Since my aunt arrived from Manila, we never really got a chance to have a sit down lunch or dinner. I mean, having all of us on the table sharing a good meal. Where’s our manners? I suppose the busy lifestyle have gotten in the way of the traditional Filipino hospitality. And so, I thought this week end would be a wonderful time to do that. I phoned my parents and siblings to come Saturday for dinner. I just had to say the magic words ” free homecook meal “ and they all said — what time? That’s how desperate they are for non-fast food.
The menu for saturday dinner: Ensalada de Pepino (Cucumber Salad), Paella Espaniola, Pineapple Cured Ham (store bought ham, but gave it my own twist), Sweetened Saba with Tapioca (with Coconut Milk) and Bodegas Red Wine (coutesy of my father). The Paella may sound quite ambitious, but I’ve been cooking this dish since I was thirteen. It’s not exactly a beginners recipe, but I think I’ve been making it better year after year; by adding some additional ingredients and spices to it.
My grocery shopping started Saturday morning and I’m off to Seafood City and Mi Pueblo. Bought some chorizos, mussels, prawns and scallops. I was so surprised to see George Bank scallops available, but I would have opted for the England variety if they’re in season. I was also debating whether to use chicken or pork, but decided to use white chicken meat instead; so my mother can also enjoy the meal I’m preparing (she doesn’t eat pork or beef). The saffron was a needle in the hay stack, both stores ran out of the ones I like. I called my friend Mona (my sweet indian friend, she’s my lady of spice) to ask for stores in our area that may have it . But instead, she kindly offered what she has in her pantry. Free spices, why not? In return for her kind gesture, I invited her to come join us for dinner. But she declined cause of family affairs of her own.
The rest of my afternoon was spent in the kitchen, prepping and cooking. By 6 pm, I was all done and headed for the shower. Dad was the first to arrive, as always. ” We’re in America now, we have to be on time! “ as he would always say when we’re late. My siblings, brother-in-law and nephew came after. First thing they said ” Is the food ready? ” Poor people, they came in hungry. Then Mom and Aunt came last, from their outlet store shopping.
My Aunt was so surprised to see all of us in one room, it’s a rare occassion (to have all of us together). I led everyone to the dinner table, where our hearty meal awaits. Aunt was teary eyed and pleased with the feast we prepared for her. The night was long and my house was filled with loud laughs and eager conversations. Everybody said that my Paella was good and I sort of blushed; I’m not use to being praised. By 12 am, we decided to call it a night. And as customary Filipino tradition dictates, my siblings ” to-go “ containers were ready for the taking. Everything is gone, what’s left are empty plates and dirty dishes. I guess that’s not bad for a make beleive chef!