here are two little-known facts about me: first, my idea of comfort food is a hot bowl of chicken arroz caldo. second, i'm a momma's boy. the first isn't very obvious because i post many of these gastronomic adventures in exotic, sometimes expensive, places. the second may not be readily apparent because no momma's boy can live apart from his mother for 6 years and not complain about it or at least have complications about returning to the womb. but i mention these two things about me because they are actually intimately related. i find comfort in blowing at a spoonful of hot, soft rice sprinkled with spring onion and fried garlic. i find the experience soothing and calming and altogether uplifting. it's mostly because it reminds me of instances when i was younger: a frail boy who was often sick, whose nose bled from too much sun exposure, who tripped and fell often, and who was awkward in many respects. during these moments when i was unwell, my mother always came to my rescue with a hot bowl of arroz caldo, and i was instantly better. in that small bowl which often burned the inside of my mouth, i discovered spoonfuls of love only a mother could give.
i took my mom out on a date over the weekend. we used to do this a lot, my mom, my dad, and i. we would go out to do the groceries and eat at least once a month at a restaurant they've never been to before. i remember my mom enjoying the crispy tilapia in recipes and then later at abé that she spent many weeks trying to replicate the recipe at home. finally she managed to and frantically texted me to come home and have a taste. but when my dad fell ill last year and couldn't leave the house, and he would not have anyone a moment's peace whenever my mom was away, so it became difficult to go out. last month after my injury, i was not showing up at home so my mom came to visit me and although i frequently had visitors during my incarceration to a fiberglass cast which cheered me up, nothing could compare to the few hours my mom spent with me. it felt good to put my foot on her lap and to feel the caress of her hands on my leg.
my mom has very little appetite which probably makes her an ideal companion to a restaurant because she'll give half of her plate to anyone or ask the waiter to bag it so someone at home can taste it too (she's thoughtful like that). which also means taking her to a buffet is not a good idea because she might not get her money's worth. but then again she wasn't paying -- i was, and no meal is too expensive if it means spending a cherished afternoon with my mom. so this weekend i went with her to the hyatt in manila for the famous lili dimsum buffet, which i badly miss. without doubt lili serves the best dimsum in this part of manila, and our visit confirmed its reputation. i was just in taipei and hongkong and nowhere else in my slice of the world have i been more happy with dimsum than in lili.
at first i found the idea of two people with limited mobility struggling to reach the restaurant a little combical, but since my mom walks just as slow as me now that i'm still recovering, you would hardly notice the limp in my cadence. we reached the hotel and everyone was very helpful. it was my first time to leave the house without my crutches, and whenever i fell out of balance, i just held on to my mom. we sat down near the dessert table because i had informed them ahead of time that we might have issues about moving around a lot. our waitress came and handed me the dimsum checklist. the great thing about the buffet at lili is that you don't stand up to get helpings of stale food -- everything is freshly steamed and delivered to your table. we had a checklist which i ticked at regular intervals. with the exception of the barbecues and dessert, you just have to sit on your table and wait for the service crew to bring in your orders.
although my mom is an amazing cook, like me she doesn't have exacting standards and appreciates everything. which is just as well because an unhappy customer who isn't easily pleased is just as awful as a bad plate. so having lunch with my mom at lili was such a great experience for both of us. ang sarap nito, she would say each time the waiter came to put a plate on our table, sana andito si daddy mo. as usual my mom told me many stories about my father, our house, our dogs, my siblings and their children, the TV shows she's been watching, her unpromising business ideas, etc. finally when round 4 of our dimsum buffet arrived, she just sat there and watched me as i expertly managed my food with a pair of chopsticks, or allowed her gaze to drift to the other table where 6 filipino-indians noisily enjoyed the same buffet.
after a long, slow-moving lunch at lili my mom and i ended our sunday date with some spa treatments. she was actually planning to dress up and pass by the salon to have her hair done when i told her that lunch would be at a hotel. she wanted so much to be dolled up just for the occasion. but i said, just wear nice shoes. turns out her shoes are a medical pair made specially for people with rheumatism. on our way home my mom said she missed our dates, but also warned i shouldn't spoil her so much because she might get used to it. i replied by saying that she should because i have to take advantage of the time that we have together. although i'm all grown up, i'm still her little boy who pangs for her home-cooked meals and her warm, comforting, company.