Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Memories From Food Huntress Kitchen

Before the big old house became a sprawling mansion (in its own right), and before the age of popcorn makers, Betamax and doctorate degrees, it was first a shack, with grass leaves for a roof, and bamboo sticks for floor. The shack was standing two feet above the ground and there was a silong – then we kids would creep under the silong to hunt for coins that slipped through the bamboo floors.

And the kitchen? Just like the one in this picture- a close replica (though this one is actually taken from the back kitchen of my sister’s barracks). In the kitchen of the shack I grew up in, we had eleven cats, we cooked with charcoals, sometimes firewood, and when the rains arrived, we would cover the precious charcoal/ firewood first before our own heads. The pots and pans were blacker than a thousand midnights, the soot rose to 45 mm from the metal surface, and we had to get sand from the river to scrub them off.

I could close my eyes right now and smell the familiar wood smoke, see the braided garlic on the wall, coconuts under the kitchen sink, and corn husks being dried in the ceiling. Then when a new yaya (nanny) moved in with us from another town, she placed beside the coconuts a basinful of salted fish under the kitchen sink. That smoky kitchen held memories of warm days; my first cooking lessons when I was nine years old with our yaya, (the very first dish I cooked was a garlicky pork adobo with freshly- snipped swamp cabbage from the field at the back of our house), and many days of coconut- grating and afternoon snack cooking.

And yes, I had a favorite cat also, named “Creekhank” – and I don’t know how we came up with that name. I guess because of our intensive reading of American books that had a stamped “Books for Asia” on the inside cover that what embossed in our consciousness were American Indians and cowboys over the batang yagit (dumpsite kids). Then since we had no TV, we knew Hans Christian Andersen better than Voltes V.

As a child I used to pretend that that cat was a pet raccoon because of the patch of black fur around the eyes like a raccoon’s. Our cats were the classic guests of the kitchen hearth… sleeping on a single clump, one on top of the other, close to the warm ashes specially during cold weather. Careful, though, for when cooking fish, the twinkling of the eye, your fish is gone from the pan. This infuriated my family a lot.

But looking at this kitten all-warm and nonchalant beside the ashes, with its forefeet closed against its chest… the snuggly warmth of the young fur… waiting for fish… makes me want to just get that same comfort : on a cold February night and dream of story- reading over a warm bowl of bua loi and a great mug of coffee beside the fire...


elay said...

here dirty kitty, kitty..

coco said...

Hey there!
I have tagged you for a meme. Hop over to my blog for details! :)

Anonymous said...

That's what i call a well-seasoned pots and pans, a 45mm crust? wow! And food cooked over charcoals does taste better. This is an awesome kitchen, just have to be careful not to cook the cat... otherwise switch the menu to rabbit stew and no one will know! haha.

Ok, bad sense of humour zen! :-)

foodhuntress79 said...

Hoy elay, mapakaon ka pa san kuting.Hahaha!

Hi Coco. Thanks! You sweet girl...

Hey Zen. We have here dumplings with cat filling. No kidding!