Monday, September 3, 2007


I’m the daughter of a cook, raised by a family of men and women whose lives were spent in the growing, making, processing and most importantly revering of food. A child of new immigrants from the Philippines, I was born into a mid-fifties America in the heart of one of richest agricultural areas of California, at a time and place where learning English was tantamount to fitting in, being less of a threat. It meant being invisible, and that meant you survived.

Survival always comes at a price, and in my case, it was losing that valuable cultural connection, our parent’s native language, in order to assimilate. Without a similar language between us, we needed common ground, and so my parents and I built bridges between our two cultures – the old Filipino world and the New American one, in order for us to stay connected. Of all the bridges we had to build, nothing was more lovingly instant nor more gratifying than experiencing the pleasures of our family cooking.

Simple and rich, made with humble ingredients that alchemized into something magical, our culture was encapsulated in intense bites, which I would have to experience first and bring words to it later. Food was my mother and her culture expressing itself without hesitation in a country that had yet to get over its fear of us, let alone appreciate us.

Food transmitted care, respect, devotion and love. In a new land where child was divided from parent by the words we used, it became our family’s method of speaking clearly a language that left no question as to how we felt. Its a language that binds us to this day.

If there’s a single recipe I would choose to inaugurate this food blog (the very one I’ve been threatening my friends and family that I’d write before the year was out) its this one. My grandfather was my first cooking teacher, and his lessons taught me the value of rice—cooking it to pearly, separate, soft perfection, keeping it, the sin of wasting it, and its value as restorative when your body and soul is sick and aching.

The Chinese call it jook or congee. We call it rozcaldo.

1 c. white pearl rice
1 lb chicken thighs (skinless, boneless ok)
3-4 thumb sized pieces of fresh ginger – smashed but intact
water to cover to 1.5" above chicken
salt to taste
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp. cooking oil

Wash rice three times in clear warm water, each time draining off excess starch – until water runs clear. Fill rice pot with warm water to the first joint line of the index finger (when fingertip is placed directly atop the surface of the rice). Cook rice on medium high heat until water is almost completely boiled away (12-15 minutes). Turn heat down to low simmer and cover until steaming stops. Turn off heat and set aside.

At medium low heat, boil chicken in water with ginger and salt until chicken is tender. (roughly 1 – 1.5 hours). Add cooked rice and turn up heat to medium high, letting the porridge thicken. Once thick, turn down heat to simmer.

Saute garlic until golden and not one minute more. Add hot oil and garlic and to finish porridge. Stir to incorporate. From the flu to a broken heart, good for what ails ya.

At least that’s what my grandfather said.

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