Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cora Cooks Pancit.

I love my parents' kitchen. There's always something simmering or frying on the stove, vegetables and fruits resting on the counter, and people. People peeling garlic, chopping vegetables, telling stories. My dad tells the best stories. We'll be at the kitchen table, finishing up dinner, my mom peeling a grapefruit for dessert and passing around the segments, as he tells us about growing up in the Philippines. About diving off the backs of water buffalo into the river, eating ice cream sandwiches made with actual bread, picking papayas straight off the trees.

The kitchen in my parents' house -- much like countless other kitchens everywhere -- is where all the action takes place. Cooking is a family affair, even when not everyone is cooking. I could be the only one chopping and sauteing and roasting in that kitchen and yet still, every time I turn around, a dirty bowl will be suddenly clean and a cutting board cleared and ready for more. My dad is like a cleaning fairy in that respect, and it makes cooking in their kitchen all the more enjoyable.

Other times, I'm the helper. There are some dishes for which my mom requires help in the kitchen: making lumpia eggrolls, for example, and cooking pancit. Cooking these foods involves detailed chopping, careful rolling, assembly lines.

Cora Cooks Pancit.

So when the people at Shen's Books sent me a review copy of the children's book Cora Cooks Pancit, I was kind of thrilled. Filipino food and culture isn't very well known in the Western world, and to be presented through a children's book really intrigued me. Written by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, a Filipino-Italian who grew up in the kitchen and now raises her own children in the kitchen, the story not only focuses on the special nature of cooking with family but also plays with the senses to immediately transport readers into the kitchen with familiar smells and sounds and flavors.

Cora Cooks Pancit.

The story is about a little girl named Cora who, on a day when her brothers and sisters are all out, finally gets her mother all to herself and asks if she can help cook. After considering some of her favorite Filipino foods ("Lines of lumpia pranced in rows. Adobo chicken legs be-bopped in time."), Cora decides she wants to cook pancit. "The thick noodles and vegetables curled and swirled in a dance party. Mmmm."

Cora Cooks Pancit.

From the stories of Lolo (grandpa) in the Philippines eating "smashed fried bananas and sweet rice wrapped in banana leaves" to Cora's excitement when she's allowed to help stir, it's all there: culture, food, and that familial bond that occurs when the two are joined.

Cora Cooks Pancit.

Yes, this is a children's book, and I'm 25 years old. But have I mentioned the pictures? The illustrations are done by Kristi Valiant, who adds detail and color and fun to every page. Cora's face is sweet and lovable, and after reading the story, kids will want to head straight into the kitchen and help cook their favorite foods.

Cora Cooks Pancit.

I can't help but think of my niece, Mira, standing on a stool and stirring macaroni and cheese, the peas and pasta spilling out of the pan, and that little girl oblivious to everything except for the happy fact that she's with her daddy and they're cooking together. I can't wait to give her this book the next time I see her, and to cook pancit with her for the first time, telling her fun stories of her Lolo and Lola in the Philippines.

pancit

There's a pancit recipe included in the book, but if you must have pancit right now (it's OK, I know the feeling), check out my mom's version here.

For more information Cora Cooks Pancit, visit Shen's Books.

17 comments:

  1. My piano teacher growing up was Filipino and I used to go straight from school and do my homework at her house for an hour before my lesson and she always had something wonderful to eat on the stove and ready to share.

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  2. Oh, I want this book, too! I am as assimilated as one can be but when I eat Filipino food, I feel my Filipina-ness just bursting out! 8-D

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  3. This looks like a good book to have and read with my 3 boys; they always like to help in the kitchen. And I'm sure reading this with them will bring up nice memories of my childhood spent in the kitchen! Thanks for this.

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  4. I am buying this book RIGHT NOW.

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  5. My gosh, this is the perfect first book to review at your blog! I love the way you described it and that you included photos of the pages, and even more than that, I love the way you described your family cooking together. That's beautiful.

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  6. whitney - i love people who show their love through food. i do it, too.

    tangled noodle - you will love it! seriously, i related so much to this book, it's almost eerie!

    caroline - isn't it great how so much bonding can take place in the kitchen, with good food and good stories? i love it.

    jenny - yes. do it. i might have to get another copy, myself.

    shanna - thank you! as soon as i saw this book i knew i had to share it with everyone.

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  7. I am so glad you liked the book! Didn't I tell you you would? lol! Thanks for featuring it.

    -Renee, Shen's Books

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  8. What a cute book! It really floors me (in a good way) that there is a book like this for Filipino families! Great review, I will definitely have to check this out for my nieces and nephews.

    I'm glad I stumbled on your blog via Twitter! Always love reading other Filipino food bloggers' work :)

    Cheers!

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  9. renee - you were so right. thanks again!

    steph - glad you found my blog, too! i'll be visiting yours, as well -- love finding new blogs with great photography. and filipino food is always a plus. :)

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  10. I'm so glad you liked the book! It was a blast to illustrate, and has gotten me hooked on pancit... mmmm...

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  11. kristi - love your work. love that you included penguins in your illustrations. and being hooked on pancit? not a bad thing at all...

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  12. Thrilled to see this. I've linked your post to Shen's current COLA feature at Color Online.

    Love to have this linked for our Color Me Brown Challenge.

    Please come by. Thanks for the review.

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  13. color online - wow, thank you. thrilled that you'd like to share my review. :)

    i added my link to the color me brown challenge. i really like what you're doing over there -- inspiring and encouraging readers of every background!

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  14. I just fell in love with the illustration! The first time I read about in Asian Journal, the first thing that caught my attention is the cover illustration. Then I when on to google more info about the book and here I am posting a comment. Books like these are a treasure.

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  15. anon - the illustrations are gorgeous! the details just radiate off the page. and the story is just so touching, and i related to it so much. there's even a part where the Mama pulls out her trusty pancit pot, and it made me think of my own mother's beat-up yellow pancit pan that she uses every single time. if you don't have the book already, go get it!

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  16. Thanks for featuring my book, CORA COOKS PANCIT. It's fun to hear your stories of growing up in the kitchen. I definitely was the kid who wanted to be in on the "action" in that haven of smells and tastes.
    Salamat Po!
    Dorina

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  17. Mira's class is reading this book this week.

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