Married couple Fran Castro and Peter Houk share a love of the environment (they both work in related fields) entertaining, travel and food. Their love of cooking – and eating – comes from their families, they say.
"Our mothers are both very good cooks," says Fran.
Peter, whose mom is Italian, says dinner was an event in his home growing up. He recalls his mother unveiling her efforts at the dinner table as his family gathered in the evening.
"I would just watch as she cooked, and I did this for so many years as a kid," he says. "So I fell in love with the kitchen and the smells."
Fran, originally from Saipan, credits her mother as well with instilling in her a knack for cooking and a passion for bringing people together with food.
"If you want to eat good food, you have to learn how to make that food you grew up with," she says. "That's why we like to cook all the time. We love it. And we like to cook all types of dishes – we cook Italian one night, we cook Indian another night."
Fran and Peter invited The Guam Daily Post into their home in Talofofo to share a meal of eggplant parmesan, pasta with clam sauce, homemade bread and a salad straight from their backyard garden – boy are we glad they did.
"I roasted the eggplant first and then I made the sauce from scratch. Then I put it together just like a lasagna," explains Fran. "So it's the sauce, the roasted eggplant, the mozzarella and the parmesan."
Peter handled the clam sauce. "It's one of my favorites as a child growing up," he says.
"For your battuto (base of the sauce), which is like your starter, you put a little garlic, onion, carrot in olive oil and you get it simmered until it's brown. And then you add the tomatoes, preferably fresh if you have. So you would blanch them, pull off the skins and put them through a strainer and brine them down," he says.
Then he adds parsley and basil, "because it's a seafood sauce."
"And then right at the end you put your clams on top, so you can get the moisture from the clams as they open up mixing in there and finishes it off quite nicely," explains the home chef.
'It's a social thing'
We ask the couple, who were married in the hills of Tuscany close to where Peter's mother was born, why Italians have such a love of cuisine.
"That's easy. I think it's the same reason CHamorus are into food, and I think it's why we get along so well – it's a social thing."
Company is a big part of eating, says Peter, who works as an assistant professor of marine biology at the University of Guam.
"The better the food, the more social energy comes out," he says.
"We just love eating. We're foodies – we eat all the time," adds Fran.
In fact, food played a part in bringing the couple together when Peter cooked Fran his mom's spaghetti and meatballs while they were dating.
"It was amazing," she says.
Currently a program leader and research associate with the University of Guam Sea Grant program, Fran says she and Peter blend their love of the environment with their love of food by growing fresh vegetables in their garden.
During a tour of their bountiful garden, Peter picks snatches of herbs to hold under our noses and inhale a freshness that no dried and jarred grocery store variety could ever match.
While there are many restaurants on Guam to explore and enjoy, nothing tops a homemade meal in the company of gracious hosts who are happy to share their love of making, serving and, of course, enjoying food.
Buon appetito and ta fañocho!