Stukas, Corn-On-The-Cob Skewers & A Chocolate Ice Cream SodaSunday, August 05, 2007
When my father left the house in 1950, my immediate family was my mother and my grandmother. I looked forward to those weekends when my Uncle Tony, cousin Wenceslao and his mother, my Tía Sarita, would spend the day with us. Uncle Tony, Wency and I would go to General Electric Field to fly U-control planes. We didn’t do any of the flying but we pretended.
Uncle Tony had perfect scale models (except the wings had to be bigger for the planes to fly) of P-51 Mustangs, P-40 Warhawks (painted in perfect camouflage, sky blue underneath, olive drab on the top and with menacing open teeth on either side of the cowling), a big and black Ju87 Stuka and a highly unstable (Uncle Tony insisted in keeping the original wing design) Fw 190 Focke-Wulf. This was my family.
On my birthdays my father’s side of the family would come and the O’Reilly cousins would destroy my brand new toys. I only remember seeing my first cousin and godmother Inesita once but since then we have become very close. Four years ago Rosemary and Rebecca met her and the O'Reilly clan when we went to Argentina.
When we lived in Mexico, my mother, grandmother and I would go to weekend parties at the Filipino ambassador’s residence (the Escuderos and the Ezpeletas). The Filipino community became my family. My favourites were the Mirandas (Tío Luís, Tía Fermina and her four children Robby, Carmencita, Luisito and Chayo, who is my daughter Hilary’s godmother). I learned to appreciate Filipino food and on occasions I even wore a barong tagalog (as seen, below) shirt made of pineapple fibre. The black-haired girl is Rosario (Chayo) Miranda and the other girl is my first cousin Shelley Humphrey.
The best of all family gatherings was going to Tía Fermina’s house. There she had several tables all laid out including one for the children. The food was always the best. Filipino dishes mixed with steaks, and Spanish pucheros or the Filipino version called sinigán. Desserts included ensaimadas and upside down pineapple angle food cakes that almost levitated on the table they were so light. And at all times, Tío Luís would point his crooked finger at Rosemary and mention, “Esta hija no a comido nada!” And he would then pressure my wife to eat more. At these gatherings we always had the happy presence of Raúl Guerrero Montemayor who was to share with Chayo (Tía Fermina and Tío Luis’s youngest daughter) the task of being grandparents to Hilary. A few weeks ago Tía Fermina died in Houston and those family gatherings at her side have remained as warm memories. The task is to find some sort of replacement. I find it so important to feel part of a family. In Vancouver my family has been reduced by one with my eldest daughter Ale now living in Lillooet. In spite of her absence, yesterday was a perfect day.
Rosemary, Rebecca, Lauren and I went to Richmond to swim in Paul Leisz’s swimming pool. His girlfriend Amy had bought a box of Tim Horton’s doughnuts. Paul served iced tea. I dunked Rebecca in the pool several times.
For dinner, at home, I prepared iced tea (from scratch with Russian caravan tea leaves, lemons, tangerines, cloves, cinnamon, fresh mint and nutmeg), Mexican rice, shish kabobs and grilled corn on the cob and asparagus.
But it was the dessert that put a finish to a perfect afternoon in the garden. I asked Rebecca if she wanted a chocolate ice cream soda. We had savoured a pair of perfect strawberry ice cream sodas in Mérida at Pops (Calle 57, 60 x 62) and she now understood that the true ice cream soda, without the cloying sweetness of a coke or seven up float, is one of the perfect drinks for a hot day. As we were savouring our drinks (made with San Pellegrino, of course), Lauren looked at me and asked, "Can I have an ice cream soda?" She did.
Below is a pair of corn on the cob skewers that have been in my family since 1955. When the Filipino ambassador, Mariano Ezpeleta finished his tour of duty in Mexico City he put much of his household stuff for sale. My mother purchased his silver plate. While these skewers are all that remain to physically remind me of those wonderful afternoons in Mexico City they are also a favourite of Lauren's. Perhaps some day she may remember them in a similar context: A perfect day with the family.