I held her hand so tightly with a promise that we will never ever separate ways again. The feel of her hand in mine was so soothing and reassuring that she is here to stay. That comforted me. The smile on her beautiful face tells me how proud she is of me and how this moment is making her truly happy. I am so glad she is here. After a very long time, I was confident again and was never been sure and secure until today again.
She glanced at the front door of the restaurant signaling an inquiry if he will be walking in any minute or so. I assured her he is coming and I can’t wait for her to meet the answer to her prayer for me many years ago. I entertained her by telling her I married a very nice man. She smiled at me and agreed softly, “Of course, Mona. I am sure you did.”
We went on with our conversation about the many changes in my life when I got married and started a whole new life in a whole new world including how I learned to drive, when I got my first job, my adjustment to the weather, and of course I bragged about how my husband thinks I am the best chef in the world. We were having such a great time catching up and sharing a good laughter with each other that I wished if this was a dream, I hope I will never wake up from it. I excused myself to give my husband a call and get an update on where he is yet so I can start to put our order for our food. He said he was 3 minutes away. When I walked back to our table at the restaurant, she was gone. My mother was gone. I saw my husband walking in from the front door and lovingly waived his hand on me. My shoulders dropped and I felt pain on my chest. Where did she go… When he got closer, he wrapped his arms around me and whispered to my ear and said, “Its okay, Mona. I am here now.”
It was this morning when I woke up from this dream about my mother. She always visits me in my dreams and I am thankful every time she does. And I reach out to God no longer with a clenched demanding fist, almost commanding Him to bring my mother back to life whenever I miss her. I have learned to be thankful through the years. At least, I still can dream of her, and touch her, and talk with her. So even when I am in the middle of my dreams about her and I am being redirected to the truth that she’s been gone for real, it does not make me too sad anymore. I only treasure the memories of her as I remember the great mother that she was through my dreams. So okay Ma, see you in my next dream.
Since, I am back to my almost one year old blog again, well, it’s not that I stopped writing or whatever but all the things I have written in the past were all saved in my Draft Folder waiting to be finished. As I was reviewing them today, I realized each entry brings an interesting and complete story already. It’s my stupid perfectionist kind of personality (more like procrastination really) that held me from publishing all these because I keep thinking I should include this, I should mention that, edit out this and that, so let me save and will finish later, and so on and so forth. There is nothing to finish. They’re done. Message conveyed. Thoughts shared. And so I have resolved with myself today, that I will not be too hard on myself from now on. I vow to spread my wings confidently and let go of any inhibition that will come between me and the sky. Say what? C’mon Mona, it’s only a blog. Do not overthink. 🙂
Well, so since I talked about my mother in this entry, I wanted to share one of the things that we talked about in my dream that I wasn’t able to mention above. Its about a special dish that she used to make for me whenever I came home for summer vacation during my college years. It’s called Beef Salpicao which is as common as Chicken Adobo in a Filipino household. I mentioned special because beef are a little expensive and my mother did not have a lot of money to spend on a special dish like the Salpicao. So for a poor household like ours, having such dish for dinner is like a party already.
And because today is our scheduled grocery shopping day, I thought I’d make some of her recipe. I know I mentioned before that we said goodbye to red meat. But for the sake of remembering my mother’s recipe, I thought it won’t hurt to have some again today. Plus we did not really completely removed red meat in our diet. We said we can still have some but not as often as we used to. And guess what, I think this is only the second time in two years that I am cooking beef again. The last time was September of last year when my friends from San Diego flew over to see us and another friend and get to see Chicago as well. I believe I made some Beef Steak and Beef Kaldereta for them. And then today, my mother’s sought after Beef Salpicao. There is nothing fancy about the way she made her Beef Salpicao. It’s as simple and as ordinary as it can get. Her only rule is to make sure to use beef tenderloin or sirloin because this should be a quick stir fry type of cooking and you will not have a lot of liquid to soften the meat so better use the tender part of the cow.
So when my list was ready, my husband and I headed to our neighborhood supermarket to do our grocery shopping. At the meat section, I ordered the butcher to get me some 2 lbs of beef tenderloin and because I have not shopped for beef for a while, without looking at the price, I said okay to the butcher when he asked if a little over 2lbs was okay. When we were already paying at the cashier, that beef tenderloin was priced at $8.99 a lb. and my total was about $22.00 and some change. I told you, that part is a little pricey. But let’s go to how to make the Beef Salpicao , and you’ll see, it is worth the pricey-ness. Whew!
Ma starts it by cutting the meat into bite-size pieces. She used to remind me to be gentle on the meat when cutting so that it won’t feel like rubber when you are chewing it. The way to do this is to use a sharp knife so you don’t spend a lot of time grinding a blunt knife into the meat. I am not sure if that is true at all but the only way I want to use a sharp knife is to get the cutting done quickly. She had this small piece of coarse sharpening pad where she glides the sides of the knife on it about 3 times before she starts cutting anything. I’m glad my cutlery set came with a metal sharpening tool so that slicing and dicing is made easier. It gives the same basic way of sharpening your knives like rubbing the edges through it about 3 times too. They just look more fancy and more modern.
Then she finely chops and minces a whole clove of garlic and mixes it into the cubed meat. She adds a pinch of salt and a little bit of ground pepper. Another manual thing she used to do is how she pounds the whole black corn pepper through the knife handle because she likes to use freshly ground pepper. I buy the whole black corn pepper too and just pour it to my wooden black pepper grinder that grinds the peppers directly to the mixture. Easy and fancy huh. Cooking is so much fun and I am indebted to my mother’s natural cooking skills.
So where were we? Okay, so you have the meat with garlic and salt and pepper mixed in. And then she adds to it some oyster sauce and soy sauce. I used Worcestershire sauce in place of soy sauce. Why? Nothing, it just sounds fancier ha ha. I’m kidding. I think Worcestershire sauce is less sodium. You can also use Kikkoman’s less sodium soy sauce if you do not have Worcestershire. I just love Worcestershire sauce because I use it a lot for seasoning and marinating and brings such a good flavor to any dish. And then, she adds a little bit of oil. She does not measure stuff. That is how confident she is with her cooking. I would say just a couple of tablespoonful of oyster sauce and Worcestershire and oil will do. So after all ingredients are mixed in, marinate it for about half an hour or longer, or even overnight so the meat will fully absorb all the flavors of the seasonings. When you are ready to cook it, just stir fry the meat for about 10 to 15 minutes depending on how thick or thin the meat is. When all the liquid has almost evaporated, add some butter and continue stirring until butter is evenly distributed. My Ma used a local brand of butter which is margarine. I use whatever kind of unsalted butter they sell here in the US and it is as good. If you want a little kick, you can add red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper and it is going to taste even better. You may also add some toasted garlic when done cooking to enhance the garlic flavor of this dish.
So there you go. My happy, and sad, and happy again dream of my mother turned everything happier as I ended this day with her Beef Salpicao dish. I made a separate batch using chicken for a lighter diet and it is as good. Bon appetite!
I have listed the ingredients and a brief summary of how to make Beef Salpicao below if you want to follow how my Ma did hers or if you want to modify it a little bit by following mine. Enjoy!
Beef Salpicao with a Mother’s Touch from a Sweet Dream
1 lb beef tenderloin or sirloin cut into bite-size pieces
1 whole garlic, chopped and minced (you may reduce accordingly)
2 tbps oyster sauce
3 tbps Worcestershire sauce or any low sodium soy sauce
¼ cup olive oil or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper (powder) – optional
½ cup butter (any butter will do)
Toasted garlic (optional)
Mix all ingredients except butter and marinate for about half an hour. Heat pan or wok in high temp. Add a little bit of oil and stir fry marinated meat until all meat turn brown. When all liquid is almost gone, add butter and continue stir frying for about 5 minutes more. Add red pepper flakes or cayenne if desired. Sprinkle some toasted garlic on top if you are a garlic flavor lover. Serve with steamed rice or fried rice, or you can also make it as a taco filling which my husband does. Happy eating!