Lessons from my father
My father, businessman Ephraim Cuadra Salcedo (ECS), is, to my mind and heart, the greatest man who ever lived.
He was a man of fierce convictions, unflinching in his principles, sometimes to the point of being stubborn.
Guided by the Bible, he had a firm sense of justice, was dedicated to family and heritage, and had kindness and compassion in his heart.
He had a passion for life so great that he fought for it until we couldn’t negotiate any more extensions with the Lord. And he had an appetite as voracious as his passion for life.
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Here are a few lessons I learned from my father on how to eat like a man:
- Order a Porterhouse
One of my best memories with dad is dinner at Bull and Bear at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, where he often occupied a suite while on business in the 1980s. (Heartfelt condolences, as well, to the family of another great man who lived in New York around the same time as my dad: H.E. Ambassador and former Senate President Ernesto Maceda. Our dads are now batchmates in heaven. Good luck to St. Peter! Though I am sure the angels will have a grand time.)
Bull and Bear was my first real fine dining experience. I was in high school and delighted to put on my best dress.
“When you order steak,” he advised, “order a Porterhouse.” Then he showed me how to properly and elegantly use a steak knife.
- Don’t be duped or intimidated by high prices
One of my first articles for Inquirer was a review of a fine dining Chinese restaurant. We ordered several items, all at fine dining hotel prices.
We all felt the prices did not match the value of the meal in terms of flavor, quality and overall experience.
He taught me that price points do not determine quality. So first determine the item’s value and don’t allow yourself to get ripped off.
- Family lunch is priceless
Just two weeks ago, before my cousin got married, ECS gave him this piece of advice: “Remember, No. 1: Familia. Always look after your children.”
This is something ECS truly lived by. Even at the height of his cancer, he never lost control as captain of our family ship. He was still the one we turned to for help and advice; the one we could rely on.
He also made sure that we treasured each other and each moment together.
Our last family lunch together outside of the hospital was at Nobu, enjoying its Sunday champagne brunch buffet menu. (Do have Sunday family lunch here and enjoy chicken skin yakitori with champagne). All these are now treasured memories.
- Don’t waste food
Knowing how I would always over-order, my dad would rarely order for himself. Instead, he left the ordering to us girls and ate whatever, as he predicted correctly, we would not finish.
At home, he was the chef for leftovers and would whip up yummy concoctions a la Ephraim of whatever he found in the fridge the following day.
These experiences are not bereft of hazards, I must confess: one happy morning when he surprised us with breakfast after arriving from a trip, midway through the meal we realized we were eating a deep fried version of something that he had picked up by mistake—leftovers we set aside for the dog. Eww!
- Drink your coffee black, your whiskey neat
There’s just no other way.
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Ephraim Cuadra Salcedo was not only an astute businessman and finance genius; he was also a connoisseur and gourmet.
I will always remember my dad through food. And how he was such an alpha male even in the way he ate: He would eat a balut whole (and ate this every day when his albumin was low). His ultimate comfort food was bulalo. He refused to have milk that did not come from a cow.
He never compromised on flavor—no sugar substitutes or other replacements—for a “healthier” meal.
He also taught us to honor tradition and some of these traditions revolve around food: Christmas Eve at the Peninsula, where he has been a regular diner since it opened in 1976 (a friend whom I just met at the wake told me they had a club called Ten at the Pen); Easter breakfast at Pancake House (after Dulcinea Greenbelt closed) after Union Church Easter Sunrise Service.
A few months ago, we had our last cooking session—he taught me how to steam lobsters. These are now all memories that will keep my dad alive forever.
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My dad was called home by the Lord a few days ago.
We lay him to rest today at the Union Church of Manila with a funeral service and inurnment at 3 p.m.
This is the biggest heartbreak of my life. For the first time, I have lost my appetite.
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I want to thank my dad for teaching me how to live and live well; how to eat and eat well.
He was the best father a girl could ever have. My human compass both on the road and in life. My North Star, with whom I could be confident in my steps and rest assured I was moving in the right direction.
A valiant warrior, fighting until his last breath, he also taught me to cook with love, to live with compassion and to fight with courage.
Chateau Margaux cheers, Daddy! Being your daughter and serving you has been the greatest honor of my life.