06 October 2009

Storm Food

It's been nearly a couple of weeks since Typhoon Ondoy laid waste to a significant part of the city and several provinces. Donations in various forms are still arriving non-stop. Organizations like the and Philippine National Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity are working tirelessly to bring relief to those who need it the most. And it is heartening to note that common citizens who usually don't take the time to hand even a small coin to a beggar-child have gone the extra mile by organizing prayer brigades and localized relief operations. It's really nice to know that people still care.

Despite the tempest, it should also be noted that Filipinos never seem to lose their sense of community or their sense of humor. This resilience is also evident in the fact that there are actually dishes specifically served whenever major-league storms crash into the islands.

Both savory and sweet rice porridge make an appearance on local dinner tables when the winds begin to howl. Topping the list is the quintessential arroz caldo which involves cooking malagkit [glutinous rice] in chicken broth with onions, garlic, ginger, a whole jointed chicken, and kasubha [native saffron] to give it a bit of color. In other parts of the country, goto (malagkit cooked in pork broth with slivers of beef tripe and chives) is the porridge of choice, made even more savory by additions of patis, kalamansi juice, and toasted garlic. Those fond of sweets usually enjoy champorrado, the local take on the Mexican bebida caliente - only this time it's made with rice, not corn, and there are no spices involved. Guinataang mais, a gloriously sticky porridge made with malagkit, white corn, and coconut milk is also a favorite.

For Filipinos in urban areas, however, opening cans of either meat or fish are the sure-fire way to keep bellies filled when the temperature drops along with torrential rain. Canned sardines in tomato sauce are sauteed with onions and garlic to make sardinas guisado which goes down a treat with cold rice. Corned beef is sauteed with onions, garlic, and potatoes till soupy; Vienna sausages are popped into the frying pan till the thin skins burst and become crunchy.

Then, thanks to care packages from relatives in the United States, there's Spam cooked in a variety of ways. Spam sliced thin and fried to a crisp is a treat in my family and it usually gets tucked into sandwiches with plain omelets and cucumber mayonnaise. That is, of course, unless my mother beats us to the table and has the lot with rice.

In the Meantime... If you want to help out those ravaged by the onslaught of both Ondoy and Pepeng, coordinate with your local government units, print out and post these Flex Sheets for those evacuees who are seeking employment. Remember: a little help goes a long way.

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