Our pre-printed grocery list is a nutritionist’s dream. Seemingly patterned after the Food Pyramid, it includes all sorts of nutritious stuff such as whole grain bread, fresh fruits, vegetables, etc. Nowhere in the list would you find sweets, chocolates, junk food or ready-to-eat preservative-laden canned goods.
When we go shopping, we do our best to keep our purchases within what’s on The List. But at some point between the supermarket entrance and the checkout counter, lo and behold, certain unlisted things find their way into the cart — processed food items that we ought to stop eating altogether because they are filled with enough preservatives to keep us alive (albeit shrunken and crippled) for another century. Items every Filipino is familiar with, they are ingrained in our collective ‘taste memory’ that we simply cannot or will not give them up.
Here they are in no particular order. To those who will suddenly experience a craving for any of these so intense they won’t be able to sleep, believe me, I understand. 🙂
Oh, Chippy. You had me at hello. Or should I say at recess. When I was a runt in elementary school, I had a daily snack allowance of 35 centavos (15 centavos short of being considered a rich kid). It could buy me a small pack of Chippy and a bottle of Coke. Salty, crunchy Chippy became my playground sustenance. How I savored every chip, eating slowly to make the little bag last longer. Almost always, as the school bell signaled the end of recess, there would still be some chips left in the bag. A practical (ok, gluttony) kid, I would then dump the leftover chips into the pocket of my school uniform and dutifully return to the classroom. Then when the teacher wasn’t looking, I would dip in, take some of those golden chips and pop them in my mouth.
Crumbs? No problem. I had a way to get at them too. Let’s just say that as a child I had no qualms about licking my fingers to make stuff stick to them. (Heehee.)
I rarely drink Coke now but classic Chippy remains my principal source of sodium.
2. Purefoods Corned Beef
In my early 20s, I tried living alone. That little experiment didn’t work out well but I’ve kept one habit from those days: my kitchen shelf is never without a can or two of Purefoods corned beef. I heat it straight from the can (no sauteed onions or tomatoes the way some people like it) until it is almost dried out and eat it with plain or garlic fried rice.
Just like Chippy, PF corned beef has just the right amount of saltiness to it. It used to be the only ‘local’ corned beef that looked like real beef (sorry, I don’t know how to express that any other way). Last year, Argentina Corned Beef came out with a Gold Label which somehow approximates the taste of Purefoods Corned Beef. But old habits die hard and its usually Purefoods that ends up in my basket at the supermarket.
3. Buko Sherbet and Coffee Crumble Ice Cream (both by Arce Dairy)
Light, ultra-refreshing and loaded with buko (young coconut) bits, Arce’s Buko Sherbet can make a 40 degree heat wave bearable. This is what I do when I crave it (which is often): I open the freezer, take out a pint, crack it open, scoop out and eat a spoonful. Then I return the can to the freezer and walk away. Such is my self-control.
Then I walk back to the freezer, place the can on the kitchen counter…scoop, scoop … and rinse it out.
While Buko Sherbet is my regular stand-by, Coffee Crumble is my premium treat. It’s so rich (and I’m not) that I can only have half a pint in one sitting. And indeed I sit; I don’t watch TV, don’t read, don’t even talk. It’s just me and my ice cream, with its just-on-this-side-of-perfect bittersweet taste and lots of nuts.
4. Purefoods Spaghetti Meat Sauce
This has unfortunately become harder and harder to find in grocery shelves (has it been discontinued?). My nieces and nephews swear that spaghetti made with this sauce tastes even better than The Spaghetti By Which All Other Spaghetti Must Be Measured — the one from the fastfood chain Jollibee. Visiting young relatives abroad? Bring them a can or two of this as pasalubong. Then prepare some pasta and watch your Cool Aunt Quotient soar.
Quick & simple how-to: Saute’ some minced garlic and 150-200 grams ground pork (or beef) in a little oil, dump in the sauce, stir and pour everything over cooked spaghetti.
5. Eden Cheese
Was that a derisive snort I just heard?
I know, I know. Eden Cheese is to Parmiggiano-Reggiano the way daytime soaps are to … umm… The Godfather. Yes, it is cheap, loaded with unpronounceable preservatives and no doubt makes cheese connoisseurs turn away in disgust. But it is also tasty, good in cheese sticks, great palaman for hot pan de sal and perfect grated over spaghetti (see above). When I’m bored and get hungry watching Nigella cook on TV and it’s close to dinnertime, I slice me up some Eden Cheese and nibble at it like a mouse. Oh yes.
Those food snobs don’t know what they’re missing.
So, did I omit any of your own favorites?