Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Eat your heart out!
If you are a foreigner coming to our shore for the first time, then this is a must-read, as I don't want you having a culture shock, again, after a little confusion with our names.
These are just but basic things you should know to gain that assimilation to our culture, if you so desires.
One key step on the road to full assimilation is to eat BALUT. The day any of you can manage to eat balut, then you can call immigration and ask them to issue you a Filipino passport. Because at that point there will be no turning back. BALUT, for those still blissfully ignorant non-Pinoys out there, is a fertilized duck egg.
It is commonly sold with salt in a piece of newspaper, by street vendors usually after dark, presumably so you can’t see how gross it is. It’s meant to be an aphrodisiac, although I can’t imagine anything more likely to dispel sexual desire than crunching on a partially formed baby duck swimming in noxious fluid. The embryo in the egg comes in varying stages of development, but basically it is not considered macho to eat one without fully discernable feathers, beak, and claws. Some say these crunchy bits are the best. Others prefer just to drink the so called "soup" - the vile, pungent liquid that surrounds the aforementioned feathery fetus.
Oh please, if you feel like throwing up, then come back later.
Indeed, food dominates the life of the Filipino. People here just love to eat. We eat at least eight times a day. These eight official meals are called, in order: breakfast, snacks, lunch, merienda, pica-pica, pulutan, dinner and no-one-saw-me-take-that-cookie-from-the-fridge-so-it-doesn’t-count. The short gaps in between these mealtimes are spent eating Sky Flakes( a bisquit) from the open packet that sits on every desktop. You’re never far from food in the Philippines . Oh you can easily confirmed this if you try this game. See how long you can drive without seeing food and I don’t mean a distant restaurant, or a picture of food. I mean a man on the sidewalk frying fish balls, or a man walking through the traffic selling nuts or candy. I bet it’s less than one minute.
Here are some other things you will noticed about food in the Philippines. Firstly, a meal is not a meal without rice - even breakfast. Second, it’s impossible to drink without eating. A bottle of San Miguel just isn’t the same without gambas or beef tapa. Third, no one ventures more than two paces from their house without baon (provision) and a container of something cold to drink. You might as well ask a Filipino to leave home without his pants on. And lastly, where you come from, you eat with a knife and fork. Here, you eat with a spoon and fork. You try eating rice swimming in fish sauce with a knife.
Some of you may think Filipino food is fairly dull compared to other Asian cuisines. Actually lots of them are very good: Spicy dishes like Bicol Express(yes,strange, a dish named after a train); anything cooked with coconut milk; anything KINILAW;(raw fish or meat sliced thinly and mixed with vinegar) and anything ADOBO. And it’s hard to beat the sheer wanton, cholesterolic frenzy of a good old-fashioned LECHON de leche feast. Dig a pit, light a fire, add 50pounds of animal fat on a stick, and cook until crisp. Mmm,mmm… you can actually feel your arteries constricting with each successive mouthful.
Ok, I know, it’s the weird food you want to avoid. So in addition to duck fetus in the half-shell, another item you may want to avoid is our pig’s blood soup(DINUGUAN); bull’s testicle soup, the strangely-named “SOUP NUMBER FIVE” (I cannot tell you what numbers one through four are); and the ubiquitous, stinky shrimp paste, BAGOONG, and it’s equally stinky sister, PATIS. We Filipinos are so addicted to these latter items that we will even risk arrest or deportation trying to smuggle them into countries like Canada and the USA , which wisely ban the importation of items they can smell from more than 100 paces.
Another one big Pinoy trait — a sweet tooth. I hope that you won't complain about sweet bread, sweet burgers, sweet spaghetti, sweet banana ketchup, and so on.
Filipinos also eat strange bits of animals — the feet, the head, the guts, etc., usually barbecued on a stick. These have been given witty names, like “ADIDAS” (chicken’s feet); “KURBATA” (either just chicken’s neck, or “neck and thigh” as in “neck-tie”); “WALKMAN” (pigs ears); “PAL” (chicken wings); “HELMET” (chicken head); “IUD” (chicken intestines), and "BETAMAX” (video-cassette-like blocks of animal blood).
Yum, yum. Bon appetit.