If you think about it, the arrival of Manila Goodie Trail (MGT) to the digital space has been years in the making. Yodel Pe, the visual artist behind MGT’s namesake, Manila Paper Trail, began by cooking up the dishes from her childhood and sharing them with friends. “It really was just a hobby for me, but then my friends kept asking if I was selling these and it made me think— can I make a business out of this kaya?” Yodel shares.
It took a little more coaxing for the graphic designer to bring the food business to life— but here we are. Manila Goodie Trail, she says, is a love letter to foodies and a test kitchen all in one. The dishes are seasonal and ever-evolving. In fact, the first launch was originally meant to include only four flavors for quiche— Double Cheese, Ham & Cheese, Portobello, and Carbonara (made with real Italian guanciale), but experimentation quickly led Yodel to add two more unique flavors to the menu, French Onion Soup and Chorizo, each as delicious as the next.
All these goodies are handmade from Yodel’s home kitchen in San Juan using only high-quality ingredients. Some, like the herbs used in the quiche’s shortbread crust, are sourced directly from her family garden. No detail is spared when it comes to crafting her goodies— from the recipe right down to the packaging, everything is meticulously approved and curated by Yodel herself.
The recipes were revived from her mother’s old typewritten notes and stitched together using sense memory, guided by the stories from Yodel’s childhood. The affinity for all things unconventional and yet old-fashioned plays a key role in Manila Goodie Trail’s aesthetic, says Yodel. It’s merienda with a story and a brand with a soul— the hope is that every bite becomes a Proustian experience that brings her audience a remembrance of things past.
We sent the graphic designer and now food biz entrepreneur Yodel some questions about her beginnings in food, and here’s what she had to say.
You said these recipes come from the family cookbook. Is there a real physical cookbook and what does it look like?
Yes, my mum had recipes and had learnt Filipino recipes from my grandmother and great grandmother. She also attended weekly cooking lessons. The recipes from her lessons were more of the foreign dishes. She told me that she used to take lessons with Mrs. Constancia Maramag who we used to call Lola Maramag. Mrs. Maramag’s husband would always be sent abroad for seminars and meetings and she would always tag along mostly to Europe and the US. When her husband’s at work, she would attend cooking demonstrations at the hotels where they stayed or take cooking lessons from chefs such as Paul Bocuse.
I think that that Lola Maramag would often tweak the recipes from abroad and add her own twist to the dishes. I remember that my mother’s lessons would always be every Friday and we would always look forward to the meals she made in class. It was from these weekly cooking lessons that we found our family favourites.
Since my mum decided to type the recipes up in the 80s, they have been disintegrating over time. I thought about how best to preserve these typewritten treasures and they have now been placed in plastic folders.
What was your introduction to cooking?
My mother introduced me to cooking, she would allow my brother and I to help her bake, we would make hand print cookies; using our hand as a mould. So even at a young age I thought cooking and baking was just playing.
What is the Pe kitchen in San Juan like?
I believe, as in all Filipino households, there have always been two kitchens: a dirty kitchen and a display kitchen. I always remember that my mum would regularly cook our meals at the display kitchen because it wouldn’t be as fussy and messy to make.
Her house was built in 1969, so most of the appliances then had to come from the US. I remember having memories of our huge electric Whirlpool stovetop and oven, and how she would cook and bake our meals on it.
What does the family like to prepare and eat for both everyday and special occasions?
When we were growing up, which was the 80’s, my mother used to work during the weekdays, and our meals would more often be foreign-inspired. I think she especially loved it when we would often request beef fondue as it required little to no heavy cooking at all. All she needed to do was make the sauces consisting of a peanut satay sauce, a Béarnaise sauce and a soy based sauce. She also managed to make mushroom fried rice to go with it. Her go-to meals would also be Lola Maramag’s foreign-inspired dishes for its quick and easy recipes.
My father always wanted to have more than one dish on the table. I think it was from his Chinese upbringing. So we had to have a fish dish, a meat dish, a vegetable dish and occasionally a soup dish.
It was during the weekends when my mother would invite our relatives to come over and have dinner that she would cook Filipino food, as this would require more time and preparation. I remember she would always go to Farmer’s Market at 5 in the morning to buy seafood and occasionally they would also buy a sack of fresh oysters for the Sunday meals, so I never understood why oysters were so expensive abroad.
For special occasions such as Christmas, we would order Hok-Siu ham from a supplier from Ongpin and about a week before Christmas we would cook the Chinese ham outdoors in a large kawa, using wood as fuel for the fire. We would also have home-cooked honey and soy-glazed turkey with fried rice stuffing.
Are there recipes you can call exclusively your own or the family’s own?
Yes. There are certain dishes made by my great grandmother and they were usually Filipino; and certain dishes that my grandmother and mother made that were Filipino and American. My Lola had her version of shrimp balls that my mother used to make on Sundays. Lola’s meatloaf is still a staple in our family as well as her version of cheese pimiento. I remember an incident in the late 90’s having a co-worker so shocked and amazed that I knew how to make cheese pimiento from scratch as it is so common now to have people buy the bottled version.
Who are the other cooks in the family?
Apart from my mother and myself, my brother cooks as well. He is more of a stick-closely-to-the-recipe cook. I think my mum and I are the more experimental ones, we tend to use recipes as starting off points.
What were the reasons behind the choices for the first salvo of goodie trail?
I was very careful in curating the first items to come out of MGT. I knew I had to feature items that friends and family already enjoyed. The Apple Cake has been a staple in our family for as long as I can remember as we used to give this to people during Christmas Holidays. We always made sure to say the cake they received was not a fruit cake.
I have always been fond of pies and tarts, so quiches have always appealed to me as a merienda meal or something to have for lunch or supper with a salad. I discovered this particular quiche recipe about 25 years ago when I would try recipes found in food magazines, and I was pleased to have discovered this special recipe I have now tweaked and revised over years of use.
I am aware my recipes would not be considered modern or current since most of the recipes come from my mum. I like the fact that they are from another time. I think my food is a nod towards the past and remembering my childhood and maybe others’ childhoods as well.
The whole idea about time and rememberance and how food can connect us to the past has always resonated with me. I also think that food back then valued good quality ingredients, creating authentic dishes, and not cutting corners—most especially for Filipino cuisine.
You’re a graphic designer. Was it useful to you in this new venture?
Yes, most definitely so. I’ve made use of certain skills in Graphic design that has greatly helped with MGT. I constantly think about the consumers wants and needs, from the quality of the ingredients used to the way the food is presented. I believe customer experience should excite all the senses, but most of all, I would like to share my family’s food adventure.
Follow Manila Goodie Trail at @manilagoodietrail on Instagram.