I’ve come a long way over the years with regard to the foods I will eat. I was probably what most would consider to be a very picky eater when I was young. “Plain” was a permanent part of my ordering vocabulary for restaurants. No lettuce. No tomatoes. No sauce. Meat, cheese and bun was the perfect burger to me.
I’m a bit more adventurous now. I’ve traveled outside the US and have come to appreciate different foods and their places in various cultures. Mystery meat in a simmering sauce? If you don’t tell me what it is and it’s spicy and delicious, bring it on. Hell, I ate a guinea pig in Peru, so I think I can safely say I’m not all that picky.
When I headed to the Philippines, I was excited to see what local foods I’d be able to try as part of the adventure of traveling. I already knew about balut, and I don’t care how adventurous I may think Iam. No. Fucking. Way.
So, what are the other options? Well, in Manila…not many. I’ve been pretty disappointed to find that most of the food in the area where I am staying and working is pretty much unseasoned, deep fried and mashed-up conglomerations of tasteless meats. Even the fried chicken is just a quarter, half or whole bird deep fried without batter. It’s all been pretty disappointing.
I realize it could be quite a different story if I left Manila and headed into some smaller, more rural areas of the islands. But, on this trip that just isn’t an option. And, to me, the largest city…the flagship city…of a country should at least offer some glimpses into local and regional food culture. It shouldn’t just be a mass of fast food chains and half-assed cuisine.
And, I don’t care where you are in the world. I don’t care how close to the ocean you may be. You should never, and I mean NEVER, be greeted by this at the breakfast buffet in a hotel:
In all fairness, I’ve become a big fan of lumpia. Surprisingly, I prefer the vegetarian variety. Most places here ruin it by deep frying (seriously, I feel like I’m in Alabama or Georgia with all the deep frying…or the state fair.). I like the fresh version.
I know if I could get out of Manila I’d see a side of the country that is much more unique. One that probably preserves some of the history and traditions of the people here. But, with this city as my only guide, I’m left to assume that history is a tradition of deep fried, greasy blandness.