Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Lasang Pinoy 4: Soul Food [Paksiw na Pata]
Soul food is an ethnic cuisine, food traditionally eaten by African Americans of the Southern United States. Many of the various dishes and ingredients included in "soul food" are also regional fare and comprise a part of white Cuisine of the Southern United States, as well.
The style of cooking originated during slavery, when slaves were generally given only the "leftover" and "undesirable" cuts of meat (after the slaveowners had taken the choicest cuts), and had only the vegetables they grew for themselves. After slavery ended, many former slaves, being poor, could afford only off-cuts of meat, along with offal. Subsistence farming yielded fresh vegetables, and fishing and hunting
Soul food is the style of cooking originated during slavery, when slaves were generally given only the "leftover" and "undesirable" cuts of meat (after the slaveowners had taken the choicest cuts), and had only the vegetables they grew for themselves.
The dominant figure in the cultural translation through food is the black woman. Her expressions of love, nurturance, creativity, sharing, patience, economic frustration, survival, and the very core of her African heritage are embodied in her meal preparation" (Hughes, p.272). Women preparing their dishes get a sense of pride as they watch their family devour the food they have prepared. They are happy when they have fulfilled the cravings of their loved ones. "Plumpness is a symbol of the wonderful job which she is performing. Even when her job occupation is food preparation for White America, her success symbol is plumpness. A big body to the Black woman represents health and prosperity" (Huges, p.273).
Lola Anday, my paternal grandmother who died from breast cancer when I was 12 years old, can be likened to the plump black woman who was the dominant figure in the cultural translation through food of African-American people. Even for Asians like us, women are the ones who shower their family with love and concern, they are also usually the ones who prepare dishes for their loved ones.
I remember when I was young; once a month we used to hold a family salo-salo (get-together)in our grandparents’ home in Dagupan, Tondo, Manila. All of my father’s siblings and family were always present at the said affair. It was a bonding time for the family. We shared funny stories with our cousins; we played a lot, too.
My lola Anday was the one who cooked for all of us. She was a very beautiful plump woman. In her menu, she wouldn’t forget to include paksiw na pata with plenty of banana blossom every month because that is my favorite viand. That's why I chose this recipe as my soul food, to pay tribute to my lola's love and devotion to our family.
Food that brings back memories of my loved ones is my soul food. Every time I cook and serve this recipe to my family, I can’t forget to tell them that this food reminds me of my lola.
Paksiw na Pata
pata front (cut into serving portion)
1 crushed laurel leaf
(I didn’t specify the exact measurement because I usually cook according to my taste)
1. Marinate the pork pata in the mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, and crushed garlic.
2. Add water, peppercorns, and laurel leaf to the marinated mixture and simmer pata until
3. Add salt and sugar to taste (I want my paksiw sweet).
4. Add plenty of banana blossom.
I am my lola’s first apo. She was a widow with no child when he met my lolo who was a widower with 3 children. They got married and had 3 sons. Even though my lolo had 3 children in his first marriage, lola had a harmonious relationship with her stepchildren.
My mom told me that my lola was very excited when she found out that she was pregnant with me. Lola Anday made sure that my mom would follow all her obstetrician-gynecologist’s advice and that she would religiously take all her vitamins and visit her doctor regularly for prenatal check-ups.
When I was born on June 3, 1966, my grandma was so happy when she saw me. She and my lolo took turns in caring for me while my mom was still recovering from the caesarean operation. I was not an easy baby to take care of (hehehe). I always cried a lot and was also very sickly.
My lola chronicled my life from the day I was born until the day she became sick. Everything about me was written in her diary; the first smile, the first laughter, the first word that I uttered, etc. We only found out this chronicle book entitled Lanie’s biography when we arranged her things after she died.
She provided for all my needs and kapritso. She had so many dreams for me; she wanted me to be a doctor, to have my own car when I reached college, to have my own flat with her, she also wanted me to travel to other countries, and so on. I would say that I became spoiled because of my lola. I was the apple of her eyes. She was so proud of me and always so happy to tell her friends that we looked alike. But the truth is my lola was more beautiful than I am. My vacation and weekends were always spent in my grandparents’ house. I always accompany her every where she went with her friends. They all loved to sing, they were members of a choral group.
When I was 11 years old, my lola found out that she had 4th stage breast cancer. She tried different medical procedures to combat cancer. She underwent cobalt treatment and chemotherapy. She also wanted to undergo mastectomy but the doctor discouraged her. I saw her sufferings but she didn’t give up easily. She was a very strong woman; despite of her illness she tried not to show us her pain. I remember almost a month before she passed away, she was already bedridden because her breast cancer metastasized to her bones. She always cried and ask for forgiveness to me and my mama because she didn't want to burden us. She wanted to live longer to see me fulfill our dreams. Lola wanted to see me graduated in Elementary (that time) with top honors. I became the valedictorian in our school but unfortunately when I graduated, my lola wasn’t able to attend the ceremony because she was in critical condition in the hospital. She went into coma, and died 10 days after my Elementary graduation.