Monday, December 6, 2010

Cake and Other Blessings

'Tis the season for cakes and cookies, family and friendship. This is the season that reminds me most of my Auntie Maitoni. 
At this time of year, her living room was transformed into a fruitcake assembly line. Her fruitcakes were in high demand in Metro Manila ever since she began taking orders in the 1960's. She prepared hundreds of fruitcakes every holiday season. She started the process as early as September. Each cake received a generous dousing of Philippine Tanduay rum. "For the extra moisture," she would say with a wink.  
Auntie Maitoni also made elaborate wedding cakes. To pull off such works of art in the tropical heat was an amazing feat. Her cakes were adorned with edible flowers, each one painstakingly made by her steady hand. Each orchid, each rose were weeks in the making. 

Auntie Maitoni's Golden Anniversary Masterpiece 
For one wedding in Los Angeles, she made delicate sugar roses, wrapped them individually in bubble wrap, and transported them from her kitchen in Asia to the bride in L.A.!
My Aunt and her trans-Pacific cake

My Auntie Maitoni fell ill just before the holiday season in 2007. On December 20, 2007 she passed at  81 years of age. She and my uncle Gaby had been married for 60 years and 10 months.  
When word spread about her passing, my uncle -- a veteran CBS News correspondent -- received touching notes from around the globe. One of his newsmen colleagues described Auntie Maitoni as his mother in Asia while he was a cub reporter. Auntie Maitoni made certain that he was well-organised, well-informed and well-fed.  

When she wasn't working on her daily New York Times crossword puzzle (she was one of the few people I know who could actually finish them) or when she wasn't reading a newspaper cover to cover, she cooked, baked and rummaged through local farmers markets. She had a great appreciation for food and its preparation. 

During her days as a coloratura soprano
Food was not merely calories and sustenance to my aunt; food was her medium to express her affection and creativity. Her cakes were just one of her canvasses. 

I wish I could share Auntie Maitoni's cake recipes, but they were her own concoctions based on old family recipes. Trying to duplicate them would not do her justice. Instead, I wish to share a few  memories of a wonderful woman. She was my role model and the first true foodie in my life. 

Auntie Maitoni 1926 - 2007

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