Thursday, June 21, 2007

JB goes back to school

Para bang Tommy Lee Goes to College? Hehehe.

When I was five my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, and I said that I wanted to be a chef. Even though I did eventually develop a passion for cooking some decades later, my having said that when I was five was just a funny anecdote for most of my life.

So at 33, it's high time that I enrolled in a professional culinary course and got on track to becoming a real chef. So I'm finally doing it! I've enrolled for the professional program at the Center for Asian Culinary Studies.

A few weeks back I got all excited and bought a pair of black slacks, white undershirts, and black socks. Hahaha feeling schoolboy talaga!

Needed high school credentials so wrote to Pisay para humingi ng kopya ng diploma. My mistake: binanggit kong mag-aapply ako sa culinary school, and I barely escaped getting into a huge mess, and taking Hagee & Eileen with me too! My bio teacher back in HS, now-registrar Dra. Jess Yazon was very nice about it, even while she was implicitly threatening me with breach of contract. The heck with that. You could say I wasn't thinking. I'm so sorry that it's more natural for me to tell the truth. So sue me. Oops, I take that back--don't sue me.

Here's another back to school story: I need to submit my UP transcript of records to my new school, so I went back to UP early this week. Hanap ko ang registrar's office sa PHAN...sorry, wala na dun! May bagong building na ang reg dun sa may malapit sa what used to be ISMED. THAT made me feel old.

First day high
Yesterday, my birthday, was the first day of school! Knife skills. Fun! I think I already have a slight edge (pardon the pun) over most of my classmates. We only had one casualty: one of my group mates cut himself & spurted blood onto his neighbor, and the minced onions.

Birthday blues, and growing old
After school Steph & I hooked up and she treated me to dinner. Then home for some time with the family. All in all a fun day. Still not the kind of giddy happy birthday back when we were young, but special people still made it special.

My friend Kidlat once wrote, "Although I still really believe a lot of aging has to do with how you feel and how you look at the world... if you feel old you will look old hehehe..."

I agree. Now that explains why we in our barkada look much younger than all our highschool batchmates. I was the oldest person in class today (no surprise, though you do often get older people in culinary school) but no one knew it. People always think I'm much younger than I actually am. In any case I'm invariably finding my age (and the accompanying experience) an advantage when I'm with groups like that.

I think my annual birthday blues (which were pretty bad on the approach this year) don't really have much to do with feeling old. I think they've more to do with a feeling of getting left behind. But that's a whole different thread, and anyway, I'm finally fulfilling my childhood dream, so full steam ahead!

Avel, another kabarkada, once wrote, "This wasn't what I pictured myself doing when I was in [highschool]. But, just like what John Lennon said and what JB had on a pin that he wore before, "Life is what happens while you're making other plans". I used to think that that should mean you should stop making plans altogether. Nowadays, I think that you shouldn't have any regrets doing what made you happy."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pinakurat: Sawsawan ng Bayan

Coming home from one of his business trips to the provinces, Papa brought home a bottle of what looked to be vinegar with a curious name: Pinakurat - Sawsawan ng Bayan. Interesting. It was from Iligan. Up until then the only product of this north-eastern Mindanao city I'd ever encountered was Glenn, my dorm roomie back in highschool hehehe. The vinegar was coconut-based , looked like it was flavored with isdang bagoong (salted fermented anchovies), and it was labelled extra hot.

Just as an aside: for me, if we're talking about vinegar for Pinoy food it just doesn't get any better than coconut-based. Throw out the cane vinegar. And please, don't give me that supermarket-bought battery-acid. Coconut vinegar (paombong, sukang sasa, sukang tuba, what have you) has body, and the sourness is not reminiscent of chemistry-lab acid.


And so the Pinakurat did turn out to be very hot. Good thing we're big on spicy food in this family.

I asked some people who speak the dialect what the word "pinakurat" means, and I learned that pinakurat is a method of cooking something very quickly. Some also explained that the word is the equivalent of "ginulat" in Tagalog. It's a great description for this dip, as it really does wake you up. Apparently the most common use for it is as a dip for lechon (whole pig roasted in an open pit). As we Filipinos know, lechon in the Visayas and Mindanao is accompanied, not by sarsa like in Luzon, but by vinegar. We're not big pork eaters though, and lechon holds no attraction for me, and so for me pinakurat has been used as a dip for all manner of grilled fish. I even sometimes use it as a marinade. Just throw in some chopped onions and you're all set.

When we ran out of the stuff we wondered whether we'd have to wait for Papa's next business trip to the area to replenish our supply. We were elated to find that it's available at Cherry Foodarama (at a small markup). Here's to more happy meals spiced with pinakurat!

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