Champorado: Reflections on Kidhood

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When I was young cooking was an enigma to me, and most mysterious of all was the breakfast porridge, champorado, which my mother served me many times in the morning before school.

In the small one-bedroom apartment where I grew up in Queens, the kitchen meant no television, my sister studying with textbooks spread over the table, and my mother and the obsessive order with which she wanted her kitchen to be maintained. “Stay away from the stove! Huwag ilagay ang kutsara sa drawer na, over there in the other cabinet! Ay nako, leave it! I will wash that later!

I avoided the kitchen until, of course, I was called to join the rest of the family for lunch or dinner. And at the table, my plate would be ready with rice and whatever pang-ulam my mother had decided to make.

But unlike the dinners she had made where her labor in the kitchen was audible throughout our home, champorado always appeared on the table without any evidence of work placed into its creation—and it always tasted amazing! And how could it not? The child in me enjoyed the sweetness of the chocolate, and the Filipino in me felt the familiarity of the warm rice that was the foundation of the meal.

The magic and ease of childhood, however, is fragile. As I grew older, I discovered that the champorado my mother made came packaged and ready to go with the “Just add hot water!” instructions printed on the back. This was a disappointing discovery, but not without its eye-opening truth: my mother was tired in the morning. She would go to work, then come home, clean, cook, help me with my homework, read to me, and tuck me into bed. In the early mornings after these long days, when nobody else was awake, my mother rose disturbing no one—because at the time we all slept together on two mattresses, pushed together to form a large bed—and in the quiet of the kitchen, she made instant champorado, from a packet of porridge mix, a small luxury before the long day ahead of her.

Now, less reliant on my mother and with freedom in the kitchen, I have learned how to make champorado from scratch. The ingredients are simple—cocoa powder, sticky rice, and boiling water are all that are needed. There are concerns that come with making a favorite dish from your youth: Will reality match expectations? Have I romanticized the entire experience? Is this going to even taste any good? And then I take a spoonful.

Suddenly I’m four, in the kitchen of my old apartment. My mother has moved to another room to start the rest of her day. And I’m alone, with everything I left behind when I came into my 20s.

Pizarro Champorado

Ingredients
1 cup of sticky rice (glutinous rice)
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
3 and 1/2 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
optional: 1 cup of milk (you can always add the milk later)

Instructions
Boil 2 and 1/2 cups of water. Put heat on low.

Add 1 cup of rice to the pot and bring back to a boil.

Add another cup of water and cook the rice for 15-20 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of Cocoa Powder to the rice. Cook and mix for 5 minutes or until mixture is thick.

Add 1 cup of sugar, or until preferred sweetness is reached.

You can add 1 cup of milk for flavor and reduce thickness of the porridge, or add milk onto your personal serving later on. Other than that, enjoy this quick and easy Filipino breakfast and/or dessert!

Post, Photo, and Recipe by Niccolo Pizarro. 

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