Saturday, May 05, 2007

What I missed, what I would miss

Going through food blogs, or blogs in general, one always comes across posts that elicit a certain nostalgia from the writer, or the commenters that have likewise read the essay. On many a Marketman post, comments from overseas based Filipinos mention that the food or fruit or vegetable in question is impossible to find, or they'd mention finding a facsimile of it. And with a future trip looming for another blogger, she recently listed the places she'd miss the most while away.

When I left to go to college, I was not as homesick for Manila as others, probably because I believed I'd be back, although there was no guarantee of that. And it was 5 years before I did return. In that time, I did miss many a dish, or the fruit I couldn't find overseas. But I wonder what I'd miss now, older, not necessarily wiser, but with more food experiences. And what do I miss from other places that were my temporary homes?

What I remember missing the most included:
- mangos; this probably is on most Pinoy lists. And having tried to enjoy other mangoes elsewhere, there's no mango like our mangoes.
- boiled peanuts. I remember getting weird reactions when bringing this up. I couldn't get boiled peanuts in LA. Luckily when I moved to China, they were a lot easier to find. "Mani", especially the boiled form, was a regular snack and bonding ritual with my dad and me. He'd come home from his mahjong games, usually with a bag of boiled peanuts. Either the same night (if I was awake watching tv) or the next day, we'd shell the peanuts, read the newspapers or just contemplate a quiet moment together. Peanuts make me think of my father.
- PopCola/Sarsi. Another weird, eyebrow raising reaction. I once came across 6 bottles of Sarsi at an Asian store in LA; bought them all, and hoarded them for moments when I wanted a taste of home.
- Calamansi; see mango above, but perhaps even more so, since soy sauce and lemon don't have the same bite as toyo+calamansi.

Other things I also missed included ube ice cream and ube jam, pastillas de leche (I got a German friend hooked onto pastillas, and had to send a box over one year), and sineguelas. The first dish I made sure to have when I came home was kare-kare with bagoong. Of course our longtime housekeeper had to make it since I wouldn't have it any other way but hers. Now that she's moved on, I also miss her adobong pusit, but I can find that in many places these days, with some general persistence. In those days, it wasn't a craving as I did with the other things mentioned above.

Away from the US, China/HK, several food things I miss include: good Persian food, the soft tacos in Los Angeles (our tex-mex places come up short), amazingly cheap and tasty chinese dumplings (especially from Beijing), walking at 3 am around HK for a steaming bowl of shrimp dumplings and cheap beer. And very good Indian/Sri Lankan food. Xinjiang lamian, made with mutton and homemade stretched noodles. Buying kumquats, lychees, and the tart strawberry like haw berries during season. I miss cherries and strawberries in the US (although a friend in LA told me that the all you can pick strawberry buckets in Oxnard are now $8.00 a bucket! They used to be $2.00 when I was there!). Going to jewish delis, and in-n-out burger drivethroughs after a long day of school, then a long day at work. And while not a food item, I really miss road trips. In my old job, I'd tell all my students to make sure to use their time wisely but never pass up a chance to get into a car and drive and drive and get lost along the way. You'll surely find wonderful experiences to treasure by leaving things to chance.

Off to make new memories...


ChichaJo said...

What a great post Mila! :) Mangoes would be on the top of my list too! Like you though, when I was away, I guess I must have been thinking that I would be back, because I never got "homesick" for any food. There was just so much new food to try! :)

"...get into a car and drive and drive and get lost along the way. You'll surely find wonderful experiences to treasure by leaving things to chance" I totally agree! The best part of my honeymoon was our road trip :) Even the getting lost parts...

wysgal said...

Instant Noodles! Quite nutritionally deficient ... but there's nothing like Lucky Me Instant Noodles! =)

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