Today is my father’s 50th birthday.
“Who wants to know how to cook adobo?” my Father yells nonchalantly, throwing it out loosely into the air as if the burden was slight. He auctions off the opportunity in the kitchen but it disintegrates into the air quickly as life’s momentum charges on.
My father, with no marked frustration, begins his culinary odyssey; channeling family cooks down the bloodline. He pulls out a playground of metal pots, walks pointedly into the pantry and delivers plastic tubs, spice bottles, a jug of honey, peppercorn, vinegar. Before we know it, it looks like there is a line-up of spices…the chosen…stamped with Dad’s distinction.
On cue I hear the clicking of the burner and I can almost hear a NASCAR-like anthem. He’s off! As we sit and talk, he moves in focused progression. My father — in the midst of fire, heat, meat and spices — looks as if he is taming just as much as he is creating…
The stove sizzles. I hear the garlic crackle, the onions with their loud, sudden pops. A cloud of steam slowly erupts. My Dad wipes sweat off his forehead and hustles to add the next ingredient. Smells slice through the air one at a time like staccato notes before co-mingling into an aromatic symphony . “10 minutes!!!” he warns.
Later, he sips from his stirring spoon one more time, taps it against the pan and gives a final declaration that dinner is done. Routinely, the rice cooker clicks up. My father uses the bamboo rice spoon to heap some rice onto his plate before walking over to pour some glistening, hot adobo on top. A dark brown, saucy marinade filters into the openings of the bright white rice. He sits in front of the television and eats.
Chicken adobo is ready. We pile the tawny mixture onto our rice piles and eat with our forks; thousands of miles away from the roots of our consumption. There is no talk of the Philippines, of the country of our ancestors — of the pride, the needs, the sadness, the want. We simply eat hungrily, to fill ourselves…our tongues tasting the soil.