Lunch with the chickens

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It’s crazy that this post’s photo folder has been dormant for over three months now. Fresh, this is not, but I’d like to believe memories, although fleeting, easily taken for granted, easily preserved but eventually forgotten – can still be lived one way or the other. Today is one of those days.

Dad and I drove a few miles, to the next ‘baranggay’, to visit his little plot of land which he made into a makeshift ‘farm’. It’s not that big; its neighbors are houses, so technically it was located in a little ‘subdivision’. But it made sense. We had distant relatives nearby that he tapped to take care of it when he can’t.
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My dad always said that it was ‘in his blood’ to take care of farm animals – in his case, poultry, because his dad (my grandfather) used to take care of animals as well in their hometown of Bilar, in Bohol. If you’re wondering, I can’t speak Bisaya to save my life.
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He doesn’t like to sell the chickens or the eggs, much to my mom’s chagrin. He relishes at the feeling of simply tending to and propagating the flock. And true enough, what started with a few pairs of roosters and hens, exponentially grew into a brood of 30 or so, with chicks sprouting almost every month.
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He also decided at it would also be great to have our lunch there, so we bought all the basic things for adobo: pork, a sachet of soy sauce and vinegar, garlic, onions, pepper and bay leaf.
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“Di na natin kailangan ng plato” (We don’t need plates), was his response when I asked if we’d bring plates. I was confused. Did he keep a secret stash of eating utensils among the nests and feeds? No. Then he elaborated that we would be eating it like a ‘boodle fight‘, in short, a table and a banana leaf are all we need.

I didn’t say a thing, though I was hiding the inner frustration and hesitation at the thought of doing something that wasn’t me at all. Don’t judge – I just prefer to eat my food out of a plate or bowl. With a spoon and fork.
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Initially the conditions weren’t really my cup of tea when it came to prepping everything. There was a rickety plastic table, and that was it. It was a good thing I brought a chopping board and a knife. Just no plates.

Dad knew what he was doing, of course. “Ganito kami sa probinsya, simple lang ang buhay” (This is how we do it in the province – simple living). Well, looking back, I did get the idea.

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This is what simple living entails: no electricity, no fancy appliances, no fancy ingredients. Just the basics, and the elements – a pot and a makeshift stove using burning wood.  It’s incredibly uncomplicated and liberating, in a way. As long as there’s rice, we’re good. That’s what my dad believes in, anyway. Like the way adobo is more of a way of cooking than it is a dish, this is a fragment of a way of life.

Just so you know, banana leaves have to be “cleaned” over a flame to remove whatever it is that needs to die.
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And we wash our hands.
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Then we dig in. With our hands. No pretensions. It was one of the best lunches I’ve had in a really long time. I mean it. Despite my penchant for different adobo variants, this one was a winner. Incredible.
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I don’t eat with my bare hands (‘kamayan’; ‘kamay’ – ‘hand’, hence ‘by hand or using you hands’) a lot, despite this practice forcefully flowing through the veins of Filipino culture.

But call it luck (or whatever you want), but every single time I do get to eat with my hands, the food is always spectacular in its own way – whether it’s with the family eating freshly grilled fish and pork at the beach, or at Mang Inasal, where their chicken seriously tastes better when eaten by hand.
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This adobo was no exception. Salty, sour nuggets of pork perfectly cooked until fork tender, tempered with the taste of fluffy, steaming rice. Finished off with a bottle of ice cold (say that  seductively sloooow) coke.
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My dad and I share an imperfect, sometimes awkward, complicated relationship. But time just froze in that simple, uncomplicated pocket of a moment. And I saw a glimpse of my dad that I don’t get to see often.

We drove home a little after lunch with bellies full. And like I said, it’s been three months. Right now dad’s in Manila studying, he’ll be gone for a few months and that was the first and only time we managed to do that.  But despite all of that, there’s always the excitement of doing it all over again soon.

Fingers crossed.

15 thoughts on “Lunch with the chickens

  1. I grew up eating adobo having a Filipino/Chamorro mother, but have never seen a permutation turn out quite like this! Do you have a vague set of directions for this version which is much drier than the type I’m used to? The narative has made me nostalgic… and the meal looks sublimely delicious.

    • Hey matt! Well, adobo always begins with meat plus the cooking liquid – soy sauce, vinegar, sometimes fish sauce. The adobo can always be made drier by just allowing the liquid to dry, that is, by letting it boil, then lowering the heat to medium and leave it at that. I personally like my adobo dry, so that’s what I usually do. The end result are melt-in-your-mouth meat pieces that have begun to fry in the rendered fat. But the taste is still pretty much adobo all the way.😀 The process usually take an hour to an hour and a half😀

  2. Pingback: Guest Post: Golden Mushrooms with Broccoli and Dried Shrimps | The Hungry Giant

  3. you know what… reading this post reminded me of that novel i read some years ago… Like Water for Chocolate.🙂 it’s telling the character’s story with all that fluffy thoughts while sharing some nice recipes too… if you haven’t read it yet, check mo, you’ll like it….🙂 parang ganito ang mood nung book.🙂

  4. ayyy! perfect idea sa susunod na lakwatsa namin…. boodle-fight type… last time kasi nung merloquet kanya kanya pa rin although sa dahon nga ng saging hehehehe🙂 parang masayang masaya!

  5. marami rin akong manok nung elementary ako. gusto ko lang sila i-keep as pets pero sa tingin ng lola ko, ulam na sila. haha. =))

    mas masarap din talaga kumain ng kamay-kamay pero i think it’s best talaga for the beach. :>

    • i grew up with a backyard chicken coop tended by my grandpa, so I kind of get it. haha! And yeah, I dont think trips to the beach would be complete without eating grilled food with your hands.😀

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