May 30, 2006


This is what happens when I start cooking after a long hiatus away from my kitchen.

Top to Bottom: Coco Chicken with Squash Flower, Mee Siam, Fried Shrimp and Onion in Mang Tomas BBQ Sauce.

My friend, Becky, was just telling me that there are times when she thinks that it's cheaper to eat out than to cook. And I knew exactly where she was coming from!

When you start out on your own, you still try to get a feel of things, and that includes menu planning. I remember that I was SO excited to finally be on my own and be the one to decide what goes into my stomach for dinner (Deciding what to eat is what I really looked forward to when I went on my own. I actually bought an oven even before I even had a bed or a sofa.). Earmarked cookbooks, printed web recipes, and recipe sms from friends filled my kitchen which translated to a full pantry, a full ref, and a weekly grocery bill (90% was food) worth Php1,500.

I knew something was amiss because that amount was my family's weekly grocery bill (and we were 6 big eaters!). As I learned portion control and got better at menu planning, I was able to trim down my weekly groceries to Php400-500 (food and nonfood), but I have yet to control my time in the kitchen.

What makes cooking great is the instant gratification of seeing, smelling, and tasting your own creations. This gratification feels so good that you just want it to go on and on and on, so you keep cooking. Add to that are the perishable ingredients that have been stocked up for days because I had no time to cook over the past week.

What started out as a simple Mee Siam (Thanks to my very thoughtful friend's -Joyce- pasalubong from Sing! Yahoo! ) gave birth to Fried Shrimp and Onion in Mang Tomas Barbecue Sauce and Coco Chicken with Squash Flower. I didn't get to sleep on that night, but my baon and my gratified self is set for the week.

May 26, 2006

A Discovery on an Old Favorite

I was sick last week and couldn't find the right food to make me feel better (I'm one of the lucky ones who NEVER loses appetite in any situation.). My best friend, Pia, unknowingly came to my rescue when she texted that she brought me durian from Davao.

Oh heaven.

I LOVE DURIAN. After saying a prayer of eternal gratitude for this gift and a side prayer for those who cannot eat this glorious fruit, I got my fork and savored the creamy silky pulp and almost shed a tear when I could no longer feel anything in my mouth save for the seed.

That got me thinking.

I remembered that in one of my provincial trips, the sales guy and moi stopped by one of the street vendors to buy peanuts. The vendor asked me to try the boiled langka (jackfruit) seed. I was bowled over and got hooked on it.

Now, the durian has been compared to the langka. The durian's seeds are as fat as the langka's. Both fruits have been found to smell offensive at one time or another. With these similarities in mind, I decide to boil the seed and see if it would yield a result as delicious as that one provincial trip. So boil I did till the liquid turned purple and I could no longer smell the scent of the durian. Now came the test.

I cracked the seed open. It was a bit mapakla (I guess the closest translation would be "tanning" like that of wine.). I continued to bite into the seed until I could finally taste the "meat".

This is how it looked like:

And the taste --- oh boy! Boiled langka seed, move over! How I wished I had sour cream and chives right at that moment! It felt like the softest baked potato in the world, with a more flavorful and meatier taste. I have learned my lesson and will only change one thing next time. I shall boil it just a bit longer so the whole seed is perfectly moist and tender to the last bite.

May 16, 2006

Going Home?

When I started living on my own, friends and friends of friends started going back to their family homes. All of them had the same and only reason --- they're tired of living alone and miss the feeling of having family around when they get home. At that time, I thought they were nuts.

And then I experienced the same thing.

I think I'm getting to that point where I miss going home to what I perceive to be family and a warm home. Even if I am able in the kitchen, there's something rewarding about going home after a long day's work and seeing the dining table set for you with the delicious aroma of sauteed onions and/or garlic greeting you as you slowly put down your things. I miss hearing my sister or brother yakking it over the phone in the background as I watch television or read my book. I miss talking the ears off my family with my endless banter and opinions even if no one's really listening. In turn, I miss my siblings and my dad talking my own ears off to tell me about their day or their friends' day. Somehow, being at home, though not always happy, reassured me that someone cared for you (When I'm sick or during storms, this thought perenially comes to mind. If I suddenly die right there and then, how long will it take for my family and friends to discover my body since they are not in the habit of checking up on me now that I've grown up and live on my own?).

I won't deny that I've thought about packing up and just returning to where I grew up. Then, I remember all my reasons for being on my own and I know that I can no longer go back. I just have to move on, and, hopefully, rather than get used to being alone, I will have the opportunity to create my own home, whether I'm single or I'm married.

Until that time, my current coping mechanisms will have to do: constantly playing my cds, inviting friends over for weekend dinners, going out with my sibling at least every 2 weeks, reading books like there's no tomorrow, cooking and baking, surfing the net, sms.

I wonder how people on their own in other countries cope. Or do they need to cope?

Don't get me wrong. This isn't about not wanting to be alone anymore (I do like being alone most of the time.). I guess it's more about getting nostalgic about matters that I always took for granted. Or maybe it's missing the comfort of knowing that someone will always be on the lookout for you no matter what happens. Yeah yeah. I know that, in the end, you just have to look out for yourself, but am being realistic here. It IS nice to be taken cared of every now and then, right?

Here's a simple recipe I've concocted when you get to feel this way. No need for measurements. Your best gauge is your palate.

1. Saute lots of minced garlic (I used a head of garlic!) in a little Golden Fiesta Cooking Oil only until you begin to smell the appetizing aroma of the garlic. Add sliced radish.
2. Place 1 whole small fish (I used a member of the lapu-lapu family locally known as Ulpot.) and saute for a few seconds.
3. Add shrimp broth to your heart's delight (I had this because I cooked shrimp the week before and the recipe called for peeled and beheaded shrimp. I LOVE these parts so I couldn't just throw them away. Decided to boil, strain, and freeze the broth for later use.).
4. Simmer and season with salt to taste.
5. Eat and feel a little better.