Since today is Mother’s Day, I would like to pay tribute to my mother, the gorgeous Wonderwoman – Carmelita “Baby” Vargas Salcedo. I will share a few kitchen stories about her, also to encourage our readers to share kitchen stories of their own mothers on social media so we can celebrate moms everywhere! (Do tag me @margauxsalcedo and Inquirer @inquirerbiz and add the hashtag #firstclassmom – I would love to read your stories!)
Like many of you, my parents were my first kitchen mentors. It was my
mother who taught me how to tell if meat is cooked (fork it); how to
tell if fish is cooked (watch the color); how to make meat tender
(adjust the level of fire); and how to make traditional hot chocolate
Mothers are the living embodiment of love: my mom, Carmelita ‘Baby’ Salcedo.
Our first major project together was Nana Meng Tsokolate, an effort to
share with the world the joy of experiencing hot chocolate as we know
it in Bulacan. While she gives me full credit, this brand is really
not just mine but our baby, a tribute to my grand aunt, Nana Meng, and
to the culinary traditions of my maternal hometown, Sta.Maria,
We make the tsokolate from scratch: we roast the beans, de-shell them,
grind them to a paste (the Bulacan tsokolate texture is like paste,
not the tablea kind), then bottle and cook. Our first Christmas
selling the products, we did not expect the deluge of orders. Since we
were literally just five persons working on the tsokolate, including
my mom and myself, we worked 24/7 to meet the orders.
It was then that I witnessed one of my mother’s superpowers: sleeping
while standing! I caught her at 5 am with her eyes closed but still
standing and holding the rolling pin in her hands, ready to de-shell
the cacao! It’s true: mothers have the superpower of sleeping while
Another superpower of my mother – probably like your mother – is
negotiating. While sourcing for materials in Divisoria, I saw a
container I wanted to purchase. At this time, my mom was at another
stall. I listened to the prices that the vendor was giving other
customers. He was giving it it to them at P120. When they left, I
haggled with the vendor and he gave the product to me at P100. I
walked away and told my mom about the item I wanted to buy. Then she
went to the vendor while I waited at a nearby stall. She haggled and
haggled and got the vendor to bring the price down to P60!! Talk about
negotiating skills! Later, walking past the vendor with my mom, I
confronted the vendor, “Bakit sa kaniya binigay mo ng P60 sa akin sabi
mo P100?” (Why did you give the product to her at P60 but you priced
it for me at P100?). The vendor could not do anything but smile
sheepishly and scratch his head!
Now that is our strategy when we shop. I do the initial haggling while
she hides; and afterwards, I hide and she goes in for the win!
In the spirit of preserving our culinary heritage, calling on all mothers to write down their family recipes like these mothers of Bulacan: Bernadette, Carmelita, Socorro.
We had the honor of contributing to the sequel of Amy Besa’s Memories
of Philippine Kitchens so my mom and I had to submit a recipe for our
family’s dinuguan, which Amy loved. The problem is that heirloom
recipes in the Philippines are mostly passed on orally, without
written documentation. So I had to translate my notes from our cooking
session with Ka Tage, one of the lola cooks in Bulacan who cooked the
I will never forget laughing our heads off as we tried to translate
the first step, as Ka Tage explained: “Linisin ang taenga ng baboy”
(Clean the pig’s ears). In the end, we decided to keep it
As we made this recipe, we realized the importance of preserving
family recipes. Because you don’t want those recipes and yummy dishes
to disappear when those who you relied on to cook them pass away.
My mother, in her own quiet way, is preserving our culinary traditions
by keeping index cards of various recipes, a habit she formed before
the advent of computers. (Does your mother have recipes in index
cards, too? I have a few friends who tell me their mothers are also
record their recipes that way!) She is very studious with her
documentation and who knows, maybe someday soon she might even have
her own cookbook! So here’s a shout out to all mothers out there to
preserve yours and your family recipes, for your children and the
generations to come!
Food for the Soul
More than food, my mother has fattened me up with food for the soul.
Aside from imbibing in us the rich traditions of her faith, complete
with attending fiesta processions and other traditions, my sister
Goldee and I have been lucky to have a mother who has been diligent in
teaching values that are important, regardless of religion: truth,
honesty, generosity, respect for elders, humility, kindness,
Most of all, my mother has been a living example of love: she is
patient, kind, understanding, caring, present. As much as I love food,
I have to admit that these are more important than the family heirloom
So today, we cheer with gratitude for our mothers. May you keep
getting better at your job and may you pass on wisdom, love, recipes
and a state of grace to the generations to come!
Happy Mother’s Day!
See the story as publisher in the Inquirer at this link –