When it comes to food, we often associate the things we eat with memories–whether good or bad. We might remember a certain person because of a dish, a specific occasion through a restaurant, or a place we’ve gone to with a dessert. No matter what food it is, there is most likely a memory linked to it.
And when people are removed from your life, or a memory is tainted with something you don’t like, the food associated with these can be affected. You might end up not eating at the restaurant anymore, or avoid a certain food that reminds you of it. And it’s exactly what I experienced a few years ago. (Read: Love Food? Check Out These Cute Home Decorations!)
My favorite person
I was the first apo on my mom’s side which was why the attention was all on me for a few years. Apart from my parents, lolos, lolas, titos, and titas would also take care of me and spend time with me whenever they can–and admittedly, I was spoiled in a good way. I was spoiled with so much love and care, that one of my lolas (my actual lola’s youngest sister) would travel from Bulacan just to visit me and stay for a week to spend time with me.
Every visit from her was something I always looked forward to, not only because she would always have pasalubong for me, but because she was my favorite person in the whole world. She was my forever kakampi and my companion whenever my parents have to work late or go out of town for work. And she was also my favorite cook because she loved cooking, and it showed in the delicious dishes that she served, most of which easily became my favorites. (Read: Pope to Grant Plenary Indulgences on World Day of Grandparents, Elderly)
It was like that for most of my childhood and adolescent years. She’d go to Manila to visit me and stay over, cook food for us, and keep me company when I was alone at home. But when I entered college, visits from her were more of one-day things because I was studying in Laguna so I wasn’t even home most days, and of course, she was getting older so travel was becoming harder for her.
My biggest heartbreak
Back then, I thought the saddest thing was that we only had a day or two to spend with each other compared to the weeks-long sleepovers we used to have when I was younger. But it didn’t occur to me that losing her, especially in the most unexpected of times, would become my biggest heartbreak yet.
It was so unexpected because we had just exchanged messages a couple of days prior to when we received the call from her friend and neighbor that she had joined our Creator already. She was doing fine, wasn’t complaining of anything, and then this happens; it was like the world crashed around me. (Read: 22yo Shares How Her Grandparents Decided to Get Vaccinated)
After she passed away, I was extremely affected for a few months–I remember waking up in the middle of the night crying, and my dreams would sometimes be about her spending time with me, which always ends up with her smiling at me and saying goodbye. But it wasn’t just my sleep and daily life that were affected by her passing, even my eating habits were affected.
And by eating habits, I mean I stopped (or avoided) eating some of the food that used to be my favorites because these were all her recipes. Here they are.
Both my parents hail from the Bicol Region, which is why I was used to eating spicy food and dishes with coconut milk (gata) from a young age. But even with this, I used to not eat laing, mostly because it’s made of vegetables which I hated when I was a kid. But when she cooked laing at our house for the first time, I wanted to try it because it smelled so good. And well, the rest is history. I started eating laing whenever it would be served in front of me, and would even get a second serving of rice especially if my lola was the one who prepared it. (Read: 5 Heartfelt Prayers for Grandparents)
But now, I rarely eat laing, and if I do, I would just get the gata and drizzle it over my rice.
This is definitely my favorite among all my lola’s recipes. Why? Because she doesn’t just use tomato sauce and call it a day; I remember her putting liver spread, hotdogs, lots of potatoes (she knew how much I loved them), and a lot of cheese which makes it creamier. I would often request it from her and even go with my dad to the palengke sometimes to buy the ingredients because the thought of eating caldereta excited me that I was willing to wake up early to buy fresh ingredients.
Now, I stopped eating caldereta altogether. That’s because whenever I would try to eat it, I would always compare it with her version, and suddenly find it unappetizing–if that makes sense.
Indeed, food has a way of making us feel connected to people. But that is both a good thing and bad. You may remember good memories from it that you constantly crave and enjoy it, but there are also instances when food becomes your worst enemy because it brings back emotions and grief you thought you’ve shelved.