Oh my. Has it really been almost two weeks since my last post? Well, hi. How have you been? I hope you're still there, and thanks for waiting.
I don't have a recipe for you today, or even pictures of food. But I do have this book: Pan de Sal Saves the Day, by Norma Olizon-Chikiamco. A Filipino children's story that is sweet and honest and real.
The story is about a girl named Pan de Sal, named after a Filipino bread that is rolled in crumbs before baking to give it a sandy, dusty texture. Pan de sal was a must-buy whenever I went to the Asian grocery store with my mom when I was little. That and shrimp chips, which were shaped like crinkle-cut french fries and came in a pink and yellow polka-dot packaging. They taste like shrimp-flavored chips. I don't know what my little 5-year-old taste buds were thinking.
Pan de sal literally means "salt bread." But in this story, Pan de Sal is just a shy little girl who is ashamed of her name, the hut where she lives, the food that her mother packs for her lunch: "Pan de Sal loved this food but compared to those of her classmates, the rice and fish and the adobo and the bananas suddenly looked so...humble."
Her classmates would bring pizza and cheeseburgers. Their names are Croissant, Muffin, Honey Bread. Their skin isn't dark, their noses aren't flat, and Pan de Sal is jealous. She just wants to be like everyone else, and yet her Filipino background makes everything so different -- even the games she plays at home aren't the same as the other kids'.
Pan de Sal eventually learns that it's OK to be different when her food and games help save the day after their school bus breaks down and they get stuck on the road with nothing to do or eat. The children don't judge her, like she thinks they will. Instead, they become friends. They even ask for recipes.
This book is perfect for teaching kids that even though they might look or speak differently or eat different foods, it doesn't make them lower or others better than them. The book has gorgeous illustrations by Mark Salvatus and includes Filipino phrases and songs throughout -- words and songs that when I asked my parents about, were accompanied by their own stories of the Philippines.
Growing up Filipino in the U.S., I could really relate to Pan de Sal's insecurities. Skin color, hair color, and facial features are often the first differences that children start to notice, and I remember being younger and wondering why everyone always wanted to play with the cute blonde with the button nose. Then comes the food, and I started realizing that not all families eat adobo or sinigang. Other families don't eat rice and fish with their hands. They all eat pasta and potatoes and meatloaf. I'll tell you right now: My mother has never made meatloaf. The first time I tried it was in high school.
By now, I've gotten over my dark hair and skin to the point where I don't even see it as a "difference" -- it's just me. Food, on the other hand, I sometimes still struggle with. It's not even just Filipino food or anything weird that I get insecure about anymore. Just the fact that I like so many different things that the general public doesn't. Eating sardines straight from the tin, for example. Or dropping an egg in my ramen noodles. Or canned corned beef.
I'm working on it, though, and this blog certainly helps. Someday, I will post my dad's recipe for canned corned beef with potatoes and rice. It's one of my all-time favorite foods.
"She no longer felt like the odd one out...For now, she felt unique, a person like no other, with something wonderful she can share with others."
Thank you to the people at Tuttle Publishing for sending me this truly special book. More info on Pan de Sal Saves the Day here and here.
Another Filipino children's book review: Cora Cooks Pancit.