I'm what you'd call a novice at cooking.
Time, big X.
Since my mom and her twin sister, Aunt Circle were short-staffed this year, and they were expecting the whole clan for lunch Christmas day, I was coerced into pitching in. Cooking started days ago. It was crazy. There's a saying that only one queen could rule in a kitchen. This time we set up two kitchens, with three queens: mom, Aunt Cirlcle and myself.
Dec 23, 10 pm: Aunt Circle asked me to prepare the stuffing for morcon. I love this dish but I had no idea it was stuffed with lard and liver (yechhh!! I hate lard, I hate liver more!), as well as cheese, pickles and sausages. After rolling 5 kilos of beef, it was all neatly tied with a string Aunt used for crocheting. Fascinating!
Dec 24, 1am: Mom asked me to preheat the oven, put pineapple syrup over the ham and bake it til it's golden brown. How much time, I asked? Tantiyahan lang yan, she says. I watch the ham, and it's like watching paint dry. Meanwhile mom is busy eith the embutido. Tedious work, both the embutido and morcon.
Dec 24, 2am: The ham is done, mom needs cheese pronto for the baked spaghetti. So I get the cheese and start shredding. Baked spaghetti for Christmas? Ahhh, that's for the kids, mom says. You can't expect kids to like morcon and similar cholesterrific offerings? Siya nga naman. Meanwhile Aunt Circle, fresh from her nap, starts working on the fruit salad. I save some left-over cream for my cats.
Dec 24, 4am: Potatoes all done, we start peeling, cutting and getting em ready. Potato salad, anyone? The towels are all ready, peanuts, cashew nuts grounded too so Aunt Circle starts to work on the kare.
I head for bed at around 5am. Hibernattying. Zzzzz....
Noche buena was still about cooking. The leche flan is traditionally made by another aunt, Anit. But she decided to stay home this year, as she is still recovering from illness. They all wanted to eat but no one was willing to do it. I took the challenge, and followed the recipe. It looked simple back then. Three dozen eggs beaten, mixed with water, milk, sugar. Sugar caramelized, the mixture poured into llaneras. The whole thing steamed. I later find out that it's not easy! I was sweating like a pig.
This cooking business sure ain't easy. :-(
Dec 25, 2am: Mom says we steam the flan for 30-40 minutes. Fine. I decided to rest for a bit. I was reading Jennifer Egan's book called Look at Me. Aboat a model who got into a car accident. Her face is wrecked, and the reconstructive surgeon puts 80 titanium screws in her face and skull. Man, that's gotta hurt! My reading is interrupted though, more cooking up ahead for poor me.
Dec 25, 4am: Aunt Circle wakes up. She needs my assistance. Time to cut up vegetables for her veggie dish. I do just that. But oh, wait, she has to work on another beef dish as well. So I am tasked to cook the veggies in the other stove. two kitchens, remember?
Dec 25, 7am: The ox tongue is all ready now, I open the cans of mushroom. Lengua is what they call it. The veggie dish tuned out okay. I must be getting the hang of it. Finally I was ready to hit the sack.
But wait. Since mom's still in bed and there's just Aunt C and moi, would I mind doing the prawns as well? There's just 4 kilos anyway. Fine, I said, where's the Sprite?
Dec 25, 9am: Turns out that the prawns are still frozen, so after quick-thawing it, I was all set. I slathered a whole bar of butter, put some oyster sauce. Mom is awake, she's busy cleaning the fish, marinading the squid and the porkchops for inihaw.
Dec 25, 1130am: It's a wrap. Photo-finish. Everything except the inihaw is done, guests start arriving. You wouldn't believe how many relatives I've got. And that's just from the mother's side.
Time to hibernate again. I hope there's no repeat of this frenzied cooking anytime soon. Next year I'd rather be in Siberia than go through all this again. What is it about Pinoys and cooking so much? Yeah, I love to eat too but I kinda lost my appetite after going through all that. The clan was busog, and I guess that's what matters most to mom and Aunt.
I still don't get it though. :-(