Many of you may agree that Holidays are mainly a time for celebration. For many, it’s a time of being with love ones, gift-giving and family traditions. In my family, it’s parties and lots, and lots of food. This past week, my family, as well as many others, celebrated Thanksgiving together. For those who don’t know what Thanksgiving is, it is a national holiday that commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims and Native Americans. Compared to most families who celebrate this holiday, my family celebrates a bit differently and always put a twist on this nationally celebrated holiday. Traditionally, there is a turkey to carve into with a side of cranberry sauce. For our dinner, we have lechon paired with Mang Tomas sauce on the side. For all my Filipinos out there, you know Mang Tomas is our staple. If your fridge doesn’t have this sauce, you know it’s going to be a rough day. For those who don’t know, lechon is roasted pig, which I will get to in a later post. In addition, some families serve mash potatoes, stuffing, corn bread, and pumpkin pie. However, these dishes don’t appear on my family’s table when we celebrate Thanksgiving.
We always have a variety of Filipino dishes and desserts arranged ever so delicately on the table and on the stove. It is literally a feast, which goes along with the first Thanksgiving Feast, in my opinion. We have so much food that we tend to do what I call “rounds” of food. You can’t just have one plate, as it would be completely abnormal. You have to have a second or third round of food and then later in the evening, the hosting family tells you to bring home extras. Even when you say no, you’ll leave a house with at least 3 containers of food.
Normally, Lola Norma would cook every dish of this feast. I remember before leaving for Thanksgiving break, or any holiday, I would call Lola to tell her I’m coming home. She would get excited and tell me about the food she is preparing. It’s like I got a sneak peak of everything before family found out, and I was that granddaughter who requested a dish.
Since my Lola’s passing we’ve changed the assignment of foods and each family member cooks one dish to bring to the table. This year, I cooked pancit palabok, which translates to “noddle dish with shrimp sauce”. This dish consists of bihon or rice noddles, bathed in a shrimp sauce and topped with shrimp, green onions, garlic, slices of hard boiled eggs, and crushed chicharon. The best way I can describe the dish is similar to eating pasta with alfredo, but with a lighter sauce. It’s one of my favorites, but as I was cooking, I realized it is a time consuming dish. Soaking the noodles before cooking, defrosting the shrimp, making the chicharon and creating the sauce without burning is a long step-by-step process. Before I knew, it my afternoon was completely gone. To think my Lola would cook this dish on top of other dishes is still mind boggling!
When it comes to family gatherings like these, I always reflect on the effects of food on our families and our lives. Food is not just a form of sustenance, it’s beyond that. To sit down at a table with your family and spend your time together is a fantastic way to acknowledge each family members’ effect on your life; sharing love and affection without needing to say anything. Looking back on the Thanksgiving feasts we have had over the years, my family has always shared stories and laughter around this meal. This happens during any of my family gatherings, but I never thought of it until now, but it is always like that. No wonder our family parties last for hours, conversation is always around the food and the food is plenty.
Until the next post…
Kain Tayo! (let’s eat!)