Allow me to introduce you the meal I can finally cook by heart: the humba. My good friend who was the willing guinea pig in all my attempts at recreating my father’s recipe, had finally given his stamp of approval on my fifth try. He later told me that it was a little salty for his taste, but that it was a lot bearable than the previous misfires.
My version of the dish is simple. Lightly brown the pork cuts in a pan. Add in your sauce according to taste – a mixture of soysauce, water, sugar, pepper and lemon juice extract. In low heat, allow the pork to absorb the sauce and to become tender for 30-45 minutes. Let it simmer for awhile before serving.
The last paragraph reminded me of the times when I would watch nonstop all the cook shows I could find in daytime cable television. I realized now that the chefs made it look so easy on TV. I tried cutting thin slices of potatoes in ‘chef-like’ rapid succession. I ended up with pieces that were not visually fit for the dish I was preparing at that time.
If I am not mistaken, the same good friend told me years back that cooking is just common sense. If that’s the case, I would pass off as an idiot – in every sense of the word.
But still, I could somehow muster whatever confidence that’s left in my heart just to perfect the ultimate humba dish. What I may lack in experience and talent, I made up for with sheer determination and constant practice. I could only wish that for the first few months in 2009, I had the same disposition towards everything else in my life. In between all those cooking attempts, one misadventure came knocking one after the other, seemingly like the gatecrashers in your cousin’s wedding. At the back of your head, you half-expected their uninvited presence. But at the back of your head too, you wish that for their blatant disregard for common courtesy and social graces, they would somehow choke halfway in their free meal. However, unlike these gatecrashers, you cannot politely ask your problems to leave your life.
It came to a point that I am more than thankful to be alive for one more day. It is ironic how your problems could provide a sobering perspective on what you do have for the time being. I am grateful for two more things: that I am not alone in my struggles and that I do not carry all the cares of the entire universe.
Honestly, I am surprised to find myself writing again. I asked myself: “What do I want to tell the world this year?” While there maybe too many sad stories at my disposal, there are also those that made me wonder, smile and laugh. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the thought that there is beauty in the familiar, purpose for the pain and wisdom in the superficial.
It is not my intention to romanticize the humba. But I could draw interesting parallels in the preparation of this simple meal and in what I have been going through lately. When the dish tastes horribly wrong or when your day does not make any sense at all or when your dreams take excruciatingly longer to achieve, you can choose from either two possible responses: wallow in your grief like a drama queen or slowly pick up the pieces and start all over again. In the case of the humba, I just have to remember what went right and learn what went wrong in every attempt.
Although I wanted to be like Jamie Oliver, regrettably, I may just have to forewarn you that “Baktin Corporation” will never become a food blog. You can find authentic recipes of humba and other dishes elsewhere. Watch Lifestyle Network or your local Saturday cooking shows. I cannot flaunt all my Frankenstein food experiments to my dwindling fanbase. But if there’s a dish that I prepared that’s worthy of five minutes of your attention, then you can read about it here, but not anytime soon though.
Next project: chicken curry. Any family recipes or cooking tips you’d like to share?