The Christmases of my childhood are memorable for the variety of rice cakes that we had, most of which were given by relatives and friends. From the barrios of pangulû were brought different calamé and suman tílî.
At home on Christmas Eve, my grandmother would sit down and make the ‘easier’ suman bulagta (suman sa lihiya in Tagalog). I was the one designated assistant to cut and wipe the banana leaves, measure the lijia (lye water) and arrange the wrapped rice in the clay pot, ready to be cooked on the wood-burning stove. The last time I did that was 27 years ago.
This year, I tried to make suman bulagta by myself since my supervisor Lola has been with the angels for almost three decades now. I was pleasantly surprised to have re-created the taste, the approximate proportions of rice to lijia still seared in my memory. But my hands have become forgetful. My Mom says the cooked suman looks passable but to me, even the uncooked parcels have to look uniform and bound just right – not too tight, not too loose. I also fail at the speed test, obviously out of practice. The resulting suman do not look hideous but I am so uncomfortable with their aesthetics that I refused to give away any, which made my mother laugh because very seldom am I embarrassed with my cooking.
So, even before the New Year starts, I resolve to make sure that by next Christmas, I will already be an expert at wrapping suman bulagta.
Here’s to a few more weeks of practice and breakfasting on suman bulagta! Merry Christmas!