Meatloaf With An Asian Twist
Category: Main Dishes | Blog URL: http://www.skiptomalou.net/2009/12/lessons-my-papa-taught-me.html
This recipe was entered in The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest, a compilation of the world’s best food blogs which was published in Fall 2010.
Photo: Sheri Wetherell
This was the featured recipe in my entry "Lessons My Papa Taught Me"
I had a great conversation with my father over the phone today and I realized that we had not shared a talk like that in a long time. Due to the time difference (16 hours to be exact!), I rarely could get him on the phone. He’s always at work; even at 77 years old, he refuses to slow down! You would always find him in his law office always working on a case… and if you're lucky, you would catch him whistling along to the tunes of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, or his favorite, “What a Wonderful World.” That’s the first lesson that my Papa taught me: Do something that you really love, and you won’t quit doing it.
He was also excited to tell me that he was orchestrating a surprise party for my oldest brother, Fr. Gerry, who is celebrating his 21 years in the priesthood this December. As he excitedly told me each of the surprises he had planned for my brother, he said, "Oh but wait! Guess what the other celebration is all about."
Here was a challenge from my Papa. "What?" I asked him.
"Well, let's just see if you still know your father." I could hear him smile from the other end of the receiver.
I thought to myself, "Oh no... Please, Papa, don't do this to me!" I mumbled to myself, "Hmm... think, Malou! Think hard... or else."
Suddenly, I remembered one of my father's most memorable moments. "Are you celebrating your investiture as a Knight? Is it your receipience of your Papal Award from fifteen years ago?" I inquired and hoped I was right.
A burst of laughter came out from the phone. "You still know your father well, hija!" Judging from his laughter, I made my Papa happy. Not only did I sigh out of relief but also out of a deep wish that I could have been there with them to celebrate. This was Papa's second lesson that he taught me: Celebrate life’s happy occasions!
With Christmas around the corner, I cannot help but think about the traditions we had with my father. And of course, in retrospect, I would think about food traditions, specifically! For my father, Christmas is complete only when there are apples and grapes set on the table, along with ham and chorizos. And, of course, Christmas also meant that my Papa would be making his special stuffed chicken. He would always remind my mom, "Mi, just make sure it's the JUMBO chicken," as she was the one in charge to go to market to buy the bird. Stuffed chicken is his specialty since he makes it himself. You see, it's rare to see the men of my family in the kitchen, as helpers would always do the cooking in the Philippines. When I was growing up, my Papa would make two stuffed chickens: one for our family, one for the Archbishop. When I was married, he would make three: an additional one was given to my in-laws. And then when my sister was married, he started making four... you get the picture. Now, every holiday season, my father makes six.
The process of preparing his stuffed chicken involves the entire household, whether it's with deboning the chicken, or buying the ingredients, or decorating and plating and styling the chicken. It was a family effort that said, "our family made this especially for you!" The final touch to this Christmas tradition was that the chicken were personally hand delivered. This was lesson number three: Special gifts are from the heart and created by your hands.
As I was writing this entry, I got a call from my sister, Marvie.
“I decided to continue Papa’s tradition this year!” she happily announced.
Flabbergasted, I replied, "I'm writing about that in my blog today," I said. Apparently she decided to give her partner in her clinic a stuffed chicken, just like my Papa would. Except this time, her husband took on the challenge of preparing the bird, as her husband is the cook of her family (one lucky wife she is, huh ladies?). Her hubby Benedict is a terrific cook; he is meticulous enough in following directions, so I think he will do justice to my father's specialty.
As for me, I'll admit that my butchering skills are not good enough yet for me to completely debone a chicken. Nonetheless, I'm still going to honor my Papa’s tradition. I am going to do a spin on traditional meatloaf, by using the same ingredients as my Papa would use for his stuffed chicken to cook an Asian-inspired meatloaf. So let me call the dish, Meatloaf with an Asian Twist. I invite you and your family will take part in our family's tradition.
While baking it, the aroma from the kitchen flows out into the living room and you will hear your family ask, “Mom, what are you cooking? It smells so good.” You know it's the aroma from the bacon blending with the flavors of the meatloaf. Slowly, they will all come to the kitchen table and pretty soon you will be hearing “is it dinner yet mom?” and maybe just maybe, they begin to realize the valuable lessons you teach them through your deeds, just as how I appreciate the lessons I learned from my Papa.