Last week I wrote about Manam’s watermelon sinigang, and tried to crowdsource any evidence of the dish that predated Manam, since it’s such a simple combination, and sinigang such a versatile recipe that it has endless variations of stuff put in a broth, soured in endless ways.
Several readers pointed out that Margarita Fores’ Café Bola had served a version of watermelon sinigang during its all-too-brief run. Interestingly, the internet throws up a version that uses real corned beef brisket, and claims it’s a dish from Pampanga province.
This is an interesting assertion because I can’t find this in canonical texts of Pampangueño cuisine. Also, corned beef sinigang is generally attributed to Sentro 1771.
On the side of Manam, upon closer reading, I note that it doesn’t claim to have invented it. The recipe says it is “an original family recipe,” which doesn’t really say whose family—it could be Margarita Fores’.
So we will give them the benefit of the doubt, although the provenance of watermelon sinigang remains a mystery.
Like the simultaneous appearance of calculus with both Newton and Leibniz, it could have been spontaneously invented by both parties.
While discussing the wonders of corned beef and watermelon sinigang, I’m actually doubled up with a hot-water bottle nursing a tender stomach that hasn’t had anything but a few pieces of toast the whole day. Years of eating Peking duck and globs of creamy bone marrow have proved to be an assault to my digestive system to the point that just a bit of unsanitary food is bound to send me running for cover—a far cry from the days when I would join truck drivers in midnight bulalo feasts at extremely dubious joints where you’d have to pick a few dead flies out of the broth.
Just as I was about to recover, I attended a birthday dinner buffet at Spectrum (just to be clear, the food there had nothing to do with my condition, I was already ailing beforehand) and that seemed to be the final straw as far as my stomach went.
The reason I bring this up is that, in the range of things that can go wrong with a person, dysentery is one of the most debilitating. I have ploughed through even with the worst of migraines (four Advils and strong coffee usually get me through the day), and with coughs and colds I just bundle up and try to get as much as possible done.
But a bum stomach is not just incompatible with my job as a food reviewer, but is for me the equivalent of a low-level kernel panic that requires a total system shutdown.
So, in this sense, I can understand how world leaders who came to the Asean Summit would not want to be waylaid by dubious food from unfamiliar kitchens. I’m assuming that attending a summit is a fairly stressful affair. And while I love, say, Nepalese cuisine, when I’ve had a bad day at work and have just commuted through several hours’ worth of traffic, I want nothing more than a good, familiar adobo of chicken and pork and some stir-fried patola.
People have been making much of American President Donald Trump’s insistence on eating nothing but well-done steak and ketchup (shudder) not just in the White House, but wherever he goes. And I completely get it—it’s part of hating Trump. If you hate someone as much as liberal Americans despise Trump, they will seize on anything they can find to prove that he is the spawn of the devil, going so far as to say his indifference to and inability to try foreign cuisines is proof that he has a closed mind and is unwilling to try new things and new ideas, such as different foreign policy, or believing in climate change.
It’s an open secret that our own former President Aquino (the recent one) also liked his steak, Coke and chicharon, though he was more diplomatic about trying local food when abroad.
But because I thought that, on the whole, he was a decent president (an estimation that grows fonder every day under the new administration), I put it down to charming eccentricity more than anything else.
Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau pulled off a diplomatic coup with the charm offensive of visiting a Jollibee branch in Tondo, where he ate, apparently, one piece of Chickenjoy. I don’t really know how you can stop at one, but that’s another story for another day.
And it’s a good way to the Filipinos’ heart: You can give $4 million or $40 billion in foreign aid and they won’t care much about the difference, but if you can appreciate the crackling goodness of a Jollibee Chickenjoy, you’re our kind of guy.
By the time you read this, the summit will be over. A world summit isn’t gladiatorial—the point is in fact the opposite, to find compromises and solutions that are best resolved in person—but it doesn’t mean there aren’t winners and losers.
Much of the talking will be done over dinners and banquets. While China and the US will be feasting over the current world order, the Philippines will mostly be eating humble pie. —CONTRIBUTED