Army Lt. Col. Annette “Annie” Merfalen is Guam native currently serving at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado with her husband, Lt. Col. Roland Quidachay from Umatac, Guam, and their two daughters.
Her 22-year Army career has taken the family all over the world, and she says they visit her home village of Talofofo in southern Guam when they can. No matter where they are stationed, however, the island’s culture is alive and well in the Merfalen home – especially in the kitchen. So much so, that it exudes from her popular recipe blog, Annie’s Chamorro Kitchen, like mouthwatering aromas from a fiesta table.
According to Merfalen, the focal point of most Chamorro families is centered in family gatherings and cooking, and in her home, most guests congregate in the kitchen where the best catching-up takes place and lasting memories are made. In fact, it was for the sake of past and future memories that she was inspired to start her blog.
Annie’s Chamorro Kitchen contains virtually hundreds of recipes, ranging from appetizers to desserts, for traditional Chamorro fare as well as other ethnic cuisines. Merfalen blogs that, “the site is a work-in-progress.” But judging by the well-over 2,000 ‘likes’ its companion Facebook page has drawn, along with hundreds of ‘shares’ and comments individual recipes attract, it has already become a much-loved resource for Chamorro dishes by fans on her native Guam and abroad.
Merfalen took a few moments away from her busy career and kitchen to answer these questions for Stripes Guam. It’s a fitting addition to the debut of our new Annie’s Chamorro Kitchen feature in which each week her culinary creations will offer readers a true taste of Guam.
Q: When and why did you start Annie’s Chamorro Kitchen?
A: I started Annie’s Chamorro Kitchen in July 2013. My main reason is to maintain an archive of my recipes and those of my family that my two children could easily access. Although I am teaching them to cook, I want them to be able to quickly find my recipes so that one day, when they are grown and living on their own, they can make the recipes they grew up eating.
Q: How did you learn to cook and where do most of the recipes at Annie’s Chamorro Kitchen come from?
A: I learned to cook the same way my children are learning – I cooked alongside my mom. Most of my recipes were either learned from my mom, or they are food I learned to cook on my own based on my memories of the food I loved and grew up eating.
Q: How would you describe Chamorro cuisine to someone who has never had it?
A: Chamorro cuisine is best described as a fusion food. Guam is the proverbial melting pot, abounding with cultural diversity that is aptly displayed in the variety of food we eat and share. You can easily see the Japanese, Spanish, Korean and other Asian influences in what we call Chamorro cuisine.
Q: What is your favorite Chamorro dish and why?
A: My favorite Chamorro dish to make and eat is fresh shrimp kelaguen. I’d say that’s also the most challenging to make not because it’s difficult, but because it is very time consuming.
Step into Annie's Chamorro Kitchen at: www.annieschamorrokitchen.com