Curries, cookbooks, and memories

Friday, October 08, 2010 Jonette 2 Comments

It's 5 minutes to three in the morning. Five more minutes, and my three-day sick leave will officially be over. The ceramic crock of the slow cooker will cool, and the pork & apple curry in it will be stored and kept. I'm just sitting here, remembering the aroma the first floor smelled of a few hours ago. 

The rich, warm scent of Indian curry takes me way back to when my age was still counted in single digits. 

I remember -- back when we lived in New Manila, dinner felt like a special event at home. I have now very faint memories (but memories, nonetheless) of torta, tortang talong, fish sarciado, sinigang, accompanied by either plain or garlic fried rice.There were steaming tureens and oval platters piled high with food on the circular dining table, prompt at 7:00pm. Looking back, I'm not sure if it was because the table seemed terrifically wide to a six-year-old me (I now realize the table must have been seven or eight meters across), dinner was always a grand sight to see. At the end of every Sunday dinner, maja blanca always brought the week that was to a close, and heralded the beginning of a new one. Now that I think about it, perhaps I could say Sunday dinners held so much more meaning for me, much more than Sunday mass.  

However, there were nights when I felt there must be something special going on, or something to celebrate about. I felt this, because Mama would come down to cook something special.

Indian curries. Savory, exotic dishes. Asian food. 

Paneer Matar. Kofta balls -- in particular, Chotte Kofta. Vegetarian Nut Rice. Stuffed bell peppers and capsicums. Gado-gado (say it quickly, like gadogado).  Chicken Satay. (I would be such a greedy little girl, slathering my mother's peanut sauce generously on rice -- not the veggies or the chicken skewers.) If we were lucky, there might even be some Indian sweets for dessert. 

It was always Western food for Christmas -- the large roll of ham carved up, served with mint jelly or sweet applesauce, refreshing fruit salad, hot rolls, and perhaps the occasional Pâté, an office gift for my grandmother, "wishing the warmest holiday cheer to you and your family from ****." It boggled my six-year-old mind why anyone would want to add waxy, syrupy, colored gummy pieces to fruit cake. "Shouldn't they be a bit more fresh or soft if it they're to be in a fruit cake?" I often mused. I now confess to having a terrible weakness for the infamous cake, now I'm all grown up. (and now you know who to send your fruit cakes to, hehehe.) 

New Year in our household, however, always had a balance of Asian and Western dishes, that same balance constantly being on the brink of an upset in the war for cultural food supremacy. (Needless to say, I always silently cheered on for the curries and the peanut sauce entrees. The Chinese members of the assembly -- being round fruits, pineapples, and persimmons -- could well enough fend for themselves. They had center stage in most our neighbors' homes, anyway.) Amid the loud whistles, booms, and rat-ttat-ttat-ttats, the golden showers of fire and house-shaking booms (quite literally, too), the polka dots, the jumping, and the shouting, I knew the coming year would be one grand adventure for me. Why? 

Because the dinner the year was greeted with was excellence beyond words. 

 Right now, I still sit here, typing the morning away when I really ought to be snoring in bed. The pork and apple curry is now put away in the fridge. The tag hanging out of what was a mug of steaming lemon green tea now waves limp like a worn soldier. there's also a fork and saucer beside me, the yellow remnants of a curry tidbit to be soaped and rinsed away in a few. The pork was soft, and albeit too reduced for my liking, the sauce was worth licking the platter. 

It will now officially be a week from my birthday, and I do feel as if I've begun taking baby steps celebrating it. 

I do consider myself nothing short of lucky and immensely loved, that my mother decided to leave her Indian cookbooks in my care. Thinking about it makes my heart swell. I'd dare think she passed down her legacy to me, and I cherish the thought. Decades, heartache,  growing pains have come and gone, and still, her love reaches me and hits home for me through the memories and the books. It's rather like an Amy Tan novel, only it's more real for me. 

Mama, I hope this reaches you once upon a time in Washington State. I love you. 

I still honestly don't know what to do on my birthday. No big plans. Nothing, really. But the curry certainly makes for an excellent start. 


  1. Hi Jonette, thanks for your comment on my blog. Yep, Wall's is the same ice cream company here as well. The van in my photo is actually one of their ice cream vans that go round parks and streets and stop off for kids (and adults of course) to buy a treat.
    This post is lovely and heart warming. Have a good week. Love from London x

  2. A pleasure to have you here, Mademoiselle Poirot! Thanks for confirming about Wall's for me. I really should have taken a cue from the words ICE CREAM on the back of the van. *facepalm* Nonetheless, those vans do look impressive!

    Thank you for the lovely words. I shall strive to have a great week! :)


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