Shortly after coming home from my trip to Italy, I hopped on another plane, this time for a quick trip out west to Vancouver for the launch of "The New Filipino Kitchen" cookbook.
The cookbook I am published in! I beam with pride whenever I see it.
In the book you’ll find stories from thirty different people who answered a question people always ended up asking them: “Why do you love Filipino food so much?”
Turns out, as I’ve come to understand, it’s because the flavours, textures and freshness of foods you’ll find in the Philippines are some of the most diverse and bountiful on earth. When people leave the country - and those food traditions - behind, food and family gatherings are always top of the list when it comes to things that Filipino people miss. We’re a sentimental bunch.
And because you’ll find us in every continent on earth - yes, even Antarctica - those food traditions are bound to see some pretty amazing places.
Like the shores of Vancouver, BC, where my family and I first landed in Canada in 2007. As the plane descended into the same airport I was flying into now - it was an early Sunday morning - I looked out the window to see the rugged slopes of snow-capped mountains. I could see rays of light peeking through the clouds - the sun was rising - and then everything was awash in colour. It was like the blues of the Pacific never sparkled that way, the sky never looked so good in purple, trees never looked so green, and the soft orange hues of a west coast sunrise filled everything with hope. For a few good minutes, I felt like was 19 again.
I had no idea what was about to happen, I was angry about leaving my old life to start anew, I was scared and excited and totally jet-lagged but ready for whatever was outside that plane.
Today, I was in Vancouver to attend the Philippine Consulate-sponsored book launch for “The New Filipino Kitchen,” where I share a recipe for my favourite seafood noodle dish, Pancit Palabok.
I was also there to share what felt like a very personal story about a relationship that ended. It took months for me to gather the courage to read it - my first piece as a published author.
Reading “The New Filipino Kitchen” is like reading the journals of people who each have an incredible migration story: from the tropical deserts surrounding Dubai to the frozen lands of Norway; to cities like New York, San Francisco, London and Toronto, to live the American/Canadian dream; from haciendas in the Philippine countryside to the kitchens of the White House.
I still couldn’t believe I was there to share my own story of coming to Canada. I gave Allan Pineda, my other Canadian co-author, a nudge while people settled around us.
“This is pretty sweet,” I said.
He looked around the room, where over a hundred people (tickets sold out) were watching the chefs from Herbs and Spices Cafe prepping several dozen chicken adobo sliders.
Allan was getting ready to read a story of what his mom often packed for his school lunch in Winnipeg - a place where food choices were limited, and how having to eat strange “baon” could drive you to brave strong gusts of -40C winds in the dead of winter.
“For real,” he said. “This is cool.”
Check it out! We’re interviewed by TFC’s Balitang America.
To me, the best thing about The New Filipino Kitchen is that you learn so much about what Filipino society looks like today, across the world. Our communities are scattered, multi-generational, ambitious, fuelled by love, imperfect and hungry, in many different ways.
We know that food can mean so much more than what physically sustains us, though of course it’s that too. We know it fills our soul, our bellies, and our need to belong.
If you ask me - maybe that's the secret to why we smile, all the damn time.