Because I’ve mostly been puttering around the apartment whenever I have some free time–obsessing over what stuff we still need in the flat, stuff we don’t really need but want nonetheless, what to clean, what to cook, what to obsess over next–I really don’t get to travel much anymore. That and largely due to the shift in priorities and spending habits. Case in point: the plan to get out of the city for the recent four-day holiday was scratched because there were shelves to put up. (Finally, the boxes were emptied and discarded and we could see our floor!)
But I have been staring at that part of the shelf with my travel books neatly leaning against each other more longingly than necessary. Since I don’t have any trips planned until early next year, I had to find a way to satisfy this niggling wanderlust without going anywhere (or at least anywhere outside Metro Manila). Reading again my stash of AFAR, Travel & Leisure, Smile and other travel or in-flight magazines were not helping.
A few weekends after we moved, P and I walked to one of the nearby malls to buy a few kitchen items we overlooked and we stumbled upon a regional fair in one of the exhibition halls. For the readers of this blog who are not from the Philippines, the country is made up of 7,100-plus islands, which are clustered into several regions. And for someone who’s been hankering to travel or even write about traveling, a regional fair was sort of like a consolation prize: find and sample what the different regions of the country has to offer in one contained hall.
Each each region typically has its own cuisine, its own delicacies, its own local handicraft, heck, even its own local vinegar seems like it. It’s just several booths carried their own versions of vinegar and the one that got me all excited was the booth carrying products from the province of Quezon, because of Pinakurat. Pinakurat is a locally fermented coconut vinegar mixed with some chili, garlic, and salt. It’s suck-your-cheeks sour, sneaky spicy, and even a little sweet. All the flavors you could ask for. It’s the best condiment for a simple fried fish or longganisa (local pork sausage).
That and atsara or pickled green papaya, which there was also a lot of in different booths. The cooks in my uncle’s old house in Pampanga used to make a big vat of this sour side dish during fiesta and we would get to bring home a couple of bottles back to Manila.
To continue my love for anything tart, a booth selling several kinds of marmalade of local fruits caught my attention. There in the Castillejos Agrifarms booth from Castillejos, Zambales were bottles of Calamansi Marmalade (P135 for 250 grams); they also had guava butter and santol marmalade. Surprisingly, the local citrus fruit calamansi lends itself well to being turned to marmalade–especially love the strips of calamansi peel sweetened in the marmalade. So far, I’ve eaten it with French toast and pancakes and the tart flavor cuts through the sweetness well.
Another local produce that quite a few provinces have is tablea or cocoa tablet. Thank centuries of Spanish rule for the Filipinos’ love for cups of hot tsokolate. It makes an appearance on the dining table even more often during this time, when the country gets into the Christmas spirit early on.
We got the dark cocoa tablets from Chocolate de San Isidro Sikwater, which is made from 100% cacao from Barangay Sawata, San Isidro, Davao del Norte. There was also Tsokolate Alfonso Tablea (de Cacao) from Alfonso, Cavite but the vendor admitted that some of their cacao they get from Bicol, another province that produces their own tablea, which is typically sweet because of the sugar. The Alfonso Tablea was sweet as expected as it already had sugar in it, the San Isidro tablea, more bitter, which I preferred.
So there, instead of actually traveling, I have to get my travel fix anywhere I can–like making the rounds at a regional fair. “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step,” right? For now, mine will begin with a couple of spoonfuls of marmalade, cups of hot tsokolate, and dips into that spicy-sour vinegar, just not all at the same time.