Spice up your life

In my small world — a world of basic needs (running water, decent cellphone signals, and free copies of Pinoy Parazzi) — chili is big.
You got that right: Chili.
Chili makes a mediocre meal good, a good meal perfect.
Whether liquid or solid, chili is the best agreeable companion for every meal, next to a hottie and a cold alcoholic drink.
But then again, that’s just my opinion.
Which explains why I always keep a jar of chili handy — it’s always useful for correcting kitchen emergencies, which fortunately happen rarely owing to the utter lack of trying. However, that’s another story altogether.
Anyway, whenever I go out, I never pass the chance to try the house chili.
And thanks to my limited culinary adventures, I have discovered that the best chili in Metro Manila, perhaps even in the Philippines, isn’t for sale.
It’s for free — you just have to visit Kowloon House along Matalino Street in Quezon City to enjoy it.
To do so, you first have to pick something off the establishment’s menu, which is posted right up above the kitchen that also serves as the counter for orders.
And there, my friend, lies the rub.
Ordering food at that Kowloon branch is more difficult than getting the attention of a government worker five minutes before his/her coffee break.
Just this Saturday, I dropped by, relishing past, pleasant thoughts of Kowloon’s beef mami, consisting of tasty meat chunks so large and rich that if you eat them everyday for the next two years, you’d either suffer from a heart attack or choke to death.
My reverie about beef mami was interrupted when I was ignored a couple of times by the servers.
Had I been younger, I would have raised holy hell, demanding that I be waited on hand and foot, just like any regular asshole.
But times were now different.
Besides being older — and supposedly less assholish — I was wearing a tattered T-shirt that had more holes than the ozone layer.
In short, I looked like an old, loserish fogey in the making that deserved to be ignored.
Only until I sat down and grew a foot-long beard did a waitress take notice.
When my order arrived — a bowl of beef mami and a can of Coke — I asked for some chili.
Just like my supper, my request for chili was faciliated at a pace slightly faster than the speed of a three-legged turtle.
The chili was consumed the minute it arrived because the serving was no bigger than my thumbnail.
Partnered with a chunk of beef, it was delicious.
But taken individually, the chili was a meal in itself, giving off a melange of flavors — strong hints of garlic, pepper, and a sweet fruit which I can’t quite place (pineapple?).
After I consumed it in one go, I asked for some more.
However, the establishment refused to be generous, giving me the second serving in just about the same quantity.
I finished my meal and nearly licked the chili off the sauce plate it was served in.
And as I settled the bill, I discovered that I learned another lesson — or at least I think I did — from this whole experience of chili cutbacks: The best things in life may be free but sometimes you just can’t get enough of them.
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From the Digital Imaging Dept. Cropped photo shows Sophie Monk in an advertisement for PETA. Thanks, Zimbio.com.

A big bowl of wrong

Larry David and Jeff Garlin (www.performink.com)
PRIMETIME television hardly imitates life.
If it did, many males—especially those of my age and temperament—would be spending their carefree days and nights in the pursuit of scantily-clad starlets, hoping for wardrobe malfunctions.
Unfortunately, real life—such as we know it—involves working two jobs to make rent money, ensuring that the cat gets regular visits from the vet, and avoiding the nosy landlady who has expressly disallowed animals in her apartment.
In short, the life and times of a happily-married, submissive, and faithful Filipino male such as myself has none of the excitement and the drama found on soaps currently broadcast on television.
However, when my wife and I had an unpleasant experience at a mid-market Chinese restaurant, we found common cause to turn to television to exactly describe what we went through.
Our dining experience, to borrow a colorful phrase from award-winning cable television show Curb Your Enthusiasm, was “a big bowl of wrong.” The phrase was originally uttered by Jeff Garlin, (shown in the right of the picture from performink.com) who plays the manager of Larry David, (on the picture’s left) Seinfeld co-creator, whose fictional life is what the show is all about.
Even before we entered the establishment—located at Gateway Mall in Quezon City—the arrangement and the decor gave us the impression that the restaurant was not your typical, inexpensive hole-in-the-wall which offered fly soup as a side dish.
While it was not an upscale restaurant, it nevertheless emphasized that it was neither fastfood establishment especially since we were made to wait before we were ushered to our tables. Which wasn’t any trouble at all until we realized that we were seated beside a gaggle of noisy, middle-aged women who applauded anytime any single one of them uttered a syllable.
In the meantime, the waitstaff was as responsive as government employees taking their daily two-hour lunch breaks. Whenever we tried to call their attention, in our vain attempt to inform them of our orders, they seemed to pretend that they were busy serving other customers.
To ease hunger and to ward off our growing impatience, we simply munched on the complimentary dish of kropeck crackers immediately made available after we were seated. Fortunately, before anyone took the last piece of kropeck, a waitress came by. Noticing that my wife and I had were both eyeing the last cracker, the waitress, gifted with tremendous powers of perception, asked us whether we had ordered already.
My wife, hungry and irritated, replied in the negative, especially when she found the last kropeck missing.
Her irritation was later compounded when she discovered that her order—a beef and wanton noodle soup—was far too salty for her taste. I didn’t doubt her culinary assessment one bit, knowing fully well that she eats everything—from adobo to kare-kare—with patis.
But since I needed to fill myself up, I nevertheless took generous bites of the pieces of beef and the noodles that came with my brisket noodle soup.
While it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t exactly the best noodle soup I ever had. After forking out P150++ for each dish, we were convinced that we were served two big bowls of wrong that night. And don’t even get me started on the matronas.