Khok: The fragrance of mornings

·2 min read

BREWED or instant coffee, pan-toasted bread, scrambled egg with green onions and a plate of fried pork tocino make up the fragrance of my mornings.

At least on some mornings. On other mornings, it’s just instant coffee, more often than not, and plain toasted bread or sandwiched with sliced, red tomato and cucumber. Green is the fragrance of sliced cucumber.

Morning meals fill my stomach and my well-being. It awakens my eyes and brain. Aside from two mugs of water upon rising, to rehydrate my cells, a mug of steaming hot coffee with cream rehydrates my desire to get back on board with life.

This morning, Peetong, my cousin Dona’s husband, is frying homemade tocino prepared by my Aunt Tita Blitte.

The savory smoke floats like fingers that reach my nose, hook my nostrils and carry me to the kitchen.

My day has started.

Uncle Gustave has seated himself at the head of the table with my aunt on his right. Dona is busy stir-frying day-old rice.

Ah, if only someone could create fried garlic perfume, that would be a hit with me!

My aunt earlier made brewed coffee and the aroma of Arabica now fills the dining space in the kitchen.

Soon every member of the household filters in, beckoned by the enticing fragrance of the morning: Still sleepy nephew Pannon, nephew Polonggoy holding his “girlfriend,” his cellphone, nieces Ellen and Krystalle, cousin Amy and Dona’s helper Jullie.

The tocino we have this morning is from Awu’s old recipe. To those who have just entered my Sira-Sira Store (I presume a lot these days), Awu is my aunt’s mom. So Awu is my grandmother. I could have just said, “Awu is my grandma,” but mornings with heady perfumes make me wordy (a smiley emoji would be nice here).

To complete this morning’s pleasant gathering, I would like to share with you the simple tocino recipe that my grandma Awu recorded in her notebook.

TOCINO. Feel free to improvise. Have on hand 1 kilo pork sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces (maybe you can ask the butcher to do it for you), 1 tbsp Mallorca (Philippine Mallorca wine brand) or some other spirit, 1 tbsp paprika, 1/2 cup pineapple juice, 1 sachet pork powder, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp Prague powder (optional if you’re eating the tocino within a day) and 1/2 tsp salt.

Work all ingredients well into the meat to ensure even distribution of flavors. Have a taste-test by frying a piece of pork so you can adjust the seasonings.

If you want to add anything else, go ahead. Improvise, learn--that’s what cooking is all about.

Place tocino in the chiller and cook it the next day. Yum!

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