Tuesday, January 30

Organic foods?

I wonder, if meat and vegetables in the Philippines (at least in the Province i come from) are not processed do they quality then as Organic Foods? If i was informed correctly the term Organic Food means the fertilizers or pesticides utilized are strictly of animal or vegetable origin. If that is true, then logically, the vegetables grown and in my province (and in my backyard) are Organic. On the same token the Chickens, Pigs, Goats, and whatever else animals we eat there are also Organic, correct?. Dogs and crickets might be an exception though haha... I am convinced if people there cut down on the hard drinking and the excessive smoking the National Mortality Rate will decrease significantly (Perhaps even the population rate).

Speaking of foods, the meals served to us there on a daily basis especially on the first day were so good it almost brought me to tears. I even took pictures for memories i was so happy (on every meal). The food was nothing special, i mean there wasn't anything exotic or rare like Wild Boar or Bayawak (Monitor Lizard). But what made it great was just precisely that plus the simplicity of the presentation and the food source. See, Native Filipino Food is not about grandeur and extravagance. I think it is about the locality and indigenousness. At least that's how it is in the Province i come from. Every single food item on that crowded dining table were native to our modest town. The Vegetables sold at the market a block away are grown by the same farmers that actually sell them. The fish are caught at the nearby River or Put-tot (fish ponds) using Fish nets or by an arduous method called "kam-mel" (you'd have to be Ilocano to get that). This kind of feast I've been foreign to for far too long. It was the most delish meal I've had since Carlo my crazy Italian neighbor (in Sardegna, Italy during my old crazy Navy days) cooked me up the most unbelievable dinner ever. Okay sorry for the slight digression but i gotta tell you the rigorous preparation for this unbelievable meal. We picked snails from the Earth after the rains, which, in a Simon Wilder kind of a way made me feel homeless. Then in order to clean their digestive system they had to be contained in an aquarium (no water of course) and fed bread crumbs for two entire days. Meanwhile we went out to the nearby Ocean wearing White Socks because apparently Octopuses cling to White or Whitish inhabitants on the ocean floor. Sounds rather simple but he was serious. Did it work? You damn right it worked!!! So on to the intriguing Meal... He cooked the snails and made Octopus Salad and Shrimp Spaghetti. I mean have you ever even heard of Shrimp Spaghetti?? The snails took some getting used to especially with its eyes glaring up at you every time you took one out of your bowl. Once you get over the initial shock though that damn gastropod mollusks is pretty damn tasty. The Octopus salad gave new meaning to the term "Battered Seafood" because we literally had to batter the Octopus dead (Carlo said its part of the preparation. Insane i know) before tossing it into the Salad. I'm not much of a Salad guy but it was good in a Hannibal Lecter kind of a way... Fortunately we didn't have to batter or catch the Shrimp ourselves for the Spaghetti. It tasted unlike no other Spaghetti I have ever had. The best one...

Anyway, there were three kinds of fish, two kinds of vegetable dishes, there was pork, beef, goat, and a slew of sauces all buried under a mountain of chopped green mangoes and onions, everyday... Then like a true tropical island, after every meal they would bring out a platter of fresh fruits. I mean it was sick (in a good way). Interestingly we never had Adobo or Beef Stik the entire time we were there. Perhaps they're too common or ordinary? I guess to have Beef Stik in the Philippines would be like having 'Taco Bell' in Rosarito right? My favorite food probably was the Kare Kare at this homely restaurant converted house called "Sitio Oriental" plus the sausage and eggs they served in the morning. The Kare Kare reminded me of my Grandmas years ago before i came to the States. But hers is still the undisputed best ever. The eggs aren't like the ones we got here in the states because they're fresh and aren't artificially incubated. They are commonly referred to as Native Eggs (as oppose to the Poultry kind of eggs). The sausages are so good i swore to my sister i couldn't eat the sausages here again... I wont even touch on the Tocino subject man. Way too good Forgetttaboutittt!!!!

Sadly we didn't get to eat all the foods we'd planned to eat. I was really looking forward to Santol flavored Sinigang but to my dismay it was unfortunately off season. Tukak (frog, i know) is always in Season but the day we planned to make it the market was out of it. Maybe the other Balikbayans beat us to it. Ya that was a bit disappointing. Theres also this dish (i think also Sinigang) with Abuos (Ants and their eggs, i swear!). I'm not sure if there is a Season for it but you would literally have to pay someone to climb trees where their honeycomb-like cocoons are hanging. Thankfully no one has ever died hunting Ants (that i know of...). I wonder how that dish got started? Maybe some starved person with a creative mind back in the Cave days happen to look up during a leisurely stroll, saw an Ant cocoon, and wondered if he or she could concoct a new dish made out of Ants? Hmm hard to imagine but that would seem logical (hahaha). Dogs, although it was suggested never made it on the menu (I am somewhat happy about that). My friends and i have tried Cat once years ago and we all agreed the meat had a pungent odor (and that's never good). I'm not even sure why we tried it. But for what its worth the Cat was road kill.

As a small consolation i did get to try some rare stuff that even the locals don't get to try often. The Cobra (yes the snake) was not very meaty but had a very good fishy taste to it. Even the way its prepared is quite different. First they cook it in Adobo flavor. Then, after it cools off they fry it like fish. When its finally cooked it looks a lot like Daing na Bangus, a slithering one... I was kind of surprised to find Wild Boar available on the menu at a local bar. Hunting Boar isn't easy you see. You couldn't just shoot them like a deer because they scurry away at the first sign of trouble (so do the Deers you say? Well wild boars don't freeze in fear... how about that?). Naturally i wanted to try it and it didn't disappoint. The taste is almost like your regular hog but richer and more exotic tasting... On Thursday the day before our last day we had lunch at Uncle Dimbos resort in the outskirts of Sta Ignacia to celebrate his wifes birthday (Baldios). One of the many main dishes were these palm sized freshwater prawns that they grow themselves in one of their many fish ponds. Freshwater prawns, hmm, they were so good they could've fooled me. Uncle Dimbo said they're fed with high protein feed. Whatever that means... We also had Ararawan. They are insects that emerge out of the damp Earth after the rains that look eerily like crickets. It's sauteed in oil, garlic, and tomatoes. Definitely Organic. Though i highly suspect the crazed California Organic Food faithfuls would agree (and New Jersey!!!)...


At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

man i'm enjoying your phillippines blogs...i do miss it. when are some pice getting posted????

At 12:21 AM, Blogger Marc Gabay said...

Hey i am glad you're enjoying the blogs but who the heck are ya? LOL. I'm working on the pictures... patience grasshopper!


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