My uncle’s 90th birthday party is today. I was going to design a special card to celebrate this milestone. Then my aunt said he was sensitive about it and didn’t want to be reminded about turning 90.
I wasn’t sure what I should come up with. But thinking about the birthday party reminded me of all the yummy food. My family is Filipino and food is our love language. My aunts and uncles cook up a storm and bring lots of dishes. We bring enough the feed the whole neighborhood. Some of them have their signature dishes we’ve come to expect at each gathering. Like my Auntie Nene makes this salmon dish with a creamy Asian sauce on top. It’s similar to the yum yum sauce you have at a Japanese steakhouse. My dad also cooks a ton of food. Everything from lumpia to so tanghon and other noodle dishes.
Could I design a card around that? I don’t tend to draw a lot of food but decided to give it a try. I’d have the cake in the middle, surrounded by the typical dishes our family serves.
I first tried drawing Pancit noodles, thinking it would be easy. Just make scribbles. But then I tried that and it just looked like scribbles. None of my attempts looked noodle-like. I didn’t realize it would be this hard. So off I went to Google to study photos of Pancit. Looking at these photos had me craving noodles morning, noon and night. But I studied the dishes carefully, noting where the shadows fell. And the patterns of the noodles.
Armed with that knowledge, I gave the noodles another try. Much better results!
Then of course I had to draw lumpia. If you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s an egg roll with meat and veggie filling. My family uses ground beef. We typically make the deep fried version.
Empanadas were next. Followed by fried fish. We usually serve a lot of meat and I added a rotisserie chicken. I know the lechon pig is something that is served. But I’ve always been squeamish about seeing the poor thing with an apple in its mouth. I couldn’t bring myself to draw one.
Then I decided to add mango slices, bistek, pork bbq kabobs and another noodle dish called palabok. Bistek is a dish with slices of beef, which is simmered in a sauce made with soy sauce, lemon, black pepper, onions and other spices. If Calamansi is available we use that instead. But in the U.S. it can be hard to find. So we just use lemons as a substitute.
Once the dishes were illustrated, I added a green background with texture to simulate banana leaves.
Then for the inside, I added a corny message:
Let me explain if you don’t understand the humor. Tuyo is a fried fish. Isda also means fish. I know, very corny. They got a laugh out of it 🙂
Overall I enjoyed making this card. It filled a longtime desire to illustrate Filipino food. I’ve always wanted to make a children’s book about my experiences with these family gatherings. If I could pull it off, it would be a fun project! Stay tuned…