Once upon a time, I stepped into our kitchen and opened the freezer. I peered at the petrified hunks of meat inside, deciding on which one would be easiest to cook. I picked the pork. Lunch would be adobo. Boil the pork in vinegar and soy sauce with chunks of garlic and pieces of laurel leaves floating around. How hard could it be, I thought.
Very, it turned out.
I didn’t know if I was supposed to boil the pork chunks in water first and then let them simmer in vinegar and soy sauce (or if it were those ingredients I was supposed to use in the first place). But I figured, the vinegar and soy sauce mixture would also boil anyway, so I plunked the meat straight into that, put the flame on high, and covered the pot. Ten minutes later, a scorched smell wafted from the pot. Alarmed, I flipped off the lid. The liquid had dried up! I scraped the meat off the bottom of the pot and poured more vinegar and soy sauce over the chunks. It must have been too much this time because soon, I heard a hiss and the liquid came bubbling out from under the lid, putting out the flame on the stove. By then, the meat had started to shrivel up. So I scraped off the scorched parts and nuked the chunks in the microwave until everything looked cooked (it didn’t dawn on me at the time to actually taste what I was cooking). Then I snuck the meat back on the stove with the damn vinegar and soy sauce mixture over very low fire.
The disastrous lunch was masked by my family’s diplomacy. The Hub served himself two pieces of my “adobo” and then discreetly buried them under a mountain of salad and brown rice. The Hooligan took one look at lunch and said, “No sex.” (She was just learning to talk then. She meant, “No, thanks.”) The most direct critique I got came from our househelp. Eating my leftover “adobo” a few days later, she told me, “Parang kumakain ako ng manggang hilaw.” (She doesn’t work for us anymore.)
Since then, when I had no choice but to produce a meal myself (except when I make pesto pasta, which is really just blending leaves and olive oil), I went the tried-and-tested route: cross the street to order inasal.
So on week 5, I’m going to cook a dish that will be scrumptious and will bring my “adobo” days to an end. I don’t know what that dish will be yet, though. Any suggestions?