Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Food, Glorious Food

I have always been fascinated with food, any food. I am very thankful that I seem to gain little weight no matter how much I consume. There have been times when asked what kind of diet I'm into, my ready reply would be "I'm on a see food diet." Of which people would query, what kind of particular sea food I prefer. And I would correct them immediately in a comical manner: "no you don't understand, you see, I said I'm on a "see food diet", meaning I eat whenever I see food.

Members of my family on my mother side are all good cooks especially the men. Yes, each has their own versions of whatever dishes and oftentimes we would compare whose kaldereta is better, or whose beef stroganoff is too oily, whose salad dressing is too runny, etc. They also have this peculiar knack of turning the lowliest of ingredients into something wonderful. Most of them are not even bought but grown in the backyard.

My mother has this knack of copying food she had sampled in a restaurant. Once she had a taste of something she likes, rest assured that she can recreate the recipe almost perfectly. A talent my sister also seems to have which unfortunately I didn't acquire. I remember one time when I took them out for a Chinese dinner in a restaurant I come to often enough. Actually it was a trick on my part. I have been able to go to different restaurants and hotels in and around the metro because of my line of work and my friends. And when I get to sample something I truly liked from a fancy restaurant or even a turo-turo, I make it a point to bring either my mother or sister, or both back and sample it for themselves. And true enough, a day or two after; they recreate the dish to my delight. But it doesn't stop there, for the next time that dish is prepared, they would have improved on it further making it superior to the original recipe and thus making it their own. As a result, we never run out of guests in our house. A day won’t pass without at least one person who would come and stay for a couple of hours just to say hi. More so if we have a party. That is why, in our household, we may turn all lights off during the night except for the kitchen. The kitchen light is perpetually on, 24/7.

I can never compete with my uncles and cousins especially my mother and sister with regard to food preparation. They all seem to have this tactile ability to cook without even following a specific recipe. I am an outsider of sorts. They have this ability of making even the lowly okra or eggplant taste so good you'll come back for more. Oh yes I can cook but I have to follow a recipe to a T. My food may look and taste good, but they lack personality. One talent I have though is identifying who cooked which food. If presented with adobo or menudo prepared by two or even three family members for example, I can easily identify who prepared which without fail.

This talent made an officemates' wife smile with pride once. She happens to be a wonderful cook. We were on a weekend office outing once. She insists on cooking on site every time we do. As we sat for lunch, hungry from all the swimming we did, I was surprised with one of her offerings. I couldn't believe my tongue, it was good but there is something amiss. I immediately pointed this out to her and said she was not the one who made it. She was surprised but instead of being embarrassed gave a smile and said to her husband, "See, Genkuro knows my cooking." Her husband who happens to be my officemate was surprised himself. It turned out that one of their son's prepared that particular dish. So you see, even if you followed a recipe exactly, it won't be the same and will lack the personality of the original. It will totally be another character; it will assume that of the one who prepared it. It's like an indelible fingerprint capturing every nuance, spirit, love and state of mind of the one cooking the dish. That is the reason why the same dish will taste different coming from different branches of the same restaurant. The same is also true in cocktail and drink preparations.

With so many eateries here in the Philippines, it would be a delight for me to sample everything before I die. One thing I will never try though is dog meat. I love dogs, but love them as companions and not as gastronomic fares. I've had my share of exotic foods before and still do from time to time. I've had monitor lizards (bayawak), different kinds of snakes, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers (balang) and varied exotic sea food usually not sold in the market. I never had or will ever have a taste of something endangered though. I've had my share of the most exorbitantly priced restaurants to the cheapest street food. I've also sampled cuisines that are so fancifully prepared and so good to look at but tasted bland. Some that looks disgusting but burst with flavors so wonderful it made my tongue and palate smack with delight.

If there is one thing I'm good at in food preparation though it is baked goods. The precise preparation and measure is up my alley. I made it into some sort of extra livelihood once. Nobody can get enough of my almond coconut macaroons or my double chocolate cupcakes. But I had to let it go since baking takes a lot of time and I couldn't keep up with the orders, plus I had a full time job. I know there would be a time when I will go back to it again soon. The food business is really profitable if done logistically right.

But no matter how good or palatable food is. I have to agree with Penelope Cruz' character in a movie entitled Woman On Top wherein she says: "... food will taste better especially if you share it with the one you love." In the same breath I add: "It doesn't matter what is on the table for all to share, what matters is who is there with you to share it with."

Tara, kain tayo?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Written Word

Life has been very boring for me lately ever since my early retirement from the hussle and bussle of the corporate world. Yes, you read it right, "early retirement." Actually, in spite of my present boredom, I'm actually enjoying myself. With all the time in the world at my disposal, the liberation from work related stress and the daily commuting to and from the office. The commuting part was the least of my problems since I always took a cab every morning going to the salt mines. Going home is another matter since I almost always hung-out in and around the Makati commercial complex or wherever my vagabond spirit takes me, with or without company. I enjoy observing people in this time frame they call rush hour. If going to the office every morning is an obligation, going home is a chore. You see a woman lugging her groceries, a fellow irritatingly looking at his watch every ten seconds probably waiting for a date who is obviously late. Office girls unwinding in a nearby coffee shop talking about their bosses and the toxic day they had, or a group of gentlemen in a round of beer at a café and of course, the lines of people you see at the taxi stands, the bus, the colorum service vehicles and jeepneys. Such a cheap thrill you may say, but hey, I'm the one being thrilled by this activity and it's admittedly relaxing, well, for me at least.

So what has been my activity like after leaving the mines? To begin with, I immensely enjoy the extra thirty minutes in bed every morning, make that an hour. The leisure of taking longer showers, and enjoying coffee every morning. The time to play with our twelve dogs, reading novels, taking pictures, videos, time to be with family and friends. Blogging and commenting on blogs.

Ever since I can remember, the one activity I enjoy doing the most is reading. Sometimes I am amused when friends or family members will ask for my help in setting up their brand new electronic equipments when all the while help they need can be found right in the box it came with. Yes you guessed it, the user's manual. Some people almost always never give them a second glance others who do however can't seem to figure them out even with the illustrations it contain.

The written word holds such fascination for me especially if the writer is deftly astute in presenting an idea or proposition. Of course I also enjoy reading those who presents something with no frills, direct to the point, come as you are style. As of late, what grabs my attention is the vast information or disinformation one can get from the internet and the myriad of blogs. For a rabid and voracious reader like me, it's like manna from heaven. Would you believe there was even a time when I read different versions of the Holy Bible page per page from Genesis to Revelations? I would love to read the Qur'an if someone would care give or lend me a copy. I want the book though, not the online version. I'm not sure, but I think an Imam would not oblige something like that to a baptized Catholic like me.

A drop of ink may make a million think - Mark Twain

These days, one of my regular pastimes is reading and commenting on Blogs. I find it very healthy to read other peoples take on everything and anything. What tickles my fancy is the comments section these blogs have. Some people are very creative in giving an opinion on the blog posts, some helpful, some outright rude, stupid and illogical. Not one drop of ink spilt here. Here in cyberspace, all you have is the typed in words of someone who maybe is your next door neighbor or someone from a far flung place somewhere not even google earth has an aerial map of. But of course it would be idiotic if you believe everything you read from the net, like it is likewise stupid for anyone to take the news at face value unless it is live, caught on cam and actually happening in real time. With freedom, some unscrupulous writers opt to misinform or distort the facts for the benefit of someone who has the ability to shell pretty pennies for a PR job and pass it off as NEWS.

It is therefore important for a reader to discern what is a good read and what is not and how it will affect his or her life no matter what he or she has read. Each one of us have our own view of what should be wrong and what should be right, what is acceptable or not. A simple solution to this is, if you don't like what you are reading, stop, drop it and read something else. But bear in mind an argument you may incite will be weak if you have only one side to lean on. This I find in some blog comments wherein they are so shallow and the obvious inexperience of the commenter is shown right there in the written word. People, a blog is the free thought of the writer. If you have to disagree with what is written, be constructive, creative and civil with your comments. If you dare insult, be brave enough to identify yourself. After all, bear in mind that the blog owner has the power whether to publish your comments on his/her site. And if you are stupid enough to comment sarcastically, your words will be for naught and no else will see it aside from you and the blog owner. I am not washing hands, but I have been guilty of writing insulting comments before, not at the writer though, but at the subject of his/her blog topic. Most especially if the topic is of a truly despicable character in our society.

An example I can cite which caused considerable reaction, although not from blogs, which is still fresh in peoples mind is the book The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I say the book, not the movie. First off, the book is fiction. Yes the book dealt with the belief of the Catholics that Jesus as a deity and the supposed existence of Jesus Christ's bloodline and His supposed marriage to Mary Magdalene who happens to be of royal blood and not a prostitute. A direct contradiction of what the Catholic church indoctrinates into its fold. It also points to many references to what Catholics now believe is so but are supposedly fabrications of the church leaders. As an added bonus, it also tackled the existence of a group, intent on preserving this bloodline. Read it again people, the book is fiction. So is it any wonder when the Santa Iglesia made a whole lot of bang against the book and its writer, the controversy sparked the curiosity of the reading public, hence, the increase in book sales to best seller status and even getting a movie deal. As a follow-up, the prequel of The Da Vinci Code
(although it came after) also by Brown titled Angels & Demons was also a hit and will also come to the theaters sometime next year 2009. Needless to say, both books are thought compelling and a good read. The cause of all this? A FICTION novel. This is the Catholic version of what Salman Rushdie had several years earlier when he came out with his fourth novel entitled The Satanic Verses. What Rushdie got was not just flak and protests from the Muslim community and the literal public burning of his book copies but also a fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini against Rushdie calling on all Muslims to kill Rushdie and his publishers on sight. Up to now I must confess, I haven't read that book. The premise of the story is very salivating. Unfortunately, I can't find a copy.

To wrap things up, the written word like the wheel is one of the many inventions of man that has uplifted our lives, stirred imagination and further thought. From the simple to the most complex of construction, the written word has preserved history and points to a brighter and more informed future.