SLOW conversations go with slow food.
We had Igorot friends visit for the weekend. For our last dinner, they prepared pinakbet and adobo, the Ilocano way.
It took a time to look for boneless bagoong from Pangasinan. And then more time was needed to slice the vegetables. The size of the pork cuts warranted another discussion. And the order of sautéing the garnishing.
Always, there seemed to be a Cebuano way and an Ilocano way. In a matter of speaking, there were significant differences in going about things.
And a spontaneous concurrence of what is good food.
Trying to combine Ilocano and Cebuano ways, we ate dinner at past 1 a.m. Somehow, all of us woke at 7 a.m. to whip up an omelet and then resume eating the pinakbet and adobo of undefined ethnicity.
Looking at the frothy mounds made by the whipped eggs, M. remembered that the omelet his mother made for him and his seven siblings was as thin and smooth as the film that floats to coat the surface when oil is poured onto water.
His mother warned all the children watching, round-eyed, as that omelet was sliced and distributed around the table that there was no need to ask for more.
Mealtimes where “more” did not exist taught M. and his siblings that rice was not a staple but a strategy. He said he buried his viand in a mound of rice. After everyone else had eaten, he dug out and ate his hoard.
He felt full, whether from consuming his share or being consumed by his sibling’s envy, he could not say.
R. said having too many mouths was also a challenge for researchers in remote areas. He and his fellows once bought a chicken from a farmer.
The native fowl was lean and compact, virtues for a boxer but not for the meal prospects of ten hungry youths. D. volunteered to cook the chicken.
Sliced and spiced, the chicken adobo ended up as the dish for no one except D. When R. complained that the dish too spicy, D. explained that pepper is the secret in cooking. Why, he now had an entire chicken to finish!
Sharing a meal reminds us that we have more than appetites in common. M.’s drunk father insulted his neighbors. Walking home, M.’s father was set upon and nearly beaten dead by the neighbor and his sons.
Months later, these neighbors visited M.’s family to apologize. M. recalled that when it was their turn to visit, these neighbors would cook and eat breakfast even when M and the family were still in bed. Isn’t this tolerated because it’s all in the family?
M. asked his neighbors: When one’s father becomes an ugly drunk, do you look the other way or knock out all of his ugly teeth?
To this day, M. and his neighbors still visit each other’s home on the other side of the mountain.
*First published in SunStar Cebu’s December 17, 2017 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”