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Food & cooking at CASA Veneracion

Connie Veneracion

My name is Connie Veneracion. I am the wife of an engineer who was nicknamed Speedy by his mother for reasons I may never comprehend. We have two daughters, Sam and Alex. We’re a family that’s three quarters meat lover (Speedy, Alex and me) and one part vegetarian and occasional pescatarian (Sam). That should explain the strange mix of recipes in this blog.

No, I am not a chef. I’m a mommy, wife, lawyer (retired) and writer (retired newspaper columnist and magazine writer).

I learned to cook by hanging out in the kitchen with my grandfather, grandmother and father. The Chinese influence is from my grandfather (no, he was not Chinese but he was really good with Chinese cooking). The Filipino influence I got from my grandmother. The adventurous spirit with the use of new combinations and techniques I got from my father. My mother did not cook.

Growing up, I developed my own style and techniques with a lot of help from cookbooks and the television. Then, I started creating my own recipes.

I descended from a family of serious foodies

Long before I was born, so I’ve been told, my grandfather and grandmother owned a grocery store along Echague Street in Quiapo, Manila. It was called Consuelo’s Grocery, named after my grandmother. Those were the postwar years and with that grocery store, they made good money. The grocery’s specialty was cold meat. My grandparents cured their own ham, made their own tocino, tapa and longganisa. My father, a young boy at the time, learned his first lessons on how to choose “good meat” at that grocery store.

All throughout my childhood, my grandparents’ house, which was next to ours, was the scene of countless family reunions. Both my grandparents came from large families. During preparations for Christmas and birthday parties (which were always major events), my younger brother and I would run all over the grounds watching everyone cook, picking and tasting meat and sweets even before the dishes were completed. I distinctly remember how they made Pancit Luglog during those days. No ready made sauces. The shrimp heads were pounded and squeezed. My grandfather had a heavy-duty meat grinder (from the grocery days) and they ground fresh tinapa (smoked fish) and chicharon (pork cracklings) for the pancit. Ox tail and tripe for kare-kare were simmered overnight at the backyard over burning wood. Paella was cooked in a large carajay. Siomai (steamed Chinese dumplings) were cooked in large bamboo steamers, the size you find in restaurants these days.

It was also during those early years when I listened to my father explain which kind of meat went well with each dish, the correct way of cutting meat, why sauces as accompaniments made certain dishes special… When the mood hit him (which was often), we would go driving through provinces north or south of Manila in search of special ingredients, cooking supplies, fruits or delicacies. We would go to Laguna for lanzones, wooden chopping boards, fresh coconuts and buko (coconut) pie; to Bulacan for pastillas and puto (rice cakes); to Cavite for seƱorita (small bananas that are very sweet), watermelons and chayote; to Batangas for freshly-dug ube (purple yam) with the soil still clinging to the skin, and barako (native coffee beans); or to good old Chinatown in Binondo for freshly-slaughtered duck, loose tea leaves and those premature chicken eggs that had yet to form shells and which tasted so good with his arroz caldo. He was a real land rover, and the vehicle he drove suited him to a T. And he was especially fond of stalls along barrio roads, far from the towns and highways where prices were always higher. It was also from my father that I learned to roast duck and quail, and how to cook eel.

I cooked my first complete dish when I was in the 4th grade. It was spaghetti. I brought it to the class field trip.

As a young adult, there were two major influences in my cooking: cookbooks and television. I bought whatever cookbooks and cooking magazines I could afford with my allowance, along with the inevitable James Clavell and James Michener paperbacks. The television influence came in three stages: Stephen Yan, Nora Daza and Biba (Biba’s Italian Kitchen on Discovery Channel), in that order.

Many other lessons and influences came after all that and I have reached a point when I can confidently whip up a good meal with whatever is available in the kitchen. See, I am not the kind of cook who will refuse to do a dish because I lack one ingredient or another specified in the cookbook. I love substituting and I love even more to discover how dishes can be improved, or variations created, simply by substituting, omitting or adding one or more ingredients. My family loves that because, except for real favorites, I don’t often cook the same dishes over and over.


Am I the only one who cooks all the dishes featured in the blog? No, my husband and daughters cook too.

Speedy

Speedy Veneracion

My husband, Speedy, comes from a family of artists. Like most of his siblings, he can draw and paint pretty well. He grew up with seriously good food too. His mom’s a great cook, she cooked a lot of meat for her family and that made Speedy one of the most carnivorous persons I have ever met in my life. He’s particularly obsessed with lechon kawali.

Speedy does most of the cocktail drinks here as well as the most outrageously carnivorous concoctions you can imagine. He bakes bread too. He’s not a fan of pasta and he considers all meatless dishes to be side dishes. He says he’s on keto diet right now but he can’t resist rice when we’re having adobo or sinigang. He’s also into soap-making these days.

See the Daddy Cooks! archive for a list of Speedy’s recipes.

Sam

Sam Veneracion

Our firstborn, Sam, is a photographer. Ironically or not, she does not like to have her photos taken. This is a rare one from a time she tried fishing. Here’s another taken at one of her exhibits. Like her father, she can paint. Watercolor is her best medium but she occasionally does oil too.

Sam started cooking and baking at a young age. In grade school, she stuffed pieces of garlic into hotdogs before frying them. Her sister declared they were the best hotdogs ever.

For ethical reasons, Sam turned vegetarian several years ago. Occasionally, she’s a pescetarian. She’s an animal lover, a natural health buff, and a fan of revel bars and hand-crafted chocolate.

Sam does the videos for the blog. She does the cooking in those videos too.

See all articles relating to Sam.

Alex

Alex Veneracion

Our younger daughter, Alex, is the legitimate chef in the family. Like her father and sister, Alex draws and paints. Her medium is oil.

After high school, Alex went on to study Theater but, somewhere along the way, she realized that her real passion was cooking. She ditched Theater for culinary school.

Her love affair with food began under the most unexpected circumstances. She was working as Stage Manager in a play and central to the plot of the play was chicken adobo which was cooked in a clay pot before every performance. No one in the cast and crew could cook, she volunteered and, a few months later, she gave up Theater work.

After culinary school, she put up a food business. See Alex’s recipes in this blog.