• The chicken between waffles is another popular choice. (Nanna Marce)
At Nanna Marce, food is a conduit for generosity and family values are served on a plate.
By
Neha Kale

19 Feb 2020 - 12:12 PM  UPDATED 20 Feb 2020 - 2:49 PM

Jobelle Collier never met her grandmother. But her culinary legacy has shaped her family's life.

Jobelle's grandmother Marcelina – or Nanna Marce – supported Jobelle's mother, Thess Alegre, by selling Filipino street snacks such as banana cue (fried bananas caramelised with brown sugar) from a naval base in Olongapo City, about 150 kilometres west of the Philippines capital of Manila.

The Alegres want to share their food with everyone.

When Jobelle, who's also known as Erika, and Thess started a Filipino food truck in August 2019, there were no questions about who the truck's namesake would be.

Jobelle says, "My mum and dad got together 29 years ago and got married in Manila. I was born in the Philippines and [my family] came to [to Shepparton, Victoria] in 2006."  

"My mum was in tears because she didn't realise that would be the name."

"When we first moved here, mum started volunteering in the kitchen at the hospital. They ended up offering her a full-time position at the café.

"Ten years down the track, I got married and had babies, and mum helped me look after them while I was working. I didn't get to meet my nanna. But when my brothers and I suggested the idea of the food truck, I proposed to call it Nanna Marce," says Jobelle.

"My mum was in tears [because] she didn't realise that would be the name."

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Nanna Marce, a fixture at markets in Shepparton and regional Victoria, is housed in a cheery caravan. Repurposed by Jobelle's father Rani, it's a loving tribute to the Alegre family story.

"The little lamp light by the serving window is the same light that hangs over the kitchen island at mum and dad's house," she grins.

OK, we're sold.

Nanna Marce tells the history of the Alegre family and the values that matter to the family through its food.

The fried chicken, one of Thess' oldest family recipes, is an ode to Chicken Joy, the crispy chicken that's associated with much-loved Filipino fast-food chain Jollibee.

For Jobelle, it also symbolises celebration and community.

"My mum's been cooking [the chicken] since before my youngest brother was born," says Jobelle, who has two brothers.

"If someone asked me to bring a plate to a party, I'd say, 'mum could you make the chicken'. We wanted to bring it to everyone rather than just family and friends."

Alegres' family history is told through this food truck.

Nanna Marce serves 'Nanay's Fried Chicken' with jasmine rice, crunchy slaw and Thess' secret sauce. 

You can also order the chicken between waffles or with a side of sweet spaghetti, another Filipino comfort food.

Then there are the Filipino-style sliders, a concoction that sees adobo (pork slow-braised in soy and vinegar) until tender that's been stuffed between pan de sal, fluffy white-bread rolls.

Sweet, sweet spaghetti

Thess also recreated the texture of her chicken in vegetarian and vegan form.

"My brother became a vegetarian six years ago, and [he told me] that the only thing that makes him think twice about it is mum's chicken," says Jobelle.

"Then, we came across people using fried cauliflower as replacement for fried chicken – we presented it to him and he said it was just like eating it again."

For the Alegres, food has always been synonymous with cultivating a spirit of generosity beyond the immediate family. 

"When we were kids, we watched our grandfather lend other people a hand and from the time [we were young]," she smiles. "We've also watched mum open her home to other people."

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At Nanna Marce, one dollar from every order of 'The Family' – a combination of fried cauliflower, soft shell tacos and vegan spring rolls – is donated to OnePlate, an organisation that funds sustainable food initiatives that aim to curb hunger in places like Payatas, Manila and Tacloban City.

"We were really inspired by our parent's generation to look beyond our own circle," says Jobelle. "It doesn't matter how little we have, we can help a lot."

Love the story?  Follow the author on Instagram @nehakale and Twitter @neha_kale.

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