If Vergel and I live to a ripe old age in relative comfort and good health, it could very well be the effects of eating out a lot, which for an aging couple like us is turning out to be healthier and cheaper. I’m not kidding.
A recommended diet of fish and vegetables is, after all, much better and more variedly prepared in restaurants than at home. Fish and veggie dishes require timely marketing and make for an unsightly mess in both the preparation and the aftermath in a very visible kitchen of our small condominium home.
The only complicated kitchen activity we do—and do first thing in the morning—is the preparation of fresh vegetables for juicing and the tedious cleaning of the juicer afterward.
Raw fish is said to lower cholesterol, and sashimi and sushi, aside from the native kilawin and Spanish boquerones, happen to be a particular favorite of my Malabon-born and -bred husband; in fact, he prefers fresh fish to anything else.
I’ve also developed a liking for Japanese ramen in thick pork broth with miso; we have it at least once a week, with Vergel, again, going for seafood ramen.
Aside from the raw vegetables we juice, we enjoy all kinds of salads, or any vegetable done teppanyaki or Chinese-style with minimal use of cooking oil. Lately we’ve discovered Franco’s salad nicoise served exactly the way we like it. At our request, they split it into two, without ruining the presentation. Passersby would never suspect we had even halved it.
Despite our discounts, most restaurants are quite accommodating of seniors, who understandably eat less. Those who refuse us are punished with boycott, temporary or permanent, depending on how much we like their food. We remain activist consumers for healthy food, reasonable price and good service.
Recently we spotted a Choi Garden in Makati, along Pasay Road, not far from where its affiliate Eighty-Eight, now closed, had done business in Greenbelt 3. It was a good place to celebrate Vergel’s excellent blood- and heart-test results.
They scooped out a 500-gram frisky lapu-lapu from their aquarium and cooked it for us two ways. We halved, nicely split for us, a complimentary, freshly prepared mango sago; we, in fact, had been offered one each. That was one deliciously healthy lunch we couldn’t have had at home.
It’s at home where all the diet busters lie frozen—adobo, spaghetti meat sauce, tapa, ground pork guisado ready to be made into torta, chili con carne, peccadillo soup, etc., waiting for that one moment of weakness, when we’ve had it with fish and veggies. Why I continue to replenish them as consumed beats me. I guess I’ve become like mom, who stocked her freezer for the famine that never came.
Once in a great while we do throw caution to the wind for some comfort foods: sinigang na baboy served with sliced semi-ripe mangoes and bagoong on the side. There are days, although rare, when we crave our own chicken curry with mango chutney, and all the trimmings or, when we find a hambone and the right chorizo for the pochero Lola used to make, with garlicky roasted eggplant sauce or spiced tomato sauce, and cruets of olive oil and vinegar.
Rainy nights are when we are most vulnerable to home cooking. One stormy night we settled for spaghetti with meat sauce, tossed green salad, and toasted French bread with garlic butter and bits of anchovies, which we love. We had a previously opened bottle of Asti Spumante in the fridge we had to finish. I had also made a fruit salad earlier in the day with whipped cream for dessert.
After the simple dinner the room seemed very subtly revolving like those penthouse restaurants.
So I rose from the table to lie down in bed. I knew I was not the only one in trouble— Vergel’s face had turned red as a beet and he seemed falling asleep in his La-Z-Boy. I felt myself passing out even when I was already lying down, so I called out to Vergel in that panicky pitch he knew so well.
And there he was just before I went under, giving my hands and feet his special resuscitating frantic massage, which worked. The crisis passed. This hadn’t happened to me in a long while.
“It’s the ‘sulphite’ in the wine,” says my nonmedical but always sympathetic friend Malu. “There are wines that don’t have sulphite, like those from South America, where they follow regulations, and, of course, there are the good expensive ones.”
There are, indeed, some things worth the money or the risk. In the case of wine, which I love, I just never know. If we’re being extra good about our diet it’s because I have to lower my cholesterol, now double the ideal, in time for my next test in August. Meanwhile, I’m on 10-mg Crestor, taken every other day. Last week I blew my half-year senior allowance on two months supply.
On our way out of Mercury Drug, we bumped into an old friend, unusually alone, without his wife.
“She had a double bypass,” he said. Suddenly, I began to feel lucky, despite minor irritating conditions like perennially wet dry eyes and gassy acid reflux, which has turned me into a burper like mom—and to think I was so unforgiving of her—but nothing that eye drops or Tums can’t take care of. Indeed, that’s something to drink to.
Lately we’ve been finding more and more excuses to celebrate, including the seemingly little things we take for granted, like opening our eyes in the morning and knowing who and where we are, and who the heck is that other being sleeping beside us, and just being able to get up from bed without assistance, and more importantly, making it to the toilet in time.
I read a sign that spelled out a fair warning to everyone, but most especially seniors: “Live each day as though it were your last. One day you will be right.”