First day back at work and I wondered what particular food was served in each household of my students. During the holidays, when I reflected which particular food I remembered, I thought of two - Cafe City 1888's Lengua with Mushrooms served with rice and Ginataang Kuhol of Kamay Kainan Buffet in Trinoma with my family.
When all people I know online bragged about new food adventures and discoveries, when most of them would show off their most lavish and extravagant treats during the holidays, I thought of what most of my underpriveleged students would remember eating last Christmas eve. I may have gotten too old that my palate sought what I've missed in childhood that I've remembered snails cooked in coconut cream with vegetables (Ginataang Kuhol). I used to have an annual hunt for restaurants that served this dish all over the metro but I still preferred it most delicious prepared by my friend, Gloria Cruz from her humble abode. When I looked back, I can't recall which house I've first tasted the dish but I remember my mom being surprised at my choices of favorite food. Aside from Ginataang Kuhol, my most favorite is still fried dried squids. Odd for some but these two will never leave my list of food choices when entering a Filipino restaurant. I miss my mom scolding me how unhealthy it is eating this salty dish often and I miss her cooking Ginataang Sitaw with Crabs (string beans and crabs stewed in coconut cream).
Today when I've asked each of my student which dish they remember the most during Noche Buena and Media Noche, they can only recall Spaghetti. It may have been that all my students reside in the city but even those who went out of town to visit relatives and had reunion also answered Spaghetti. It made me remember my anthropological linguistics professor, Dr. Jimmuel Naval on how Filipino love Sinigang too much that it has more than a hundred versions with variety of ingredients all over the nation. It reminded me of the hispanic tradition on preparing Noche Buena and how the Filipino has evolved their preparation due to economic status and financial capacities. From my imprecise memory of how the rich would celebrate with splendid decors and variety of buffet catering, I remembered Pastel de Lengua which I thought close to the one I ate in Cafe Ctiy 1888 SM Fairview. When I shared my memory of last gastronomic delight, they all said, "yuck" and "eww" showing disgust and laughed as expected. I needed to share something they'd all learn from and my relief was when one of the students answered, "We all need to learn all these and remember those new year beliefs and superstitions of the elders because we need to preserve our Filipino heritage." Indeed, we should remember and follow all these tradition and culture regardless how silly the superstition is so as not to kill those things that make us Filipino. The conversations continued on what their elders made them believe and followed including those Chinese-inspired beliefs of which should be eaten and not on the first day of the year. We do love the Filipino so I also kept that tradition of buying all round fruits and kept the numbers for prosperity. Happy New Year to all!