Tuesday, December 11, 2012

About the Geeky Cooks: Pedro

At a young age of 7, I already know how to cook rice - not in a rice cooker, just a regular cast iron pot we call kaldero. We were living in Pasig City then. I remember one time I was told to cook the rice and ended up me being scolded by my mother for not being able to pick up her joke. We usually just cook 2 gatang. Gatang is a unit of measure that does not actually have a standard. We used the medium sized can of Alaska condensed milk. My mama told me "twelve" when I asked her how many gatang is should cook. Being stupid, I measured 12 gatang of rice into our kaldero. Rinsed it , the put enough water by using my middle finger to measure how high the rice is and then puting the same amount of water above the rice. So there, I put it on the stove and waited for it to cook. Dinner time came, the rice already cooked. I told my  mama that we are almost out of rice. She then looked at rice container (which is actually big can of biscuits), and found out that there's not much left in it. She asked me how come that the container is almost empty. I replied, "Sabi nyo 12 na gatang ang iluto." ("You said to cook 12 gatang."). So there goes the scolding. My mama cannot believe that I did it as the cooked rice is just right. I was also wondering how the rice was cooked nicely when it should have been overflowing from the kaldero.

We transfered to Cavite when i was 8 years young. The day before the fiestas and other important holidays when the rest of the clan will be there at our grandpa's and grandma's (father side) house. There is always cooking preparation job distributed amongst my uncles, aunties, cousins and some helpful neighbors. Some would be peeling the veggies and I specifically did not like working with onions. It's so dramatic! The workers bees (us who were allowed to handle knives) were given the veggies and told to cut for a specific recipe. Say, pang-menudo (for Menudo) wherein the potatoes/carrots are cut into cubes of around 1cm. Pang-Aritada (for Afritada), the small potatoes are quarted and the big once are cut similar to the quarted small potatoes. We de-string the chickpeas, french beans and string beans. Cut the cauliflower head and bring it to smaller size by nipping the small "branches." With some practice, I was able to do cutting meats too! But for the usual recipes too. :) 

My grandmother would always make Atcharang Papaya (Pickled Green Papaya) weeks before the fiesta. We help out by peeling, cutting and grating the green papaya. Afterwards, we would play seesaw to press out all the liquids from the papaya. Wrapped in clean flour sack, the papaya is placed in between two long benches. with one of the bench on top, we sit there and have fun playing. 

On weekends, our parents used to go to Manila. Mama would tell us what is available for us to cook as me and my sister had to stay at home. It was my moment to learn how to clean fish, but unfortunately, with my big fingers, I always ruin the fish and so the task went to my sister. We used to do a pretend cooking show we called PLJ Cooking Show. That's me, my sister and my cousin. One time, mama left ingredient for Dinuguan (Pig'sBlood Stew). Usually the pigs' innards are well cleaned from the market already. Somehow, the one we had is not really that clean. When we started sauteeing the innards, it smelled bad! My sister right away said "Kuya, isara natin ung bintana at pinto, baka akalain ng kapitbahay nagluluto tayo ng tae!" (Brother, let's close the windows and door, the neighbors might think we are cooking turd!) So we did. after we put the vinegar, the smell got better. The stew was alright after it was cooked. Since it's been boiling, we guessed it was ok to eat.

Once my father taught me how to properly fry Dinaing na Bangus (Butterflied Milkfish marinated in vinegar). So, I put the fish into the kawali (wok) with hot cooking oil with the fish skin side at the bottom. Since it's wet, the oil was spattering and crackling. Then it was time to flip it. The oil spattered and with my father right beside me, I screamed like a girl! Aaaiie!!! He looked at me but did not say anything. Since then I practiced my surprised reaction with a manly "Uughh!"

High school, my elective for Home Economics and Livelihood Education subject when I was in my junior year, was baking. I failed miserably in that subject. Failed to make Chocolate Crinkles. It just looked like chocolate munchkins from Dunkin Donuts, but a bit harder. Still taste nice though. I did my own Chocolate Cake which was also a big embarassment as I even gave it to my teacher for the subject after the home economics subject. I do not remember the taste of the cake itself but I can vividly recall the icing that I made. It was snowy white and like soap bubbles, it pops gradually until it was back into its original egg state. Good thing my teacher did not experience food poisoning.

One time, The Specter asked me why i like baking pastries and desserts so much. I told him about my high school cooking experience. I believe that it is actually why i am into baking now. I failed before and I want to make up for it.

There's a lot of stories to tell about me cooking. I guess the above is enough for now. Next time i will tell you about my first time baking bread. I can't stop smiling thinking about it. You will too! :)

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