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A is for Adobo, Pork Adobo

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The clatter of metal against metal and heady aroma of frying pork, garlic, and onions lured me to the dark, cool kitchen that hot summer morning. At the stove was the Daddy's young cousin who was staying with us while on leave from the Navy. One hand shook a large grey soup pot on a burner, and the other hand stirred the ingredients rapidly with a large silver spoon that made a rhythmic clang against the inside of the pot. His body swayed and seemingly danced. The sizzle of the meat and vegetables was his music.

I was maybe four or five years old. I don't recall the Mama being home, otherwise why would the handsome, dark-haired man with a sweet smile be at the Mama's stove. But, maybe that day the Daddy's cousin said to the Mama, "Let me cook." So that she could care for Baby Sister who Died too Early. Now that I think of it, that was more likely what happened.

The Daddy's cousin smiled at me as I came up beside him.  "What's that?" I asked, most likely taking a deep breath of the developing delicious perfume. I had never smelled anything like it before.

"Adobo," he said. "Pork adobo. Do you like it?"

"I don't know."

"Just you wait then." 

As I remember the Daddy's cousin, my imagination sees him as a magician dancing a ballet. In my mind's eye, I see him pouring apple cider vinegar into the pot, next sprinking salt and pepper, and then tossing in a bay leaf or two.  .  . .Clang, Shake, Sizzle.Clang. Clang. Sizzle. Shake. . . Finally, he throws in a healthy amount of spice that brings the dish together -- paprika. He continues wildly. . .Clang. Clang. Shake. Clang. Clang. The sizzle has turned into pure jazz.

With one last clang and shake, the dish is done. Then with great flair, he spoons the tender, glistening red pork on a large plate.

I don't recall eating lunch, but most likely the Mama, the Baby Sister who Died too Early, the Older and Only Bionic Brother,  the Daddy's Young Cousin, and I sat in the cool, dark kitchen eating the pork adobo with rice. No doubt that was the day pork adobo, cooked Ilocano style, became one of my favorite dishes.

Comments

  1. Mmmm...I can even *smell* the sizzle. And I loved the sentence 'The sizzle has turned into pure jazz.' Music and food: two of my favourite things.

    Ros, visiting from GenWestUK

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    Replies
    1. I would say the Daddy's cousin was doing some kind of Latin dance when he was cooking.

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  2. uummmm I wish I had also been in that kitchen to try it. I think I would have loved it. I'm so glad you are doing your drawings again. They are delightful.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Manzanita! Yes, I think you would've loved the food. I also think you and the Daddy's cousin may have also danced around the kitchen.

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  3. Pretty yummy story. I need to try that dish, you made me hungry.
    Happy AtoZ

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  4. charming story - I can almost taste the pork too.

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  5. What a lovely, sweet story! Now I need to find out more about this dish. Really enjoyed your writing.

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  6. Replies
    1. This is one of the few from that age that sticks in my head. I also remember the photo the Daddy's cousin sent us when he was stationed in the East. It was a group photo of his friends and him standing and kneeling in the snow.

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  7. I need to remember not to read this blog too soon before lunch. I'm impressed that you can handle 2 AtoZ challenges at once. I bow to the master!
    Visiting from AtoZ ~

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    Replies
    1. hahaha. Don't bow just yet, Wendy. We shall see how it goes. The other blog is not cooperating with me yet.

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  8. This dish sounds yummy and very sweet of this man to cook when your parents were dealing with something horrific. The greatest pain is when a parent loses a child

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    Replies
    1. The Baby Sister was both strong and fragile at the same time. The poor kid. I remember the adults saying she had soft bones. She was always breaking something.

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  9. Mouth watering ... recipe please?

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    Replies
    1. Basic recipe is this: Brown your chunks of pork (choose your size), then add one chopped onion and as much garlic as you like. Once the onions have softened, add 1/4 cup of vinegar, a bay leaf or two, a teaspoon of soy sauce, handful of black peppercorns, and a squirt of honey or sugar (jam would do, too) to balance the sourness. Cover and simmer until meat is tender, then add paprika (Hungarian paprika has the best taste) to give it color and spice. Also add salt to taste. The dish should not have too much liquid to it.

      Sorry that I can't give you precise measurements. It's all by feeling by now.

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    2. I cook by the 'a pinch of this, a smidgen of that' method too.

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Thanks for the good cheer. :-)

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