When I eat or think of food I think of people too, the dishes and meals I’ve eaten with specific others. Like, I associate a former boss with mango float. One weekend afternoon, he visited us at our apartment. He hauled us off from movie watching into the kitchen and like the boss he was announced that he’d teach us how to make mango float. I was a few months fresh out of the convent and my words were, what’s that? because we didn’t even have mangoes inside, just root crops. Is why we’re making it, he said. So we did and had our fill of the panful afterward. That late afternoon snack brightened by the mellow rays of the sun which shone on us at the table remains one of my most memorable times with others.
A former colleague, I associate him with coffee. Whenever he was around at the office and if he was going to make a cup for himself he’d also offer to make one for me. Timplaan ka met, ading ko? (Shall I also make one for you, little sister?) he’d say. My heart swelled in appreciation at the sweet and generous gesture. And he made the perfect cuppa, which was why I don’t refuse him; which is also why I remember him every time I have coffee.
Also another colleague, I associate him with inabraw (fish sauce-based vegetable soup, a native dish of Ilocanos). In the field, many of us operations staff rented our own places in town and when occasions such as meetings required our presence at the office we ate dinner together. The men cooked. This particular colleague was their chef and as I said he cooked up the most authentic inabraw. Sometimes the men brought in live native chicken from the field and they’d put that in. We’d have tinapa (smoked fish) alongside the soup dish and that’s it, dinner. And we were happy.
Another colleague, I associate him with food binges. When I’m in the Metro and he’s also there, we meet up and go to the seafood markets where you point at pans of live catch and they cook the dish, fresh from. There’s a dizzying array and we point to our stomachs’ content. When I put my mind to the task, I can take in tons and maybe including the table which was the case between us– I’m the one finishing up everything we ordered. We’d have a couple of drinks in between to wash it all down, and afterward we’d waddle off like ducks.
I need a she in here– this one’s a manager at HQ at my former employer’s where it was tradition for the head of office (and some senior staff) to celebrate their birthdays at the office. On these occasions, they get her to cater which was always timed at lunch. My favorite was the fried calamari and the sauces that went with it. I ate nothing but. I still have allergic break outs from seafood but I discovered a remedy– a slash of white vinegar over the food and a cup or two of very sweet brewed coffee afterward– these neutralize whatever’s in the food that’s making me itch; though there have been instances these didn’t work in which case I ended up awfully disfigured and forced to medicate. But I’d be at the calamari again the next time.
I could go on, but I guess my point quoting Franz Kafka is