For You, Daddy!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Kain Tayo!

 

 

Kain tayo  = “Let’s eat!” in Tagalog, the widely spoken language in the Philippines.

During my stint as Nurse Clinician with Aramco, Saudi Arabia, I befriended Fleur, my Filipina co-worker. 

 

Well over a decade on and oceans apart, we are still friends today. 🙂

 

I had spent a considerable amount of my time at Fleur’s. Why? Because she was an excellent cook! Duh. And I? Oh, I’m every good cook’s dream guest! Because I love good food, I am not afraid to try out things I have never eaten before and I am definitely not afraid to voice my opinion.

 

With Fleur and her group of friends, the words, “Kain tayo!”were tossed around a lot. Yes, I spent many happy hours around food with my friends. Filipino cuisine is not as hot/pungent as I have come to prefer, but it was tasty enough to eat on a regular basis. Pancit (noodles),  Lumpia (spring rolls), Adobo (a soya sauce-vinegar-garlic meat dish), Kare-Kare (oxtail peanut stew) and Longganisa (sweetish sausage) were eaten often enough by my friends to be considered staples. Which is why I grew to enjoy these preparations.

 

Having had such a wonderful gustatory experience with Filipino food in Saudi Arabia, it was only natural that I visit the country properly to enjoy the real deal.

 

Four years ago, I visited the Philippines on my own because Fleur and I could not coordinate our holidays. She was (and still is) with Aramco and I had long since left. I wasn’t too disappointed because I liked exploring a bit of her country on my own.  But the food? It was a letdown.

 

Sadly, “real” Filipino food did not live up to the fantasy experience I had envisioned and hoped for, or even what I had experienced with Fleur and friends.

 

Disclaimer: When I travel, I avoid international food chain outlets, and I avoid high end restaurants. I love street food and I patronise small and/or family run eateries for a more authentic or organic experience. So my experience below may come across as skewed.

 

Overall, I found the commercial fare in the Philippines very greasy, the portions small and not “meaty” enough. On the whole, there was nothing that blew me away. The warm, melded flavours were Asian in some ways, but there was, once again, that noticeable absence of spice and heat (pungency). I preferred the street snacks by far.

 

The tastiest ‘proper meal’ (i.e. in a restaurant) I ate was at a food court in a mall in Manila. It was my last lunch in the country, and after a mostly non-exciting experience with restaurant food, I went in for known favourites.

 

I ate Bihon Noodles (vermicelli-thin noodles) and Stir-Fried Squid (with the ink). I did not pay attention to the prices when ordering and chose from the array on display. Those turned out to be some of the cheapest options, but ironically, that meal was the most expensive I had had in my 2 weeks in the Philippines. That’s because that mall was none other than the largest in Asia and therefore, appropriately called The Mall of Asia.

 

Thank you, Elvie Rose, for permitting the use of this image. You can find more of Elvie Rose’s work at http://flowersblooms-elvierose.blogspot.in/

  

Although I was disappointed with my overall eating experience in the Philippines, I did try out a whole lot of new dishes during my time there. The following put a smile on my food-fussy face. Not surprisingly, everything I liked was from the street hawkers. With the amount of time I have spent eating on the streets of Asia, my tummy has been galvanised. 🙂

 

1. Puto BongBong: Sweetened sticky rice, coloured a bright purple, that’s put in a small bamboo mould and pushed out to form a 10 in (25 cm) long roll. Topped with grated coconut and brown sugar. Served on a bit of banana leaf.

 

Thank you, Jeff Vergara, for permitting me the use of this image. You can find more of Jeff’s work at http://www.dubaichronicles.com/

  

2. Pinagte: A leafy veggie pie (local spinach?) cooked in a fish-based gravy and cut into big, soggy squares. And I ate that out of a plastic bag. 🙂 The texture reminded me of Spanakopita.

 

3. Piaya: A flattened pop-tart. Flaky pastry with ube (taro) and date filling. I tried the other fillings with mung beans and camote (a sweet potato-like root veggie), but liked the ube one best.

 

4. Puto: Tiny, steamed, rice cupcakes. These were a favourite that Fleur often cooked just for me. I had to be very strict with myself not to gorge on these in the Philippines so I could try other stuff. I had them just once. 😦

 

Thank you, Ghee, for permitting the use of this image. You can find more of Ghee’s work at http://forgetfulghee.blogspot.in/

 

As always, I tried out a different item every opportunity I got. Here are some that were a first for me, and quite possibly I won’t ever go back for seconds.  All, but the first one (i.e Chicken Skin), were dipped in thick batter to bulk up the bits, and deep fried. 

 

1. Chicken Skin: These bits of pure chicken skin were cut up in pieces and were nicely crisp, but they had an overpowering chicken taste. I could almost taste the chickens scratching around in the yard!

 

2. Chicken Oesophagus: (Not!) These bits looked like pretzel sticks. They were equally firm and crunchy. The vendors called them “throat”. When I looked askance, they offered “neck”. Turns out they were bits of oesophagus. That’s what I thought until I contacted Sidney Snoeck to request the use of this image of his.

 

Thank you, Sidney Snoeck, for permitting me the use of this image. You can find more of Sidney’s work at : http://my_sarisari_store.typepad.com/

  

This is not what I ate. I mean, what I ate did not look like this. They really looked liked broken bits of deep-fried pretzel sticks. I’ve chosen to include this image because I quite possibly ate the deep-fried version of ….  chicken intestines. Ack!

 

These are the grilled version. Sidney’s site (URL above) has a lot of, um, interesting stories.

 

3. Chicken “Nuggets”: This snack saddened me. I got 5 pieces for 10 PHP/15p/25¢. The first one I bit into was all batter and bone. So was the second. I thought I just got unlucky with those 2, but all the pieces I had were the same. Later, my volcano trek guide confirmed that that’s what chicken nuggets are. I felt very sorry for those who could not afford to buy real chicken nuggets because bony bits in batter is what street snack consumers knew of the popular meat(ish)-only snack.

 

4. Camote: Camote is a kind of white-fleshed tuber. Not too starchy like the potato, but a little smoother like the sweet potato. It’s just the tiniest bit sweet, too.

 

And I’ve saved the best of my Filipino foods for last!

 

Balut: Dude, I psyched myself about this well-known delicacy for months before I got there, but plucked up the courage to eat it …. only on my last night. What a wimpy (overgrown) kid!  

 

Balut is … deep breaths, everyone … boiled duck embryo.

 

The Day 16 one is for losers. 😉 I’m no loser, yo, so brave heart that I am, I went for the Day 19 one, which is recommended, because the embryo is better developed with the downiest of feathers in view.

 

Quack Pot

 

Quack Pot. That’s what Elmer Fudd calls me, but I’m talking about what’s in my right hand. You cannot see it very clearly. That’s a quack in a pot. Okay, in a shell. It’s a Balut, the boiled duck embryo. Of course, I ate it. And? I absolutely loved it!

 

The shell at the pointy end of the egg has to be gently broken and the broth, uh, amniotic fluid, is to be drunk. That heady fluid tasted like a strong crab broth. Slurp! I peeled off a little more of the shell and peered very briefly at the little duckie with its eyes wide shut, dismissed its little face from my mind, ignored the network of blood vessels all around it and bit right into it. Soft, smooth and savoury. There was no turning back now. What little trepidation I had left crumbled like the rest of the egg shell.

 

The white of the egg was a disappointment. It was hard. Oh, very hard and had none of the rich flavour of the developing yolk.

 

A real pity I summoned up the courage to eat this night snack on my last night in the Philippines.

 

Balut is a late evening snack and is sold by vendors on bicycles. I plucked up the courage to flag down the last vendor to walk into the street I shacked up for that night and the chicken that I was, I bought just one.

 

Well, I’ll just have to go back to the Philippines for more one day.

 
 


Thank you, The Book of Terrible , orples and mj monaghan, for commenting on my last post.

Thank you, The Book of Terrible and orples, for liking my last post.

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P.S.: Cheerful Monk adds a footnote to every post acknowledging those who comment on her previous post. She also links the commenters’ names back to their own blogs.

 I like both these practices of acknowledging the time and effort made to comment, and the free advertising! So I’m doing what I do well – being a copycat! 



 
 
 
 
 
 
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Thursday, 1 March 2012

Giving Up. And Taking On.

The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

 

I was raised Catholic. Today, I would like to think of myself as a good human being who embraces certain Catholic practices.

 

Participating in a procession held on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

  

 Catholics have Lent and Muslims have Ramadan. 40 days and roughly, 30 days long, respectively. Both periods are meant for increased prayer and reflection, and personal sacrifice. Are there any other religions or streams of thought that have similar periods marked specifically for this? Please share. I would like to learn. And maybe adopt some of those practices.

I left home for college at the age of 19. As I tend to in every new city or country that I live in, I try to get to know every possible facet of the place. It helps me understand the people better and it makes me appreciate the different life there so much more. That knowledge and experience then adds a little colourful piece to the big, resplendent jigsaw puzzle called ‘Life’.

Until I left home at 19, I was still considered a child, and therefore, was not expected to “give up” anything for Lent. I love eating. Which is why I was horrified when Big Bro would fast all day on Good Friday. The rest of us at home had very scaled down meals that day and I hated those! Hee hee! “Boring” food was torturous enough; not eating at all was simply unthinkable for me.

Then I left home and I very conveniently left all those practices at home, too. Until I moved to Saudi Arabia. By my mid 20s, my horror at the thought of starving to death fasting had turned to curiosity. I read more about why Muslims fasted during the month of Ramadan. I liked what I learned and I decided to give fasting a shot since my Muslim colleagues did it without a murmur.

 

This image is from http://molaali.4mg.com/

  

The first year, I fasted on Fridays alone, being the first day of the weekend in Saudi Arabia. Emboldened by my success, the next year, I fasted on Fridays and Saturdays i.e. the entire weekend. I finally worked my way to fasting every alternate day. I did not attempt the full, dawn-to-dusk-for-a-month fast like the Muslims because I had already gained the insight and experience I sought, and because I was concerned I would lose weight, something I can ill afford to date.  

During those years, I fasted only to see if I could will my mind to stay away from food. It was hard, but I did it. And I felt great!

After I left Saudi Arabia, I decided to apply my well honed, um, fasting skills during Lent. I pulled it off with ease every Friday. That is why I do not fast all day on Fridays any more. Not even on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday. Fasting all day is too easy for me now. The bigger challenge for me today is staying away from things I love eating.

During my second Lenten season after Saudi Arabia, I decided to jump in at the deep end. I gave up chocolate or some form of dessert that is the wonderful ending of my lunch and dinner every day. I suffered. I grumbled. I ranted. To everyone. And the whole purpose of abstaining that year for Lent was lost.

A few years of decreased wailing followed, and I am wiser today. As I got stronger i.e. I made less of a ‘woe is me’ scene, I gave up my absolute favourite food items – desserts, pork preparations and certain other favourite dishes i.e. steaks, grilled meats and biryani (a fragrant, South Asian pilaf).

This year, I have upped the ante the highest I can go. I have given up meat and fish as well. Avoiding meat and fish is not terribly hard for me, but I chose to give them up because I enjoy them very much. I also want my Lenten sacrifice to have a bit of a green lustre this year.   

Oh, there are two other things I gave up last year and now again, this year.

1. I have restricted my PC time to my e-mail and blogs of people I know personally, and those I have been following before Lent began.

2. I listen to Choral or Classical music all  day instead of my usual Pop and Rock during the week, and Country and Classical on Sundays.

 

    

So that’s the “giving up” bit of my Lenten practice this year again. Giving up then spurred me to take on something else now that I had a little more time on hand. So here’s what I took on last year, and again, this year.

 

1. More time in prayer. (Not doing a good job there. My motor mouth has nothing on my Duracell-bunny-brain.)

 

2. More time reading the Scriptures. (Not terribly exciting for me.)

That’s it. Those are the only two things I’ve taken on for Lent. I pretty much like the way I live my life the rest of the year.

Now, I’d like you to meet two bloggers I stalk I’ve RSSed. Take a bow,

MJ (http://www.mjmonaghan.com/)

and

Chris (http://misslisted.com/).  

This past weekend, I read MJ’s post ‘My So-Called Simple Life‘)http://www.mjmonaghan.com/2012/02/25/google-facebook-twitter-simple-amish/)

and then, I read Chris’ post ‘love is a verb…‘ (http://misslisted.com/2012/02/25/love-is-a-verb/)

Somewhere along their respective posts, MJ said, “Amish” and Chris said, “Lent”. A couple of things clicked and clanged in my head and this post was born.

 

One of my Lent projects is to make sure I hug each of my children every day that I’m with them.    

The above line of Chris in particular, was what sent the ball rolling in the direction of MJ’s third question.

3. What changes have you made to simplify your life?

I am going to answer that here because these are changes I have made over the years and I follow them all year round. They involved giving up some things and taking on other things.

First and foremost, I have to say I have learned from watching my parents exemplify the ‘Non multa, sed multum’ way of life. In Latin, that means ‘Not many, much’ or ‘Not quantity, quality’. So it has never been too hard for me to give up or take on certain practices because among a few other things, Dad and Mum stressed these two thoughts about most choices we, three children at home, would make.

1. Will it make me happy?

2. Will it hurt anyone?

That said, here are some of the bigger changes I have made over the years. I practice these all year round now.   

 

1. Cyber Life: I do not have accounts on Facebook*, Twitter or any other social medium; just e-mail and this (4 month old) blog. My decision to not jump aboard the social media bandwagon is the same for not posting more frequently here. You can read those reasons on the ‘About My Blog’ page.  

*I have access to Big Sis’ Facebook account because I put up her photo albums and update her Profile picture. I like doing it for her. She likes me helping her out.

 

2. Television: I have slotted one hour a day for TV, except for certain events like award shows and significant live events around the world. One hour or less of telly time each day is easy for me because my beast is reading.

 

3. Diet: I used to eat meat and fish every day. For the past 4 years, I’ve still been eating fish every day, but I have reduced the meat portions to three, four times tops, a week in an effort to reduce my contribution to greenhouse gases. Not only has my carbon footprint reduced, my conscience is lighter, too. Although, my bragging about my green ways has more than doubled. I do not want to remedy that because bragging about it makes me feel good.  

 

4. Travel: For six years now, I have been using public transport as often as I can (which is 95% of the time) because it helps the environment and the forced commute on foot to bus stops or car pool spots doubles as exercise. Planning ahead is key when using public transport.  

 

5. Social Life:

a. When at home: I do not attend every social function I am invited to. Just belonging to the same social circle is not criterion enough for me to oblige anyone. I go only if the acquaintance has been kind to me, my family or my close friends. Traditions and social obligations mean jack little to me. This practice gets me into trouble, but I go to bed happy at night knowing that I did not force smiles or spew empty words at some meaningless-to-me fancy do.  

 

b. When away from home: I work all week and I play all weekend. Play includes one day at least, out of the house doing something I like. It can be as cheap as a reading and falling asleep on the grass in the local park or the most expensive choice (for me so far) of going for a play or concert. Almost every weekend includes friends coming over for the weekend or me going over to a friend’s for a sleepover.

And this is how I try to embrace some of the wholesomeness (in my opinion) and simplicity of the Amish life, not just during Lent, but the entire year. And from now on, I’m going to add Chris’ practice of hugging my relatives and friends even more. If that were even possible. 

 

Could I BE any more of a hugger?

     

Thank you, MJ and Chris, for generously letting me steal your ideas  share your posts which resulted in this mash-up post of mine.   

A slight change of pace now.

Today is Elvie Rose’s birthday. Who is Elvie Rose? I dunno. Personally, I mean.

This is Elvie Rose’s blog. (http://flowersblooms-elvierose.blogspot.in/) I got in touch with her because I wanted to use one of her pictures for the post I had originally planned for today. (That post has been re-scheduled.) She gladly agreed and then she told me it is her birthday today. I love my birthday. She was nice to me. I decided to surprise her!

From the food hound in me to the doggie lover in you – Happy Birthday to you, Elvie Rose!

  

This image is from http://www.zazzle.com

    

I’m going to end on a green note. Chill. I am not going to bore you all with yet another strident verse of, “I love Mother Earth! Am I cool or what‽” This is a different kind of green, Emerald (Isle) green specifically.

It was MJ’s birthday two days ago i.e. 28 February. Happy Belated Birthday, One Of The Very Nice Bloggers I’ve, um, Met! True to your Irish roots, here’s a birthday (hangover) wish.

 

This image is from … egad! I did not save the URL of the e-card site when I saved this image and I cannot find that site now. 😦

What do you mean, “Kate, how could a nice young lady like you talk about MJ’s … underpants?” Do you think I started it? Nah uh.  He started it. Here.

 
 
 


Thank you, The Book of Terrible , orples and mj monaghan  for commenting on my last post. Thank you, Bucket List PublicationsThe Book of Terrible , orples and mj monaghan for liking my last post.

***********************************************************************

P.S.: Cheerful Monk adds a footnote to every post acknowledging those who comment on her previous post. She also links the commenters’ names back to their own blogs.

 I like both these practices of acknowledging the time and effort made to comment, and the free advertising! So I’m doing what I do well – being a copycat! 



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