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Friday, March 18, 2005
FOOD IS SO EMBEDDEDin our lives (Filipinos)that a lot of our metaphors and idiomatic expressions are based on food. We are nakikisawsaw when we join a group of people doing something. We are uhaw sa atensyon or binubusog ng pagibig.When a deal smells fishy we call it lutong macauIf the same deals leads to questionable results, we'll call it panis. In the 1980's, we signaled dissatisfaction by making the universal "up yours" sign but we gave it a local name: ngatngatin sign.When people or events gag up on you, you're lutong-luto na.

Our ex-future president and Da King Fernando Poe Jr. made popular the favourite phrase for people who've had enough: Kapag puno na ang salop. For those of you who've never used, or much less seen a salop, it's that square box that rice vendors use to measure rice. The vendors would keep pouring rice into the salop until it's heaping with it. Then they level the heap by passing a wooden stick to the brim. The whole saying is "Kapag puno na ang salop, kailangan ng kayusin."

Then when we're angry we say naghalo na ang balat sa tinalupan Try translating that in English and you'll end up gooping for a word for tinalupan! And don't forget what the oldies would always preach to us: ang pag-aasawa ay hindi kaning mainit na iluluwa kapag napaso.I think that is one of the best and crispest lessons ever phrased about marriage.

Of course, all other cultures use food and eating to express themselves too. But Filipinos take the cake, if you know what I mean. Here's more proof. Rice is just rice to other nations. But for Filipinos, it's gotta be palay, then bigas and finally, kanin when boiled. It transforms into sinangag the next morning. Compare this to the names Americans use for rice: unhusked rice, uncooked rice, cooked rice (or steamed rice) and fried rice. How creative.

We even have a name for that sticky goo water turns into as you boil it with rice. It's called amand back in Pampanga when I obviously come from (it's the surname, stupid), we sometimes put the am into a cup and sweeten it with sugar and nice pre-dinner snack. My mother swears by the medicinal powers of am.

Speaking of Pampanga, famous for its great cooks (and also for the boastfulness of its people, so they say, which to me is baseless), I think it's the only province that has a term for this quirk: when you eat adobo, for example, and you pour its sabaw into the kanin -- what do you call that action! I asked my friends from a handful of provinces and all they came up with is the verb sinasabawan. Kapampangan have a different term for sabaw and the act of addin it to rice. We call sabaw as sabo whole the act is called manambula.

While we are at it, I find it hard to use the word "sauce" to translate sabaw You'll agree that it doesn't capture the meaning of sabaw.

What I'm trying to belabor here is that we gain a bit of insight by looking at the way people eat, and by comparing it with other cultures. Take the French, for example, who are also fond of food, They like it subtle. Their typical dinner is like a stripping act, slowly progressing from teaser to climax: hor d'oeuvres and some pre-dinner drinks (called aperitif) then follows a procession of courses so long you'd think you deserve a college degree after dinner.

In comparison, we just pile up on the table all the dishes we prepared, and let the guess help themselves! Sure, there are some families who serve dinner in courses-- but probably inheriting this tradition from the Spanish.

Because they don't have rice, the French, and Europeans in general, like their ulam less tasty. Now there's another difference. To Westerners, a meal is a meal and we consider it weird if they eat adobo by itself, without rice. To us, meal should have kanin and ulam or you're just nagpapapak. I think this is why our viands are tastier-- because, we compensate for the thinner taste when we mix an ulam with rice. This may explain why their taste is "subtle" while we like it really tasty.

What's the ultimate proof that we like eating? Eating is so important to us that we honor our heroes by naming food after them. After Ninoy Aquino's assassination, one carinderia in Quezon Avenue named itself "Goto Ninoy". And of course there's that fish called lapu-lapu. Now I did my usual research into this topic but it's still not clear whether the fish was named after the hero or vice versa. But I strongly doubt that someone would actually name their kid after a mean-looking fish. In any case, eating lapu-lapu to honor a hero sounds as far-fetched as the thought of Americans eating a nice plate of basted washington with cranberry sauce on Thansgiving . You can't beat that.

(Abstracted from PILIPINAS2.0 by Ruben Canlas Jr.)
posted by infraternam meam @ 2:02 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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