Friday, February 10, 2006

Why I Must Be in France

A scene from L'Express Bar. (Spot me, hiding behind the roses.)

They don't know their rice. They boil it in a pot full of water, as if it were spaghetti, and even then they don't know to make it al dente. The first time Jeanette saw me do it, adding water just until the second line of my middle finger resting nail-first on the bed of white grains, she seemed unconvinced. Some time later, with the water absorbed and evaporated, I put the heat down low to get that nice, steamed puffiness. Jeanette couldn't stand it. In that way mothers-in-law have of assuming that, yes, they can, she marched to the stove and turned off the fire. Excuse me, I interrupted, but when you look at my face do you see anything there? Yes, you got it, I told her. I'm Filipina, and I know my rice. So I lit another match.

It's not all about beer. In college at the University of the Philippines, it was San Miguel Pale Pilsen at Gulod, near Krus na Ligas. After graduation, in the bars of Ortigas and Makati, the order remained basically the same. San Miguel Beer, this time Light. These days, I go either to Perroquet or L'Express, two bars on the village square. After having at different times imbibed moresque (pastis with almond syrup), panache (beer with ginger ale), Martini (red, white, and rose), whiskey (once with Coke and another time with fizzy water), and all kinds of wine, I have finally decided that my aperitif of choice is kir, white wine with blackberry syrup. Still, old habits die hard. When we walk over to Tac-Tac, a few cobblestoned streets away, I often return to my roots. Marco, the owner, doesn't make it easy. He gives me the drinks list, and demands that I choose from his stock of fifty beers.

They distrust water. You go visiting and you're shown Frech hospitality with one of the first sentences uttered: Do you want something to drink? Une verre d'eau, you answer. A sound like your hosts are uncomfortable, and then you're told, a bottle of rose wine is chilling in the fridge. You say, I'm sure it's very nice, but no, thank you. Just water, really. That sound again. Pretty soon, you have a complete list of everything in the alcohol cabinet. They're even willing to make you try some homemade aperitifs, although the recipe will have to remain a closely guarded secret. When they do finally bring a glass of H20, before the first sip they have to stop you. Wouldn't you really rather have some wine instead?

They have only one word for rice, and it's riz. I read that a people's language reveals what they consider important. So back in the Philippines we don't just call it kanin. It starts as palay, and when pounded becomes bigas. Cooked, it's sinaing; the overcooked part, tutong. The day after, leftovers are sautéed to become sinangag. Over here in France, there's ivre, enivré, soûl, bourré, bu, cuit, cuité, beurré, bituré, and aviné. Along with some thirty other words, all mean the same thing: drunk.


houseonthebeach said...

ati, i was having coffee with tuesday at atc this afternoon. when we realized how small this world really is, we nearly fell off our seats. tuesday is about two degrees to guess who--you! let's arrange when to chat and i'll fill you in!

mwah miss ya!

Anonymous said...

Also --- another rice term: bahaw ("Kaning lamig, huwag mong itapon...")

Try Monaco! ;-)

Bon weekend!


apol said...

and when the rice is beyond hope, KALA, it becomes KANING BABOY! Monaco is expensive, nyar, and I can't stand all the over-tanned blonde skeletons walking. ATI, does that mean we dated the same man? ganyan yang degrees of separation, right? will be away from 13-18feb. Let's chat the week after. Giant kisses!

tuesday said...

hi apol, this is tuesday. dont worry we didnt date the same man, but its more uncanny than that. ill let tars explain when you guys chat!

A said...

Mamu, kumain ako ng yang chow fried rice kanina, at naalala kita. :)

Makis said...

Hi apol! Really liked this post! My french fry is so proud of the way we cook rice & he always shares it with our guests - cooking rice 101 :) Will link you up on my blog, hope it's ok!

apol said...

yang chow!!! ABI, puwede ba i-fedex mo sa akin isang cup? MAKIS, link me up up, sure. TUESDAY, now i am really curious... will hunt down tars on YM now.