ARTICLE BY LORA BUMATAY
My mother-in-law, Luzviminda Bumatay or Grandma Luz as we called her, was the Filipina Martha Stewart. Every holiday, she would decorate her house, meticulously design her dining table and execute a perfect mix of Filipino and American dishes. I always told her that her tablescape and food could be featured on Bon Appétit!
One of her greatest life's pleasures was seeing her family and guests eat her food and come back for seconds. She beamed with happiness and pride when people would comment they always accepted an invitation to her home because of the delicious fare she served. Chatter was lively and tummies were full at her parties.
The lengths she would go to, to feed her loved ones their favorite dishes were an impressive demonstration of her love, care and thoughtfulness. Whether it was a regular Sunday supper at home or a big birthday party, Grandma Luz would plan her menu days, sometimes weeks ahead. She would literally write down an itinerary of places to go with Grandpa Roger as the designated driver. They would make a day of grocery shopping. First heading to the commissary to order the prime rib, then stopping by a certain bakery to pick up a cake, then making another trip to a different store/bakery just to pick up dinner rolls that they knew were a favorite of my daughter's. Even after a tiresome day of being out and about, Grandma Luz always found the time and energy to be in the kitchen. Two days ahead of a gathering, she would prepare her pecan tarts. The day before a party she would make her signature bibingka and chop up ingredients for her vegetable lumpia and pancit. Hours and hours would be spent in the kitchen. Grandma Luz always made extra too, so that for example, when she made paella- my Dad's favorite, he would have some to take to enjoy later. Everyone went home with food from her kitchen after a party at her house.
It has been a little over a year since Grandma Luz went home to God. Even in her last days when she could not cook anymore, she would worry about what we would be eating in her home. She would send Grandpa Roger on short trips to pick up food, snacks or dessert when she knew we were coming over.
Of course, our family gatherings this year have not been the same without her and the food made from her hands. I spent each holiday at her home with a lump in my throat and a hole in my heart. We definitely felt her absence during each celebration as there was no paella, vegetable lumpia, pecan tarts or bibingka to enjoy.
On July 9, 2016 we had family and friends over to pray a rosary in her honor for her one year death anniversary. Grandpa Roger, also a great chef in his own right, made sure her standards were met. There was a dish each featuring chicken, beef, pork, seafood and of course noodles. Grandpa Roger made a huge roast beef, home-made lechon kawali and did his best to re-create her famous pineapple upside down cake. In addition, their balae's (in-laws) Uncle Ernie and Auntie Tessie, made beef mechado and every single family who came brought some kind of food contribution. Grandma Luz would often say, "my cup runneth over" and on this day, her table of plenty was definitely overflowing.
Months ago I found Mom's leche flan recipe written in her own hand. I have made it a couple of times at family get-togethers. One day I hope to find more of her recipes and try them. I promised myself though, that not until I can dedicate and replicate wholeheartedly the time, effort and love she put into cooking would I attempt one of her signature dishes. I am lucky that Mom passed on her cooking skills to her son Eric, my husband. As the saying goes, "Like Mother, Like Son," Eric spends a lot of time in the kitchen. He also makes special trips to out of the way places to bring home his kids' favorite foods. He spoils us with the meals he makes. Through him, Grandma Luz's legacy of love through food will continue. It is evident that every day, he lives the love he received from his mother's kitchen.