In my last installment of my “Life of Love” series, Feyma had arrived in the United States. Today, I will reflect on some of our travel experiences and also about eating, food, and such.
The cooking chores
I had always been a fairly good cook and did pretty much all of the cooking for my meals. Before we married, I expected that Feyma was a good cook as well. After marriage, I learned differently! Feyma was the youngest child in a large family. In the Philippines, the youngest child (called “bunso”) is often not taught to do things like cooking or other household-type chores. The bunso is treated with a kind of special or preferred status. They are not bothered with such chores. So, Feyma had never learned anything about cooking. That was OK with me, I just continued to do the cooking for both of us. It did not bother me at all.
Sometimes Feyma would want to help me with doing the cooking, which I enjoyed, but she had to learn how to do it all, it was not intuitive to her. She did not have much self-confidence when it came to cooking.
I had never been a big eater of rice at any time in my life. I would have rice from time to time, but not often. Since Feyma is Asian, of course, she ate rice all of the time! Most Filipinos eat rice with every meal, 3 times per day. Feyma was not quite so much, she usually ate rice with lunch and dinner, not breakfast, though.
Even though I did not eat rice, I always made sure that we had rice available with each meal, because it was more or less a requirement for Feyma. I would have my potatoes or whatever my “side dish” might be, but there was never a meal with no rice!
We bought a “rice cooker” for Feyma shortly after her arrival. That made it easy to prepare rice, it was more or less all automatic.
It was kind of funny, I knew little about rice. Which rice to buy didn’t matter to me, and I knew nothing about how to cook it. I had to learn those things. A few days before Feyma’s arrival I knew I would need rice, so I went and bought some. I bought some Instant Rice… I didn’t know that she would not even think about eating that! She set me straight, though, on the day of her arrival, or perhaps the next day. We went and bought a 50 lb sack of Jasmine Rice. Fifty pounds of rice would have lasted me a lifetime! But, that is just a small supply for an Asian.
Our First Anniversary
On our first anniversary, I wanted to do something special when it came to our dinner. I went to a store and bought several Filipino cookbooks. I looked through the recipes trying to find something that would be suitable for both Feyma and I. I found a recipe for Rellenong Manok, which is a kind of stuffed chicken. It looked pretty good to me, and from what I read it was a very popular dish for Filipinos, kind of a “celebratory” dish. Kind of like for Americans having Turkey on Thanksgiving. So, that was what I chose to cook.
It was very complicated. Rellenong Manok starts out with a completely deboned chicken! You have to remove all of the bones from the chicken while leaving it intact. Then you stuff it with things like eggs, sausages and other items. When the chicken is cooked, it looked like a whole chicken, but since it has no bones you can slice it like a meatloaf. It really is delicious.
Anyway, the cookbook suggested that you could go to a butcher shop and ask for them to debone the chicken, but I was stubborn and wanted to do the deboning myself. Had to show off my skills to my wife! It took me hours to debone that chicken, but I did it successfully. The chicken turned out great! It looked good, and tasted even better!
Two Meals many times
Many times, when we would have lunch or dinner, we would have “two meals”. I would cook something that I liked, a western dish, and I would cook something that Feyma liked a Filipino dish. I didn’t mind doing it, and it kept both of us happy. As we started having children, and our kids got older, the kids also ate a mix of Filipino food and American food, so having both choices available was a hit for them.
I would say that at least 90% of the time when we sat down for a family meal we had choices for American dishes and Filipino dishes. A meal with only one choice was rare.
The Big Change
In 2000, we decided to move to the Philippines.
When we made the move, Feyma decided that it was her turn to do the cooking. She started really learning how to cook. She tells me that when we were in the States, I would always make sure that she had Filipino food. She felt that she needed to do the same for me… make sure that I had American food to enjoy even though we lived in the Philippines. I appreciated it so much!
Feyma has actually turned into a very good chef. Lots of people tell her that she should open a restaurant. Her real specialty is cooking foreign food like American stuff, Italian, French or whatever. She really does not cook Filipino food often, and even tells me that she knows little about cooking Filipino dishes. For the cooking of Filipino food, usually, our maid, our nieces or our daughter will cook that.
Part of the “foreign food” specialty for Feyma includes learning how to substitute locally available ingredients. Many western dishes require ingredients that they just don’t have in the Philippines. But, Feyma seems to always be able to find a local ingredient that will substitute nicely and really not affect the flavor of the dish. Feyma is a real expert on this skill. Even if the western ingredient is available, it will often be at a very high cost. By using the local ingredient that can be substituted, I can still enjoy the flavors that I like, which spending less money, which is appreciated, of course.
Food is a big part of everybody’s life. It is a cultural thing. It is not just to nourish us or to feel full. It is a social thing. When we get together with friends we usually have food together. Just like everybody else, this has been the case for Feyma and I. There has just been a little twist because we come from different countries and different cultures. We like different types of food. Today, Feyma eats a lot of western foods like I do, and I eat more and more Filipino food. We are meeting in the middle, I suppose.