About

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Welcome to spoonsofmagic!

Allow me to introduce myself and tell you a little about me, and how this blog came about. My name is Ana, a Filipina, living in Manila, Philippines – a home cook and baker. As a young girl, I was more interested in cooking than playing with dolls or coloring books. I believe my love for it started when I was in the second grade. I discovered a “bahay kubo” in one of the smaller gardens of our school campus.

bahay kubo

A “bahay kubo” or “nipa hut”, serve as an icon for the Filipino rural culture. It is a stilt house made from organic materials. Its roof is tall and steeply, covered in long leaves made from “nipa”, a local straw, and raised up on hardwood. Its floors are made from bamboo slats. The walls are made of light materials such as bamboo rods and mats called “sawali”. I was able to find a photo from the internet closest to my memory of how the bahay kubo” at my school looked.

The play house really piqued my curiosity as I have never seen one before. I vividly recall seeing another girl playing inside, and I patiently waited a few feet away, pretending to be interested in the surrounding garden. I was so excited to see what was in that house! Soon after, the girl playing inside left, and I dashed in to begin my exploration. As I entered, I saw that it had a small kitchen with claypots called “palayok(s)”, and I spent the rest of recess break inside that “bahay kubo”. I found myself coming back everyday, visiting that kitchen doing the same thing – pretending to cook. Eventually, I came home and asked my parents if I could have a “palayok” of my own, as I really wanted to try cooking real food in them. I don’t know how they did it, but I was surely the happiest girl seeing so many in our kitchen soon after.

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My “palayoks” now.

My dream of cooking with those claypots came true! Sadly, after a few attempts, I realized that my imagination was far greater than my skill level. They probably all ended up in a place where a group of men would come and pick up bags in front of your house in a big truck in the wee hours of each morning!

 

Christmas was coming soon, and I found myself writing Santa to give me an “Easy Bake Oven”. I needed to make sure I would get one after the “palayok” incident. A big box under the Christmas tree had my name and my excitement grew! The size and shape of that box surely told me it was the oven that I wanted! It couldn’t be anything else. But just to be sure, I secretly nipped out a portion of the wrapper at the bottom part of the box. (A side story – The apple really does not fall far from the tree, as I saw some gifts that had rips on the sides as well when it was my turn to be a mom!)

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My first kitchen tool!

My tiny cakes were a hit! It was loved by everyone at home, including all our helpers! Every weekend was a real treat for me as I would be able to get more of those prepared packets to bake. The simple process of combining water to the pre-mixed powder was the only procedure needed to be done before pouring the batter in a pan that came with the baking set. It was then cooked using the heat of a lightbulb in a plastic oven. It guaranteed the user no burns, (either on the cake or one’s skin), therefore very child-friendly. If there was such a thing as knowing how to feel like a three-star Michelin Chef then, that’s how I felt preparing and serving those mini cakes!

 

More than 40 years later, I am still cooking and baking. Hopefully, my skills were honed and have improved since my “Easy Bake Oven” days. I was never formally trained as I had other life interests along the way. I did attend a cooking class or two in my teenage years with a friend, but I’m not sure if I paid enough attention to retain anything. I always dreamt of going to Paris for real formal training, but kept putting it off. Life happened, and I still haven’t gone. I’m not sure if I still want to pursue that dream, but who knows, perhaps one day I will! As for my kitchen adventures, I would have cycles of being there on a daily basis, creating whatever dish I desired to make for that day, then completely stop after several months, (perhaps even longer), then find myself going back to it again. My son Miguel reminds me when I have not been in the kitchen for a long time. He says, “Mom, I miss your cooking”.

 

My father played a vital role with my love for food. He was a true “foodie”. His passion for excellent dining influenced my palate at a very young age. I was very lucky to have been exposed to gourmet international cuisine early on in my younger years.

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My late father in his 50s.

Growing up at a time when “gourmet” food was not as popular as it is today, it truly was a privilege! I pay tribute to my father and thank him with enormous love and gratitude for giving me the opportunity to have a taste of  what the world had to offer. As I write this, I can’t help but look back and see how it has been 10 years since he left us. I continue to think of him and use the exposure he has given me to both create and recreate the dishes I have experienced along the way. What a true blessing, indeed! The food culture, in my opinion, has evolved in ways that is simply amazing! The internet and social media played an incredible and effective factor in promoting and keeping the world abreast of what we know of food today.

 

Moving on to the reason why this blog came about, it has both been a dream and goal of mine to compile a recipe book for my son Miguel to include his favorites (and mine) to view and refer back to anytime, as he himself enjoys cooking!

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Miguel around 1.5 years

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Miguel enjoying a lobster roll

Having seen him prepare his own meals, I find that he is very creative in how he combines his ingredients. I must say, he is a more adventurous cook than I am! At times, he would ask me for suggestions on how to combine flavors but would still make it his own, once executed. (Insert proud mother feeling here!). He grew up being in the kitchen with me in our former home where I would prepare his meals as far back as when he started solid food. I was a new mother many moons ago, (21 years and 4 months to be exact), and I preferred his meals to be freshly made. He developed a lot of food allergies as a toddler, so he turned vegetarian the first few years of his life. Thankfully, he’s outgrown all that now, regretfully, including the vegetables!

 

 

I must have acquired quite a number of books, booklets, recipe cards, notebooks, and anything related to compiling a recipe collection the past 20 years, during my travels to complete THE one that I could give him in the future. Well, the future has arrived, and I still have not completed anything!

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Some of my attempts at compiling my recipes

Through the years, I would start with one then feel that it isn’t the right approach. I found a clear book in Singapore and believed that it was really THE one, so I started to print out recipes and was a fourth of the way then I found myself putting it on hold… Again! Fast forward to a few months back, I started an Instagram account (@spoonsofmagic) for some of the dishes I prepared and would write a simple recipe for them.

 

Miguel and I moved to a condominium about 10 years ago and my transition from a home kitchen of about 40 square meters down to our 12 square meter apartment kitchen was quite long. I wasn’t cooking as often as I did back when we were living in a house. But, as they say, we can never really run away from what (or whom) we love. I have been furiously cooking and baking again the past few months, and found myself taking photos (@spoonsofmagic) and decided to continue to write the recipes. I eyeball ingredients as I have done from the beginning, but I will really have to learn to start measuring to accomplish what I set myself out to do.

 

 

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This is where my magic happens.

As a home cook, I only prepare what Miguel and I both enjoy having. Most of the recipes you will see here are what I have served my family and friends the past many years. I have done all the dishes to our taste and liking. Some of the things I learned through the years: as with any recipe, measurements are really just a guide. It all depends on one’s level of taste. I personally believe that starting with quality and fresh ingredients is a must! Following it with both the right process and techniques ensures better results. I do not recommend “shortcuts” as it really sacrifices flavor. Hence, the saying, cooking requires a whole lot of love and patience. Good preparation is an important factor too. Organization is a must as well, most especially when you’re working in a tiny kitchen! That in itself is already a big portion of how your dish will turn out. But again, I personally find that cooking from the HEART is THE main ingredient that will make your dish truly satisfying! THAT is my personal SPOON OF MAGIC!

 

Food is what binds people together. Food is a celebration. Food is comfort. Food is sustenance. Food is the number one NEED of all mankind. Here’s hoping I have a bit of contribution in your homes, as I realize my dream to document Miguel’s and my favorite dishes. Again, I welcome you at spoonsofmagic! Let us journey together as we prepare homecooked dishes made with LOVE.

 

ANA