“Do you ever wonder who started the whole garlic-onion power combo? Like did some random housewife from the 20s try it once and then it just sort of caught on or was this something our first ancestors passed on to us?” I was in bed thumbing through cookbooks, hell-bent on learning about my culinary heritage from the masters of Filipino cuisine.
“I don’t think that’s how you’re meant to use a cookbook,” he reports from the kitchen. “You’re supposed to be in here, trying it out for yourself.” Various scents and sounds of spices in symphony wafted through the air. It was a Sunday afternoon and my lover was making me brunch. I know of few pleasures that could come close to this.
“Well, you gotta start somewhere. I’m sure even…” I said, scanning the cover for a credit. “Nora Daza started somewhere.” I just don’t think I should be trusted with flammable things until I know at least 20% of how these things work. Need I remind you what happened last week when I tried to fry an egg?”
“No,” he chuckled. “Although the fire department might appreciate the caution you’re taking.” I could hear the sounds getting louder, the smell of gisa filling the tiny 19 sqm apartment we were in.
“Gawd, that smells good. Ugh. I just don’t know how you do it. You make it seem so easy.”
“Patience you must have, my young Padawan. These things take time, patience, and a little bit of magic.” I peered up from my book to see him with a sachet of Magic Sarap. “Plus, if it smells so good, we’re in trouble. You know what they say: Ang mabango mag-gisa, magaling mag-sinungaling.”
“What? I literally know no one who says that!”
“My lola used to say that all the time. She’d say never trust a good chef. But then again, she was shit at love and cooking so maybe that was more rationalization than actual advice.
I put the book down and dragged the covers all the way to the kitchen. He was sautéing garlic, onion, and some random vegetables I wasn’t confident I could name. I wrapped my arms around him as he stir-fried.
“But the real secret to any good dish cannot be found in your little cookbooks. If you really want to know, here’s the secret ingredient.” He set the spatula down, took my hand, and placed it on his chest. “Do you feel that? I’m cooking with love.”
I pulled my hand away almost immediately. “Ang baduy ha!” I said between fits of laughter. He puckers up and makes air kisses. I wiped his sweat away and planted a solid one right in the lips.
Whether his made-up saying proved true or not, I’d always have this memory in my head and in my heart. That summer, I learned exactly 26 of the 304 dishes in Let’s Cook with Nora. The novelty faded after the book called for ingredients like beef kabilugan, ox tongue, and tripe. And while I can now sauté like the best of them, none of the dishes I’ve made have ever smelled as good as that one little dish he made with love.
♫: Yael Naïm | New Soul (2007)
Postcript: While this is mostly fiction, I really did try cooking my way through Let’s Cook with Nora. Documented [here], I channeled the stresses of “funemployment” into developing a new skill. Shortly after I published the sole cooking post, I signed a job offer and that was that.
|The POST: April 2017|