Ode to carenderia food

Work takes me to different places in the Philippines. One of these places is Baras, Rizal. My office there has a carenderia beside it; it’s very convenient. Recently I often ended up eating there despite initial hesitations pertaining to sanitation and humidity.

Now I’m liking the food there. (Well, first of all, the store keepers are very hospitable. Just point out to them what you want, and they’ll magically zap into existence a rustic-but-clean-enough dining set on one of the better-looking tables. I’m really impressed.) So, yeah, I’m liking the food there now. Maybe because the cook (cooks?) really prepare them to be savory. That’s how we Filipinos want our food. If you want salty, there’s the range from menudo to afritada to caldereta to adobo. If you want sour, there’s sinigang. Bitter, there’s papaitan. Sweet, there’s halo-halo. Exotic, there’s labong and langka (bamboo shoots and jackfruit). That carenderia in Baras offers all, except the halo-halo.

Why am I saying all this? Maybe I’m just marveling at the food and the people who cooked them. And that thing about “food traditions” — they’re most evident in carenderias, which showcase various dishes, recipes of which were handed down from one generation to the next. No cookbooks!

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