Friday, September 23, 2022

FOODIE FRIDAYS: Mia Manansala: Remembering My Father with a Filipino Holiday Recipe

Today I welcome award-winning mystery author Mia P. Manansala to Foodie Fridays


Mia P. Manansala: Remembering My Father with a Filipino Holiday Recipe

One of the most common questions I get about my series is: Where do you get the inspiration for all the delicious food? 


And the answer is: my father, who passed away two weeks before Christmas in 2018 (and who I dedicated Arsenic and Adobo to).


My dad was a quiet, stoic man, and not very demonstrative when it came to showing affection. But his love for his family was abundantly clear in his food. He worked long, hard hours all week at a printing factory to help provide for the nine-person household. And every weekend, he would set out early with my maternal grandmother to hit up the various markets to find the best, freshest, and cheapest ingredients for the weekend feasts he would prepare for us.


One regret I’m willing to admit is never getting his Filipino recipes. My dad was one of the best cooks I knew. He cooked in that old-school way, without any real recipes. He just sensed, felt, and tasted his way through and, more often than not, his meals were absolutely delicious. 


He was in the hospital twice before he passed: the week before Thanksgiving and then the week after. The first time he was hospitalized, I tried to get his recipe for lumpiang shanghai (Filipino pork egg rolls), and his verbal recitation of ingredients and steps involved no measurements, temperatures, or times. I was just expected to feel my way through.


Sometimes I wonder if my tendency to mess with baking recipes and occasionally pants my way through my stories (despite having an outline) comes from my father’s approach to cooking.


I thought about sharing that recipe with you, but decided on something else: his last request to me. That same hospital visit, we were talking about the dishes I had planned for Thanksgiving since I host every year. Near the end of his life, food was one of his few pleasures, though we did try to temper it due to his dietary restrictions. 


So when I asked him what dessert he wanted, he requested something sweet and simple and very Filipino: Pinoy Fruit Salad.


Just about every ingredient is from a can or jar, and I’m pretty sure it came into popularity due to the American colonial period when the U.S. military presence brought an influx of canned goods to the Philippines. Some of the ingredients may be unfamiliar or seem rather strange (cheddar cheese?!), but trust me, it’s all delicious.


He didn’t come to Thanksgiving at my house since he was still weak from his hospital visit, so I didn’t make the fruit salad then. I thought I would make it for him for Christmas, but I never got that chance. Instead, I made it for his memorial that year, and I continue making it every year for the holidays in memory of him.


In honor of my father, I’m going to give you the recipe that he dictated to me. It’s not word for word since I didn’t think to write it down, but definitely in his spirit.


Miss you, Daddy.

Pinoy (Filipino-style) Fruit Salad



      1 or 2 cans of fruit cocktail

      Macapuno (coconut sport) OR package of buko (young coconut)

      Nata de coco

      Can of Nestle table cream (my dad said it HAS to be Nestle)

      Can of condensed milk

      Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)



  1. Drain the first three ingredients very well. 
  2. Put them in a big bowl and add the table cream, condensed milk, and cheese (if you’re using it). 
  3. Mix well and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy!


You can also freeze the mixture (my preference). The texture becomes ice cream-like, which I love, though you’ll want to let it thaw slightly so that it’s scoopable.


Mia P. Manansala is a writer from Chicago who loves books, baking, and badass women. She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture. Blackmail and Bibingka is the latest in the latest in her Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery series.


1 comment:

Deborah Ortega said...

Love that you have remembered your Father with his love of food. I was fortunate that my Mom was thoughtful enough to gift us all cookbooks of her recipes in her own handwriting very special.