Sunday, August 2, 2020

Quarantine Food Journey

It's been for quite sometime since I haven't posted anything. COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live our lives. I have not went home to my family for almost six months already.

I can have a way to go home but there are things forbidding me to do it. First, my type of work is vital that 14 days mandatory quarantine is not tolerable without attending to office concerns. I should have done that but the lack of internet access in my provincial location, no matter how I may be able to afford it, is to no avail. Second, the uncertainty of manifesting COVID-19 symptoms within 14 days despite any rapid test done or a negative result for RT-PCR test due to exposure to people along the way, whom we may not have any idea which one is positive or possible virus carrier. Thanks God I am negative of the virus from my most recent test.

Anyone had ever seen a horror movie? No one has an idea who among us is a walking zombie. Anyways, when the President declared in Malacanang that night that we shall be in community quarantine, I did not tell at home that that situation is going to happen. I just created a Viber group for family for us to share pictures and sentiments wherever we are. I believe that with the pandemic, I feared and a bit sad that I may not have any idea when we are going to see each other again. I also called home the next day to tell mother to ready with cash and food to eat. Cash is needed because they may not have sufficient access to atm machines due to lack of public transport. So, when we were in a group chat, never had I have any idea that I will be able to create that chat in my life. We do not do that as often.

Cooking malunggay (moringa leaves) in coconut milk for his subordinates.

I am in Metro Manila, my family is in southern Luzon while my brother is in southern Philippines. Separated by islands, blocked by respective local community quarantine protocols, work as front liners, absence of immediate transportation means - these things hinder us from going home. So while on quarantine, my brother, a very good cook, shared a picture of himself cooking for his staff in the jail facility he is working with in the last week of March.

Back in Luzon, there was a time when we visited our personnel in control points or check points. For inspection, our superior had to ask how our personnel are doing and their challenges. I got to see a huge somewhat [I don't know exactly how it is called] banana right in the middle of the road on a table in a control point in Pangasinan. That's amazing.

That huge banana in a control point in Pangasinan manned both by BFP and PNP.

Then I shared the family chat group to a cousin in Canada. She is senior citizen already and working from home. With the pandemic affecting her retirement savings, she had to continue working and forgo with retirement. She shared her baking time with us - that was in April.

Baking in other parts of the globe, this one from Canada.

Quarantine became enhanced. People were at home and got a lot of thinking what to do to make kids and people at home busy and not bored. I had a chance to send home an electric oven in early June. It took about a month before they were able to use the oven because of lack of available supplies for baking to buy.

Baking has made people busy during quarantine and a simple electric oven is an answer.

During community quarantine, I am thankful to the food delivery services. Had it not for them, I will not be able to eat. Having even kept food in can with lots of food preservatives is not good for an entire weekend. I found this 8tables restaurant in Congressional Avenue, delivering food through Foodpanda. This is a vegetarian restaurant. I had to order for about three items and keep those in the fridge so that when I have time to rest on a weekend, I have food to eat. No way for me to cook because I do not have a kitchen. However, I was still luckier than those kitchen-less Hongkongers. Nonetheless, I still got an electric rice cooker, an electric stove and an electric kettle. I can reheat the food in the absence of a microwave oven.

Take-out packaging for 8tables restaurant orders.

In mid June, I am still reliant on Foodpanda services. On rest day, I had to watch Frozen 2, the one bought by my kid using my account and card but she was not able to view until now due to lack of stable internet access at home in the province. All the food I was eating was delivered from a nearby restaurant because until now, I do not have a kitchen where I can cook my food. I have the utensils but I do not have a kitchen yet. As of now, I do not have any idea if I will be able to build my kitchen before the year ends.

 Watching kid's movie while eating, a no-no back in the old days.

It was in last week of June when I was going out for some errands and I happened to visit the bistro where I used to go then before community quarantine observance due to pandemic. The restaurant offers Filipino food such as pares. So, it was my first dine in since March - eating a beef pares. There was no other customer when I dined at noon then, only myself.

Beef pares - Filipino food
Past forward, it was last week of July when my family at home were able to use the electric oven I sent. They tried with some stuff and experimenting on cookies, maja blanca, etc. At last my kid will be able to have time to do other things and explore some sort of baking in the absence of school. Mother has now more access to baking supplies in the city which are not available in our town. Lots of those were bought as requested including more Oreo for cooking experimentation of my daughter.
Raisins on top of some sweet dessert
Oreo, a kid's favorite

The most recent of my quarantine food journey is being able to eat Japanese food at last. I had a ramen in last week of July finally. It was my first ramen in almost six months. These things are milestones to me - milestones of the things I had to remember not eating together with my family for months. 

Pork Ramen 

I do not have any idea when we will be able to eat together as a family once more. For my time in six months, I ate with co-workers. We cook and ate together in quarantine period. Even if I am away from family, I am so blessed that I still have work and food to eat. My absence from home is an assurance that I still have a job and I can still feed my family with the work I have. There are lots of people who went home without job - and without an assurance where to get the money to buy food to eat. That ramen I ate after six months is already a luxury for those who have nothing to eat. Hundred thousands of overseas workers were repatriated by the Philippine government, they went home jobless. 

This pandemic has indeed changed the way we live our lives. We do not even have an idea when will this end. I am still on our family group chat posting pictures and updates from time-to-time. One thing has changed, a front liner from a very near location could be very far from home because going home these days is not as easy as going home before without pandemic. Whatever we do, we always value the people we care about and one of which, is safety for everyone. When not going home is safer for us and for our loved ones as well - to make sure that we will not bring any contamination at our very doorsteps. Let us pray harder for the everyone - that we all survive this pandemic. May God save humanity.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

First Time in New Zealand

When I was in New Zealand for a week, I made sure that I experience the Kiwi way. Aside from being welcomed with haka for the very first time, I am grateful for the friends we have in Auckland and for the hospitality of the government, accorded to us. For dining, here are some of the things I did and can also be tried by newcomers to New Zealand.

1. FRESH MILK and other milk products

Food in New Zealand is abundant as its natural resources. Foods are fresh; and there are more sheep and cows than human beings. Expect fresh milk everyday and it is freely provided in workplaces. So when in New Zealand, it is worth trying their fresh milk. Milk in New Zealand comes in gallons and there are no small quantities. New Zealand exports fresh milk and other milk products to the Philippines. Other dairy products can also be tried as their cheese.



In Hobbiton, the place where the Hobbit movies were filmed, there are more sheep than human beings. So when in New Zealand, one can try their lamb in its finest restaurants. Servings are huge and veggies always come in sides. By the way, climate is good for growing vegetables like that in Auckland.

3. CRAB SHACK and seafood in Auckland

When in Auckland and looking for king crab, one can go to Crab Shack. A group can feast on king crab legs, seafood marinara, among others. The location is nice because it is in the wharf so there is a view of the sea, the ferries and towers at the back. My experience there, unforgettable! 

4. APPLES and other fresh fruits 

When in New Zealand, do not miss to try their sweet apple. Crunchy, it is fresh and no preservatives. They grow their own apples and these apples can be seen in just the yard of one's house. Also, oranges, can be grown, so one can also try the oranges and other endemic fruits that they have.

5. WINE and BEER

New Zealand produces wine and beer. There are vineyards in nearby Auckland and other parts of the country. While we boast our famous San Miguel beer in the Philippines, it is also worth to try New Zealand beer - Steinlager. In Sky Tower, the Sky Cafe serves wine. While watching those doing the bungee jumping from the tower, one can try local New Zealand wine like Babich.

Ooops! Never forget pasalubong. Pasalubong is a present for family and friends, a Filipino trait that whenever one is on travel, he/she has to bring a present from his travel for his/her close friends and family and co-workers. 

6. WHITTAKER'S and New Zealand chocolates

Bring home New Zealand chocolates. The famous Whitakers chocolates comes in an honest packaging that speaks of the percentage of cocoa in it. Very much reflects of a Kiwi trait of honesty. It comes in some sizes but the bigger one is 250 grams. There is also a pack of bits - all of these come in various flavors. 

Thanks to the hospitality of Filipinos (special mention to former office mates, Ellen and Ferdi) and Kiwis in New Zealand while I was there. They made me experience what New Zealand is. They made my stomach so full and enriched my understanding of their respect for culture. No wonder, New Zealand is a place to raise a family. It is also a place where I have learned the absence of mandatory retirement age for uniformed personnel - because there is no discrimination as to age.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Moroccan Cuisine for a Filipino

Never been to Morocco? Why not include it in your bucket list? After all, it requires no visa for Filipinos. Just bring your passport with you, buy a ticket with connecting flight to Morocco, there you go. Ask me, I have been there recently.

Red carpet dinner at Chez Ali
As to food, lamb is part of the Moroccan tradition. So, for me who is used to lechon (roasted pig), roasted lamb is a different take. Thanks to the hospitality of the Moroccan people who treated us to Chez Ali with sumptuous Moroccan meal and wonderful show amid freezing evening. 

At the beginning of the meal we were treated with Moroccan harira, a classic Moroccan soup with strong flavor of turmeric, cinnamon and cumin. It comes with some sort of pastries. Next is the Moroccan lamb. To me, you have not yet been to Morocco (and Moroccan cuisine) without trying their lamb. 
Couscous aux sept l├ęgumes
I like the couscous with seven vegetables. To me, it is their version of chopsuey cooked in a different way but with fine rice. If one is not used to eating lamb or the harira soup, one can take the secondary dish. I was so full already after over a bowlful of soup and then some sort of panic eating with lamb. I did not expect there will be more to come. I thought I can eat more veggies at home and not often eat that pretty expensive lamb.
Jawhara, a dessert topped with nuts, that comes in a huge serving plate for us to share in a round table. I thought of "oh, thank you, but I am so full" but the rest among our group in one table had to encourage one another to eat more and try it as it tastes really good. Indeed!

Seasonal fruits served at Chez Ali
You might think that the dinner ends with jawhara but it did not. Another big and whole servings of fresh fruits come to us. In the Philippines, I can be contented with one banana but for the Moroccan way, it is a plate full of whole fruits including the stalk of the orange, an indication that it is fresh. Lastly, a Moroccan meal will not be complete without the Moroccan mint flavored tea served from a silver ware with a pointed tip to make pouring more exciting. 

I have been to Morocco for a very short period of time of three days. I am sure I have not yet tried all of Moroccan cuisine that I have to explore. Aside from Chez Ali where I have been, the food that the restaurant at the hotel where I stayed is indeed great. I ate a lot every morning thinking that I will save for my next meal. I still eat a lot in noon time just to double sure that I will save my dinner. It worked and I do not even have an idea if I will ever be back to the beautiful country of Morocco, once more in my lifetime. Thank you, Morocco. Thank you, Africa.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Food Finds at Pinto Art Musem

I am showing two of my food finds at Pinto Art Museum. If one has been there, there is an in-house restaurant that serves amazing food, Pinto Art Cafe by Peppermill. 

1. Rizal Adobo. Served at Cafe Rizal, this adobo is so soft and is not cut into small pieces. We have to bring the left over as the serving is too big for one to two persons.

2. Tamarind Shake. I have not yet heard of a shake or smoothie made from real tamarind; I only found it here. This is a must try.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

PAL treats local

Guyabano drink by NutriAsia is sourced from local produce in the Philippines.
Choose your flavor.

I was delighted to see at the airport that Philippine Airlines is treating its passengers with Filipino blend. PAL is giving complimentary drink to passengers during holiday season, particularly this Holy Week. The five flavors to choose from include dalandan, guyabano, tamarind, calamansi and pomelo drinks in can by NutriAsia.

Dubbed as sipsip and away, a passenger has to show his boarding pass to get the free drink or simply they'll just approach you to give you a drink of your choice. The hashtags #travelwithlocally and #locallyph are used to promote the products. By this means, like that introducing the pili lipstick in the boutique, local products are showcased and local produce in a new form creates a new market. In the end, this also helps the local agriculture and promotes local brand. 

Meanwhile, while talking with the persons in the booth, a Japanese approached to say the juice drink is quite sweet, which I did agree. I tried guyabano and it's a bit sweeter than I expected.