On joining the club, and chicken tinola.

I knew that becoming a mother would be like joining a club of sorts, with an initiation of birthing a human and a common lifetime goal of not killing the kid, but I don't think I knew the extent of it until I started creating a baby registry. You guys, parenthood isn't just a club -- it's an alien universe with its own special language (terms like "babywearing," "nipple confusion" and "Woombie" are common in everyday conversation), transportation devices (infant seat, umbrella stroller or complete travel system with one-handed folding capabilities?) and food beliefs (breastfed, formula fed, baby-led weaning...). And of course, each baby item comes along with personal horror stories ranging from "this product is mildly annoying" to "my baby almost died using this." Yikes.

I'm also learning that over thinking and overwhelming often go hand in hand. So while I'm welcoming any advice that moms have to offer, I'm trying to remember that this baby isn't coming into the world perfectly accessorized -- that there will be some trial and error and tears and triumphs, and in order to really decide between the Maya Wrap and the Ergo and the Baby Bjorn, I'm just going to have to strap the kid to my chest and see what happens. 

While the baby registry has me backing away slowly, one thing that I can't help but want to dive right into is feeding the kid. I'm already fantasizing about family dinners around the kitchen table, where Mom, Dad and Kid each have their own individual French bread pizza customized to their liking (pepperoni for Dad, fresh tomato for Mom, and hopefully something somewhat nutritious for Kid). Introducing him to Filipino foods like pancit, adobo, lumpia. Helping him discover how he likes his eggs cooked. Creating memories rooted in the flavors of his childhood. 

I watched this great video about Ashley's blog Not Without Salt (scroll to the bottom of Ashley's post to watch) and her approach to cooking as it relates to her family. In it she says: 

"I can't be everything for these little people, but what I can do is give them a good meal and help facilitate these memories around different tastes and different smells and different moments, and we can spend time cooking together in the kitchen. And to me that seems simple, but it's so much, and I recognize that it is a gift for them." 

Then I read an article in the latest Saveur (after Murdo read it and told me he thought I would like it because of how it tied together childhood memories and food, and because there was a reference to the goodness that is slow cooked bone marrow -- he knows me so well) about a woman going through a divorce and finding happiness, if only just for a brief moment, in a favorite dish her mother cooked all day, just for her.

I can't help but hope that my own child will find comfort in the food we make for him. That the smell of garlic sizzling in hot oil will always remind him of home, and that he'll make a special place in his heart for his dad's grilled cheese sandwiches. And when he's feeling sick or sad, a piping hot bowl of chicken tinola would be enough to lift his spirits. 

Chicken Tinola
Filipino chicken tinola is traditionally made with papaya, although I grew up eating it with chayote, a small, mild-flavored green squash that can be found at an Asian produce market. My grocery store didn't have chayote squash on the particular weekend I was craving this dish, so I substituted broccoli, which my mom would often do as well.

My mom's method involves bone-in chicken parts, and instead of broth, she uses (clean) water reserved from the final (typically third or fourth) rinse of the jasmine rice with which the tinola is served. For convenience sake, I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs and canned chicken broth. I also added a handful of frozen spinach, because when you're growing a little human, you can probably never have enough green vegetables.

Also, at my parents' house we typically eat tinola as pictured above, with the broth and goodies poured over a pile of white rice. But you can also pour the broth into a bowl and just a few spoonfuls of rice (or no rice at all) for more of a chicken soup. 

With all these adaptations to the original recipe, this might not even look like authentic tinola. It certainly didn't look like my mom's. But it tasted like home, and that's all that matters to me.

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
1 small onion, sliced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 14-oz can chicken broth
1 cup water
1 big bunch of broccoli, cut into florets (or 3 medium chayote squash, peeled and cut into large pieces)
Handful of fresh or frozen spinach (if frozen, thaw under running water and squeeze dry) - optional
Cooked white or brown rice, for serving

Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger and onion, and cook a few minutes until fragrant and the onions are soft and translucent. Add the chicken and cook a few minutes more, then add the fish sauce. Season with ground black pepper and cook the chicken, stirring and flipping until slightly browned and the juices run clear. Add broth and water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and add the broccoli. Cook until the broccoli is soft but not mushy, or cooked to your desired texture. (If using chayote, cook until tender when pierced with a fork.) Add the spinach, if using, and heat through until wilted. 

Serve over rice. Makes about 4 servings.


  1. It's quite a crazy club, isn't it? It gets even crazier if you cloth diaper - now that's a whole new language of EUC, VGUC, NIP, NOOP, etc! (That said, I love my Maya ring sling, Solly wrap, and Beco carrier, and have a Girasol woven wrap coming, so maybe I'm just crazy to begin with.) I can't wait to introduce my kidlet to fun foods too, even if culturally we Irish don't have very interesting dishes :)

    1. One of my favorite (new) traditions after joining Murdo's Irish/Scottish/German family is corned beef and cabbage on St. Patty's Day! And your kid is going to have a blast baking in the kitchen with you! :)

  2. Oh my goodness. The whole thing is so insane. A human being growing inside of you?? Nipple confusion?? It's insane. I love how you are finding grounding in things that are the opposite of insane, like the routine of family dinner or the comfort of family foods. I keep saying this but you are seriously so seriously going to be the best mom. I am so excited for that baby when I think about it!

    1. Thank you so much, I'm gonna do my best to make this kid happy! And I have a feeling the insanity has only just begun. :)

  3. How beautiful, Jacqui. I love the way you talk about food and tradition and trying to create a food-happy home for the kid. So rad.

  4. My mom made it with broccoli too. Sooooooo good and warm memories invoked when the ginger is sautéing away. I hope my sons get comfort in that too as we did.


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