Botch-a!


I don’t mean the bocha meat stuff that’s illegally being sold in some wet markets, passed off as fit for humans.  It seems that every night, the news reports raids on markets and shows tons of the stuff up for incineration.  Seems to me, too, that common sense would tell you that if the meat is uncommonly red (which meant improperly slaughtered that blood congealed and not let out); smells offensive; and hasn’t passed any FDA NMIS - National Meat Inspection Service here) testing it is dubious goods.  Still, there are a lot of slick sellers and people hard up enough it won’t take much convincing that they can cook and fry all the toxins out.  There is a lot of reasoning out there.   I have heard people mutter things like: “swertihan lang yan” (it’s the luck of the draw); malakas ang resistensya dahil hindi maselan (if they managed to survive their environment, their immunity is less compromised than those raised in finer, more “sanitary” circumstances; being selective is something to scoff at).  Some would dust off food that has fallen on the floor, provided it hasn’t lain there more than two minutes! It is a very Pinoy trait to “use it up, wear it out, make it do.” Case in point: pig’s knuckles (crispy pata) and ears (boiled as accompaniment to lugaw -porridge or congee), chicken feet (adidas), barbecued intestines (isaw) and everything you can glean from the coconut tree. These are good, delicious...innovative even! We people should know there are limits though. I understand thrift but common sense says that if you are paying unbelievably low prices for anything, it is bound to be substandard, of ill quality or of dubious provenance (smuggled, picked off from the back of a truck or downright hijacked).  Half price off is ok, provided you know and accept that you have to eat or cook whatever it is before the expiration or sell by date.

I know stretching the peso is difficult in these times when every calamity and uprising elsewhere in the world brings third world countries to its knees praying for higher wages or up in arms with banners protesting oil price hikes.  A calamity of major proportions, in these shores, will just about break us.  All that disaster preparedness talk will fly in the face of panic and general uhh...un-preparedness.  Of course, we aren’t! Are we far too optimistic that God will spare us from the forces of nature? Disaster preparedness isn’t that ingrained in our consciousness.  We know we need to but we don’t act on it.  You watch a feature on TV showing off all those hi-tech survival packages but really, who can afford most of the stuff? I just hope the government can so they can give it out when the time comes.

We don’t even have fire extinguishers in every home as a matter of course.  How could that be, when a fire extinguisher would be worth half a shanty of plywood.  Flimsy but serviceable shelter that’s a “now” necessity - than something that’s supposed to help in an unforeseeable, unimaginable “don’t-think-it or-you’ll-invite-it” future.  I don’t know if this is being Pinoy of us but most would think this. My brother once told me off for saying we should put a ramp from the gate to our house.  My reasons were: it would be easier to roll up groceries or cooking gas or bikes or eventually help my parents walk easier or roll when it comes to that.  The last one he just can’t take.  I was being proactive; even then, my mom has to hold on to the gate to get down two steps to our yard (our house is set lower than the street), her knees kept giving her trouble. But he couldn’t accept that when to me, it really is logical, common sense. 

A lot of people interviewed after a tragedy always say they couldn’t believe it happened to them.  But it did! There is always a first time.  And if you really thought about it, there were signs, warnings, a precedent big or small.  We were just lulled by the good moments, the peaceable days on the surface while nature goes on its cycle of renewal.  That is all it is, nature adjusting, refitting by moving plates here and there, nudging a continent just a bit and triggering the ripple effect and all sorts of other phenomena.  Of course, nobody can predict anything. At any rate, we will do what we can (I hope).

But I’m talking about a lighter kind of botching it. My botched up bake projects!  Here’s one: Mark Bittman of the New York Times featured Sullivan Bakery’s no knead bread.   I was happy to find a recipe that didn’t call for much more than yeast, flour, salt and water. I did most everything the recipe said to do.  The first part, mixing it together, I noticed excess water pooling around the batter.  I put in the exact amount of water in the recipe so I figured I’ll let it be and maybe after 20 hours (recipe said 18 but more is better) it’ll come together.  It did and it was gorgeous! It looked like a pillow in the towel wrap.  I let it rest hours more than called for, but Bittman recommended.  The recipe recommended baking the bread in a cast iron pot with matching lid.  You put pot and all in the oven. It’s supposed to keep the moisture in, to make for crackly topped, soft inside bread.  We don’t have one and I am suspicious of the heavy ceramic pot that had a soft ping to it when I thunked it on the side so I resorted to using a Pyrex bowl and a Pyrex pie plate as cover.  

Then I crossed my fingers and kept watch (the thing about Pyrex is you can look in!). I swear that batter was like a baby, handled with care, swaddled, and stared at through the looking glass oven door.  When it came out, it looked really, really good! I didn't let it get a burnt brown, like in the recipe video. It wouldn't get that way with the Pyrex maybe. When I cut it, the top didn’t "crack".  It was more the consistency of pork rind that didn’t fry right – not crisp; chewy but no give or snap.  The inside was soft enough and cooked but gluey! I baked it a bit more and it was better, but I think I did something wrong or took too much time taking pictures that the top didn’t do what it was supposed to.  This bread was more like a hard top baguette.  It was good anyway (made garlic butter to go with it and my mom made chunky coconut jam) and I thank the New York Times and Mark Bittman for it! My dad said this might be what they meant when they say unleavened bread.  I liked the no knead, no fussiness of it.  I like that it is huge! My aunt also said this would be the bread in the loaves and fishes story of Jesus hehehe. You should see the pan de sal we eat in the mornings, shrunk to the size of a peso coin.  You wouldn’t even choke on it.
 
I think everyone should learn to do some things for themselves and this bread is a start! I will make this again soon, hopefully I’ll get the top crackin’!








P.S.  I’ve been sick lately, with the flu going around so I couldn’t do anything other than watch Glee and America's Top Model Rewind on ETC.  I couldn’t even write, the words kept swimming (which I wish I was doing!). The upside is, I lost weight, which makes watching the waifs stomping on spindly legs a tad bearable.  What can I say, I like the photo shoot and make up and the final picture : )

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