Thursday, September 22, 2005

The missing ingredient

by Gideon Lasco

I felt very bad last week: I had left all my baon in the bus. It was too late by the time I realized it; I was already in my dorm. Not that I would starve to death without my baon; I could always buy food in the cafeterias and fastfood places in Manila. But somehow, I felt something amiss. Every day, my mom would text me and ask me how my day was. And he would also inquire: “Anak, have you eaten the meals that I cooked? How was the adobo?” 

She was always concerned about my food. Whenever I would come home during weekends, she would cook my favorite meals: beef steak (with onions and green peppers), abodong manok, roasted ribs, and even home-made lasagna. “A medical student like you should eat a lot so you won’t get sick!” she would say. And then, before I return to Manila on Sunday afternoons, she would have my baon ready. Sealed plastic containers, wrapped in newspaper, snugly fit in a plastic bag. “Put it in the ref at once, so it won’t spoil!” she’d instruct. And sometimes, there would be cookies she baked, and fruits like oranges, mangoes, and when in season, lanzones and rambutan. There would even be sauces to go with the meals. She could’ve spent the whole of Sunday morning, before we went to church, just preparing all these! 

The whole of last week, I felt even worse because I had to lie to her. How would I explain the precious loss? She would be mad and disappointed because she does not want me to eat fastfood meals all the time. Personally I could survive a week of Mini-Stop chicken with Tabasco, but there was something special in my mother’s cooking that I could not name, and that something special makes me long for it, especially when I am away from home.  

The only thing I could do was to promise myself I would never lose the plastic bag again. 

***

Now, a week later, I am back in my dorm in Manila. I am glad that I have brought the plastic bag successfully. Carefully I unpacked the goodies one by one, and I placed them in the refrigerator. There were five slices of brownies, one for each day of the school week. There were the meals, and a large guava. 

It was like a basket containing all the goodness of my home. My mother probably felt that I would be homesick throughout the week, and she made sure that even while I’m away, I would never have the reason to feel sad. Dinner was fast approaching, and I contemplated on which meal I would eat first. 

Suddenly, I realized what was missing in my meals last week; what I must’ve surely missed: In every meal; in every adobo; there was my mother’s love. She had me in mind when she bought those ingredients, and cooked them in our kitchen, with the same utensils which were once toys when I was a little boy. Hers were loving hands that prepared each viand, exactly the way I wanted it. 

It was a very comforting thought. Excitedly, I microwaved a serving of beef steak with onions. Soon its aroma permeated the air, and it seemed more delicious than ever. 

Manila
September 2005

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