Friday, January 26, 2007

Playing Favorites

I like lists, like most people… with issues. I make To Do lists even when I have nothing in particular to do. I like to list books I want to read, restaurants I want to dine in, movies I want to watch. I list the things I am thankful for as well as areas that I need to make improvements in. In 2003, I made an Areas for Improvement list and one item in that list read: Be more assertive. Not assertive enough.

Four years after I wrote it, I’m still laughing my substantial behind off thinking about it. Anyone who knows me knows I couldn’t possibly be more assertive. That item should have read: Be less assertive. Not everyone’s out to get you. Most people don’t give a rodent’s derriere about the horrible things you’re going through. Get over yourself, schmuckette.

I still don’t know why I ever thought I needed to assert myself more. I couldn’t be less api than if I donned greasy, cut-up rags, smeared dirt on my face, and pretended to be a vagrant at the overpass in Philcoa. (A stout vagrant? Have you ever seen such a sight, Nigel? No, can’t say that I have, Miss.). But I digress. Like I always do. I like tangents. I especially like going off them. If there’s a tangent to go off on, I’m there.

The point, however, is lists, i.e. that I like to make them. One kind of list I like to make is a favorites list. It’s a heady feeling wracking your brain for—to paraphrase that early 90s rap/dance group, C&C Music Factory—things that make you go, “Uh-uhmm!” It gives me great joy and I’d rather do this than… work. Frankly.

So, without further ado, these are a few of my favorite things…


1) longganisa (especially Vigan, Lukban, and hamonado)
2) tocino (the pinker, the better!)
3) hotdogs
4) corned beef
5) French toast
6) Pancakes
7) Pan de sal with palaman, either chiz whiz pimiento or nutella or Reno
8) Fried eggs
9) Omelets
10) Garlic fried rice
11) Post raisin and nut bran flakes
12) Swiss Miss (great with a bit of coffee. I wrote a haiku about this. It goes:

Tamis at pait
Masarap pagsamahin—
Swiss Miss and coffee.)

13) Milo (as in #12, great with coffee)
14) Danggit
15) Tinapang Salinas
16) Spanish sardines
17) VMC Spanish style bangus
18) Champorado with tuyo or bulad
19) Hash browns
20) Chocolate-e
21) Fresh orange juice (straight from the bottle. Beri, Beri Good!)
22) Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
23) Reno liver spread (kailangan ulitin. It cannot be emphasized more.)
24) Day-old pizza
25) Leftovers from last night’s dinner

My Favorite MEATS:

1) cold cuts (pepperoni, lyoners, etc.)
2) Italian sausage
3) Hungarian sausage
4) Vigan and Lukban longganisa
5) Tocino
6) Hotdogs
7) Spam / maling
8) Ham
9) Bacon
10) Chorizo de bilbao
11) Corned beef
12) Chicken longganisa
13) Chicken hotdogs
14) Beef franks
15) KFC original recipe chicken
16) Max’s fried chicken
17) Balat ng lechon
18) Lechon kawali
19) Liempo sa Andok’s
20) Chicken nuggets
21) Vienna sausage
22) Meat loaf / beef loaf
23) Hamburger patties
24) Pork chops (lalo na breaded)
25) Siomai at dumplings
26) Meatballs

My Favorite DESSERTS:

1) Dayap Chiffon Cake (at Chocolate Kiss)
2) Bread Pudding (at Circles Resto buffet and EDSA Shangri-La’s breakfast buffet)
3) Leche flan (anytime, anywhere. Kahit butas-butas yan, papatusin ko.)
4) Halo-halo in Razon’s
5) Halo-halo ingredients, like: sweet beans, nata de coco, and kaong
6) Brazo de Mercedes and the Yang to its Yin, Canonigo
7) Sapin-sapin, specifically the white biko-like layer
8) Birthday cake. The ones with marshmallow icing, sweet and sticky.
9) Green Tea and Sesame Seed ice cream (at Teriyaki Boy)
10) Macapuno
11) Inipit

(Note: Actually, I’m not really a dessert person. Hence, the brevity of this list.).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Note on Gata

Just got back from a counseling mission in Daraga, Albay, where the people--many of them, anyway--remain optimistic and passionate. Albay is a place of myth and its people, firm believers in the power of story. Camalig, the town we were in, lies at the foot of Mayon. It's difficult to describe Mayon without sounding like a press release from the Department of Tourism. The phrase that immediately came to mind when I got my first look at that voluptuous volcano is "magandang mabagsik." Later in the day, I would talk to a woman who had a similar perspective. Mayon, she said, takes her beauty from the lives of the people she kills. Mayon, like Albay, like its people, is both beautiful and fierce. Unrelenting, feral, passionate.

But this isn't a note on Mayon, as gorgeous as that bit of rock and molten lava is. This is a note on the other thing that makes Albay famous: gata. I'm not a big fan of coco milk. It scares me, to be honest. I never know how my stomach will take it. Gata, after all, is not for the faint of heart and queasy of tummy. It's quite like Mayon, I think, in that it caresses your tongue and palate beautifully, sensually, then crash lands into your tummy and explodes out of—ahem, you get the point.

Anyway, when in Bicol, one must have Bicol Express—which, for the ignorami amongst us (or is it ignoramuses? For that matter, is the plural of hippopotamus hippopotami or hippopotamuses? Both, or neither? Questions, questions. Too many questions, never enough answers.), is pork cooked in gata. Not exactly health food heaven but what the hey. So had Bicol Express I did. Partnered it with Laing, in fact. Definition: Laing – gabi leaves in, tadah!, gata.

Will state the obvious now: tummy very happy. Full of air but very happy.

Gata, gata,
Everywhere gata.
In the air,
on my tongue;
in my tummy,
out my bum.

I Thank You.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Chicken and Potatoes

My dad brought a cool titanium pot when he came home from the States. It's a pretty thing, and functional too. It takes only a small flame to heat it up so menos gastos sa gas. My dad claims food cooked in it tastes better too. But that's my dad, the infomercial believer, talking. I still think it's the chef factor (but, of course).

Anyway, in my quest to discover healthy but tasty dishes for my poor, bloated tummy, I experimented with a chicken and potatoes recipe that turned out great. Now, I know I always say that the recipes I create in my humble kitchen are awesome. But that's only because it's true, they are awesome. And as an amateur cook, I'm pretty skilled. (And modest too!).

So, again, here's another recipe from the ever expanding menu of Bogchi ni Bochog. Again, amounts are arbitrary. Cooking is an art, not a science. Or, it's an inexact science. Depends on the perspective you take regarding the methodological distinctions between art and science (but that's neither here nor there).


1 chicken, whole or cut into parts
1 cup olive oil
2 medium-sized heads of garlic, minced
1 medium head of garlic, in cloves
1 medium onion, halved
3 medium tomatoes, halved
juice of 4 calamansi
dry basil, crushed pepper flakes, chili powder, salt, pepper, and other spices (all to taste)
6 medium potatoes, quartered

For the gravy: butter, cornstarch, chicken stock, salt and pepper

1. Mix 3/4 of the olive oil, calamansi juice, minced garlic, and all spices. Marinade chicken in the mixture for at least an hour.
2. Coat bottom of pot with the remaining olive oil. Put the chicken along with the potatoes, garlic cloves, onion halves, and tomato halves. (When using whole chicken, stuff the garlic cloves, onions, and tomatoes into the chicken cavity. Place the potatoes along the sides of the pot, surrounding the chicken).
3. Put pot on low heat. Cook for 40 minutes.
4. After cooking, transfer the chicken (which by this time is flaky, the meat falling off the bones) and potatoes onto a serving bowl or dish.
5. To make the chicken stock, get the aromatic veggies along with bones and meat that have stuck to the bottom of the pot and put them in another pot. Pour 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.
6. To make the gravy, add 2 pats of butter and some cornstarch to the drippings in the pot where the chicken and potatoes cooked. Add the chicken stock and stir. Season with salt and pepper.

A note about the gravy: Uh... it's not healthy. It actually defeats the whole purpose of not frying the chicken and letting the fat and drippings run out. But then, one cannot reasonably expect gravy which, by definition, is made from drippings, to be healthy. Right? So, for health buffs, the chicken and potatoes taste good enough. The gravy is an option. A very heavenly option that spells the difference between joy and ecstasy.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Devil Is Right, After All

Two guesses who's got a fat liver. Yep, me! Not so whee!, though, because having a fat liver--the technical term being fatty liver, duh--means I really have to lose weight by going low fat (gasp!) and low carb (agh! my heart! oh, my heart!).

In a previous post, I ranted about Doctor Devil in A White Coat telling me to lose weight as if that was the only explanation for my recurring kabag. (Gah! I've said it before, I'll say it again, kabag sucks. It's the biggest bitch ever. It's a monkey on my back, or more appropriately, a gorilla in my tummy.). Well, I went to another doctor who ordered an ultra sound, which I had last Saturday. Thank the Lord, no stones! Everything normal, everything pretty healthy. Except for that "impression" of a "fatty liver," according to the ultrasonologist. So Doc Number 2 said the only treatment for that is to change my diet and lose weight because having a fatty liver makes me more prone to acid reflux and awful gas in my lovely tummy.

Sucks to be me right now. Sucks to be me.

I am hating, loathing, writing it but... those Devils in White Coats are on to something. The kabag takes so much from me and the only way to manage it is to manage my eating habits. I can't believe I'm writing about managing food. Even as I write, my mind screams, food isn't to be managed! It is to be eaten, consumed, nay, devoured! As devils devour the souls of the wicked!

I'm doing well, so far, keeping to a less rice/pasta/pork diet. Taking it a day at a time works well. If you happen upon this blog and this particular post and you have a low carb and/or low fat recipe to share, I'd love to get those. I'm stocking up on spices and tuna (in brine. Sigh.) and brown rice and wheat bread. I've even created a tuna tomato spread that doesn't taste all that healthy... but is, honest!

I must fight that niggling sense of having sold out to the hippie-dippie health buffs. I am still me. I will not be signing up for pilates lessons anytime soon. But I will be having a salad next time I eat out. I suspect I will try to enjoy the salad even as I miss carbonara. And when the missing becomes too great, I probably will have carbonara one of these days (hopefully, just a single serving of it).

I am still me because, low on carbs or high on it, I still like to create issues out of what to other folks is really nothing. A diet isn't just a diet. There's a reason it's spelled D-I-E-t.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Post Mortem on Purefoods Christmas Ham

What's wrong with Purefoods' hams? That's all I can say. Well, obviously, that's not all I can and will say. In fact, I just said more. The point is, Purefoods' hams suck. Bad. My sisters and I have noticed that for the past two christmases at least, the hams we've been buying and consuming for noche buena/media noche--oh, who am I kidding? We open them, slice them up, and eat them the minute we buy them. As in right after paying, straight out of the grocery bag, and not even out of Shopwise yet... Anyway, the hams have not been up to par.

Let me preface such a criticism with a brief discussion of the Salvador Sisters' Criteria for Good Christmas Ham. First, the marbling in the meat. Any Christmas ham worth its salt must have a good proportion of fat to meat so that every slice has a nice white streak of marble at one end. Second, the sweetness factor. Great Christmas hams have a nice, thick, melting film of sugary sauce that lends a hint of sweetness to every fried slice. Sometimes, ham makers go overboard with the sweetness and sometimes, they scrimp on it. Neither is good enough for anyone, except maybe for Jesus (and that's only because everything and everyone is good enough, even precious, to him, even vile sinnahs such as yoself! Ruh-pent! Ruh-pent!).

Now, it's pretty obvious that I'm a big fan of Purefoods products, from their hotdogs to their corned beefs to their chorizo de bilbaos to their luncheon meats. And yes, we've been eating Purefoods Christmas ham every Christmas for a long time now. And for a long time, it's been good. But this Christmas, and the one before, the hams have lost a little of its charm. The fat's still there, which is obviously a good thing. But the sauce isn't as thick and syrupy as it used to be. Before, it was like candied pork. Now, it's just like regular Dak's ham with a little bit of sweet sauce to make you remember and miss how good and sweet it was before.

Still, we'll probably have Purefoods Christmas ham again next Christmas. Heck, we'd have it in the middle of the year if they sold it in June. We don't even think about going Swift's. But maybe now is a good time to think about exploring other options. Maybe we've been missing out on a whole load of goodies just 'cause we don't like Swift's corned beef. Hmm, it's definitely something to think about for the new year. Along with other important things like world peace, of course.