Growing Up and the Family Food
Early Morning. The nanny woke her up. Maria Aryza Merida got dressed and was sitting down at the table in fifteen minutes. She looked with dismay at the breakfast her mom made for her family. The dish consisted of a boiled egg and rice. At the far end of the table was a plate of small salted fishes whose smell kept her from even thinking about putting one of them in her mouth. She wished her mom cooked pork and beans or hot dog to go with the rice instead.
At age four, she already knew her family’s daily menu consisted of meals made of some form of protein like meat, chicken, pork, or fish as the main dish accompanied by rice, the Filipinos’ staple food. The protein is traditionally soaked in stew accompanied by vegetables, other times it would be fried.
Rice made up the majority of the carbohydrates her family consumes. The middle to lower class Filipino families had diets similar to hers. The upper class families also eat this. However, they also have more food options. They could eat higher end foods like rotisserie chicken much more often or have different kinds of sweets for desserts.
Her family strives to eat together every meal time. Her parents taught their children to value their family and by eating meals together they were able to bond and share. Her mom would always take the time to choose the best ingredients their money could buy and cooked all the complicated Filipino meals as best as she could. Besides the traditional Filipino dishes, she would also bake Filipino pastries that she would sell. Sometimes they would eat at restaurants after attending Mass, after shopping for groceries, or after watching a movie. Maria Aryza would always consider this as a special occasion because it wasn’t everyday she gets to eat burgers, fries, spaghetti, fried chicken, and ice cream. She also gets to have the new Happy Meal toys.
The nanny scolds her for daydreaming too much and tells her to hurry. She quickly finishes her breakfast and grabs her backpack just in time for the school service to stop in front of their home’s gate.
After School. Maria Aryza Merida steps out of the school service van, glad to be home. The nanny greets her and helps her into her home clothes. Maria Aryza sits down in front of the table to eat her lunch. It was the Filipino beef soup her mom cooked earlier that morning. The nanny had reheated it using the gas-stove. Earlier that year, a rat had chewed through their oven and had made it its home. Her parents had set up traps around the oven but resigned to using a gas-stove that they had placed in their dirty kitchen just outside the house.
Her mother had stopped baking Filipino pastries since her dad retired, as her mom was the only source of income. Their socio-economic status moved from middle class to lower middle class. That meant no new oven nor new kitchen appliances to replace the one the rat destroyed. It also meant they couldn’t replace their older pots and pans.
After her meal, she got up and placed the dishes on the sink. When she had reached the third grade, her father taught her how to manually wash the dishes. Her mom is still responsible for cooking but her sisters also help. Her mom also manually washed their clothes and later ironed them. Besides washing the dishes, it was Maria Aryza’s responsibility to also sweep the floors, although the nanny or one of her sisters usually sweeps it again afterwards because she would miss a lot of spots.
Her father and her brother did not do as much in the kitchen except occasionally help. In a Filipino home, it as the female’s responsibility to maintain the house. Her mother would give her and her sisters most of the chores to teach them housekeeping. The nanny was there to help her mother do the things her sisters, who were busy, or Maria Aryza, being young, could not do.
Once done with the dishes, Maria Aryza cleans the sink and drags herself upstairs to take her afternoon nap.
American Setting. Maria Aryza watched TV with her brother as they wait for their parents to come home from Walmart. They were both excited because their parents either bought burgers and fries from Burger King or they had bought chicken from Hardee’s. She was surprised at the size, amount, and variety of food available to them ever since they had moved from the Philippines to the United States. Every week, her parents would bring home fast food which were always in huge servings. In the Philippines, they did not eat as much fast food as they were eating now.
Their cupboards were packed with cookies and chips, their freezer was full of ice cream, and their refrigerator had several packs of chocolates. She and her brother rarely brought packed lunches anymore since they could have lunch that cost them only ten cents at the school cafeteria. They also had food they never enjoyed in the Philippines such as cereal and real milk, and not those powdered milk they used to drink. In the United States, both of her parents worked though her father had a minimum wage job. It was enough to keep their family in the low middle class in the U.S. but to her, it felt like they were rich. They could afford to buy a lot of the things they couldn’t buy in the Philippines. They had nice plates, shiny spoons and forks, and every kitchenware one can think of.
When her parents arrived, the two teenagers greeted them with a smile. They quickly sorted out the groceries, excited for the burgers that were already on the table. After that was done, they all settled down to eat. She looked around, reminded that it was only her, her parents, and her brother now. Her two older sisters weren’t able to go to the United States with them because they had already gone over the age they were dependent of their parents.
Back to the Philippines. When they had come home to the Philippines from the United States, Maria Aryza had to adjust herself once again. Gone were the huge servings and the variations of food she had while she was in America. It was extremely rare for her family to have the snacks they used to have all the time. Because her parents were focusing on returning back to the United States, neither of them continued working. After all the money they saved up during their first stay in the United States was used up, they struggled to keep themselves above poverty. There were days they had to ration their food so they could have enough throughout the week. She was still grateful because she was able to eat different dishes and rice every lunch at school.
American College Life. Maria Aryza sat down on her desk as she waited for her Anthropology class to begin. She ignored the grumbling of her stomach. She forgot to eat as she spent the whole afternoon studying. Ever since she began college, she wasn’t able to eat every meal regularly. However as far as major changes go, skipping meals was one of the biggest change in her life.
Maria Aryza Merida was born in the Philippines and moved to the United States when she was nine years old. She majors in Speech-Language Pathology at Old Dominion University with a minor in Special Education.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.