Thanks to my friend Pam's comment on one of my blogs, a flood of memories came rushing back: of giggy and pimply high school girls trying to cross a busy Greenhills intersection, of sleepovers and project deadlines, of late afternoon snacks by the UP Lagoon or Sunken Garden, of intellectual skydiving sessions with friends while marvelling at the spectacle of nature before us, of drunken nights and illicit affairs, of "illegal" trips to Tagaytay on a school night, of whispered conversations atop slides on playgrounds while marvelling at the gateway to heaven above us, of sleeping on the dewy grass in ICA sharing dreams and forging bonds, of broken hearts and lame excuses, of my first cigarette puff, of staying late in tambayans (places to hang out at university, usually organization-based) just to gossip and tease, of childhood and adolescence, innocence and initiation and everything in between.
Food is central to all these remembrances. For every season and time in my life, for every friend I made and lost, for every guy I loved and left, for all the happiness, giddiness and ecstasy I felt, for all the heartbreak and soulache I had to endure; there was a certain recipe to nourish and sustain me, a favorite junk food to share, an alcoholic beverage to wallow in, a restaurant to contain the emotions straining to explode, a street food to pig out on, a foodtrip to waste a month's allowance on.
When I was in Grade 2, I was addicted to KnickKnacks, those crunchy fish-shaped biscuits with a chocolate coating. I didn't have a big allowance then, so my best friend Anita always bought a small pack for me. I ate it every single day until I had to move to ICA in Grade 3. No more Anita, no more KnickKnacks.
From Grades 3-7 I alternated my morning and afternoon recess snacks from a slice of 3M Pizza with a tiny bologna strip on top (only 2 pesos at that time!) to a stick of pork bbq, to a cup of Icee Coke flavor (similar to Slurpee), to a small styro square of pancit canton with half a calamansi.
In high school, I was addicted to three types of food: fastfood for the price and convenience, Le Ching beef biskret rice for hungry days and squidballs from the hawker who made Mary The Queen Church his own tambayan. Every day after school my gang and I would walk to Greenhills and eat merienda (a snack) while gossiping about teachers, Xavierians and fellow students alike. Sometimes we would go to MacDonald's, most times it was Le Ching. My friend Stella loved the pork spareribs rice while I never failed to order the beef brisket. I loved the stainless container it was served in, the flavor of the beef, with the fibers sticking out from one's teeth after a meal, and the rice with sauce was to die for. Sometimes I actually finished 2 orders! This was before I became aware of boys and waistlines and waged bloody war on my bulges.
Whenever someone had a birthday, we would sing and blow a cake for our friend. The cakes were only 2 kinds: chocolate mousse, with a sprinkling of chocolate chips on top of a thick layer of whipped cream, followed by a thin layer of mousse, and ending with an even thinner layer of the best part of all, the moist choclate base; or coffee crunch cake, with the honey-gold toffee crunch garnish that everyone makes a beeline for, both from Red Ribbon. There must have been several popular home bakers then, but to a high school student Sugarhouse was the epitome of class and Red Ribbon was the place to go to for affordable cakes.
In 1st and 2nd year college, my 4pm ritual involved stepping into the UP Greenhouse to check out the shawarma stand and beef taco counter. After considerable debate, I would step out with my choice for the day, either a soft beef taco (minced beef in tomato sauce and grated cheese wrapped in a soft tortilla) or a shawarma (after all these years, I can honestly say those were the best ever, with the soft, warm bread, flavorful beef or chicken strips and the creamiest garlic sauce ever invented by an enterprising Pinoy). Straight to the parking lot (or sometimes to the Sunken Garden, lagoon, or a friend's dorm) I would go, and I'd messily eat while driving home.
During my last two years in UP, these were my addictions: isaw, squidball, KFC hot and spicy chicken with coleslaw, lemon vodka, and Sbarro. Sbarro in SM North Edsa was always an option for those with long lunch breaks, and I adored the large slices of pizza, the crumbly garlic bread, the baked ziti and spinach lasagna. Isaw and squidball dipped in spicy vinegar are best eaten with really good buddies who are down-to-earth and not maarte (choosy). They are messy, smelly and contain remnants of car fumes and summer dust. I voraciously ate stick after stick with my best orgmates in college, fellow Tsinoys who liked to hang around until 7pm to listen to the crickets, to sing out-of-tune songs and get yelled at by Mr. Anton Juan himself, to share life stories and avoid doing homework. When I began to spend more time with my college block because of all the group projects we had to submit, KFC and lemon vodka became my constant companions. At Adrian's house where we slept over and tried to beat deadlines, KFC was delivered for nearly all our meals. Lemon vodka, on the other hand, accompanied us on spontaneous and oftentimes illegal out-of-town trips to Batangas and Tagaytay. We helped out with some of Gaita Fores' catering functions then, and on one of those we were served limoncello. I must have downed more than twelve shots because even before the party ended I was slumped over a steering wheel wishing I could summon the strength to drive the car through a cement wall ahead. At that point, crashing my head and breaking it felt better than the incessant pounding and heaviness in my brain. That incident taught me to drink until tipsy, not stupidly suicidal.
After college, I became enamored with various types of alcoholic drinks because of Lokal, and at one point I was guzzling Sam's Hard Lemonade like bottled water, and experimenting with flavored and ignited lambanog shots. Lokal's adobo rice was my daily dinner, while Sushi-ya's chicken teriyaki or pork tonkatsu was lunch.
Nowadays my food addiction has gotten better, which simply means I don't stick to one kind of comfort food anymore, but I am still very much addicted... to food in general! All kinds, all types, oh food, glorious food!