Today is International Mahjong Day. Growing up in a Filipino-American household, the clanking of tiles and cries “Oh aking kabutihan” filled the room. Back then, everyone smoked and our enclosed patio looked like a smoky gambling hall.
In 1965 my mother went home to Manilla for the summer. She took us with her so that we could experience life as she had known it. I don’t know what Manilla is like today, but in 1965 homelessness and street poverty were shocking. It was then that I understood our lot in life begins at birth. It doesn’t mean if you are born in poverty, poverty is all you will ever have. But it does mean that climbing up the mountain from a hole is much more difficult then to begin that journey on a hillside. I was 10 that summer. The experience of seeing such profound poverty changed me for the better. An obligation to those less fortunate and the need to always lend a helping hand became a part of me. If God has blessed you, than you have an duty to share that blessing. It’s not a matter of a free handout, but a helping hand up. There is a difference.
My mother did not come from the streets of Manilla. She came from a big house with amazing woodwork and dozens of servants. It was a stark contrast from the world that existed beyond the compound walls. Yet she gave it all up to marry my pops, an MP stationed at Clark Air Force Base. Theirs was a beautiful love story. So often I saw my mother subjected to bigotry in this country. Especially from the women. She must have married an American GI to escape the hardships of a third-world life. That would make her no better than a prostitute. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet my mother loved America. She raised us to be proud of our country as well as our mixed race.
I can remember many an afternoon when the ladies in the neighborhood, those who bothered to know mom and her story, would come to play Mahjong. Several card tables were set up and the ladies played the day away. It was a very social event. And there were always sweets served. Pastries from the neighborhood bakery and something special from the Filipino Market. On special occasions, mom would make her Leche Flan or someone would bring Sans Rival. Such memories.
It’s been a few years since we’ve played Mahjong. Next time my sister comes to town, we’ll have to get a few games going – and serve some wonderful childhood sweet. Seems perfect to feel so nostalgic on this the first Sunday of August. It’s also National Sister Day and American Family Day. So gather those you love close and enjoy the day made possible by God above.
Sans Rival – Filipino Layered Meringue
1 cup Cashews
8 Egg Whites
3/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1 cup Sugar
Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Draw two 8-inch circles on each parchment for a total of 4 templates. Flip paper over, circle-side down. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 275-degrees. Coarsely chop Cashews, set aside.
Separate eggs, reserve yolks for the buttercream. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar, and sugar until stiff but not dry. Fold in the chopped cashew nuts.
Divide meringue, spread out into four 8 inch circles using the template as a guide. Place meringue disks in the warm oven. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until golden.
Transfer to wire racks, let cool.
8 Egg Yolks
1-1/4 cup Cashews
2/3 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
3/4 cup Milk
1 cup Butter softened
1 teaspoon Clear Vanilla Extract
In a large bowl, beat egg yolks, set aside. Chop Cashews, set aside.
Place sugar, flour and salt in saucepan, whisk thoroughly. Stir in the milk. Cook over medium heat; stirring constantly until very thick.
Remove from heat. Slowly drizzle milk mixture into the egg yolk, whisking constantly, just a few tablespoons at a time to temper the yolks.
Add the soft butter 1/4 cup at a time, beating at medium-high speed between additions until smooth. Add vanilla and beat well.
Chill buttercream for a few minutes to firm slightly before assembling.
Place a meringue disk on a cake platter. Spread a layer of buttercream over the disk. Repeat layering of meringue and buttercream. Decorate top and sides with more buttercream. Cover with the cashews.
Serve and enjoy.