It’s hard for me to make my favorite childhood dishes for myself

This is what I try to get my quarantine meals to look like. Nothing fancy, quick to make, as nutritionally sound as possible. Eggs and sardines for protein, vegetables for vitamins, bagoong for flavor. Atchara because I miss silogs so much.

I realize that the things I miss most fall in the realm of comfort food. Aside from silogs, I miss champorado. I miss ginataang mais (sorry ginataang halo-halo fans). I miss biko.

Arguably, these are dishes I can make myself. I already have the ingredients for most of them. But for me, part of their charm is walking into the kitchen and being pleasantly surprised by freshly cooked (or in the case of biko, bought) dishes. These dishes remind me of home.

My Mom likes to serve silogs during Sunday lunch and champorado on rainy afternoons. Our longtime helper, now retired, liked to make ginataan. So even though these dishes are easy to make, having them made for me with love was part of what makes them special.

I’m spending the quarantine period alone. Its given me time to reflect on how lucky I am, but also how part of being on your own isn’t just making sure that the chores are done and the bills are paid, it’s also about making sure that you meet your own emotional needs.

Obviously, no one’s going to cook for me, so if I want to enjoy these specific dishes, I’ll have to make them myself. Many of us have been raised to think that love is something that you find in someone else. The hard truth is that love is first and foremost something that you give yourself.

All of us have an inner child who is constantly hurt because its needs were never met. Part of becoming an adult is being a grownup to your own inner child. Part of this will involve feeling sorry for yourself that it has to be you and not someone else who has to parent it. Part of it is sitting with it, feeling its pain, and maybe crying together. But part of it is also making it happy by doing things that made you happy growing up.

It may not be made under the same circumstances (my Mom is at home and our helper is in the province, where she likes to text me about how lush her backyard garden is), but it can be made with the same love and care.

I never set out to make my meals into lengthy meditations about my inner life because if I did that, I’d never get to eat (which would be good for my waistline, so maybe I should try it). I know that sardines from a can doesn’t really count as a proper silog, but it’s a start.

I’m working up the courage to make champorado and ginatang mais for myself. I think my inner child will enjoy them. I’m just not sure if adult me can take the emotion involved.


Yvette Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and a lifestyle writer for major local and international titles.