Nom-nom-nom, Mom!


 Decades after my Sesame Street primary education,  Cookie Monster's nomnomnom, is still current. That blue shag lump with the guttural voice - probably from eating too many cookies without pausing for water introduced me to non-words I love.  He presumably loves milk but the glass rarely shared screen time with flying bits of cookie.  So nice to have Nomnomnom stick around, like kapow, blam, and bang. My other favorite is  boing.boing, boing (bouncing) : ). I am known for speaking in sound effects to make a point.
We do have a Tagalog word for tasty – malinamnam – now pared down to the last two syllables and taken up by an instant flavor mix as a brand name.  
Anyways, mom had a birthday.  I am just very glad she is still around.   She nags, rants, berates, over reacts, drive us crazy (dad included)! She is far from “sweet”.  She is very practical minded, gutsy and a stand up. She is of the old school where her word is law and will bend only a little way. Growing up I saw her as stern and unfazed.  She and I were at odds for a long time. I was rebelling against my “role” as eldest and only daughter/provider/housekeeping helpmate/great expectation realizer/ex-model with a rep to maintain even in melting heat (such as it were, even when I didn’t get that famous).  It was tough for a while until I got brave enough to have “the talk” with her.  The talk was all about pleading my case as a responsible adult who has not done anything un-confession-able,  dated indiscriminately, got drunk, smoked, took up with bad boys or gotten pregnant. Major tearjerker! She let up on the “scaring-you-so-you-would-not-be-interested-to-go-against-her-will” bit after that. I went from “nagpapaalam” (asking permission) to “pinapaalam” (just letting her know).
She has had her fill of hardship but I never saw her cry, except when she laughed so hard.  She was not very affectionate with us but in the last decade has grown more demonstrative, especially when the grand twins were born.  Now that the twins are grown, we see her being affectionate with the dogs, other people’s babies and her plants.  All these years, cooking for us and slaving in the kitchen is her love language.
Now that she is getting on in years and her aching knee bothering her no end (she had to have therapy after she slipped and hurt her knee), I try to dissuade her from cooking as much. To no avail most times: she wants to cook for us, her family, for as long as she is able. 
I did manage to drag her to a pre-birthday brunch at Johnny Rockets Diner at the Eastwood Mall after taking her on her first visit to Padre Pio.  At Padre Pio, she was in awe.  The Sacred Room with the lying, "breathing" Jesus with his wounds and the Virgin watching over him is overwhelming. I didn't take pictures.  I didn't want to break the solemnity.  Spiritual need sated, we walked on (a long one) to the mall.
Mom loves dining out but worries about how much it will cost us.  These days, as long as we get to hitch with the brother who drives to and from work (near said mall and church) it was easier to get her to go out.  It was too hot in the house and the mall is our refuge, so to speak. 
I took her to Johnny Rockets for a throwback ambience.  Since she jokingly claims to be seventeen (haha) and coming from a huge family that could hardly afford milkshakes back in the day, I figured a throwback treat is just the thing to make her feel young-ish.   I thought the soda jerk/sundae parlor/retro diner with the flag checked floor, red clad booths and shiny jukebox would make the fun, swing out sister in her peep out.
I have always thought of my mom as this modern, gutsy woman.  She was quite a fashionista, judging from her pictures.  Even when she was dressed simply, she had bearing and a commanding presence.  You know how moms usually talk about how they used to be popular?  I could see it.
This picture of my mom was taken when I was still in grade school.  I thought she looked quite Sophia Loren vampish hehe. I recognize the dress and I remember she used to smoke Hope cigarettes – just one stick and only when under stress.  My brother was sent to the store once a week so that meant once a week, my mom was feeling the strain.  I think she has had lots of fun when she was younger and that bringing up the family took some of it out of her.  She was cheerful for the most part and had a sense of humor shared with friends but I knew there were times when she buckles under.
It gets so that I forget that she was once this beautiful woman whose adventures I can only guess at.  Oh, all moms are beautiful but I mean beautiful in the conventional sense:  single, young or in her prime, spontaneous, bubbling over, still dreaming for herself.  When there came us, those dreams got set aside; the need to look after us meant forgetting to take care of herself.  I would snap a photo of my mom and ask her to smile but she wouldn't even look at the camera at times, because she felt the pictures wouldn't come out the way she wanted.  Have you seen that Dove commercial where a forensic expert draws a woman two ways - how she describes herself and how others see her.  Too true. Even when we now subscribe to the idea that ennobling roles (such as mommyhood) bring out inner beauty and is far more important, HD and megapixels sometimes painfully records all the flaws you manage to ignore dressing up or making up in front of a mirror.  I don't think it's a matter of how people perceive you but how you remember feeling good and confident when you think you look good. Have I lost you yet? Maybe I am not being very clear. Sorry! : )
My mom is like any other woman who feels she doesn't look as good as she would have liked...  or how she remembered herself to have been. A woman's natural vanity will make you long for what was.  This was brought to mind recently.  My friend lost her job and stayed home.  It hasn’t been that long.  We tried on clothes at the mall and she was laid low realizing how much she has let herself go.  She said she wanted to feel pretty again, which meant she wanted to look it, too.  More so the moms who endured years of hardship and endless compromising. I heard on a TV show recently that “it isn’t compromise when it didn’t hurt both parties a little” and I think about what my mom lost in our favor.
So in my little way, I chose to honor the lady that was my mom with extra thick fries! Huh?! Kidding! I think I need to eat.
Mom doeslove her fries and Philly Cheese steak though she could hardly finish everything.  Rich tasting food makes her feel full faster - nothing like steak and loads of melted cheese and caramelized onions to kick the bloat full throttle.  I knew there would be lots left over and I will have to eat them so I didn’t order for me. Mom loves soda more than I do and that adds to the burp fest. Besides, she wanted to make room for the thick, creamy vanilla, apple and cinnamon milkshake.  Yum! With apple pie bits in it! I didn't have a clearer picture of the milkshake, without her in the frame.  She doesn't even know I'm posting about her hehe.
On the way to Robinson's supermarket (supermarkets being her "gimik" choice, trolling the aisles for bargains) we bought some Sweet Baum Cafe cream cheese cakes - similar to the local bakery "pianono"(jelly roll) or Bulacan's "inipit" (jelly sandwich) but so fine and light; the cream cheese or custard filling (there are choices) so delicately incorporated its almost silky and the cake roll seemed all of a piece when in fact, it's made up of  layers so thin it was almost seamless..
Getting on in age, mom is surprised to discover a compelling craving for sweet stuff  – the very thing she nags my seven years older dad on and on.  A friend says it is part of the aging thing, that her own dad would get mad when there’s no food in the house. Now my mom is doing it too (not the getting mad part though).
She has also gone adventurous with food.  She now appreciates my experiments (ehem) because she has tasted similar at Sambokojin, Tramway, Vikings, Papa John’s, Bagoong Club, Omakase and everywhere else I or my other brother (the buffet troll) brought her.  Lately, she and I have gone on halo-halo dates at Max’s Restaurant nearby to escape the heat. Their halo halo version has cheese strings, rice crispies for the crunch (in place of pinipig or young rice) and whole macapuno balls (young coconut meat jelly) which I love.  I am reminded of the macapuno cake of M Cafe or The Museum Cafe which macapuno balls on top I would gently bite into and savor the rush of sweet coconut syrup.  Heaven!
 
At home, mom’s staples would be far simpler – white fish paksiw (cooked in vinegar and ginger); steamed crabs, inihaw na bangus (milkfish); the ever present talbos ng camote (camote or sweet potato tops blanched and then eaten with fresh tomatoes and onions dipped in peppery vinegar or fish bagoong (fermented fish paste) laced vinegar; the family favorite ginisang munggo (boiled, skinned green mung beans sautéed in crunchy pork and pork fat, garlic, onions, tomatoes cooked into a thick, chunky broth that’s not very good for aching joints (high uric acid content);

fried eggplant (skin burnt off and the skinned eggplant squashed with a fork into a batter of whisked eggs, salt and pepper).
She likes mangoes, macopa from my aunt’s tree,the small guavas our scrawny but prolific tree produces (her morning routine at our "orchard"), ginataang mais (sweet porridge of glutinous rice and corn which she makes with our coconut trees’ gata or cream (in this weather I prefer to eat it cold), sweet kondol she buys by the plastic cup takal (measure) at Polo market and anything I bake.
More often now, she “commissions” me to bake her brownies, these cookies and chocolate cake.  You know the phrase getting longer in the tooth?
Well, it should be  sweeter in the tooth haha.
She was in luck though: Fancy Cakes & Crepes sent her a Baby Doll – one of the first cake recipes I collaborated on and taste tested for the cafe way back.  They don’t sell it in store, only to order, because this is a very delicate lemon chiffon and strawberry cake with strawberry cream and jam so light (dare I say ethereal) that I named it so.  Yep, I am a cake namer, too! : )

 Of course, she loved it.  I had an inkling older people will love Baby Doll as much as the younger adventurous eater (anything with lemon or mint in these parts is not as popular as, say, chocolate or vanilla).

So there you go, a tribute of sorts to my mom and to any of the moms who can relate.  We love you even when you are cranky just as you love us even when we test your limits.  I hope you stay and take care of us forever! Selfish to the end, I know : )

Happy Mother’s Day! That's next weekend yet (the 13th) but I hope you are now making plans  to treat your mom out so she can be herself again.  Don't let her cook!

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