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Food philia: Comforting, disturbing terms

BY OSCAR PICAZO

FILIPINOS love eating, more than any other pleasure.  If they have food, they eat five times a day: breakfast, merienda (snack), lunch, merienda, and supper (and sometimes merienda again before going to bed). They share their food to anyone within sight as it is considered rude to be eating while your neighbor is not, and eating should always be a social event.
But food is becoming scarce, expensive, overprocessed, and political.  Some have more than enough, and others don’t have enough.  An the food items we used to enjoy are no longer the same; sometimes we only have our fading recollections of them.  Here are some food terms that should make you pause: some real, some invented; some comforting, others disturbing.
Beef – n., the meat of ruminant (grass-eating) cows which, before they are butchered, are kept too long in corn-feeding lots that they turn into grain eaters, like the people who would later eat them. (What if people became ruminants instead, and I don’t mean grazing on wheatgrass from a glass.…)
Botcha – n., double-dead meat sold by unscrupulous sellers as single-dead meat, i.e., an animal that died from a natural cause which is then butchered to be sold as if it died of murder.
Carbo footprint – n., the record of starch and flour from bread, noodles, pasta, rice and cakes left in the body and known in the aggregate as avoirdupois.  Excess weight reflects the environmental overuse and sometimes destruction of farms to produce human carbo requirements.  In this light, obesity can be seen as a form of ecoterrorism.
Decaf – n., coffee so stripped of its essential element that it may well be a choco drink.
Foodie – n., a food fancier/adventurer, eater of locusts, ants, earthworms, fungi, croc’s meat, and other available fare.  A foodie bound for Nairobi, Kenya will have a feast at The Carnivore, a restaurant that specializes in game meat, where the foodie will be eating a zoo.
Nonfood consumption – n., the eating of ‘non’: you add nonsugar sweetener and nondairy creamer to your breakfast coffee; spread nonfat butter on your toast; eat a nonmeat protein for lunch with a zero cola; and drink a nonalcoholic beer for happy hour. Are the chemicals you ingested considered food, considering they are ‘non’?
Sardi’s sardines – n., an elevated way of cooking the lowly can of sardines, the usual source of protein for poor Filipinos.  It involves sautéing a mixture of garlic, onions, and tomatoes, and then adding the mashed sardines and water, all the better so it can extend to the rest of the often-large Filipino household.
Sisig – n., tasty and crunchy Pampanga appetizer concocted by finely chopping fried pork ears and cheeks and spicing up the mixture with onions, garlic, pepper, salt and vinegar.  It is particularly appropriate for friends having beer during happy hour as it aurally hints of approval (si), depth (sisid), with-it smartness (siga), onomatopoeic sizzle (sss), and desire for the next round of serving (sig).
Sorbetes – n., a Filipinized ice cream that makes use of highly unusual ingredients such as ube (yam), durian, mango, or cheese; memento of one’s youth when calling it ‘dirty ice cream’ made it even yummier.
Tapsi tervi – n., a Filipino-Japanese breakfast consisting of tapa (air-dried meat that is fried), sinangag (fried rice), teriyaki, and vinegar (for the tapa).
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Author’s Note – I thank my friend and colleague Marichi de Sagun who coined the term “Daffynitions” to describe the kind of words, phrases and concepts I invent, define, and deconstruct.
Editor’s Note – The author is a health economist who has lived in four countries (the Philippines, the U.S., Kenya, and South Africa) and has worked in 23, mostly in Asia and Africa. He has retired from the World Bank and is now based in Quezon City, doing occasional consulting assignments with development agencies, foundations, and nongovernmental organizations. He finished economics (magna cum laude) from the University of Santo Tomas, M.A. economics (and Ph.D., minus dissertation) from the University of the Philippines, and was a Hubert Humphrey Fellow in health financing at the Johns Hopkins University. He was the literary editor and then editor-in-chief of “The Varsitarian,” the student organ of U.S.T. He was a poetry prizewinner of Focus Magazine in 1980 and is now trying to resume creative writing.  This is his first published nontechnical article in 30 years.

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