Soul Food Midnights

As I am still in a dark slump, the details I’ll probably write here at some point, but not just now, my thoughts turn to one of those rituals I seem to have unwittingly forsaken for convenience – preparation and cooking meals – even for just one – me.

But I was craving for something not as fancy as an entrée on a restaurant menu, nor some costly exotic dish, though the thought of hunting for some tasty morsels of  slow cooked Bulalo sends shivers to my salivary glands, I contented myself with a pack of chicken noodle soup, some onions, and garlic. Some finely ground imitation white pepper might have been great , but alas, here in Quezon city, the only establishments open at midnight are beer joints with girls hanging out just outside, a few Tapsilog ,  Internet cafes and a Balut vendor that’s always asleep every time I pass by.

There is a small Lugawan along Seminary Road, but I don’t dare ask if it was good. Also, just to be on the safe side, the place is almost always filled with gay bystanders. Not that it matters, but they I don’t feel the need to squeeze myself among the throng of loud guffaws and choking face powder smell just to see what the lugaw looks like.

Lugaw , if you must know, is not as plain nor as simple. I have come to know lugaw at Inang Luning’s . And boy, the mere mention of it brings me home: white, well cooked lugaw, with small chunks of pork, pork fat, just a hint of ginger, black pepper and maybe just a drop of patis, for good measure. The lugaw of my youth.

Of course there is Arroz caldo, yellow from the Asubha fronds, chicken meat, my Ina’s own recipe includes potatoes, but basically the same methods of cooking. But then Goto came along, which is also, lugaw with beef meat, or innards, stronger tasting and more flavorful, and the ginger seem to have increased in portions, but  also another form of delight.

So I settled for something doable.

Chicken Noodle Soup, despite what it says on the package, should be cooked with love. I have learned to add some veggies, or what’s available in my pantry, in this case it was lotsa onions and garlic. Dissolved the contents into water, stirring so that everything that needs to be dissolved get it’s way, done right, while setting the fire on low. Sliced the onions and garlic and added them to the pot, still constantly stirring so as not to leave any lumps and clumps. I love soup, specially at night, when I work on something. And I may have measured the water too much so a pinch or two of rock salt takes care of that.  I Put on Greg Howe‘s Introspection CD to further enhance this almost ceremonial like preparation.

Does it bother you to eat on styrofoam plates and bowls, plastic spoon and forks? it bothers me. A lot. I have this distaste for convenient food packaging stuff, makes food look, feel and taste less.  That’s why even if it was just sardines straight from a can, or something I bought at a canteen, I would want to eat with proper utensils and heavy ceramic plates, and bowls. makes up for the utter blandness of store-bought meals.

Frugal though it may seem, soup’s ready and I turn off the stove, letting the pot cool a bit, while cleaning up the sink, guitar music fills the room, and I can’t help but feel a bit more languid and calm. And in about 5 more minutes I have my bowl in front of my workstation, Desiderata played and the food and music warmed me up, and soothed me down.

Life’s simple pleasures.

A moment of solace from the day’s instabilities, the daily grind, the complications of interacting with people, the loneliness, frustrations, the gripes – all seem to have some vestige of getting better – as I savor the broth, chew on the noodles, listen to the music and settle down.

The night is darkest just before the dawn, and even with the rain clouds hovering, the sun is sure to come up in a little while.

Life is good.

Dirty Laundry

I’m back to washing my own clothes again. I don’t know why I got the idea that paying someone to do my laundry is going to give me more time to do other things. Sure, some people think it’s more convenient to just go to a laundry shop and bring that bulk of dirty clothes and weigh ’em up and pay for the services. Sounds convenient, I know. But along the lines, I realized I won’t include my underwear in that lot. No sir, I will not let other people see the skid marks and stains that may or may not be present , but you can never tell. There are times I am such a slob I may have worn the same pair of briefs a couple of times. You aware of the Side A and Side B mythos? Ask a college student from Recto and you’ll get an idea.

So yesterday I woke up and just  looked at the pile of tees, denim shorts, jeans and socks on my one laundry basket and asked myself, how did I let this molehill get so big, the clothes are spilling and the basket is bulging. After much thought, and two mugs off coffee, and after checking if the water will be available for the rest of the day (I am renting a matchbox of an apartment on the third floor, no water pumps, you get the idea, and yes it is Quezon City)  I began with the whites.

Always start your washing with the whites.

The entire procedure is a combination of science and tradition, handed down from generation to generation. My mother, bless her soul, nearly fainted the first time she saw me attempting to wash my own clothes back in high school. Not of shock, but out of sheer, ecstatic laughter at what I was doing wrong then. You must understand, my mother was a gentle soul, but when it comes to household chores, no one comes close to being a stickler for details. And so I learned the intimacies, the methods, soaking really dirty clothes overnight, using your hands instead of a brush, arranging some on a flat surface for the sun to do its work on tough stains. Continue reading