licking the spoons) because I knew the best stories were told in the kitchen.

My Mama Maria will always be my inspiration when it comes to cooking. She invited me into the world of ingredients, techniques, tastes and smells, when I was a very young girl. I remember she would make pull my stool up to the counter and sprinkle it with flour. She would let me draw pictures in the flour while she told stories. Eventually, I graduated to measuring, grating, kneading and cutting. Mom would labor in the kitchen with love. She loved her people through food, and now I find myself doing the same. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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I still remember the stories my Grandma Cora (my dad’s mama) would tell about moving from the Philippines to Hawaii, where she grew up. She told us about how my grandpa was a radio DJ and used to dedicate songs to her. She taught me to make pancit and to roll lumpia. While she was making these traditional Filipino delights, she would talk to me about all the places she had traveled as a flight attendant. She described to me the bombing of Pearl Harbor when she was living in Hawaii during World War II. These were beautiful stories. These were hard and important stories. Recipes are histories.

My children’s book, Cora Cooks Pancit, tells the story of a girl learning to cook a traditional Filipino dish with her mama. However, the book is much more than that. It’s also the story of her family and their roots in Central California. I interviewed my friend, Rebecca Torosian, whose daddy was a cook for the Filipino farmworkers. As she unfolded her family’s story in the fields, I found an intersection for my own family’s history. My dad worked summers in the fields picking strawberries and grapes. He told me stories about those summers working alongside his cousins. And this is what I love about food – it unites us; it brings us together; it tells a story.

Many moons ago I started a recipe blog called Health-Full. That blog provided a space for me to share recipes with friends and journal my family’s foray into healthy eating and living. I decided to revive that blog idea but with a new twist. I’ll be sharing some of my old fave recipes here that hold memories and stories. I want to remember where and when and how we cooked and ate together. I also plan to experiment with my three daughters and create some new recipes together in our new kitchen, in this new season.

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I hope these recipes will become favorites for you and yours. My dream is that you will create your own stories around your own kitchen counters and tables that involve these recipes. Gather your kids, your girlfriends, your people, and cook up something together. Set the table with paper plates or fine china and sit down for a plate overflowing with stories, a bowl rich with memories and a glass full of friendship.

As they say in Italy: Buon appetito!

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