09 February 2011

American Cuisine At DLSL

From time to time, students of the Culinary Arts Academy here in school sell their stuff to the public; and by public, I naturally refer to students passing by or faculty and staff who they can tempt into buying. This morning, I was passing outside the academy’s kitchens when I saw a few of the student chefs scribbling a make-shift sign on a movable blackboard. As it turned out, these were the lunch and snacks to be sold for the day.

I suddenly remembered that the chef teaching one of the classes the other day when I went to take videos had told me about this event. This was the final examination for the students under the course American Cuisine. The price was reasonable for what would turn out to be, in essence, high-end student meals.

In true American style, apart from the fairly visible menu scribbled on the blackboard, the student chefs themselves took turns wearing these silly advertising boards that hung from the neck both in front and at the back. When a couple of the youngish male chefs – one was wearing the ad boards – tried to coax a group of college coeds walking towards them by blocking their path to the college turnstiles, I laughingly warned them that their sales strategy was nothing short of harassment.

I thought I would order early and then come back for it later in the morning. I was referred to this tall student chef who, when I asked him what he would like to recommend, spent a couple of seconds hesitating before choosing the most expensive food of the lot. I laughed at the boy; sales savvy, eh? At any rate, the seafood churva – it is fashionable in the Culinary Arts to think up some difficult to remember name for dishes – cost me no more than 95 pesos.

A little past eleven, I went out to retrieve my order. There were tall tables laid out along the corridor for those who wanted to eat there; but I thought I would take the small cardboard box containing my take-out so I could eat in the privacy of my office.

I have to be honest and admit that the food was excellent; if a tad on the spicy side. Ah-ah… I remarked to an officemate after I went out to look for a trash can so I could throw away the cardboard box. Maanghang

As things happened, just as I was about to leave campus for a while, another colleague called to ask if I wanted to go out for lunch. I told him I had already eaten; but also asked if he would like to try the food on offer at the Culinary Arts Academy.

He was game, so I met him outside the academy kitchen where the student chefs had set up their stall. When this colleague arrived, he asked me how the food was. I told him it was excellent, if a bit spicy. One of the student chefs was within hearing distance, and I jokingly asked him when he turned his head our way if he was certain it was American Cuisine they were selling. Para kasing Bombay, I kidded him…

At any rate, since there seemed to be some space in my stomach that needed filling even after my seafood churva, I thought would order that thing that looked like the bastard child of a Mexican taco and an American pie. The student chef who took my order assured me it was ground beef inside that rolled something.

I later learned that it was called the Cochinita Pibil – whatever in hell that means…

Since it was nearing lunchtime and the orders were starting to pile up, some of the student chefs’ nerves appeared to be getting frayed. Some wore frowns on their faces as the boxes came out of the kitchen for delivery to offices around the campus. One did not even know where the dean’s office was. That would, incidentally, be her very own college dean.

My own order was taking an eternity to come out of the kitchen; but as I had actually already eaten, my temper remained even. Not sure it would have been that way if I was already hungry; most people who know me well also know that the surest way to get me into a foul state of temper is to make me hungry.

I was even jokingly asked the student who took my orders if the cow was still being chased for slaughter. “Tutoy,” I asked the boy with a smile, “hindi naman hinahabol pa ang baka?” He assured me it was already dead.

Before long, the cochinita came out, so my colleague and I happily walked the short distance to my office. He had the gumbo, by the way; and the chef I spoke to the other day was gracious enough to explain that the cuisine the students were learning was really Southern American. Gumbo, he explained, used to be a food of the slaves who worked the southern plantations.

As for my cochinita, it looked innocuous but turned out to be really heavy. Since I had already eaten prior to my colleague’s arrival, I just had to ask him if he wanted some of it. It was really good, though, the spiciness tempered by the blandness of what I suppose was potato inside the roll. I would not mind having it as my main course the next time these student chefs do something like this. In fact, I am really looking forward to that next time.

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