Sunday, June 8, 2003

Food, Glorious Food

Food, Glorious Food… where is it?

The Philippines is not known for its food. Ever wonder why there aren’t any Philippine Take-Out spots? Don’t. If anything, the Filipinos here in Manila are into their snacks. Prepackaged snacks are the thing.

In the evenings in the States, we are deluged with car ads. Here, all you see is snack ads. We’ve come to the conclusion that solace from the dreary world is found inside individual sized wrappers, not in impossible dreams of car ownership. The Filipino mentality is one of “share and share alike” which has spawned the prevalence of buying sizes that don’t require sharing and satisfy your immediate need (which also doesn’t require you to spend a lot of cash at once). At sidewalk carts and in the corner store you buy a can of soda, not a 6-pack. Gum is sold by the stick, as are cigarettes and we marvel when we find a package of cookies that isn’t a single sleeve of 3.
Sometimes you see “real” food ads, like for fast food joints or worse, some quasi-food in a can you can pick up. One of them simply grosses us out every single time. A man is scooping out large spoonfuls of some black pasty goo, huge grin on his face. All the while his teeth and lips are turning black. Bopis is it. Pork lungs. *retch*
One of the biggest disappointments food-wise is the lack of decent bakery breads. The local pandesol leaves an odd after-taste that simply shouldn’t be there when you’ve eaten a bread roll. When I was a kid in Africa, buying baguettes from the local stalls was a task no one minded because the bread was amazing (much heavier and more satisfying than the French baguette). I was so looking forward to finding a local favorite for all our bread needs. On the other hand, the baked goods like cakes are simply amazing. I guess we’ll just have to suffer.
So after a week of Japanese food (Katherine’s request as dinner on her last day of First Grade, and different than she expected), Thai food (Too ‘picy! Says Nicholas to the crabmeat curry), and homemade meals with teriyaki and soy sauce, we decided to eat-out American. In Ermita, an area around the Embassy loaded with hotels, there is.. oh you’ll never guess, go ahead and try, you’ll be wrong you’ll see… a mall! You were wrong weren’t you? I knew it. Anyway, yes, there’s yet another mall and this one is home to TGI Fridays. We were seated at a table that had no less than 6 flies buzzing it which kept Jonathon well entertained and were serenaded with radio tunes by ABBA, the Beatles and wouldn’t you know, the Carpenters. All while The Matrix played in the background on soundless TVs with bad tracking. For P85 each, the kids ordered specialty milkshakes and they were yummy but for Rebecca’s mint chocolate milk shake that tasted about ½ mint extract. Powerful stuff, but she didn’t complain. You heard me right. Getting to this mall was fun. Ian has taken on Manila traffic and is doing a superb job of not getting us killed. Even with the illegal U-turns, stopping crosswise across lanes for a hearse that didn’t have enough turn space, driving the wrong way down One Way roads, no one threatened us to any great extent with vehicular damage. Thank goodness for road maps.
The three older kids started Camp Critters (aka summer camp, 9-1 M-F, weekly all summer) which leaves me with Jonathon. Well, he was up shortly after 5 this morning, so by 10:30 he conked out for a nap. This leaves me with 2 solid hours to myself. The housekeeper is here, I asked the driver (yes, I’m still too chicken to drive the major roads myself) to pay our 2 bills since everything is done in person and in cash but I don’t know where any of the pay windows are, and now I feel like Marge Simpson when everything is going perfect, so she sits on the couch and decides to try to remove a skin spot in order to liven up her life. No, I’m not bored. I’m writing this post, I’m breathing a little slower, getting the laundry done and thinking about eating some food. With just the little guy, we stopped at the church to register with the parish (it was a long involved process of being asked if we were Catholic and telling them our name and address to be added into their book) and at Rustans to pick up some interesting odds and ends with Jonathon as my basket carrier. I think I’m enjoying this aspect a lot. Today I purchased a jar of peanut butter and jelly swirl just like home, only the jelly is guava. I picked up a jar of Coco jam made from coconuts for a friend of mine. And there were tons of little jars of extracts and flavorings from the common vanilla and rum to the local pandan and ube. Who can pass this stuff up?
In other news, for the first time in 8 years, we are crib-less. I sold our crib. In retrospect, I should have just donated it to the birthing center that USEC works with and truly wish I had, but the crib is still going to a Filipino family and their first child.

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