Christine’s Story / Filipino Torta and Bibingka

Recipe for torta

Ground turkey
Green, red, orange peppers diced
Potaoes diced
Carrots diced
Frozen peas
Onion
Garlic
Salt, pepper
Fish sauce

Served with steamed white rice

Bibingka
Shredded coconut
Milk
Eggs
Vanilla
Bisquick

“Up to an hour ago I always thought this was ‘torta,’” Christine was telling us, “but my sister told me that it’s the stuff that goes in torta. I’m still going to be calling it torta because that’s what I’ve been calling it since I was little. “

“Torta” was one of the first things that Christine learned to cook. She lived off of this dish for a whole semester in college, making big batches and freezing it for her future self. After moving out of the dorms her mom was afraid of Christine’s frozen pizza diet and one summer when Christine was home from school her mom decided to teach her this basic dish. Since then, Christine has cooked it for roommates, friends and her fiancé. “It’s my ‘I try to impress people’ dish. “

There was a bond between Christine and this dish. It was almost like it was a friend that she was hanging out with. She talked about it with sincere admiration and value. This dish is very close to her heart and everything she said about it was positive. There were myriad of lessons that accompanied learning how to make this dish. She described learning how to use a knife, learning about flavor, and learning how to use left overs. This dish was her dear life long friend.

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As she cooked she expressed pride in her culture. She talked about her love for patis and to accompany “torta” she also made a Filipino dessert, bibingka, and a Filipino drink, calamansi juice. To enhance the cultural experience, Joanna and Christine both reminisced about food they ate on their trip to the Philippines and talked about growing up eating white rice with everything.

Christine hosted us with such warmth. The house smelled of baked goods, her nephew was playing and laughing, it felt like home. She offered us so many snacks before dinner and was vey motherly. Christine’s mom passed away 10 years ago and Christine said that she’s happy she learned how to cook her moms food because people can still have her food. I think that we got some of Christine’s mom not only in the food but also in Christine’s hosting.

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Christine set the table family style. She brought out the rice, “torta,” and calamansi juice. The “torta” and rice brought me back to my child hood. I felt I was eating something my mom cooked for me. The meat and the veggies were full of flavor. It was served over rice and it was hearty, healthy and reassuring. It reassured me that my generation still values culture and about the possibility of culture staying alive through food. The juice was tasty and I had to contain myself from drinking it fast before eating my meal. When Christine saw that we were done she started slicing the bibingka. Joanna and I were beyond excited and ready to taste it. We had been smelling it the whole time and finally we each got our piece. When I bit into it I wanted to jump. It was so delicious. The flavor of vanilla, sugar and coconut were balanced and they went so well with the black coffee. It was like a mix of custard, cake and biscuit. I could have eaten the whole thing myself but I didn’t want to be sinful and disrespectful. As full as I was I had to get a second slice.

It was a very pleasant experience. Christine was very hospitable and sweet. I didn’t want to leave. She left me craving her friendship.

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