Filipino Food · nostalgia

The Bad Cook

If anyone asked me about mum’s cooking skills, one of my usual responses were,

“Uummm…she can fry an egg??”

However, the more I think about it, the more I realise that she wasn’t even that bad. I mean, she wasn’t great, but she wasn’t that bad.

She was ok….no…. she was good..

……she was ok/good…..

….was she?….

Perhaps the reason why I used to automatically say that she wasn’t a good cook was because I have a lot of memories as a very young child eating food cooked by someone else. Mum worked a lot, she didn’t have the luxury to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen to hone in on her cooking skills.

Growing up in the Philippines we had a lot of take away. No, not McDonalds or Pizza, I mean that mum bought our food from the neighbourhood Carinderia, also known as Turo-Turo.

Carinderias or Turo Turos are local food spots that sell cooked meals. They have pots of food on display to showcase the food for sale that day/night. You can either sit there to eat your meal or opt for take away. Back in my day, take away foods from these food stalls were packed in individual plastic bags similar to the ones you find at fruit and veg markets. Not sure if they still practice this method of take away though. I remember how I used to poke and squish the bags that contained the rice,

“Oohh sssooo squishy….”

then I would get told off because I should not have been playing with the family food.

….hhmmm… after typing that, I only JUST realised why they’re called Turo Turo…..“Turo” means to point. So you point –point at the dishes you want!

WOW – mind blown!


The nights we had take away, we would come home with our home cooked meals (made by someone else) and sometimes (mostly), we didn’t eat at the table. Instead, we would set up our eating spot on the floor by laying out pages of old newspaper making sure that each page were slightly overlapping each other.

The meals would be in middle of the paper floor table ready for sharing and our plates would be placed around the meals showing where each person would sit. Then, we would sit on the floor, some of us with one knee raised while eating with our hands

When family meal time was over, we would simply wrap up our newspaper table and throw it all out in the garbage bin. Easy. Then, all what was left was to clean up the floor.

Our house rule was whoever was the last person eating was the one who had the task of cleaning up. Unfortunately being under 7 years old, I didn’t have the speed as the rest of my family and I lost….EVERY…TIME.

BUT let’s be honest. I didn’t always clean up on my own. I lacked the attention to detail required to make sure that no scraps of food were left behind  that would attract more cockroaches or give an open invitation to the rodents or stray cats lurking outside.

It wasn’t until we moved to Australia that we said goodbye to the paper floor tables and mum started to experiment more with cooking. We still ate with our hands though. In all honesty, she improved a lot. She attempted and succeeded making a number of Filipino dishes from scratch – turon, pancit, puto, crispy pata, leche flan, okoy, just to name a few.

One dish that stood out were her Spring Rolls. YUM! They were my favourite  version 0f spring rolls ever. They aren’t the type that you see at the take away stores which consists mostly of the wrapper and some gooey substance which I am hoping is only cornflour. These were mini spring rolls the size of my index finger, filled with meat and/or vegetables that had this flavour that lingered around the palette after each bite.

Whenever I needed or had a craving for these little delights, she would always make them with no complaints. Little did I even realise how time consuming they were. She would happily cook and wrap hundreds of them when needed.

Mum would make a huge batch and have loads of extras that she would pack up and freeze in take away containers to give away to work colleagues and friends.

She was so generous.

In spirit of her generosity, I made a batch of spring rolls and will be sharing her version on the next post.

I would send some to you but I don’t think Australia Post would appreciate frozen spring rolls defrosting in the posting system.




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