Sunday, August 15, 2010

Saturday soup for the Tembari kids

Two kids wash hands just before getting their serving of soup. Hand-washing is one hygiene practice being taught to the Tembari children.

Volunteer cooking mothers still the noodle soup before adding beaten eggs into it while boiling in a 30-liter pot.

Their hands washed, kids wait at the dining tables while soup was being cooked.

Finally soup has come. Toddlers have their soup inside their classroom.

Kids enjoying their steaming hot soup.

Kids finally have their main course of minced beef and rice after finishing their soup.

Finally lunch is over and the kids return home to their guardian parents. – Pictures by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ

A Friend of Tembari Children

EVERY Saturday over the last eight months, I have never failed to cook for the Tembari children especial soup which they savor just before being served their “main course” at lunch.

I have suspected the soup has addicted them. As always, they have looked forward to having soup every Saturday just before their meal of rice-meat and veggie.

There’s nothing like this on weekdays – that is from Monday to Friday – where they are served only rice, tinned fish, cordial and fresh milk. Saturday lunch has always been special for the kids.

Volunteer cooking mothers have joked about it. It is because of my soup that the kids come in full force every Saturday for a special lunch.

While I am waiting for the main dish to cook along with rice, with help from my volunteer mothers, I would be busy preparing my soup concoction which I cook in a 30-liter pot.

“Alfredo … this soup is good …” says Shaun, a five-year-old who was abandoned by his father early last year. He has two other siblings – Rose (10) and Melanie (8) who became accustomed to sipping my soup on Saturday.

“Oh, really, how good …?” I would ask in reaction.

“It’s good … I finished my cup …”

While the kids are sipping hot soup from their tin cups, I would walk around their dining tables, asking: Did you like the soup?

A positive answer would always lift my heart. Then I would take their pictures for posterity.

Just to think that cooking a 25-liter soup in a 30-liter pot for about an hour amid a swirling of flame from firewood could be that exhausting.

But coming up with a tasty concoction is also a challenge and quite costly, considering that I would have only a very small budget for the Saturday lunch – an amount donated by two supporters chipping in a minimum of K150 (US$51) each to cover the ingredients for the main dish and soup.

I have tried a number of favorite Filipino soups, which normally, would be cooked only in small pot, good for at least five to 10 people in the family. In this quantity, cooking or preparing it would be easy.

But at The Center, I am talking of young diners from 70 to 97, depending on their availability to come for lunch. But it had always been “full house” on Saturdays because lunch would be different, if not especial, a far cry from the Monday-to-Friday lunch of rice, tinned fish and veggies.

The Saturday feeding session would always be packed because of the soup, so the mothers would say.

Whenever I would ask a Filipino who can cook about soup for mass feeding, the first suggested recipe is for “misua”, actually a rice-noodle that was brought to the Philippines by the Chinese in the early 1800s.

Ever since, “misua” has become a common and favorite soup item in a Filipino home’s dining table.

But I have tried this soup only once, and just very recently. I could tell that it was a hit among the kids and the volunteer mothers, being a new thing for their taste buds. I look forward to cooking it again, once I ran out of soup ideas.

And lately, I have incorporated in my soup Indian spices like masala powder, five-spices powder, turmeric and curry powder to perk up the flavor. The flavor would always turn out good and the kids just love it.

I would say soup has become a little luxury for our children at The Center. Among resto diners, and those who got money, an expensive Chinese soup has always a very special treat. Our children are having the same thing, only in a different level, but the common denominator is the world “special”.

Our kids’soup ecstasy would not be possible, however, without the continuing support of people who would sponsor our especial Saturday lunch, which always features a special soup recipe.

Soup, anyone?

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