A matter of taste…

The following article is from a British journalist assigned in our beloved country Philippines..his observations are so hilarious….

This was written in 1999 but many of the facts stated are true to date…

I’ve added my comments in parentheses.

MATTER OF TASTE
BY MATTHEW SUTHERLAND

I HAVE NOW BEEN IN THIS COUNTRY FOR OVER SIX YEARS, (to date it is already how many years? i should have listened to my math teacher 🙂 )AND CONSIDER MYSELF
IN MOST RESPECTS WELL ASSIMILATED. HOWEVER, THERE IS ONE KEY STEP ON THE
ROAD TO FULL ASSIMILATION (don’t we all have that one last step – the hardest one), WHICH I HAVE YET TO TAKE, AND THAT’S TO EAT
BALUT (yay…the last time I ate balut was when I was still so innocent and didn’t actually know what I was eating).

(this is an unhatched duck egg, if you eat balut you have to eat even the duck fetus inside…for your gastronomic pleasure, here is a picture of balut)

the restaurant version

THE DAY ANY OF YOU SEES ME EATING BALUT, PLEASE CALL IMMIGRATION (somebody dial immigration…ring….ring….)
AND ASK THEM TO ISSUE ME A FILIPINO PASSPORT (it will take you a month darling). BECAUSE AT THAT POINT
THERE WILL BE NO TURNING BACK (definitely no turning back!). BALUT, FOR THOSE STILL BLISSFULLY
IGNORANT NON-PINOYS OUT THERE, IS A FERTILIZED DUCK EGG (it does look like duck inside).

IT IS COMMONLY SOLD WITH SALT IN A PIECE OF NEWSPAPER, (sometimes vinegar and chili) MUCH LIKE ENGLISH
FISH AND CHIPS, BY STREET VENDORS USUALLY AFTER DARK (and they go from street to street shouting to the top of their lungs BALUTTTTT BALUUUTTTT), PRESUMABLY SO YOU
CAN’T SEE HOW GROSS IT IS (haha…this is really hilarious). IT’S MEANT TO BE AN APHRODISIAC (do Filipinos really need an aphrodisiac? ), ALTHOUGH I
CAN’T IMAGINE ANYTHING MORE LIKELY TO DISPEL SEXUAL DESIRE THAN
CRUNCHING ON A PARTIALLY (sometimes they are already fully formed) FORMED BABY DUCK SWIMMING IN NOXIOUS FLUID (believe me, this fluid tastes like heaven :P). THE
EMBRYO IN THE EGG COMES IN VARYING STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT ( I suggest you try the fully developed one quack quack 🙂 ), BUT BASICALLY
IT IS NOT CONSIDERED MACHO TO EAT ONE WITHOUT FULLY DISCERNABLE
FEATHERS, BEAK, AND CLAWS (yay…gross). SOME SAY THESE CRUNCHY BITS ARE THE BEST (if you are a lover of beak!).
OTHERS PREFER JUST TO DRINK THE SO-CALLED ‘SOUP’ (I’m guilty as charged….), THE VILE, PUNGENT
LIQUID THAT SURROUNDS THE AFOREMENTIONED FEATHERY FETUS…EXCUSE ME; I
HAVE TO GO AND THROW UP NOW (wait…I’m going with you!) I’LL BE BACK IN A MINUTE.

FOOD DOMINATES THE LIFE OF THE FILIPINO (very true, it defines our existence). PEOPLE HERE JUST LOVE TO EAT.
THEY EAT AT LEAST EIGHT TIMES A DAY (not bad for diet huh? small but frequent meals right?). THESE EIGHT OFFICIAL MEALS ARE
CALLED, IN ORDER: BREAKFAST (agahan), SNACKS (isnakan), LUNCH (pananghalian), MERIENDA (meryenda), PICA-PICA (konting meryenda),
PULUTAN (what you eat while you drink beer), DINNER (what is dinner in Filipino?), AND
NO-ONE-SAW-ME-TAKE-THAT-COOKIE-FROM-THE-FRIDGE-SO-IT-DOESN’T-COUNT (i love this one). THE
SHORT GAPS IN BETWEEN THESE MEALTIMES ARE SPENT EATING SKY FLAKES (very true…crackers are always skyflakes for Filipinos isn’t it? FROM
THE OPEN PACKET THAT SITS ON EVERY DESKTOP (in every table, in every drawer, in every pocket). YOU’RE NEVER FAR FROM FOOD
IN THE PHILIPPINES. IF YOU DOUBT THIS, NEXT TIME YOU’RE DRIVING HOME
FROM WORK, TRY THIS GAME (would love to). SEE HOW LONG YOU CAN DRIVE WITHOUT SEEING FOOD (everywhere there’s food)
AND I DON’T MEAN A DISTANT RESTAURANT, OR A PICTURE OF FOOD. I MEAN A
MAN ON THE SIDEWALK FRYING FISH BALLS (very popular – in fact, there is a new food stall – FISHBOOK), OR A MAN WALKING THROUGH THE
TRAFFIC SELLING NUTS (mani) OR CANDY. I BET IT’S LESS THAN ONE MINUTE (fraction of a second?).

(some filipino comfort foods)

(fish ball on the street)

HERE ARE SOME OTHER THINGS I’VE NOTICED ABOUT FOOD IN THE PHILIPPINES .
FIRSTLY, A MEAL IS NOT A MEAL WITHOUT RICE  (how true?)- EVEN BREAKFAST. IN THE UK,
I COULD GO A WHOLE YEAR WITHOUT EATING RICE (very true…). SECOND, IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO
DRINK WITHOUT EATING (I just heard from a doctor that you should wait an hour after eating before you drink a glass of water – to ensure that enzymes and nutrients are absorbed by the body). A BOTTLE OF SAN MIGUEL JUST ISN’T THE SAME WITHOUT
GAMBAS OR BEEF TAPA (Beer drinking wouldn’t be complete without food partner). THIRD, NO ONE VENTURES MORE THAN TWO PACES FROM
THEIR HOUSE WITHOUT BAON  (packed food) AND A CONTAINER OF SOMETHING COLD TO DRINK (juice or soda). YOU
MIGHT AS WELL ASK A FILIPINO TO LEAVE HOME WITHOUT HIS PANTS ON (perhaps I’ll try this). AND
LASTLY, WHERE I COME FROM, YOU EAT WITH A KNIFE AND FORK . HERE, YOU EAT
WITH A SPOON AND FORK (in fact, some Filipinos eat with their bare hands..fun fun fun). YOU TRY EATING RICE SWIMMING IN FISH SAUCE WITH A
KNIFE (a real challenge!).

ONE REALLY NICE THING  ABOUT FILIPINO FOOD CULTURE (cue: feel proud) IS THAT PEOPLE ALWAYS
ASK YOU TO SHARE THEIR FOOD. IN MY OFFICE, IF YOU CATCH ANYONE ATTACKING
THEIR BAON (packed lunch or snacks), THEY WILL ALWAYS GO, “SIR! KAIN TAYO!” (“LET’S EAT!”). THIS
CONFUSED ME, UNTIL I REALIZED THAT THEY DIDN’T ACTUALLY EXPECT ME TO SIT
DOWN (well I do sit down and munch of what is offered)AND START MUNCHING ON THEIR BONELESS BANGUS. IN FACT, THE POLITE
RESPONSE IS SOMETHING LIKE, “NO THANKS, I JUST ATE (ok lang).”

BUT THE PRINCIPLE IS SOUND (don’t ever forget) – IF YOU HAVE FOOD ON YOUR PLATE, YOU ARE
EXPECTED TO SHARE IT (otherwise, don’t bring food!), HOWEVER HUNGRY YOU ARE (even if you can hear your tummy with your own two ears), WITH THOSE WHO MAY BE EVEN
HUNGRIER. I THINK THAT’S GREAT (are you kidding me…it’s awesome). IN FACT, THIS IS FREQUENTLY EVEN TAKEN
ONE STEP FURTHER. MANY FILIPINOS USE “HAVE YOU EATEN YET?” (“KUMAIN KA
NA?”) AS A GENERAL GREETING (replacing good morning or g’day), IRRESPECTIVE OF TIME OF DAY OR LOCATION.

SOME FOREIGNERS THINK FILIPINO FOOD IS FAIRLY DULL (it is really exciting) COMPARED TO OTHER
ASIAN CUISINES. ACTUALLY LOTS OF IT IS VERY GOOD: SPICY DISHES LIKE
BICOL EXPRESS (STRANGE, A DISH NAMED AFTER A TRAIN) – (this is the food of my place); ANYTHING COOKED
WITH COCONUT MILK (niyog); ANYTHING KINILAW (raw and soaked in vinegar); AND ANYTHING ADOBO (cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, lots of garlic). AND IT’S HARD
TO BEAT THE SHEER WANTON, CHOLESTEROLIC FRENZY OF A GOOD OLD-FASHIONED
LECHON DE LECHE FEAST (roasted baby pig). DIG A PIT, LIGHT A FIRE, ADD 50 POUNDS OF ANIMAL
FAT ON A STICK, AND COOK UNTIL CRISP. MMM, MMM…(yum yum) YOU CAN ACTUALLY FEEL
YOUR ARTERIES CONSTRICTING WITH EACH SUCCESSIVE MOUTHFUL (schedule an appointment with a doctor prior to eating).

(Lechon baboy) (roasted pig)

(Filipino Adobo)

I ALSO SHARE ONE KEY PINOY TRAIT —A SWEET TOOTH (I have a sweet tooth too). I AM THUS THE ONLY
FOREIGNER I KNOW WHO DOES NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT SWEET BREAD, SWEET BURGERS,
SWEET SPAGHETTI (what makes it sweet is the banana ketchup that Filipinos put in the sauce), SWEET BANANA KETCHUP, AND SO ON. I AM A MAN WHO LIKES
TO PUT JAM ON HIS PIZZA. TRY IT (I will probably give it a try..dontcha dare me)!

(Pinoy choc-nut – Filipino choco nut)

(turon – banana rolled in sugar and wrapped in rice paper)

(leche flan – creme brulee)

IT’S THE WEIRD ( I know right?) FOOD YOU WANT TO AVOID. IN ADDITION TO DUCK FETUS IN THE
HALF-SHELL (the ever famous balut), ITEMS TO AVOID IN THE PHILIPPINES INCLUDE PIG’S BLOOD SOUP
(DINUGUAN) (oh…i love this); BULL’S TESTICLE SOUP, THE STRANGELY-NAMED “SOUP NUMBER FIVE”
(I DREAD TO THINK WHAT NUMBERS ONE THROUGH FOUR ARE) ( I don’t want to know as well); AND THE
UBIQUITOUS, STINKY SHRIMP PASTE, BAGOONG, AND IT’S EQUALLY STINKY
SISTER, PATIS ( this is fish sauce – but I think he is referring to shrimp paste which other Filipinos also call Patis). FILIPINOS ARE SO ADDICTED TO THESE LATTER ITEMS THAT THEY
WILL EVEN RISK ARREST OR DEPORTATION TRYING TO SMUGGLE THEM INTO
COUNTRIES LIKE AUSTRALIA AND THE USA (somebody’s watching border security) , WHICH WISELY BAN THE IMPORTATION
OF ITEMS YOU CAN SMELL FROM MORE THAN 100 PACES.

THEN THERE’S THE SMALL MATTER OF THE BLUE ICE CREAM (there are plenty of other colors that can be found only in the Philippines). I HAVE NEVER BEEN
ABLE TO GET MY BRAIN AROUND EATING BLUE FOOD (will it turn people to smurfs?); THE UBIQUITOUS UBE LEAVES
ME COLD.

(ube – purple yam ice cream)

AND LASTLY ON THE SUBJECT OF WEIRD FOOD, BEWARE: THAT KALDERETANG
KAMBING (GOAT) (goat meat cooked in tomato sauce and peanut butter sauce) COULD WELL BE KALDERETANG ASO (DOG)…

THE FILIPINO, OF COURSE, HAS A WELL-DEVELOPED SENSE OF FOOD (I believe we have). HERE’S A
TYPICAL PINOY FOOD JOKE: “I’M ON A SEAFOOD DIET. “WHAT’S A SEAFOOD
DIET?” “WHEN I SEE FOOD, I EAT IT!” (joke joke joke)

FILIPINOS ALSO EAT STRANGE BITS OF ANIMALS (nothing is put to waste…) — THE FEET, THE HEAD, THE
GUTS, ETC., USUALLY BARBECUED ON A STICK. THESE HAVE BEEN GIVEN WITTY
NAMES, LIKE “ADIDAS” (CHICKEN’S FEET) (sometimes barbecued or cooked adobo); “KURBATA” (EITHER JUST CHICKEN’S
NECK, OR “NECK AND THIGH” AS IN “NECK-TIE”) (usually fried or adobo as well); “WALKMAN” (PIG’S EARS) (barbecued or cooked as a sizzler);
“PAL” (CHICKEN WINGS) (hot wings); “HELMET” (CHICKEN HEAD) ( I will never dare eat); “IUD” (CHICKEN
INTESTINES) (could be bitter at times especially when not cleaned properly), AND BETAMAX” (VIDEO-CASSETTE-LIKE BLOCKS OF ANIMAL BLOOD) (this I will never ever do even if you pay me a million dollar).
YUM, YUM. BON APPETIT.

(Betamax – Pig’s Blood cubes)

(intestines, feet, blood cubes) spell STREET FOOD

Clearly,

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