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Eureka eats

By IGAN D'BAYAN, The Philippine Star Published Apr 22, 2021 5:00 am

You’re damn right we are hungry.

Hungry for clarity: when will this long lockdown end, when will we all get vaccinated, when will we all get to see our friends and hug our mothers, when will we ever hear a coherent, judicious speech from our leaders and their dancing, be-wigged Goebbels?

Hungry for good news: what we see on Twitter are batshit rants by Lin Wood or Marjorie Taylor Greene and her Ku Klux caucus, incidents of Anti-Asian violence, as well as how the pandemic continues to affect our entire world.

Hungry to travel, hungry to go to museums, hungry to spend half an infinity in record stores looking for those six-eye or one-step-pressing gems and end up buying nothing (the search is all, Grasshopper).

What should we do? Now that we have much time and hardly a career to speak of. Not stroll down dolomite beach, ride a horse or dance to the theme from Voltes V — before curfew, of course, when the authorities turn our cities into a police state just like in “The Waldo Moment” episode of Black Mirror. Their logic: breaking news… the virus only comes out at night.

Or, heck, when you’re buying beer at the grocery. Alcohol spreads, um, “coup-vid”? Such is life: our heroes are dead (Eddie Van Halen, Chick Corea, Neil Peart), while the vultures and the hyenas are running the fiefdom and partying like it’s 2019.

We need to cope. We intend to overcome. We have to work in any way we can (not even the Rapture can stop the electric or cellphone bills from coming). But, essentially, we must eat.

Imagine on Mondays eating baked pork with creamy mushroom sauce; Tuesdays, lava grilled cheese; Wednesday, keto breakfast pizza; Thursday, broccoli and ground meat; Friday, Sriracha fish with avocado cream. Meals become surprise gifts.

My girlfriend Avee and I made a conscious decision at the start of ECQ (the first one, not the equally disappointing sequel) to eat healthier. Sure, it would be fun just to order fast food (chicken, chicken, everywhere chicken), open a prized bottle of Johnnie W. (reserved for the Zombie Apocalypse or something similar), and watch documentaries on Netflix (the stretched-out Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, for one; another is the equally elasticated This Is A Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist) until they find our cold, bloated carcasses stretched out on our couch clutching the remote.

But survival is more dramatic. Not just to survive but to thrive, as self-help postcards (the reverse-memes) proclaim.

Eating healthier is a start.

Since our budget is limited (whose isn’t, by the way?), we looked around for fairly priced meals from small, independent businesses. The big players don’t need our coins, but the startups do. Some of these proprietors were let go from corporate jobs and had to start anew. We also ordered food from friends or acquaintances of ours with online resto platforms (like Karen Realeza’s Super Sogbu sushi bake).

Smart Meals Delivery

We signed up for Smart Meals Delivery. A guy comes in every day to bring our breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack package. (The price of each pack starts at P240.) The company offers a “Low Calorie” meal plan designed to “control food intake good weight management”; Ketogenic diet; Mediterranean diet; and a “Low Carb High Protein” meal plan — with food items “high in protein but limited to simple carbohydrates good for muscle building and ideal for an active lifestyle.”

I do not feel any buildup in pectorals yet (interchanging amplifiers and speakers does not count as exercise; neither does keeping Lucca the Doberman’s long talons away from my face), but the meals are flavorful and also filling. Plus, you don’t feel bloated at all after partaking of, say, minced pork in egg custard, chicken chiar siu, creamy Cajun fish with French beans — plus healthy snacks including coffee and tea packets.

These meals are worry-free. Avee need not navigate that Air Fryer from Shopee or do some nuking on the microwave. No need to play bato-bato-pik as to whom should wash the dishes. (It is always me, full disclosure. Avee competes like a Jedi.) 

Keto on a Budget

Another company we order from is Keto On A Budget.

As the story goes, a couple wanted their children to lose weight without feeling they were on a strict diet. They came up with a keto meal plan. The children loved it. The couple — chef Edward and Doreen Soriano — shared it with relatives. It got posted on social media. That started the ball rolling.

 Keen on keto: Keto takoyaki, keto Tuscan butter shrimp and keto ossobuco by Keto On A Budget

Doreen explains, “Since fancy diets are expensive, we thought of creating Keto On A Budget to provide affordable gourmet keto meals to all. We serve dishes that you’ll love. We try our best to not repeat the menu within at least two months. The keto meal also has health benefits; it is recommended for people battling epilepsy, diabetes, and tough acne. Our mission is to make all of our meals affordable, yet nutritious and delicious, thus our slogan: ‘Dieting does not need to be boring and expensive.’”

Imagine on Mondays eating baked pork with creamy mushroom sauce; Tuesdays, lava grilled cheese; Wednesday, keto breakfast pizza; Thursday, broccoli and ground meat; Friday, Sriracha fish with avocado cream. Meals become surprise gifts. Meticulously prepared. As they should be. Not predictably soggy fries and slapdash burgers from fast-food joints.

(Mass-production burgers in menus are like the Facebook profile pics of people you know: filtered, angled, full of color, shot five years ago, under impeccable lighting, looks appealing. What arrives on your doorstep is the horror of those same people at five in the morning, sagging, un-caffeinated, needing a comb.)

The Sweet Cause

Dessert, like lugaw, is essential to many people. Cakes are not elitist at all. In our miserable lives without an ayuda in sight, a piece of chocolate or cream is manna from heaven. Bread gives life.

Dig if you will The Sweet Cause with its coconut macaroons and ube-cheese pan de sal.

The Sweet Cause was founded by Suico siblings Thea and Tisha Suico, two individuals working full-time on weekdays who found baking on weekends during the pandemic as a stress-reliever. 

They started baking different types of bread for their own personal pantry. They gave extra loaves to their neighbors and friends, and documented their baking journey on social media. Their friends convinced them to sell their baked creations. The siblings came up with the name “The Sweet Cause” because it sounds like “The Suico’s.”

 Sweetness follows: Garlic and Spring Onion Pull Apart bread, coconut macaroons and ube-cheese pan de sal by The Sweet Cause

The name is also significant since the sisters donate a percentage of their proceeds to deserving beneficiaries as a way of giving back to the community. Last year, they were able to provide assistance to the typhoon victims of Rolly and Ulysses; to the Aeta community via “Love in a Shoebox”; as well as to jeepney drivers via “Never Gonna Jeep You Up.” 

Currently, the sisters also offer coconut macaroons, which came from their mom Millie’s hand-me-down recipe. They just recently added Garlic and Spring Onion Pull Apart to the menu, which is a buttery loaf baked with garlic, spring onion, parsley and cheese.

Love, Chef

Complementing our keto and low-calorie meals are freshly baked power brownies from Love, Chef – purveyor of “guilt-free snacks.” The brownies contain chia and flax seeds with immense health benefits: good for the heart, improves digestion, rich in Omega 3, good sources of protein and fiber, high in antioxidants, full of essential minerals such as calcium.

 Love bites: Power brownies, breakfast chorizo tacos and fruity Nutella pancakes by Love, Chef

Love, Chef’s power brownies and vegan chocolate chip cookies (other flavors are banana cinnamon and red velvet) taste as good as those calorie-laden, sinful chunks of chocolate we used to enjoy. People usually ask the people at Love, Chef: “Is this really vegan?”

Yeah, Avee prepares cups of BenCab’s Brew to pair them with power brownies – then it’s Chick, John Patitucci and Dave Weckl on ye old Technics SL-1200, maybe some Nick Cave as we clink cups for Aunt Polly Gray in Peaky Blinders.

Dolcebella

Our foodie-friend Justine Oca highly recommends Dolcebella.

Dolcebella was opened by Abby Barreiro in 2012 when she was still studying Baking & Pastry Arts. She had to put this on hold for her full-time job, but resumed her baking business in 2020. Even during the pandemic, Abby continues to test and sell more desserts and was even featured as a lockdown favorite by a local website.

 Belle of the bowl: Marble brownies, dark fudge brownies, espresso white blonde brownies and chocolate chunk cookies by Dolcebella

Abby shares, “Dolcebella literally means ‘Sweet Beauty,’ which is exactly what we offer. Dolcebella is a home business that is centered on selling comfort-food desserts that satisfy one’s sweet tooth. We have a variety of cookies, brownies and bars, with some of our crowd favorites being chocolate chunk cookies, dark fudge brownies, and marble brownies.”

Avee and I tried them and they are darn good. You will forget your current predicament for a millisecond or two, how our lives are like the-blind-leading-the-blind-being-led-by-a-headless-chicken.

As we navigate the abyss in the echoing hallways of our lockdown homes, we wait fervently for the arrival of our Grab or Foodpanda riders. They are the ones keeping this entire system from crumbling. Without them we are ruined.

As we navigate the abyss in the echoing hallways of our lockdown homes, we wait fervently for the arrival of our Grab or Foodpanda riders. They are the ones keeping this entire system from crumbling. Without them we are ruined. You can’t eat money. (In our case, we can’t plaka.)

Bless those people who have put up community pantries all over our cities, starting with the one on Maginhawa Street in QC – these initiatives define the country that we know and love.

This April has been the cruelest year – er, month – we have experienced so far. For now, our task is to do a BeeGees and stay alive. Thus, we must nourish ourselves, do some revenge-eating and come out this shitty plague stronger, wiser, motivated, and armed with the knowledge that if you are outside of your house during curfew and you see the barangay Gestapo goose-stepping toward you… run.

Run like it’s 2022.