The Butterfly Effect

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I could say I am back to foodblogging after a couple of busy months and now Mita the Unofficial Cook has tagged me for “The Butterfly Effect,” a meme created by Dan over at SaltShaker. It really is quite an interesting meme as it made me reflect on the important roles of certain items, events and people that has affected my foodie life. So here is how it goes.

Dan says on The Butterfly Effect
My thought in this meme is food items or events that changed your foodie life. Not some “oh it’s the first time I didn’t put jelly on a peanut butter sandwich and used bananas instead” sort of change, unless you truly feel that affected you profoundly. That’s the key – it affected you profoundly, in some manner. A moment you can look back at and say “that was a defining moment”. The questions are simple, the answers might be harder – an item, person, event, or place that had that effect on you, and why. They don’t have to be big splashy things – sometimes it’s something very small and simple that changes the way we view the world – the famed “butterfly effect” (and I’m not talking about the Aston Kutcher movie). So, to those who want to participate, copy this and pass it on (and, if you’re so inclined, do a trackback to the originating post). Here are your categories:
1. An ingredient
2. A dish, a recipe
3. A meal (in a restaurant, a home, or elsewhere)
4. A cookbook or other written work
5. A food ‘personality’ (chef, writer, etc.)
6. Another person in your life

An Ingredient
For a while I thought about garlic but it is an obvious choice for a Filipino home cook so even for the entire dishes one could come up with it as an ingredient this spice is a staple that just doesn’t count as something that affected me profoundly. Then I remember star anise. I had been to few south-east Asian countries, love their food, and now in Beijing, and I know I will never be a huge fan of five-spices. But as I go along with my food adventures I started to use star anise – an ingredient to the five-spice powder typical of Chinese cuisine. Surprisingly I always manage to concoct great-tasting dishes with just a piece or two of this starry spice, from tea eggs and braised beef to pinoy humba and nilagang baka. Now I always have a container of it in my stash.

A Dish, a Recipe
I don’t wanna sound unoriginal but like Mita who tagged me it is pinakbet or pakbet. I love my dad’s version and as a young kid it’s one of the first dishes I cooked. How it affected my foodie life is a real biggie. First and foremost it is a melange of vegetables and spices – okra, squash, yard-long beans, aubergine, bittergourd, tomatoes, green chili, garlic and onions (the list can still go on). Sure the Ilocano way (well at least my 1st memories of pakbet) is to cook the veggies until shriveled but cooking the dish itself makes one understand each vegetable’s characteristics, when one isn’t scrumptious when overcooked, or that garlic has to be fried until brownish and aromatic, or that yard-long beans are better when crunchy. Pakbet has opened a new door for me and I eventually experimented with other vegetable recipes.

A Meal (In a Restaurant, at Home, or Elsewhere)
This would be all the lunches we had in our backyard during any non-working holiday (except Christmas and New Year’s Day, of course). Family gatherings on lazy days spent just talking and playing next to a barbeque pit and exchanging turns on grilling pork chops, tilapia, mussels and aubergines, then finally enjoying the grilled delights with alamang, raw tomatoes and fresh fruits served on banana leaves, not to mention fresh coconut juice. Oh what I actually want to stress here is the family togetherness when such meals just stretch on and on. Let me quote Karen on her ‘soul food’ because it definitely reflects how I feel about those lunches in our backyard and how they influenced my foodie life.

I notice that wherever I go, no matter how long it has been, when I remember the long, slow meals and snacks, the ones we eat with our hands, savour with our souls, mix with much laughter and sometimes tears – then that’s comfort food. The taste sensations bring joy but much more so are the memories – and these are what remain in my heart.

A Cookbook
I own very few cookbooks in my life and when I say few… I mean just 5. Four out of five I bought myself – 2 traditional Filipino recipe books and 2 about easy Italian cooking – cookbooks with recipes that I do end up cooking. How I got myself into buying them? It’s because I choose cookbooks according to the 1st one that I ever use – my HS Home Eco book with traditional Filipino recipes. It contains both simple and complex recipes but the how-to parts are easy to follow. What’s amazing is the fact that it’s totally devoid of beautiful food pictures yet with it I learned to whip up dishes and desserts such as kare-kare, afritada, embutido, morcon, leche flan, even salted eggs and a lot more I no longer recall. It has inspired me to go beyond what’s written and experiment on my own. It’s the start of all my cooking adventures. Unfortunately I have no idea where it is now and I’ve shipped the other 4 books to Manila years ago thinking I’d be stationed there for a while. They’re probably stashed away with my other books and mags about interior design and architecture. (Yup. I am still trying to find that ideal northern Chinese cookbook with English translations.)

A Food Personality (Chef, Writer, etc.)
Stephen Yan of the famous ‘Wok with Yan‘.  I don’t remember ever cooking anything from his show but I definitely got hooked and acknowledge thereon that cooking can really be fun. Oh if people could just see how I cook especially when my boy is “harassing” me. Sure there is some magic behind the wonderful flavors but that’s my cean in the picture with his out-of-the-kitchen magic.

Another Person in your Life
I could easily pick Daddy, a great cook who has taught me the basics of cooking but as I ponder more it is my partner who has unleashed that wannabe-cook-of-delicious-meals in me that was calm for years when I was so much active in my career. Supportive of what I do in the kitchen, A must be my no. 1 fan as he didn’t even bat an eyelash and came up with an idea that I put up a home-style resto with me being the cook (yikes!). A foodie himself who loves good food and enjoys the best part of my edible experiments I would definitely know how my cooking fares.

That’s it! Now I am tagging Karen of Bake My Day, JMom of In Our Kitchen, Lani of Chibog Chicka Lakwacha Atbp, Karen of The Pilgrim’s Pots and Pans, and Mike of Lafang. The last 2, I know you are very busy nowadays but I do love tagging you anyway.

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I am not a professional cook. My only claim to having a culinary background is a short stint as my dad’s teen ‘sous chef’ in his carinderia ages ago. Dad ran small eateries since I was a young kid - serving standard ‘turo-turo’ food ranging from the likes of menudo, adobo, pritong isda, dinuguan, binagoongan, bopis, munggo, pinakbet and giniling to merienda fares like goto, ginataan, pancit bihon, halu-halo and saging con yelo.

My father, a farmer in his hometown before working his way to becoming an accountant, definitely influenced my cooking in a lot of ways than I thought. My siblings and I were raised in a backyard full of fruit trees and vegetable garden. We spent weekends and the summer breaks running around with ducks, chickens, goats and pigs. I had wonderful memories of gathering eggs, butchering chickens, selling vegetables and the sweet aroma of preserved fruits. But my love for art led me to a degree in Architecture. Just few months after getting my license, I went abroad and lived independently at age 23. Definitely no maid, no cook, and a totally different food culture. Along the way I met lots of friends and spent what seemed a lifetime learning new tricks and recipes.

Now living in Auckland, I am a work-from-home mum who juggles time between work, fun and family - in pursuit of work-life balance. No matter how busy I am, I love the idea of cooking for my family. My blog chronicles home cooking greatly influenced by life outside my home country from Southeast Asia to Beijing and Auckland. And most of the time, being busy also means easy (sometimes quick), affordable meals.

12 thoughts on “The Butterfly Effect

  1. Thanks for picking up the meme, Iska! I also found this interesting and your answers did not disappoint. Pinakbet for you too I see…that never fails…whatever kind it is.

  2. hello iska,thanks for passing by…still busy but will try the LP15.
    I like your new blog. And like you i love pinakbet and anything on vegi’s.
    See you on LP15

  3. Hi Iska, i must say, that’s the best looking pinakbet! or pakbet.

    Also, it’s the very first dish i ever cooked and i was sent out to the market get the ingredients myself. Thinking now, it must be a test which i passed. i think! :-)

  4. おせちを年末一生懸命用意するご家庭もまちがいなくいっぱいいらっしゃる事でしょうが、決行大変ですね。

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