A Cup of Comfort

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A frustrated barista’s homemade attempts to beat the rainy midday blues. 
Actually, I had been thoroughly enjoying this cold weather and thought it’d be more enjoyable with a warm, cosy, frothy latte. Without an espresso maker though, the result was a “cappuccino” and still hit all the right spots. 

Back home I would probably be whipping up some hot tsokolate with the trusted batirol, whipped thick and extra rich in traditional Spanish Eh! fashion or creamy and frothy for the sister. 
Reminder to self: bring back a maleta full of tablea or cacao balls the next time I visit home.

PS. Quite off-tangent, but somewhat relevant.
Last week, I had a girl friend over for coffee and chitchat. I mentioned cacao, and how I missed its bittersweet flavour and making it at home. She replied, “Cacao? You mean cocoa?” 
I shrugged, “Yeah.. cacao. Yeah, like cocoa. Chocolate.”
She was still really confused. “Cacao? What is that? What a funny word.” 
It was my turn to be confused. I barely believed that she had never heard of the word cacao. 
I had to ask: “Wait, where do you think chocolate comes from?”          
My friend isn’t a ditz. Well okay, she seems to never have bothered to ponder on the origins of chocolate. There are sooo many other things to think about after all.
She also comes from a place where cacao trees do not grow and sprout pods and chocolate is in its final refined form, wrapped and ready to eat straight from Willy Wonka’s factory. So I tried my best to describe what little I know about chocolate, its plant form and how it is processed. It was rather refreshing, for someone who grew up with the tradition of making hot chocolate, paired with suman (a Filipino sticky rice snack) and mangoes on rainy days and holidays. And it really made me miss the stuff and feel a bit homesick.

Food: Good Morning Monday

Un petit-dejeuner: crusty sour dough batard with real beurre, aged cheddar, fresh cinnamon basil,
naturally preserved peach jam, black grapes, Colombian coffee via French press.

I love breakfast.

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, which might be odd because I hardly really eat much and usually have the same thing. Though sometimes I do wake up ravenous and can wolf down a quintessential Filipino big breakfast, I often start my day ‘eating like a bird’. Meaning an assortment of bread, preferably the crusty or flaky buttery sort, creamy honest to goodness butter (margarine is not butter and will never be), various fruit jams or marmalade, real fruit, good cheese (the aged and crumbly), and of course, freshly brewed beans. Hmm.

About breakfast. More than the eating, I think its the ritual and process of making and preparing that endears the most. There’s something about getting up and fixing up the first meal of the day, the aroma wafting through the house, a fresh pot of coffee brewing — all these small things just seem to signal to the world that its a another day, a clean state, a fresh start. And I like taking my time with it; picking and breaking and spreading with my hands, nibbling on bread while reading the paper, or sipping the steaming cup of coffee while watching my furry beasts start their own day. That is how I like love having my first meal.

So perhaps that is one of the main reasons my typical daily grind mornings are less pleasurable. To be able to spend each morning this way before work would have to be a luxury. Or at least an hour or two earlier for the alarm clock. I don’t like rushing, I really don’t. Neither do I like settling for something devoid of nutritional value or worse, just to appease the grumbling stomach. But many times, this is so, as I also have to get going and get to work on time like a good employee.

Recently I made the extra effort to scour the long aisles of the nearby supermarket (in lieu of a weekend market or neighbourhood baker) for all the stuff I would need to be able to eat something decent, healthy, and enjoyable even while rushing. It wasn’t easy; it required scanning labels after labels after labels and inquiring the merchandise personnel that were not quite certain what it is I was really asking. Nonetheless, I did successfully go home happy with my relatively fresh, preservatives-free groceries.

It’s another week folks, have a good one!  

Food: The Baon Brigade Redux

Almost a year ago, my cousin and I made a pact to celebrate home-cooked meals as often as we could. We both snuck out of the office, our brains frosted from wretched airconditioning, desperate for comfort and warmth. And food. Simple, honest to goodness, good food. The kind that smells good, looks as good as it smells, tastes as good as it looks. The kind that makes you close your eyes and smile after your first bite, the kind you know was made with love and you can taste it.

Well, a year has nearly gone by and though the documentation has long been abandoned, the promise to cook our own or cook the way our mothers and their mothers did lives on. One of the earlier things I had realised in this new country is that fresh food will not be an easy feat. And while I had never actually harvested my own rice or vegetables from the backyard, it was always comforting to know that all ingredients purchased from the little market at the corner also meant the day’s profit for the stall’s vendors. Also that these were harvested by farmers in our own soil, maybe some kilometers up north. Not to mention the fact that practically each and every meal I’d have at home was simmered, marinated, sauteed, grilled, and garnished by people I love. 

So of course it can be quite unsettling to constantly purchase ‘fresh produce’ such as basil, chillies, onions from the painfully cold supermarket (like Cold Storage) which packages and distributes all exported goods because none of it is grown on this land. Basically, it just doesn’t feel right. Neither does dining out each and every meal with limited options in a pricey restaurant or foodcourt or hawker centre, constantly praying what I’m eating is not full of MSG or margarine. But more often than not, hunger trumps all conditions, and resignation is the dominant flavour. Of course, I count myself lucky each time I stuff my face that I am even in a position to think and choose the quality of what I eat. But that thought in itself just leaves me shaking my head, that this is all just messed up.

So before I get carried away the way I always do, though I’d share that I banged out my first feast in my new home. I just really wanted to have something good, healthy, and clean (and not think about what I’d eat for the next few days). The recipe came from a colleague, a sweet South African girl named Simone, who whipped this up for an office party and was delighted that her dish had many fans. 

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Forgive the awful food carrier and image quality — I promised myself I’d finally get some nice plates soon. And maybe a good camera.

Mediterranean Summer Chickpea Salad 

3 small red onions, peeled
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 handful of ripe red cherry tomatoes
2 lemons
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 handfuls of soaked and cooked chickpeas (or a 410g can)
a handful of chopped fresh mint
a handful of fresh green or purple basil
2 handfuls coriander leaves, chopped
a half tsp of cumin, toasted very quickly and lightly ground

  • First, work on finely slicing the onions, crushing the garlic, and chopping the cherry tomatoes and herbs.
  • Mix them all together with the juice of 1 1/2 lemons. 
  • Mix in some virgin olive oil.
  • Heat the chickpeas in a pan, then mix with the other stuff. 
  • As you’re mixing along, season with ground pepper and cumin. 
  • Drizzle with some lemon juice and olive oil, garnish with remaining herbs.
  • Enjoy.

*Simone shared that this recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver’s and tweaked a bit. 

If you’re one of those who love food so much enough to also think so much about how its made, you might enjoy the stuff they’re saying and cooking up over at GOOD, with Nicola Twilley as food editor. 

Drink: Brewed Beans in Paper

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I took this around with me whilst crossing the Mekong River. Don’t ask.
Kanchanaburi, Thailand

I usually bring around my own cup or tumbler for those impromptu caffeine cravings (that usually come by around four to five times daily). It’s easy when a bottomless coffee pot or someone’s friendly French press is conveniently nearby and eveready. But if you’ve got itchy feet or at the very least an urban nomad that is unequipped, you may as well have sampled the portable and disposable cups that come along with your Americano/ Latte/ Cappuccino/ Barako. And inadvertently tested out their handiness, durability, insulation properties, among others. I contend with the paper ones, usually without the plastic lid, and using my own used sleeves from all those Starbucks double-shots.

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A warm welcome

Bangkok, Thailand

Food: The Baon Brigade

A scrumptious home-cooked meal made with love makes an awesome mid-day booster. And packed in a gorgeous food carrier such as the hand-painted tiffin above, how could you possibly not look forward to lunch break?

All my life I’ve always brought my own packed lunch meals (baon) to school and to work, cooked by my domesticated goddess of a mother who always made sure her kids ate well. In addition,  she saw to it that our baon always looked good; that meant a complete meal with fruit or baked goodies packed nice and neatly in a good-looking food container or lunch box, with clean matching utensils and pretty placemats and cloth napkins. Where I am from this didn’t appeal well to other school kids, which is rather odd when you think about it as majority of the student population brought their own lunch to school. Kids can be so strange sometimes. But I stray. 

So I began this week with a lunch break picnic with my favorite cousin at the nearby pseudo-park (a patch of grass, benches, foliage) to celebrate good-cooked food, family cuisines, reducing waste, and well, saving money. And that was the official launch of The Baon Brigade. And I invite you to join us – chronicle your daily healthy baon  and what’s so good about it, how good and scrumptious it is as how it looks, how you reduced your forkprint by bringing your own lunch without all the plastic and waste. Photos would be great! Just send em over at overturedaily@gmail.com, if you want your baon featured here. Regarding ours, unfortunately another camera was lost/stolen so we weren’t equipped to document this awesome event. Boooo



Oh, about tiffins. I strongly support them. I think they are wonderful and handy, while keeping your meals organized and uncluttered. Some friends of mine have been using these things for ages as well. You can get them anywhere like the kitchen department of your nearest department store, just be mindful of things like if they’re made with BPA or atleast they’re not magnetic. Just ask the merchandise personnel.

From Nkuku, the makers of that lovely one above:
The word ‘Tiffin’ comes from the British Indian word meaning ‘light lunch’. In Mumbai, the word mostly refers to packed lunches, prepared for working Indian men by their wives, or for school children by their parents. In Mumbai thousands of Tiffin boxes are delivered to their destinations by ‘Tiffin Wallahs’, using a highly complex system. It truly is a wonder to behold how the thousands of unaddressed Tiffin’s somehow reach their final destinations.

Know what you’ll have for lunch this week?