Too rich

I can trace part of my increased expenses to the fact that my lunch patterns have changed again.

In the few times I am at the office, I end up eating lunch by myself. That means I have the freedom, somewhat, to choose what to eat and when to eat. Are there vegetables? Are you in the mood for Korean? Are you willing to walk to the mall in this intense heat? Do you really have a choice?

In my previous job that only was a problem when I'm absolutely certain I'm alone. Otherwise, I eat with the other managers - I'm not one, by the way - and we always eat at this clump of carinderias right behind our building. We leave earlier to avoid the employees of the call center above us, the sheer size (numbers-wise) of which almost always results in overwhelmed elevators.

Eating at carinderias was never beneath me. They're just too far from me now, and the fact that I tend to have lunch after everybody else has means they're likely to have run out of food by the time I get there. It's a shame. The food is cheap, of course, but more importantly, they're the stuff you don't easily find in malls. For under a hundred bucks - maybe not anymore; thank you, record inflation - I can have a cup and a half of rice, a meat viand, a vegetable viand, and a bottle of Mountain Dew.

One of my favorite combos are adobong isaw and kilawing puso ng saging sa gata. Okay. Sorry. English, right. The latter is a vegetable dish: banana hearts (they're not really hearts, but do you call them cores?) cooked in vinegar and coconut milk. It's got both a nice zing and a nice bite, and it can actually stand on its own. The former is a meat dish, although some supposedly advanced Westerners might be squeamish: chopped-up pork intestines boiled in vinegar and soy sauce and pepper and garlic, until the broth has reduced and the offal is cooking in its own oils.

We've come a long way, perhaps not for the better, from the thinking that every bit of the animal must be cooked and served. (It's weird hearing historical food documentaries highlight the fact that our ancestors left nothing to waste.) Sure, we Filipinos still eat offal, but the impression that it is dirty never really leaves us. It's ingrained from childhood. You don't buy "dirty" ice cream. You don't buy squidballs. You don't buy isaw. They're cooked outside - you don't know where that's come from! Therefore, me getting adobong isaw is an act of rebellion. That, and we've romanticized street food when eaten in a country that's not our own. Take that cup of beef offal I had in Hong Kong - but I digress.

"Ano 'yan?" one of my colleagues would ask me as I sit down on the table.

"Adobong isaw," I answer.

"Ah, bawal na sa amin 'yan," he'd reply. "Mataas sa uric 'yan, eh. Pero bata ka pa! Puwede ka pa diyan."

The conversation inevitably ends up on maintenance medication for hypertension.

I honestly thought I'd be safe from the flu bug that seems to be affecting everyone lately. It's been in our home for weeks and I haven't been hit. However, yes, I fell for it too. I genuinely believe I must've gotten it somewhere else, though. I assume it's at the cramped DFA passport renewal center. We really should move towards a culture of face masks, but then, that takes a country-wide panic centered on an obscure respiratory illness, like in Hong Kong, and that would batter our #PinoyPride, so no - but, again, I digress.

I had my passport renewed on a Friday. The following day I had a big meeting for work: our annual planning session, and I was leading a good chunk of it to boot. But I started getting sick just before my presentation, and it happened just before lunch was served.

We were at this Cebuano restaurant, in a function room right by floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city. I've heard good things about the food. Naturally, I'm excited. Grilled scallops and roast pork belly (flown in from Cebu, supposedly) and desserts I fail to get when I'm actually in the city! And more importantly, you don't have to pay for a thing, although arguably you've worked hard for it some months back.

But I wasn't feeling well. But it doesn't mean I won't try. The dishes come in and I tried to eat, if only for the simplistic logic that eating gives you energy. I tried one scallop. I felt queasy. I tried one piece of ngo hiong - essentially kikiam, but with vegetables you can discern. Still queasy. By the time the sisig came in, I've had enough - and I haven't touched half of my rice. Considering I'm the guy who gets the rice of those who avoid carbohydrates, this is unusual.

"Wala ka yatang ganang kumain ngayon, Niko?" one of my colleagues ask.

"Ang rich masyado," I answer.

Right there, it all hits me. I'm thirty. I'm no longer young. Okay, you'll all surely debate me about what young really means, and then there's the fact that, at least amongst my peers, I'm still on the young side, if not the youngest. But I'm definitely getting older. I now have to really start watching what I eat, or else I doom myself to a lifetime of blood chemistry procedures and a weekly bill, in the thousands, of blood thinners, cholesterol regulators and other compound phrases, Well, even if I watch myself I'll likely end up there anyway. I'm doomed.

Being the youngest in conversations about middle-age health adjustments has its benefits, however. In some instances I've been doing it unknowingly. I'm not fond of adding seasoning, for instance. (Do it while you're cooking, sure, but otherwise let them set their pace. But really, it's because my mother used to sprinkle patis on my plate, and I hated how some parts are saltier than others.) Add to that the family not using MSG in daily cooking, and you can argue that my taste buds are attuned towards the bland. In other instances I've been trying to learn, although it's virtually impossible to disable my sweet tooth. I just finished a donut!

Still, the inevitable ending is, I will have to stop eating some, or all, of the things that I enjoy. At some point my doctor's dietary advice would be to stop eating anything that has flavor. At some point, the phrase "bawal ang masarap" - used in a non-sexual context - will come out of my mouth. At some point I will long for the days when I could delay what really is a series of attempts to delay death.

But then, existentialists say you haven't fully lived until you die, and if dying means eating what you want, well, why not live a little? Or a lot, perhaps.

Also, getting adobong isaw for lunch will always be an act of rebellion I'll always look forward to doing, provided I'm in that carinderia again, and it's all in stock.

And your responses...

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