In spite of my early exposure to Mama’s cooking, I didn’t develop sufficient confidence in it until much later in life. I always felt insecure about the quality of my home cooking and for a long time, the standard against which I based my score was always that of my mom’s. Cooking for a small nuclear family like mine was a lot different from cooking for a big brood.
Eventually, though, I realized that this self-imposed limitation was crazy. I realized that cooking was more a creative endeavor rather than a fixed science. Gradually I was able to develop a “think the taste” approach to cooking. During tight periods in the family’s budget, I turned to the educational television program “Tele-Aralan Ng Kakayahan” of Cecilia Garrucho for recipes that were cheap, nutritious, and delicious. One didn’t need to spend much to be able to come up with good meals.
I learned to cook mock hamburger by using chopped “puso ng saging” or heart of bananas instead of the more expensive ground beef mixed with the usual chopped onion, flour, and egg. My children thought they tasted better than real hamburgers. Egg rolls were prepared by mixing just a little amount of ground pork mixed with lots of minced turnips and onion. Decreasing the amount of meat and using more veggies not only resulted in cheaper meals but also provided a more healthful diet for the family. One interesting discovery was that of coming up with cherry red juice by boiling “talbos ng kamote” or sweet potato tops in water and then putting in squeezed calamansi (lemon) and sugar. And as I cooked more, I became more versatile and gradually developed the confidence that yes, I can cook and cook well.