I wouldn’t exchange my childhood in the Philippines for anything. The whole family sat down to supper just about every night: my grandparents, mom, dad, and my two brothers. But every Sunday, all my mother’s brothers and their families would arrive in the afternoon and stay till late into the night. Those suppers were extra special. Sunday suppers meant not just fiesta-worthy food (and lots of it!); they also meant hide-and-seek or capture-the-flag games that lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Yes, Monday was a school day, but we didn’t care. We would have played until the sun came up if the grownups let us. (They sometimes did.)
That was our Sunday, every week of the year. We also spent summers and school holidays together, and as if that weren’t enough, we even scheduled occasional mid-week slumber parties. Fifteen cousins in all and we were all each other’s best friends.
We still are.
Now we have families of our own and live in separate countries. But each time we get together, it’s like nothing has changed. My brothers and I don’t often get to spend regular weekends together, but we thoroughly enjoy every chance we get to see each other. Every occasion is filled with laughter, reminiscing, and of course, food.
This weekend, I planned to host dinner for my brothers and my dad, who is in town for a visit. But instead, Saturday was demolition day and by early evening, I was too exhausted and too heartbroken to even think about cooking. So when my older brother suggested Sunday lunch at a dim sum place near my town instead, I readily agreed.
One thing I can always count on is the healing power of family. Spending two hours with them helped me forget the heartache of the previous day. (That’s my younger brother up there with his daughter Bianca. That’s the same Bianca in this giggle-fest. She still laughs the same way. It’s so adorable. And therapeutic.)
Our family—our entire extended family—shares a bond that is unbreakable and lasting. It is a bond forged by blood and kept alive by genuine friendship and deep love. It is a bond strengthened by more than 20 years of Sunday suppers. You don’t have to sell me on the idea of Sunday suppers; most of my cherished family memories and our little inside secrets took place during those childhood Sunday suppers.
So when I was asked to participate in this Sunday supper “project” to help promote Pam Anderson’s new book One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers, I didn’t need to be asked twice. Pam’s one-dish recipes were created with the goal of making it easy to both cook a great meal for your family and guests and actually enjoy their company rather than stressing out in the kitchen. I know Pam and I’ve watched her work. I know that when a recipe leaves her hands, you can be sure that it works, and it’s likely the best way to make that dish.
There’s a reason her many of her cookbooks have the word “Perfect” in them.
Because I always love a challenge, I set out to make her Doable, Delicious Paella for Sunday supper. Paella is big in the Philippines, and I’m pretty picky about it because my aunt makes amazing paella. Ordinarily, I would have never even considered making it for a “regular” dinner, without any invited guests. In my head, paella belongs to a league of ultra-special meals, the kind that feature a pig roast or beef roulades (morcon) that take almost 24 hours to prepare. But Pam’s recipe takes less than an hour to make, with very little prep work required. And so Sunday supper this week was intimate, just me and Tom, and a pan of paella with its gorgeous color and the rich flavors from the chicken, seafood, and chorizo. Never mind that I didn’t have the right pan for it, or, for that matter, the right stove. Never mind that I didn’t have enough rice either. The taste was spot on and the paella was exactly as advertised: doable and delicious, and in less than half the time it takes to make the traditional Filipino-Spanish version.
(And never mind that it was 8pm and there was absolutely no natural light in the kitchen.)
I can’t recommend this book enough. Every main dish is presented as part of a complete menu, with the recipes for the accompanying courses as well. (For the paella, it was a Baked Goat Cheese in Tomato-Olive Sauce with Toasted Baguette appetizer, Mixed Greens with Gazpacho Vegetables for the salad, and Orange Sherbet with Hot Fudge Sauce for dessert. Yes, all those recipes are included, and she even gives you shortcut versions if you’re pressed for time. Need help with wine choices? She’s got you covered there too.) You can certainly mix and match side dishes and desserts as much as you want, and in fact, I had planned to make her Creamy Flan for dessert. But at the last minute, I decided to leave that off for another day. I just didn’t have the heart to displace two traditional Filipino recipes in one night.