Remembering my culinary teacher

Let me start by quoting Nigella Lawson in her book “How to Eat”:

“The great chefs of France and Italy learn about food at home: what they do later, in the restaurants that make them famous, is use what they have learnt. They build on it, they start elaborating. They take home cooking to the restaurant, not the restaurant school of cookery to the home. Inverting the process is like learning a vocabulary without any grammar.”

It is All Souls’ Day today, so I give tribute to my greatest culinary teacher – my grandmother. She passed away last January 2, 2007 at the age of 98. I miss her home cooked meals. When she was alive fast food was not considered staple. I miss her most when I feel lost or when I don’t know what to do. She was like a moral compass, if Pochahontas had Grandma Willow for answers…she was mine.

I never had a chance to thank family, friends and students, for coming to the wake and being there for our family at that time. I gave the eulogy during the internment.I’ve had it on a piece of scratch paper for so long and today seemed like the perfect day to share it. So here goes…

Maria Basa Marti Vda de Obieta, my Lola Maring was born September 12,1908.She is one person who we can say has truly lived a full life. She passed away at the age of 98 on January 2, 2007. It still amazes me how someone can live that long.

She has outlived many of her friends, her siblings, her favorite niece (Chon Marti), and even out lived her dog named Oro.God was kind to her because at her old age she was not sickly.She hated hospitals.She was bed ridden her last four years and yet despite that she was not senile, had a happy disposition and remained healthy.

Abuela enjoyed her youth to the fullest.She had many admirers and was named Manila’s top 100 most beautiful women.She used to tell me stories of her youth and her parties in Manila Hotel, like dancing the Charleston during the American occupation.

Her prince charming was a seafarer, a ship captain by the name of Vicente del Rosario Obieta.She fondly called him Vincenting.He swept her off her feet and she finally married at the age of 31.During her time 31 was a pretty late age to settle down.She had two wonderful children, my uncle Poloy and my father Tucong.

Lolo Vicente passed away when my father was nine and my uncle was thirteen.She single-highhandedly raised her two sons.My lolo was her one great love.And I guess that was enough for Abuela because she never remarried.Her children became the loves of her life.

Lola had many friends…Nena Araneta, Tuling Romouldez, Mrs. Backman, and Tita Mameng. Socialites who would painted town red wearing bandanas and cat-eye shades.They had regular lunches, mahjong and even a trip to Spain. Lola was notorious for making “telebabad”. She could stay on the phone for hours talking to her friends.

Lola was also known as Dona Maring or Senora Maring. She helped many people.We used to call her the central bank or lender of last resort. She was very thrifty having survived the war. And in her very old age she would remember the exact amount a particular person still owed her, but in any case she was always happy to help.

When I was a little girl we had many different kinds of vendors coming to the house: the fruit vendor, the suman lady, mang tataho, the tamales vendor. Lola always bought from them even if she didn’t need to…I realize now it was her way of helping.

As a grandmother she practically raised us her apos. She made sure we were well fed with her homemade meals.I owe to her my cooking skills.I would not have been the chef that I am today if it was not for her influence. She taught me how to cook. How to make paella, callos, lengua, bacalao,potato salad, and something as simple as tinola. She was a very good cook and we always had yummy food. I really miss her cooking…specially her arroz caldo when I am sick.

Lola was a remarkable lady, a woman of substance and strong willed.When we didn’t know what to do it was her wisdom that mattered.She had all the right answers.

I used to think I was Lola’s favorite,I am proud to be Lola’s girl but then my younger brother flew all the way from Dubai for the wake because he claims he is the one. My sister had to pass through the eye of a needle having her passport rushed and a delayed flight from the United States. She arrived an hour before the cremation. My other brother thinks he is the favorite because he stayed in the wake every night to keep Lola company. And my US army cousin knows he is the favorite from his side of the family because he flew in from Kwait too.

I guess Lola loved all of us,her children and grandchildren in her own unique way. She made us feel very special to her.Siguro we were all her favorite.

Maria Marti Obieta, lola or abuela, to you she may have been Tita Maring, Dona Maring, Tita Mary, Comadre, Mommy, Senora…she had so many names because she touched people in so many ways.Her last words to me were “thank you”. I’m sure she would have wanted to say the same to you.


Dr. Mariano Marti, MD (From Valencia Spain, 1871 co-founder and Dean of University of Santo Tomas, School of Medicine and hospital) married Maria Apolonio Burgos ( sister of Fr. Jose Apolonio Burgos of the GOMBURZA). They had a son, Mariano Burgos Marti who married Rafaela Panlaque Basa. Rafaela was one of the children of Illustrado Jose Maria Basa married to Bernarda Panlaque. Mariano Burgos Marti married Rafaela Panlanque Basa and together they had eight children. Their children were Mariano, Josefa, Estelita, Mercedes, Rafaelita, Carding, Maria, and Tony. Maria or Maring was the seventh child.


About Pam

Teacher, cook, foodie, wanderlust
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One Response to Remembering my culinary teacher

  1. Pingback: Home Cooking » Remembering my culinary teacher

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