Sunday, July 08, 2007

Soup commissioner

SOUP is simple but good fare.

What can be more heartfelt? By boiling water and putting whatever ingredients are at hand, a person gets something savory and healthy. The late Doreen Fernandez wrote about the sinigang soup that got her out of her sick bed. Reading it made me wish I could get sick and then find my way back by discovering sinigang.

What else is more flexible? Sinigang shows that democracy can work. The shrimp sinigang lovers are no better or lower than the beef sinigang aficionados. If you are against the entire health movement, there is no one to stop you from stewing pork cubes jiggling with marbled fat or bangus stomachs filmy with sweet blubber.

What is more forgiving? You can throw out the okra and keep the gabi. You can buy powdered tamarind or pick the young leaves of a wild pepper bush. The soup will still turn out to be soup even if you were born all wrong for cooking. I should know.

What can be more familiar? Up to now, my mother’s family pronounces anyone a “true” relation if, at the end of a meal, the person’s plate is swimming with leftover broth poured lavishly on rice before the soft mounds are leveled with the tines of the fork. Nagbahug means to eat wetly, a feat that makes me look down on paper plates as a waste of good trees and good soup.

This bahug-bahug tradition is apparently not just within our thirsty clan. According to wikipedia, soup is traced to the older term, sop. This was a slice of bread soaked with the juice of roasted meat. The oldest soup is said to date back to 6000 BC, with the main ingredient being hippopotamus.

According to the same online reference, in 16th-century France, a “highly concentrated, inexpensive soup” was sold on the streets as a quick antidote for physical exhaustion. These street vendors were called restaurer. By the 18th century, the shops specializing in soups and other fare came to be known as a restaurant.

For all the good will it has wafted in history, soups recently acquired a somewhat unsavory aroma when it was embroiled as the alibi for the meeting between Benjamin Abalos, chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and the parents of Team Unity senatorial candidate Miguel Zubiri.

The Comelec is completing the national tally to decide the hotly contested race between Zubiri and Genuine Opposition senatorial candidate Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for the 12th and last senatorial seat.

Pimentel filed a motion asking the National Board of Canvassers to direct Abalos to disclose the circumstances of his meeting with the Zubiris. The opposition candidate pointed out that a judge cannot “allow family, social or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment.”

It was just for soup, explained Abalos. On the evening of June 29, he said he was not feeling well and stepped inside a restaurant to restore his well-being with soup.

The restaurant happened to be at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel, where the Zubiris were also celebrating their wedding anniversary. Abalos said he was leaving the restroom when he met Zubiri’s mother by chance. “I know ethics. It's rude not to greet people," he was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Abalos complained that a “political spin” was given to this encounter to discredit the national canvassing.

From mealtimes immemorial, I believe it is impossible to take in, let alone savor, hot soup in 10 seconds, the time Abalos said it took him to greet the Zubiris and beat a hasty exit.

It is even more mind-boggling for a government official to recover flagging health by slurping soup in a place so posh, it is obviously not maintained by government paychecks.

I do not know the social etiquette in places where the soup’s name might be as unpronounceable as the price. Based on my street knowhow, soup is served free when the customer orders rice, viand and drinks.

But perhaps the soup commissioner had such other transactions in mind when he stopped by, after the controversial canvassing, for hot soup for his health. 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s July 8, 2007 issue

No comments: