Foodie Friday: Comfort Food
There’s nothing like pairing food with a nourishing read. When my wallet’s particularly sad, I prepare myself a simple sandwich for dinner, and trick my appetite by eating it while reading a foodcentric piece of literature. I reach for MFK Fisher’s The Art of Eating when I want to feel like a gourmet, but tonight I wanted something more soothing. I was not fond of fish (quite sad if you grew up in Malabon), but I knew I needed to eat some for health reasons, so I opened a jar of spanish sardines in olive oil, got some wheat bread, slathered the bread with creamy sweet Queensland butter, and toasted it. When it was done I placed the sardines atop the toast, drizzled it with apple cider vinegar (to minimize suya), sprinkled it with parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper. Then I proceeded to read this book, which made me crave tinola and surprised me with what people consider to be their “comfort food”. I personally associate comfort food with nostalgia, and the book inspired me to list down my favorites.
1. Homemade Milo dinosaur: I miss the old Milo, it seemed to have larger chunks before, unlike the powdery version now. I would put three spoonfuls of Milo in a glass, pour water on top of it and stir it vigorously. Then I’d place several cubes of ice in the glass and then top it again with several spoonfuls of Milo. I’d enjoy the Milo shrapnel while watching Cartoon Network late at night. I usually did this when I felt hungry in the middle of the night or when I felt anxious. I remember how my dad used to wait outside the classroom with my thermos filled with cold Milo when it was my first day in school, back when I was in grade one. The other kids were crying (one was even throwing up red Jolly spaghetti beside me) and I cried too (because of peer pressure mostly haha), and I was allowed to go outside to my waiting dad and drink Milo when my crying caused me to have a hard time breathing. I remember playing at my cousin’s house after lunch, bringing my thermos filled with Milo and placing it inside their ref. We were forced to sleep but we didn’t, and we pretended to close our eyes whenever an adult would check up on us, but we’d continue playing with our Romnick Sarmienta , Sheryl and Jennifer Sevilla Barbies when they left the room. When it was waking time I’d rush to their ref and get my Milo, now cold. I love the plasticky smell of the thermos while I gulped the drink, awaiting the chocolatey sludge at the bottom.
2. Boiled corn: They sold it at school, in a cup, with bright orange cheese powder and margarine. I tried recreating it using popperoo cheese powder but it didn’t taste as good. There would be several ways of enjoying it at home: My lola would roast corn on the cob using our gas stove, piercing it at the end with a knife or a fork and twisting it till the kernels turned black. My tita would prepare a dipping sauce of calamansi and patis and she’d dip each kernel into the sauce. My mom and dad would smear butter on it. If I felt lush, I’d do the same, but if I missed my tita I would dunk my cob in a platito filled with lots of calamansi juice and a dash of patis.
3. Suman: Always present during our Noche Buena feast, I looked forward to eating this with mangoes and sugar, or with halayang ube. During Christmas morning, my mother would fry some of the leftover suman in a pan with browned butter and I’d gobble up the sticky sweet treat with leche flan (if someone gave us a tin that year—we never cooked leche flan, for some reason).
4. Leche flan: This was in my bucket list of food items to cook. I love anything with leche flan, and for my 18th birthday I was sincere when I requested my lola nanay to cook a bucketful of leche flan for me as their birthday gift, which they thought was a joke, sadly. I attempted to cook it using an electric steamer and it was such a gloopy disaster that I swore never to cook it again. My lola nanay’s leche flan was dense, rich and infused with dayap rind. There was a time when the leche flan atop Razon’s halo-halo was like that, and I’d order an extra sliver because it was so good. I ate it slowly, a miniscule bite each spoonful of halo-halo, and did not mix it because I have this crazy fear that I won’t be able to taste the flan when mixed. I still can’t forget that episode of Sabrina the teenage witch involving a giant flan. That was AWESOME.
5. Ice cream: If my memory is to be trusted, there was a Magnolia house along Edsa across our school and I can still remember the red curtains, the high stools and the colorful menu with the Bert and Ernie banana split. I was taken there just once by my dad when he fetched me from school and I was so overwhelmed by the choices and how whimsical everything was that I can’t remember what I ordered, for the life of me. Remember those Magnolia ice cream sticks that are clown-shaped (choco banana), and boat-shaped (bubblegum)? How about that dip cone from mamang sorbetero with that choco shell (a bit sour) that hardened? I remember being sick and having no appetite at all, (except for ice cream) and how wonderful it was for I was allowed to eat rocky road for several days. I enjoyed having my teeth extracted because I was allowed to have twin popsies afterwards. In high school I’d brave the dark seedy Victory Terminal in Caloocan because they had a small Rustan’s there which sold pints of Arce Dairy ice cream. I’d save up for one pint in every two or three months and savor each spoonful at home while reading, utter bliss. I’d eat just a few spoonfuls so I could prolong the experience to more than a day. We’d buy ice candy plastic and try to imitate the sold ones but failing because of having only orange juice powder or Milo in the house. My memories of travel often involve ice-y products. Remember Tivoli ice cream and Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwiches? I guess the ice candies (2 pesos for the Milo one with munggo, 1 peso for avocado, buko, melon, mango), frosties, ice cream sticks, ice buko and fruit salad sticks fall under this category too. Cold sweet hugs.
6. Pastillas: Condensed milk and powdered milk, when mixed together, will give you a quick “pwede na” pastillas. I spiked some with Milo, some with coffee and rolled each ball in sugar. The best memory I have of pastillas involves being sick with asthma and having my dad give me a pasalubong of a mixed pack from Goldilocks which had the usual white one, and yema and ube variants. It was a very happy day for me. My personal favorites are those from Mr. Moo, Zambales and Pampanga.
7. Mom’s chicken and pork adobo: This is what I requested for my birthday last year, which thankfully, I got a tupperware of. I could never recreate this, even if I follow her recipe. Hers is perfect: Garlicky, savory goodness, made rich with liver. The taste of home and of family lunches together, or dinner while watching The Simpsons or 3rd rock from the sun. Lazy, carefree Sundays.
8. Black Gulaman: I was the gulaman slicer. While waiting for the water for the arnibal to boil, I’d slice the gulaman blob into circles, then hack the circles into cubes. My love affair for gelatinous things is probably rooted in this relaxing ritual.
9. Mangoes: While my father peeled green mangoes, I’d open a jar of Barrio Fiesta or Golden Hands bagoong, fry it in a pan with golden brown garlic, and add teaspoonfuls of vinegar (careful not to mix it before it boils) and sugar to the mixture. Our house would stink of bagoong for days but we didn’t mind. I would pretend that the mango half I was eating was the one from school, and I’d top the whole mango cheek with the bagoong and nibble it slowly.
10. Lugaw: I’m not sure if the store is called Lugaw ni Ogoy but it’s always a nice surprise when my dad or lolo brings home several orders of lugaw, tokwa and lumpiang prito from there. We’d customize our bowls with toyo or patis and calamansi, and enjoy the hot soothing bowls with sweetish sour fried tokwa. We joked among ourselves that our lolo would bribe us to go to our church (We’re Spiritists and we have what we call “Sentro”) using lugaw and halo-halo. True enough, my memories of going to Sentro always involved a stopover at this old lugawan, with the meter-long bangkos and dirt floor. I’d watch my lola pour a glass of cold water on her lugaw so it would cool up faster, while I burned my tongue because of my eagerness.
What do you consider as your “comfort food?”
Posted by rainbowramareads