Nanay, Tatay, Gusto Kong Tinapay

Noong isang araw ay nag-bake ang aking misis ng home-made pandesal (Filipino bread roll). Siguro isang magandang epekto ng staying-at-home dahil sa COVID-19 pandemic at dahil na rin sa maraming tindahan at establisyimento ang sarado, ay marami tayong sinusubukang gawin sa ating sarili (do-it-yourself) ang mga bagay na dati nating binibili lang o kaya ay ipinapagawa sa iba. Gaya ng paggawa ng tinapay.

Isa pa ay ang pagkukulay o paggugupit ng buhok. Alam kong maraming mga tao ang napipilitang maggupit ng sarili o kaya’y ipagkatiwala sa kanilang nanay, o mga asawa, o anak ang paggupit ng kanilang buhok. Hindi ko po problema ito, dahil matagal nang ako na lamang ang nagtatabas at nag-aahit ng aking buhok.

Alam kong marami pang mga DIY projects tayong sinubukan nitong mga nakaraang linggo o buwan dahil sarado ang mga suki nating negosyo. Pero mahinahong babala lang po na dahil sarado ang mga klinika ng dentista ay huwag sana nating tangkaing bunutin ang ngipin ng ating kapamilya gamit ang pliers, lalo na’t kung hindi tayo dentista.

Balik tayo sa tinapay, naging matagumpay ang eksperimento ng aking maybahay dahil lasang pandesal naman ang kanyang nilutong pandesal. Naging matayog pa nga ang naging proyekto niya dahil maliban sa plain na pandesal, nag-bake din siya ng ube-flavored pandesal.

my wife’s ube pandesal and plain pandesal

Pero pabiro kong sinabi sa aking misis na hindi authentic ang kanyang linutong pandesal. Hindi ito katulad ng mga kinagisnan kong pandesal sa Pilipinas noong ako’y bata. Ang dahilan ay malaman ang pandesal na linuto niya at hindi gaya ng mga pandesal na binibili namin sa panaderya doon sa amin sa Maynila, na kapag kinagat mo ay malutong-lutong ang labas, pero puro hangin sa loob.

Simple lang naman aking panlasa noong ako’y bata. Masaya na ako sa bagong lutong pandesal kahit pa puno ito ng hangin. Hindi pa noon uso ang mga may flavor na pandesal, gaya ng ube-flavored, o pandan-flavored, o malunggay pandesal. Plain pandesal lang ang tipo ko.

Gusto ko rin naman ng pandecoco, monay, kalihim, kababayan at putok. Hindi anghit ang ibig kong sabihin, kundi ‘yung tinapay na putok (star bread). Noong panahon ding iyon ay nauso ang tinapay na nutriban. Sa katunayan nga ay pinamimigay pa ito ng libre sa mga publikong paaralan. Natikman ko rin naman ang nutriban, pero hindi ko ito masyadong gusto.

Naalala ko rin ang laro ng mga bata habang sinasambit nila ang:

Nanay, tatay, gusto kong tinapay,

Ate, kuya, gusto kong kape,

Lahat ng gusto ko ay susundin ninyo,

Ang magkamali ay pipingutin ko.

Isang araw noong kami’y bata pa ay nag-uwi ang aking tatay ng isang mahaba at matigas na tinapay. French bread daw iyon at baguette ang tawag doon sabi ng aming tatay. Binili niya ito sa Buenos Aires. Teka, kung French bread, hindi ba dapat sa Paris at hindi Beunos Aires, Argentina? Eh kasi iyong panaderya ay nasa kalye ng Buenos Aires sa may Santa Mesa Manila, at hindi ito galing sa ibang bansa.

Sabi pa ng aming tatay ay gusto lamang niya kaming ma-expose sa mga ibang klaseng pagkain at para hindi raw kami ignorante. Pero nang amin nang kainin ang baguette – eh tinamaan ng lintik, matigas pa sa bato ang tinapay na iyan. Sabi pa namin ay maigi pang gawin itong palu-palo sa paglalaba. O pakikinabangan din ito bilang sandata at puwedeng ihambalos sa mga kaaway.

Bumili rin ng kakaibang keso ang aking tatay para raw din matikman namin ang foreign cheese. Kumbaga ay para bang social studies namin at ma-experience ang ibang kultura. Subalit nang aming tikman ang keso, hindi lang mabaho, lasang bulok pa ito! At least, sangayon sa aming ignoranteng panlasa. Inisip na lang namin na baka may amag na iyong keso.

Sa madaling salita, hindi namin nagustuhan ang baguette at ang dayuhang keso. Iyon na ang huling pagbili ng aking tatay ng French bread. Siguro sa isip isip niya, hayaan na lang niya kaming maging ignoramus.

Lumipas ang maraming taon, hindi ko inakalang ako pala ay makakabisita sa bansa ng mga croissant at baguette. Ilang buwan pa lang ang nakalipas nang aking matikman ang original na baguette. Sa totoo lang, masarap pala ito, lalung-lalo na at bagong luto mula sa isang local French bakery.

our simple French breakfast (baguette, of course!)

Tumikim rin kami ng mga kakaibang klase ng keso habang kami ay nasa dayuhang bansang iyon. Anak ng tinapay, hindi ko pa rin maintindihan ang lasa. At kahit hindi ko man sila tuluyang naibigan ay masasabi na kahit paano sila’y aking natikman.

Tungkol naman muli sa pagluluto ng aking misis, ang kanya raw next baking project ay pandecoco at siopao.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Authentic Filipino Chair

My wife recently replaced our kitchen counter stools for they were worn out from years of use. The seat area had thinned out with some of the sea grass weaves torn or missing. We’re afraid that one of these days those seats might give out and we end up falling to the floor. Or worse, a visitor would fall to the floor.

When we were looking for replacement chairs, we decided to have an authentic Asian-inspired furniture. We thought that it should be made of yantok sticks, or bamboo, or rattan. Though we are not living in the Philippines anymore, we hope that our chairs will at least give us that Filipino-feel.

We have several Philippine-inspired items in our home besides my old barong that is collecting dust in the closet. We have an abaca runner on our dining table. We have capiz table plate mats that we bought from the Philippines. We also have the sungka (Filipino mancala game) that we placed atop of the center table in our living room which many of our guests are interested to learn how to play. We even have a parol made of capiz that was given to us years ago and we hang it every Christmas on our window.

So my wife searched high and low for new kitchen chairs. She looked for them in our local malls and furniture stores. She also searched the internet. If only she could visit the furniture shops at Calle Crisologo in Vigan, I believe she would. But finally she found what she was looking for.

When the chairs were delivered, I thought they were Asian- inspired alright. The stools are made of wood, almost like yantok, and the seat is made of woven strips like banig. When you move them, they even create that certain sound from our wood floor that is reminiscent of what we had in the Philippines. Beside being beautifully-crafted, they are sturdily-made as well.

However, they did not look like the popular chairs in the Philippines, the ones made of bentwood and solihiya rattan, that are so ubiquitous you can find them on every provincial home or rural carinderia. So I teased my wife that our chairs are not authentic enough or Filipino enough.

Few nights ago, when we were having dinner, I was a little excited as my wife cooked kare-kare, which we infrequently have except on rare occasions. I know the dish is rich and delicious (pamatay sa sarap), but too much and too often could be too rich for the coronaries (pamatay talaga).

We didn’t have bagoong that night, instead we had patis (fish sauce) to add to the flavor of the kare-kare. In my haste, I accidentally tipped the bowl where the patis was and it spilled into the countertop. The patis even flowed over into the new chair! Needless to say, the whole kitchen stank like patis.

Even after wiping the spilled patis, the smell lingered. The new chair smell like patis too. That might have added authenticity to the chair and I think they are now Filipino enough.

A Warm Lunch

I have been back to work this week after a brief break when I went to California to visit my aunt.

(photo taken when we drove to the airport to fly back home)

I have been seeing patients all day in the hospital for the past few days and it has been hectic. We have already seen the first case of the flu admitted in our hospital this season and we are bracing for a more brutal time ahead as the wintry air have started to blow.

I don’t like to bash hospital food, but if I have a chance to eat somewhere else besides the hospital cafeteria, I would do so. I wish there is something like the Manila Sunset Grille (see previous post) in the hospital grounds for that would be bliss.

But I have a busy schedule, and going out of the hospital to get lunch is much of a hassle plus I don’t have much time to spare. So regularly I just go to the hospital cafeteria to grab something to eat just to avoid hypoglycemia. I don’t care if it tastes like cardboard as long as the food is edible. Usually I would inhale my food and then continue my hospital rounds.

Yesterday I was in the hospital cafeteria to get lunch. It was still not that bad as I still had time for lunch for there were rare times that I don’t. The lines were long when I went there. As I head down to the cashier, I was getting impatient as the line was not moving as fast as I wanted. In front of me was an old frail lady who moves gingerly slow. She was taking a longer time as she dug deeply into her purse. It was like watching the character of the sloth who moves in slow-motion in the Disney movie Zootopia.

After the old lady handed her money to the cashier which felt like an eternity to me, she took a look at me. I was wearing my white doctor’s lab coat with my to-go box on one hand and a bottle of water on the other. Then the old lady softly told the cashier that she wanted to pay for my food, as she appreciates people who works in the hospital.

I felt like ice-cold water was poured on the fiery coals on my head. I was having unpleasant mood and yet this lady showed me goodness. Shame on me!

Since I knew the cashier as I am a regular in the cafeteria, I told her not to let the lady pay for my meal. I thanked the lady though but politely declined her offer. I told her that I should be the one paying for her meal, and that I really appreciate her gesture.

Yes, there is still goodness in this world. This old lady made me believe again in human kindness.

I still quickly gulped down my food. But I leisurely savor the warm affection I was served.

A Taste of Home

There are certain things that can evoke strong feelings of homesickness for Filipino expatriates like me. For some it may be witnessing the Manila sunset at Manila Bay. For others it could be the traditional Filipino foods. Maybe for some it is the “fragrant” smell of the kanal and estero (kanya-kanyang trip lang yan).

Last week, I ate some traditional Fililipino food and saw Manila sunset. Manila Sunset Grille, that is!

Manila Sunset Grille is a Filipino restaurant chain with branches mostly in California. I wish they would expand here to the Midwest. Maybe in Iowa?

I flew to California and spent a week there to assist my aunt who underwent cataract surgery. She did not really needed much assistance, except that she was unable to drive for a few days. Driving her around was not a big deal, except that her car is a stick shift sports sedan and I have not driven a stick shift for more than 20 years. But I managed.

It did not stop me either when she suggested that we go and eat at the Manila Sunset Grille even though it was quite a drive through heavy traffic and busy freeways. Stick shift and all, I was determined to go.

Below is what I ordered:

I know, lumpiang sariwa, bibingka and halo-halo may not necessarily go together, but that’s what I have not tasted for a while.

And while I was savoring these food, Jose Mari Chan’s songs were playing over head which adds more to the nostalgic feel. One particular song that stroke a chord was “Christmas in Our Hearts.”

Perhaps it was more than the traditional home food and the Manila sunset that I was really missing. And it’s definitely not the kanal and estero.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Taste of Italy

Italian cuisine is one of the best among the world’s cuisine. It is one of the most popular and most copied type of food as well. And where can you find the best authentic Italian food? In Italy of course!

When we visited Italy last month, we covered most of the country, from the northern region, with cities like Milan and Venice, to the central region which is Tuscany, including the cities of Pisa and Florence, and to the southern region, in Rome and even down to the Amalfi coast.

Amalfi coast (photo taken with an iPhone)

By the way, we avail the services of JDC Private Tours when we were in Italy, that’s why we were able to visit so many places and packed so many activities in such a short period of time. I was more than happy and have only compliments of their business.

Part of our trip of course was sampling authentic Italian food. Their cuisine is known for its regional diversity, especially between the north and south of the Italian peninsula.

Overall, the Italian foods that we ate, from the ‘street’ and on-the-go food to the long sit-down fine dining with 5-course dinner, (one evening we’re treated out by a friend from Rome and we ate dinner for almost 2 hours!), and from the appetizer like bruschetta, to the dessert like tiramisu, were all very good. It was really a delightful gastronomical experience.

Here in the United States, when we talked about Italian food, we think mostly of pizza and pasta. However, many of the “Italian” food we have here are somewhat modified to cater to the American taste.

For instance, when we went to one local restaurant in Rome, there was a note in their menu that says, “we don’t serve spaghetti with meatballs, fettucini alfredo, and lasagna.” That was interesting. Perhaps that’s all the American tourists order, and to the locals those were not even really authentic Italian dishes.

To say that Italy have many kinds of pasta, is an understatement. After all it is the mecca of pasta. But one thing peculiar is all their pasta are served “al dente.” Meaning it is really firm, teetering to raw, that you have to bite and chew it before you can swallow.

Leaning Tower of Pizza…….I mean Pisa

Another thing is that the Italian pizza is not served pre-sliced. They give it to you as a whole piece, fresh from the wood-burning oven, and they give a fork and a knife for you to slice it yourself. I heard that when they first introduced pizza in New York City long long time ago, somebody had the bright idea of serving it by the slice and made more money from it. Since then pizza in the US is served pre-sliced.

In one restaurant we went to in northern Italy, I was impressed on how many types of sauce or variation they have for pizza. The menu had 3 pages just for pizza! And Hawaiian pizza? That’s not even in the menu, because as you can surmise, that’s an American version of an Italian dish.

As a Filipino who grew up in Manila, I also have a different concept of an Italian dish. My favorite is the Greenwich pizza, which I understand is a Filipino brand of pizzeria. Furthermore, I used to think that spaghetti always have a sweet-tasting sauce, just like how my mother prepares it, which is close to the taste of spaghetti in Jollibee, the largest Filipino chain of fast-food restaurants.

When I migrated to America more than 20 years ago, the first time we dined in an “authentic” Italian Restaurant in New Jersey named Trattoria, I was a little surprised that the spaghetti tasted “sour.” In fact me and my wife looked at each other and said to ourselves, maybe the sauce was spoiled as it tasted different. That was an ignoramus moment for us.

Back to our tour of Italy, we landed in Milan airport and stayed in Milan for two nights. On our first day, we were so tired and jet-lagged that my son and daughter went to sleep without having dinner. But my wife and I, despite being tired, felt the hunger pangs and so we went out to eat.

view from our hotel room in Milan

Since we were in the heart of the city of Milan, there were several decent restaurants around our hotel. In fact in our hotel itself was a good ‘ristorante,’ but my wife and I wanted to explore the city. And lo and behold, just walking two blocks from where we were staying, we found what we were looking for.

We were excited as we enter the restaurant. Then we ordered our very first meal in Italy. I understand that you cannot go wrong if you order pasta in Italy, and that’s what I did. I ordered spaghetti. And when I tasted the spaghetti, it was all what I envisioned. It was good.

In case you are wondering what restaurant we went to for our first Italian dinner?

It was Jollibee!

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(*Jollibee opened in Milan last year, and was the first ever Jollibee branch and only one so far in Europe.)

Turo-turo, McDonald’s, at Jollibee

Namayagpag na naman ang mga commercial ng Jollibee nitong nagdaang Valentine’s. Huling-huli kasi ng Jollibee ang kiliti at sintimyento ng mga Pilipino, at siyempre pa pati na rin ang ating panlasa.

Paano ba naging pambansang tambayan ng mga Pilipino ang Jollibee?

Bago mag-bagong taon ay bumisita kami sa New York. Habang ang aming mga anak ay nag-a-iceskating sa Bryant Park sa Midtown Manhattan, ay nabanggit ng isa naming kaibigan na may bagong bukas daw na Jollibee sa lugar na iyon. Kuwento pa nila pinipilahan daw ito. Hindi lang mga Pilipino, pati mga Amerikano at ibang lahi ay nakikipila rin. Siguro curious lang sila kung bakit dinudumog ang Jollibee.

Jollibee in Manhattan (photo from New York Post)

Maraming beses din naman akong pumunta sa mga Jollibee branches dito sa Amerika. Napuntahan ko ang Jollibee sa may West Covina California. Ilang beses na rin akong kumain sa Jollibee sa Chicago. At kumain na rin ako sa Jollibee sa may Woodside New York.

Maliban dito sa Amerika nagbukas na rin ng mga branches ang Jollibee sa iba’t ibang bansa sa Asia, Middle East at Europa.

Nang maliliit pa ang aking mga anak, minsa’y nagbalik-bayan kami at nag birthday sila sa isang Jollibee branch sa may Pasay City. Natuwa naman ang aking mga anak at ang aming mga bisita sa isinagawang party. Maliban sa chicken joy at jolly spaghetti, naaliw rin sila sa pagsasayaw ng masayang bubuyog na si Jollibee.

Noong biglaan din akong umuwi ng Pilipinas, ilang taon nang nakalipas, dahil malubha ang kalagayan ng aking nanay, ay naging comfort food ko ang Jollibee. Kasi may malapit na branch mula sa ospital kung saan nakaratay ang aking nanay. O siguro miss ko lang ang lasa nito.

Hindi ako lumaki na pala-hamburger. Nang ako ay nasa high school pa (early 1980’s), hindi pa masyadong tanyag at iilan pa lamang ang Jollibee branches sa Maynila. Sa katunayan hindi namin ito tambayan dahil walang malapit sa aming eskwela.

Ang aming tambayan noon ay isang turo-turo sa tabi ng aming paaralan. Pero noong kami’y nagbalik para sa aming 25th high school graduation anniversary ay laking gulat ko na isang night club na ang nakatirik sa pwesto ng turo-turo. Ibang luto na pala ang inihahain sa lugar na iyon!

Isa pa sa tambayan ng iba naming kaklaseng pasaway noong high school ay isang esblisimyento na may pangalang “Halina.” Dito sila naglalaro. Isa itong bilyaran. Beer garden din ito. Hindi po ako tumambay doon.

Kahit nang nasa kolehiyo na ako, hindi pa rin Jollibee ang paboritong tambayan ko noon kundi isa uling turo-turo malapit sa UST. “Goodah” ang pangalan nito. Mas mura naman kasi sa turo-turo at lutong bahay pa ang putahe. Siguro mas marami pa ring mga Pilipino ang pipiliin ang turo-turo kaysa fast food, o adobo kaysa hamburger.

Ang unang branch ng Jollibee ay nagbukas noong 1978 sa Cubao. Mula noon ay isa-isa nang sumulpot na parang kabute ang mga branches nito. Kahit pumasok pa ang McDonalds sa ating bansa noong 1981, ay naging matatag pa rin ang Jollibee.

Sa pagputok ng katanyagan ng Jollibee, isama na rin natin ang McDonald’s at Wendy’s, ay nahilig nang kumain ang mga Pilipino ng hamburger at french fries. Naging westernized na ang ating panlasa. Pero iniiba pa rin naman natin ang timpla kahit na western food. Tulad ng spaghetti – ang pinoy spaghetti ay manamis-namis, na hindi tulad ng authentic Italian spaghetti na maasim-asim.

Nang ako’y napadpad na sa Amerika, ay aking natunghayan kung gaano kapalasak ang fast foods dito. Lalo na ang McDonald’s. Kahit sa mga hospital ay may mga branches ito. Sa isang hospital sa New York kung saan ako nag-training, ay may McDonald’s sa mismong floor kung saan ang cardiac cath lab. Kaya’t kung ikaw ay inatake sa puso habang kumakain ng hamburger, ay igugulong ka lang nila sa katabing cath lab.

Para sa inyong kaalaman ang McDonald’s, isang American corporation, ang pinakamalaking fast-food chain sa buong mundo. Sa katunayan lahat ng pinasukan nitong bansa ay halos patayin nito ang mga lokal na kompetisyon. Maliban sa Pilipinas, na Jollibee pa rin ang naghahari. Bakit kaya hindi kayang pataubin ng McDonald’s ang Jollibee kahit pa American hamburger ang kanilang pinaglalabanan?

Dahil kaya mas naaaliw tayo sa bubuyog kaysa sa clown (mascots)? O dahil walang panama sa chicken joy at jolly spaghetti ang kalaban? O nadadala tayo sa mga makabagbag-damdamin na mga commercials? O dahil alam natin na ang Jollibee ay katutubong produktong Pilipino kaya’t tinatangkilik natin ito kaysa sa kumpitensiya? O baka naman mas masarap lang talaga sa ating panlasa ang pagkain nito?

Ano man ang dahilan, naging pambansang tambayan na ng Pinoy ang Jollibee kaysa iba pang fast food chain o restaurant. (Wala po akong komisyon sa Jollibee sa artikulong ito,  pero kung gusto nila akong bigyan ng isang taon na supply ng chickenjoy hindi ko tatanggihan ito.)

Noong ako’y nasa kolehiyo pa, sa harap ng UST Charity Hospital sa may Forbes St. (Lacson Avenue na ngayon) ay may mga lumang bahay na ginagawang boarding houses. Isang araw nagkararoon ng sunog dito, taong 1990 yata iyon. Isa sa aking kaibigan ang nasunugan ng boarding house. Matapos matupok ang lugar na iyon, ang ipinatayong gusali ay hindi na mga bahay, kundi isang malaking McDonalds.

Bulung-bulungan ng iba, dahil hindi mapagiba ang mga lumang bahay para gawing commercial complex kaya raw ito sinunog. Hindi ko sinasabing totoo ito at wala po akong inaakusahan, at lalong hindi ko sinasabing may kinalaman ang McDonald’s o sinuman dito.

Maaring natuwa ang mga estudyante ng UST dahil may malaking McDonald’s na sa harap nito. Hindi nagtagal, isang malaking Jollibee rin ang itinayo katapat nito. Ngayon sangkatutak na fastfoods na ang nasa paligid at pati sa loob ng university. Nandoon pa kaya ang tambayan naming Goodah?

Baka sa susunod, mawala nang lubusan ang mga turo-turo at karinderya. Huwag naman sana.

Eating Out

It is officially summertime in our area. Summer solstice was June 21, so our days are long and hot. Time for picnics and grilling outside.

A couple of days ago, I came home early and my wife asked me to accompany her to the grocery store. She said she’s going to prepare a special dinner and needed to buy some items.  She saw in the internet this “summer dish” and wanted to try it.

After we got home and after some time and much loving effort, our dinner was ready. The new dish my wife prepared is called the Italian grilled vegetable salad. I am not a food blogger, so I’m not enumerating the ingredients needed to make this dish nor would I pretend that I know how to prepare it. Though I think some of you can figure it out just by looking at the photo below.

IMG_6697

I know it’s a deviation from our usual Filipino food we have at home. Where’s the pancit? Where’s the adobo?

It rained heavily early that afternoon so it cooled down a bit. The temperature outside was very comfortable and did not feel like an oven. We checked the forecast too and there should be no more rain the rest of the day.

So to make it a perfect summer dinner we decided that we should eat out too. No, not eat out in a restaurant. I mean eat out, outdoor in our deck.

The earlier downpour plus the strong winds also drove the insects away. Many times there are lots of flies around that you can’t eat out without having a fly swatter in hand. Besides, the rain already washed our outdoor table and chairs clean.

Eating outdoor is popular during summer time. Even fancy restaurants here have patio outside where you can dine. However, I still feel uneasy sometimes when the tables outside the restaurant is near a street where people passing by can see your every bite or can even grab your food. Maybe it’s just me.

After elaborate preparation – setting our table and taking all the food out, we were ready to eat. Of course we took a photo first before we chomp down the food (photo below).

IMG_6707.jpgNote how presentable and artful our table was. It was Instagram worthy. For you readers, I want to let you know that we usually don’t dine like this. Most of the time we scoop our food to our plate directly from the pots and pans. And knife and table napkins, who need those? Please also note the tomatoes, not on the table but on the planter near the table. They are not ripe yet though.

After saying grace and after we literally took our first bite, the rain started falling. Yes, rain! Darn! Can’t trust those weather forecasters.

We hurried back and carried all the food inside. We ended up eating inside our home just like we do everyday. Our “perfect” outdoor dinner was ruined by the rain. Though it would take more than rain to ruin our evening or break our spirits. We remain thankful, after all, it was still a very satisfying dinner.

At least we can claim we ate outside. Even for one bite.

IMG_6705

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Death by Chocolate

All she wanted was to taste the chocolate.

All these years she was strongly warned against having chocolates. It’s not that she’ll have pimples or she’ll get fat when she eats them. It is more morbid than that. Her parents said that she is allergic to it. Deathly allergic to it. The last time she tasted chocolate was when she was 5 years old. And that was more than 30 years ago.

But chocolate is irresistible.

Everybody likes chocolates. In fact it is the most popular dessert in the world. Perhaps many will consider it as God’s gift to men. Some pundits would even say that the food Eve fell for was chocolate that was in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

As you probably know, chocolates are made from cacao. Interestingly the Latin name for cacao tree is Theobroma cacao which means “food of the gods.” Theo is god, and broma is food.

Why does eating chocolate so irresistible?

According to scientific facts, chocolates contains several chemicals that can affect our mood. Especially dark chocolates. Caffeine and theobromine are among those substances, which can make us more alert and gives us energy. I’m sure you’re familiar with the “pick-me-up” effect from the caffeine in your morning brew.

Chocolates also contains Anandamide that helps stimulate and open synapses in our brain that allow “feel good” waves to transmit more easily. A similar chemical, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC can have the same effect. THC is from marijuana. And you wonder why you can’t resist your craving for chocolates?

Furthermore, both serotonin and endorphins, neurotransmitters or chemicals in our brains, are released when we eat chocolates, and in turn, this brings on a sense of well-being. Just so you know, exercise also can release those endorphins, that can give you a euphoric mood after a work-out. Many call it as the “runner’s high.”

Lastly, Phenylethylamine is a chemical that our brain releases when we fall in love. It also acts as an anti-depressant by combining with dopamine that is naturally present in our brain. And guess what? Chocolates contains Phenylethylamine.

So go ahead, give chocolates to your loved one. Send chocolates to the one you want to date. Give chocolates on Valentine’s. I know flowers are nice, but can they release Phenylethylamine? Eating the flowers is not suggested.

Chocolate production is a multi-million dollar business. Ghirardelli, Godiva, Lindt, Cadbury and Hershey, to name a few, are big-name companies that are successful in this trade. Though I am still biased to the Filipino Choc-nut.

Besides chocolate bars and candies, there are also several chocolate-flavored desserts. Like cakes, ice cream, mousse, cookies, shakes, drinks, and whatever you can think of. There’s even chocolate-flavored cigarettes! That’s evil.

Then there’s different confectionaries that are called “Death by Chocolate.” I’m not talking about the chocolate-flavored cigarettes, though that is an apt name for that. “Death by Chocolate” is an idiomatic term they use to describe various desserts that feature chocolate.

Death by chocolate IIIBack to our patient, as I stated in the beginning, all she really wanted was to taste chocolate again. So she took a bite of a chocolate cookie. And she liked it! She took another bite, and another. The chocolate tasted so good, she finished the whole cookie.

Not too long after, she felt that her body was getting numb. She got alarmed, she took Benadryl. Four of them. But the symptoms did not get any better. She then started having some shortness of breath. Soon her tongue and lips swelled up. Then she cannot swallow or breathe anymore.

Finally she was brought to the Emergency Room. She was immediately intubated to establish an airway and then was hooked up to a mechanical ventilator. That’s how she ended up in our ICU.

All because of chocolate.

For two days she was on life support. Her blood pressure also dropped to dangerously low levels. These were all due to severe allergic reaction.

But she improved. With intense supportive care and mechanical ventilation, plus IV fluids, steroids and anti-histamines, and some tincture of time, she got better.

On the third day, she was weaned off the ventilator, and was discharged out of the ICU. I then warned her, that in no instance ever, that she should taste chocolates again.

Death by Chocolate? Almost.

(*photo from here)

Pinoy Transplant Visits the CIA

Yes, you read the title right. Take note of the “CIA” sign at the door, on the photo below.

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But it is not Central Intelligence of America. It is rather the Culinary Institute of America.

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CIA is a premier culinary school, and boast to be the best in the world. An institution specializing in culinary, baking and pastry arts. It’s main campus is located in Hyde Park in New York, which is the one we visited.

The school campus is nestled in a beautiful location near the Hudson River, with surrounding views that is conducive for learning and artistic inspiration.

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Touring the CIA campus is a gratifying experience in itself as you see the beautiful and clean premises and also take a glimpse of the students honing their crafts.

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Just watch out for crossing chefs.

But dining and tasting their food creation is another whole experience of its own. And that’s what we did.

The CIA New York Campus operates four public restaurants. If you don’t mind to be a “guinea pig” of these budding chefs, because in a sense their creation is part of their training and test, and your satisfaction could be a part of their grade. But I’m pretty sure these students are under the watchful eye of certified master chefs.

We dined at Bocuse Restaurant, which serves traditional French Restaurant. If there’s a restaurant there that serves traditional Filipino food, that’s where I’ll go, but there’s none.

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I was not disappointed. From the ambience, the service, the presentation and the food were all excellent. The food I ate there, is one of the best food I ever tasted. I have been to fancy restaurants before, but the appetizer, entrée and desert I had in CIA was a league of its own. An absolute gastronomic delight!

Whoever prepared my food, he or she definitely passed with flying colors, in my humble opinion.

By the way, their wine list is exhaustive as well. But since I dont’ drink wine or any alcoholic drink for that matter, for personal and health reasons, so I did not have any.

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One unique policy they have in their restaurants is that they don’t accept monetary tips from customers, as part of their student’s education is to provide outstanding service even without tips. To this I tip my hat.

From the CIA campus,

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Pinoy Transplant

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(*I did not receive any commission for the above post. However if CIA would like to give me a free dinner next time I visit, I will definitely accept it.)

(**Photos taken with an iPhone)