Thursday, June 7, 2007


WHAT’S COOKING? “Ding recetang atipun ning malating librong iti yang mituru keka yu king pamaglutung manyaman”..from Mumunang Amanu, LIBRO KING PAMAGLUTU, Salese at Isinadia ning Fercrusa Publishing Co., Agosto 1934. Alex R. Castro Collection.
Kapampangans have a solid reputation for being great cooks, a skill that is learned through early exposure to mother’s kitchen secrets, honed through rigid hands-on training and refined to perfection through daily application of age-old treasured recipes. After a while, a Kapampangan kusinera’s feel for food becomes almost instinctive, with flavors blended wonderfully with just the right pinch of salt and simmered at a precisely calculated time. So it came as a surprise when I unearthed this old, tattered 1934 cookbook, with step-by-step formal instructions on how to prepare different kinds of ulam, specifically written for young Pampangueñas who aspire to become ideal homemakers by cooking up the perfect meal, right down to the perfect dessert.

This book, with the rather generic title “Libru King Pamaglutu” (literally, cook book) obviously aimed to expand the culinary knowledge of the Kapampangan by focusing on select recipes culled from here and abroad: “Pinili karing dakal a libro at pahayagan king pamaglutu king amanung Tagalog, Ingles at Kastila”, so the subtitle proclaims.

A quick glance at the book’s content offers us a glimpse into the cooking practices at that time. The preface starts with “Apulung Utus Kareng Mamangan” , a sort of 10 commandments on table etiquette! Examples: “ E yu durusug bandang gulut ing silya nung makalukluk na ka “.(Don’t push your chair back when already seated). “E yu lalabulan ing nasi ban parimlan”(Don’t blow the rice to cool it).

After this rather preachy page come the different chapters on the techniques of concocting the most delectable “sopas, caldo at arroz”. There are recipes for Arroz a la Valenciana, Sopas a Mike ating Manuk at Payungpayungan, Caldo Chino, Sopas a la Berkshire and strangely enough, for Mantekilyang Chicos at Kamatis! (buttered chicos with tomatoes). Lessons in “pamangawang salsa, ensalada at atsara” follow next, with fancy names as Ensaladang Waldorf, Ensaladang Zanahoria a la Inglesa and Atsarang Remolacha. To think these are just hodgepodge of everyday gule!

The entries on meats, poultry and fishes showcase local and international cooking at its finest: Morkong Manuk, Pepitoria, Cahuela Chilena, Sukiyaking Hapon, Arros con Bacalao, among others. There are exotic-sounding ingredients, some in Spanish, like kesiap (fish sauce), clavo de comer, perejil (parsley), sangki, kanel, aceitunas (olives), zanahoria (carrots) and biskotso de cañas (sugar biscuits--could these be like graham crackers?).

Melt-in-the mouth desserts constitute the next chapter, again, a mind-boggling variety from the East and West: Mamun, Flan de Naranja, Tocino del Cielo, Doughnut Kastila, and Betty’s Cookies (who in the world is she?) There are tips for making haleas or jams, marmeladas (marmalades) plus candied fruits. Baking instructions do not include ideal oven temperature. Upon mixing all the necessary ingredients, the student is directed to simply plunk down the pastry into the oven—“Ilutu king orno” or “Ibalik pasibayu king orno anggang e lare” (return to the oven until color changes).

However, it was the content of the Kapulung Pangkat (Chapter 10) that amused me as the chapter contained household tips that really had nothing to do with cooking. Under the heading “Kabaluan King Pamibalebale” (Household Knowledge) are easy, practical solutions to common household challenges, money and effort-saving suggestions for the wise homemaker. There is an entry on “Pamaglako Kalawang King Imalan” or removing rust from fabrics : Itulid king danum a bubukal at saka dinan yung piga ning dalayap…(pour boiling water and squeeze a lemon on the problem spot). Need to rid your house of fleas and bedbugs? : “Kuma kong 2 onza ning estafisagria (pulbos), iti ing pulis king siwang a miki suldut. Kalabas ning aduang aldo, mate ngan ing animal aren..” (Rub in 2 oz. of powder in between the slats where bedbugs hide; after 2 days they will all be dead and gone). Hair-conscious people need not worry because there is a way to put black back into your hair: “ban tuling ing maputing buak”—Pabukal kong matapang a tsa at iti ing ikuskus yu mayap king buak abak at gatpanapun (To blacken hair--boil strong tea and rub well on your hair, every morning and afternoon). The tips go on to include emergency procedures to relieve hiccoughs (Nung Sisikut Kayu), nosebleeds and chapped lips and ways to clean aluminum, marble, steel and other metals.

One can easily dismiss “Librung King Pamaglutu” as nothing more than a second-rate, trying hard outdated cookbook with its bewildering content that’s as mixed-up as chop suey. But today, with the advent of self-timed toasters, food processors , instant mixes and microwave dinners, fewer Kapampangans of the next generation are bound to experience the real thrill of authentic cooking and the excitement of the wait --for a bubbling tibuk-tibok to thicken, for crispy kamaru to crackle, and for favorite bibingkas to turn golden.
(8 February 2003)

*The Kapampangan Kitchen


Anonymous said...


Have you tried cooking some of the recipes? For years, I have been begging my mother and her sisters for family recipes. An Aunt just passed on to me a very old typed/handwritten cookbook that apparently belonged to a Great Aunt. I am thinking that this is possibly circa 1940-1960's. Like your cookbook, it is written in Kapampangan, Spanish and English. My Kapampangan is limited so it will take me a while to translate and try them. How about a recipe exchange? ha ha ...

Elizabeth Curry

alex r. castro said...

I can only heat food, not cook--even with arecipe book around. There are a couple of Kapampangan cookbooks in print--Cocina Sulipena by Gene Gonzales, based on heirloom recipes of Apalit. and Claude Tayag's Food Trip. The Center for Kapampangan Studies is currently preparing a book about Pampanga's culinary traditions, so do watch out for it.

Anonymous said...

Hi again Alex,

Has The Center for Kapampangan Studies published the cookbook you mentioned? If so, where can I buy one?

Elizabeth Curry

alex r. castro said...

Hi Elizabeth,
The book is in the pipeline, I knwo one committee is still working on it. Will update you on the progress of the work. Thanks for your interest, Alex

bry said...

where can i buy this book? does it have a tagalog or english translation?