My dad was a man constantly in motion.
A busy man… not by choice, but by circumstances because his responsibilities included feeding seven kids whose appetites were growing bigger by the day.
This was in the 60s when there was not much to do – TV sucked, local radio was dominated by sleep-inducing dramas, and there was never enough extra cash for buying the 45s of musicians with strange sounding names like Beatles, Animals, Hermits and Stones.
So our young minds constantly focused on the meal just enjoyed, with fingers crossed that the next one will be even better.
The job of feeding us was left to my mom who did a splendid job despite being handicapped by the meager amounts that my father’s lawyering brought in.
But there were magical days.
Dad would stay put.
Cancel all his appointments.
And take over the kitchen.
There he would cook the one and only one dish he knew – and had mastered – based on his favorite mantra: “Do one thing. Do it well”.
We christened the dish Gorio’s Adobo (sequestered and abbreviated from Dad’s name – Gregorio).
First time I chanced upon it was when I was seven, on a pitch black night: we had one of those extremely rare brownouts that was a cause for delight amongst Manilans because of their sheer novelty.
Though the power was out, the stove was working. In those days, gas for cooking was centrally sourced from underground pipes operated by Manila Gas.
In the dark, an avalanche of scents ambushed our noses. My sister Sarah, an avid cook wannabe at 9 (and eventually anointed keeper of the recipe), would rightly guess the ingredient that was being added or heightened that contributed to this nasal assault.
If I were to reconstruct the work-in-progress – copy writer style, it went something like this:
Pork pigue cuts meet crushed garlic… swims in vinegar… gallivants with roma tomatoes… and ground black pepper… and more garlic.
Slow-simmer until tender. When the combination of flavors come together… you hear tiny explosions. The tiny explosions are good.
As the love juice dries up… add more tomatoes and ground black pepper.
Mix well and cover.
Tiny explosions once more mean… add salt… and it’s ready to be enjoyed.
Three words: NO SOY SAUCE.
I sometimes wonder if the conditions prevailing when I first tasted Dad’s masterpiece contributed to my addiction to it…
A room enveloped in darkness with a flicker of candle light by the kitchen…
Magnifying the diverse mouthwatering scents wafting in the air…
Punctuated by the mad scramble by my siblings to get first crack at the dish.
Gorio’s Adobo over piping-hot steamed rice on an ebony night… a delightful taste encounter that stayed etched on my mind to this day. And aptly described by a word at the tip of my adoboed tongue…
Coming soon – only here…