Whenever I read the words"traditional" and "heritage" attached to Filipino food, one cookbook always comes to mind, Ang Kasaysayan ng Kaluto ng Bayan by the late Milagros Enriquez, a Bulaqueña who was recognized by the National Historical Institute for her extensive research on Bulacan cuisine.
|Courtesy of the US Library of Congress|
I had met her back in 2000 when I was touring Bulacan for the travel agency I was working for. I was figuring out a way to get people to get people interested in Bulacan with a different kind of food tour. I met her in between visiting the Paombong suka makers and the San Miguel pastillas wrapper artists. She was a gracious simple, lady who welcomed me to their ancestral home in Bulacan, Bulacan and gladly spoke to me about the specialties of the different towns. Seeing that I was overwhelmed by the wealth of information she shared, she gave me a copy of her cookbook, even writing a dedication on it.
I have lost all my pictures with her but I was glad to find a Facebook page about Tita Mila, as she would like herself to be called.
|Courtesy of Pamanang Kaluto ni Tita Mila Enriquez|
This cookbook was one of my firsts and served me well when we made Piging, the first-ever food documentary on our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Her cookbook is not only a collection of recipes but introductions to every historic era and anecdotes behind some select recipes.
She expounds on the different kinds of sinigang, based on the ingredient used to make the soup sour and which includes manggang hilaw (green mango), balimbing (star fruit) and alibangbang (butterfly flower). She shares that Jose Rizal cooked Gisadong Munggo for his visitors while he was incarcerated in Dapitan. She lists the foods that were available to most Filipinos during the Japanese occupation. Paksiw in any form was a favorite since you could keep them during the long periods of air raids.
She knew that Filipinos like to hear stories about food (You can't deny it. You're Filipino if you talk about food during mealtimes). And it's a pleasure reading her stories while learning how to cook.