A mother’s legacy of love
It is the first Sunday of February, the month of love.
So let’s talk about love: the mystery from yore and yonder, from time immemorial to ever after.
I am blessed to have received the truest kind of love, the kind described by St. Paul—patient, kind, does not envy, does not dishonor others, does not delight in evil, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no records of wrongs, rejoices in the truth, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Of course I received this not from a lover but from my mother!
My mother, Carmelita Vargas Salcedo, was called home by the Lord and gracefully departed in her sleep on the first of February. But her legacy of love will last forever.
She was my biggest food influencer. First, she ingrained in me the best flavors of home: Sta. Maria Bulacan’s chicharon, sinampalukan, embotido, monghe, achara. Then we traveled the world for food: she was my date in Turin, Italy, for my first Slow Food Festival. She was with me in Barcelona for the World’s 50 Best anniversary and in Bangkok for the Thai Food Expo.
Our countless food adventures included creating Nana Meng’s Kitchen, the tsokolate shop that preserved the hot chocolate recipe passed on from my grand aunt, Carmen Reyes Perez a.k.a Nana Meng. We developed the brand and made all our tsokolate from scratch. One of my fondest memories of her is how she fell asleep while standing as she was deshelling the cacao in the bilao (straw basket) to meet one of our first bulk orders. We had a good laugh over that. Another time we were trying to make tsokolate eh and folded the egg yolk into the hot chocolate without stirring enough, creating hot chocolate scrambled eggs! We laughed even harder.
We also worked hard to preserve our family heritage recipes. In writing the recipe for dinuguan (blood stew), we also had a good laugh trying to translate into English linisin ang tenga ng baboy (clean the pig’s ears).
But more than food recipes, I will cherish her “life recipes”:
How to stay beautiful. Stay unbothered. Say your piece, then let it go. Make a stand but do not hold a grudge. Fight for what you believe in but do not let it consume you.
How to negotiate. Assert your claim but do not get angry. Be not only insistent but persistent. Know when to hold your tongue but never back off.
How to love. The secret ingredient is forgiveness. Indeed I witnessed her many times allowing herself to be shortchanged. But she knew that it was for something of far greater value: peace. And in the end, you will find an abundance of love rising like the perfect souffle. Then life becomes sweet.
These are the recipes from my mother that I will keep with me now that she has returned home to the Lord, alongside, of course, her recipe for the best hot chocolate using Nana Meng’s Tsokolate.
I have been incredibly blessed with a mother who was wonderfully beautiful. If you knew her, you would also know that her beauty was incomparable both on the surface and from within.
Her secret ingredient for that is faith: she glows by the light of Christ.
“Fill up on God’s love everyday.” She had that written on her bedroom wall.
That’s another recipe to add to my collection.
I thank the Lord everyday for a mother who taught me not only how to make the best hot chocolate but also how to love.
Please say a prayer for my mom today … and let’s celebrate true love this month of February not only with chocolates but by filling up on God’s love everyday!
Requiem mass for Carmelita Vargas Salcedo will be on Feb. 7, 2, 9 a.m. at the Basilica of La Purisima Concepcion, Sta. Maria, Bulacan (Sta. Maria Church), to be presided by the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Charles John Brown.
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