Last week, I was at a local Filipino grocery looking for goat meat. The lady beside me commented that I didn't seem like a person who would be looking for goat meat.
I was confused. "What do you mean by that?" I asked politely. But she answered me with yet another question.
"Which part of the Philippines are you from?" she asked
"I'm from Tuguegarao, Cagayan -- it's a province in the north." I answered.
"Ahh, now I understand" she said nonchalantly.
This was the moment when I realized that food connects us to where we come from, where we are currently at and where we intend to go. I'm certain it's not just northern Filipinos who eat goat meat. I do not have a craving for this dish, nor did I grow up having this as my favorite. Still, I have pleasant memories of how frantic my relatives would be with preparing and cooking this in our backyard. I will never forget the noise the goats would make when they were delivered to our house; my Papa's clients presented them to our family as gifts for my Papa's birthdays or for special occasions. I grew up under my Papa's wing, who would have goat meat included in his usual repertoire of "fiesta food."
Two years ago, I came back to my hometown -- and I immediately craved kaldaretang kambing (goat stew). After being away for 10 years, I was surprised at how my hometown had changed. It is now more crowded and developed with new buildings and stores lining the streets. Even at my parents' house things have changed. Having a party at our home no longer had the whole house smelling like food. My sister in law, who has a catering business, had been officially appointed as my Papa's official caterer and food consultant. The spread changed; they had a different repertoire of food. The food was no longer cooked in the backyard.
There was one exception to this change. My husband took a side trip to my hometown during his business trip to Asia a few months ago. He spent a day with my folks after not being able to visit them for 15 years. Papa was so excited that he threw a big welcome party for him He planned the menu himself and included several goat dishes as part of his menu. He had the feast prepared using the old fashioned way.
My husband called me from Tuguegarao the morning of this feast. He said, "I woke up to the sound of goats! Goats!" I laughed as I remembered the loud meeeahhhh's that would resonate throughout the house. I laughed knowing that what he was experiencing was what I experienced as a child. My husband grew up in the city and never experienced something as "provincial" as having domestic animals prepared and cooked in the backyard.
I don't know what got into me that day when I bought goat meat. All I know is that I wanted to revisit my Papa's way of entertaining. I wanted to revisit how he enjoyed having this dish, how he enjoyed sharing it with his friends over ice-cold beer or his Johnny Walker black. And how he planned the menu for my husband's party, which was going to be his last. Cheers to you Papa!
Kaldaretang Kambing (Goat Stew)
Goat meat (I bought the whole leg)
2 cans of tomato sauce
1 small can of tomato paste
2 tbsps liver pate
green bell pepper
Olive oil or butter
In order to remove the gamy smell of the goat, marinate or wash the goat meat with vinegar. Make sure to wash it thoroughly. I then boiled the goat meat with herbs and spices, threw the first boil and boiled it again until tender.
In a saucepan, saute the goat meat with garlic, onions. Add black pepper and bay leaf. Let it simmer and reduced to almost dry. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook it on low fire until tender. Add soup stock or water if the meat is not tender yet.
Add green olives, pineapple and green bell peppers. Thicken it using liver pate. Add about 2 tbsp of olive oil to enhance the taste. You could also use butter if you prefer so.