leave your inhibitions at the door
I remember the first time I heard the “f-word”. It was at my dad’s annual company picnic and everybody brought food to share. That year he, like every other year, made his famous Filipino-style barbecued pork. He’d make like 20 pounds of the stuff and it’d be gone in minutes. It was during the feeding frenzy that I heard these two guys talking:
Guy #1: Hey, did you try what Bernie made?
Guy #2: No way, I think it’s snake meat or dog.
Guy #1: Maybe, but I don’t give a f*ck. It’s fantastic.
His barbecued pork was always a hit. People would ask him to bring it with him to every cookout and every party. He never said no, not to the cooking and not to anything else his friends asked of him. Nor to mere acquaintances, if it was a friend of a friend that was good enough. He was giving to a fault.
Except for with his barbecue recipe. Any time he served it there would always be a people begging him for the recipe to which he’d respond, “Ancient Chinese secret.” Which was always a joke because 1) we weren’t Chinese, 2) that line was from a TV commercial, and 3) there’s no way he could tell you the recipe. He knew what was in it, but he could never say how much of anything was in it. Heck, we didn’t even have measuring cups or spoons in our house.
But I paid attention. The meat was cooked on bamboo skewers and it was the kids’ job to put them on the skewers. But my two older brothers ALWAYS ditched me to do the work all by myself. So I was always in the kitchen when my dad made it. And as I sat there putting the little hunks of meat on the skewers, I watched him. It was really simple – pork + four other ingredients. But he was like a magician with those ingredients, throwing together the ingredients and tasting as we he went.
He would never ever let anyone know how to make it, not even his wife and kids. But, after many years of trial and error, I finally have THE recipe that Bernie took to his
grave urn. I share it here with you, gentle reader.
Bernie’s Filipino Barbecue
1 – Soak a bunch of bamboo skewers in water so they don’t burn while grilling.
2 – Cut up a huge pork shoulder in small bite-sized bits. Don’t use any other cut and don’t you DARE trim the fat.
3 – Put the pork pieces in a large bowl and add a whole lot of this.
4 – Add a bunch of that.
5 – Throw in a few splashes of this.
6 – Finally, sprinkle a bunch of this stuff and taste.
7 – Adjust ingredients accordingly.
8 – Let marinade at least 6 hours (overnight ideal) and then skewer.
9 – Grill the meat, brushing with the marinade often. This is the only place I deviate from my dad’s recipe. I use a gas grill now, he didn’t.
10 – Sit back and bask in all the praise.
Did you catch all that? Do you need me to repeat it? Did you honestly think I’d give up the family legacy?