Gone Coconuts!

First, I went bananas (made mini cupcakes)! Then I went coconut!  Over flooding, of course.  I pity the people of Calumpit.  We were in the same boat when Ondoy unleashed tons of rain and the dike broke.  I knew some people over there, all associated with a super ex boyfriend.  Super, because some days he was; ex because some days I want to x him off.

Anyway, while Calumpit and Pampanga suffered man high waters we had water up to our waist, courtesy of Pedring. Now, if you’ve been following this blog you know I live in Malabon.  Flooding is part of the territory.  Unless I win big money or suddenly gets a benefactor, we can’t move. Like all those people who refuse to evacuate, there really isn’t much choice.  Some of my friends, they don’t care anymore.  It’s like ho-hum, what else is new?  I hate that! Even when flooding happens everyday, we are just living with it as best we can.

That doesn’t mean ho-hum.  You are awake and wary about more rain, high tide, the next low pressure area to come in.  You worry about the roof (actually, Pedring’s winds tore the plastic roofing off our makeshift garage).  You worry about the house crashing down.

Hey that’s a possibility, when the ground underneath is so saturated with water and the water pressure could cause cracks and fissures to open up even more.  The house is top heavy with most appliances and furniture hauled up. Electricity being cut off is inevitable, so you scramble to cook all the pork chops in the freezer, chicken turned into adobo.  You make sure there are candles and batteries on flashlights; the rechargeable lantern juiced.
You hole up upstairs with an arinola (bedpan that looks more like a cauldron).  I will leave out the gross parts.

You take a bath on the stairs – my dad always has pails of water stationed there, for washing after wading and for bathing.  I bring up my bubbles because I figure the foam and scent kind of makes the floodwater downstairs more...um...tolerable.
Mom only ventures down to cook (when it is still possible) but it’s always dad who goes downstairs and out to check on things.

We have four dogs to feed and think about.  The pit bull gets the laundry room, on a ledge meant for washing clothes standing up; the askal (half-breed) is fine where he is but in case water rises higher, she stays on our stairs.  The boxer is smaller and well behaved so he gets to stay in his baby monoblock chair in my parents’ bedroom.  The otter hound got big, so he stays in the upstairs hall now.  It is my job to bring them up with dog food and water; plenty of newspapers and plastic bags to clean their messes; sponge mop and detergent spray. They whine when they want to go so that’s good.
The house is a sinkhole in many ways.  When the water finally drains, you spend so much on cleaning stuff.  You fix what needs fixing.  You wash off the mud.  You scrub off algae and molds. You hire a guy to clean the coconut trees, a hundred bucks per tree.  He’d do the shelling too.   
We should have done that before Pedring hit but it’s hard to find a guy who can do it.  Those trees need stripping – dry fronds spanning 3 yards minimum; ballistic coconut fruit that could dent tin roofing and fall on your head.  It was raining coconuts during Pedring.  

Last Tuesday, a neighbor brought the monkey guy.  Sssh, he didn’t know I call him that hehehe.  He just went up those two trees without a harness.  I was holding my breath, thinking how he’s gonna look when he falls.  And where was he keeping the bolo knife while he pulls on the fronds to loosen ‘em up?  At one point, I don’t know if it was the old saying if you think it, it will happen sort of thing- he nicked himself on the ankle.  I was thinking it! Not specifically the ankle, but that he might hurt himself.  OMG! My stomach turned.  I stopped watching him work, after he said he was fine. Good thing my parents came home so I could go think other thoughts.
Those trees used to yield more than fifty coconuts but storm after storm buffeted the fruits before it can mature.  We only got half of that.  Plenty enough for juice and a shake!  We drank two pitchers that day.  The rest I stored in the freezer, coconut meat and all.  I got this beautiful glacier of coconut! See the mounds and positively arctic sprawl of coconut water? I realized I did the right thing freezing the coconut water, because I saw on TV that coconut water tends to go bland after a while.
I broke them up and fed them into the blender, adding just a little sugar so you taste mostly coconut, a cup of milk and a teaspoon of almond extract!  Delicious! Very refreshing now that it is hot out.  See those dregs of white meat and beige-y bits of the interior shell? 

I’ve posted about my mom’s coconut jam and for sure, she will start making ‘em this weekend.  Before then, she just took some fruit to the market to get the meat scraped and flaked.  You get charged 5 bucks per fruit.  The coconut grinder told my mom she has good fruit and asked where it came from.  When she told him they’re from our trees, he offered to buy some next time and gave her a discount – 6 bucks for two fruits.

Once home, she poured hot water over some to extract the milk, squeezing those juices out.  That went into our veggie good ulam (viand)!  She sautéed garlic and ginger, sweated sitaw (runner beans) and boiled ‘em with naturally sweet kalabasa (yellow squash) in the creamy coconut milk, seasoned with ground pepper and a bit of salt.  This is my favorite veggie dish, next to ginisang munggo (sautéed mongo beans with bitter gourd leaves and tops). 

The monkey guy said two of the fruits are good for bukayo .  I don't know how they can tell which is which - mala-uhog meant soft coconut meat, fragile, almost transparent meat, lots of juice. There's other "categories" but that's all I know firsthand hehehe. Bukayo is coconut meat “noodles” in caramelized sugar, preferably with toasted sesame seeds.  It’s cheap candy!  Mom forgot to tell the grind guy to make some noodly so she made do with toasting shreds on the wok, in dark brown sugar.We didn’t have sesame seeds either.  What she came up with was this delish, caramel brown shreds that tasted like it needs a warm soft roll to lie in!

Pan de coco! My next favorite bread after cinnamon rolls.  I don’t have bread flour though, and no time to bake.  So what I’m going to do, is get some hot pan de sal, tuck some coconut in it (with butter!) then dunk the lot in hot, darkly brewed coffee! Now if I really want to go decadent and deranged, I’ll pffft the top of my coffee, no sugar, with whipped cream, powder on some cinnamon and crown with the coconut shreds.  How’s that sound?  Nomnomnomnomnom!

So I finish this post and came down for a snack.  My mom, a few levels less O.C.-er than I, made a new batch - with the noodly strips! She used a melon stringer – don’t know what else to call it hahaha.   I popped these in the oven to dry it.   After 20 minutes, the sugar browned in places, not quite burned but had a slight bitterness – fine with me since it brings the sweetness down a notch.  Not quite botched cooking, but not what mom hoped for hehehe.  She told me not to post a picture, she’s a bit embarrassed.  Told her not to worry, mine isn’t a perfect blog : )  
This one I under baked a bit.  It looked better and is more bukayo like in texture – dry but not crumbly, chewy still.  Maybe if it air dries a bit more? I did hunt up this recipe.  Turns out we need flour or cornstarch as binder but what the hey, ours did stick together because of the caramelized sugar.  When refrigerated, it got sticky sweet some more.

Ps.  Can’t bake or cook for a while, hence the long pause in the posting.  You understand, right?  Anyways I leave you with this picture of ...tadaannnn! Lechon Paksiw! Not quite Market Man's recipe - ours is more of a throw everything in kind hehehe.  My brother brought home the remains of a whole roasted pig -not a suckling (what they call lechon de leche), just small sized.  It took up freezer space!  Mom took the meat off the bones (lots) and cooked it in garlic, peppercorn, laurel leaves, vinegar (it is paksiw) and the accompanying liver sauce.  We feasted on Lechon paksiw for three days.  We sent some to neighbors and my brother’s family. My sister in law said it was really good. So it was – the light at the end of our week-long deluge.  Thank God for small blessings.  Eases the pain of baling somewhat : ).
p.s. it is great that GMA-7 thought to lend washing machines, provide detergents and wash water besides the usual food and clothes care package to the people of Calumpit.  Clean clothes and body does more to make you feel human again and less miserable, especially when you’ve lost so much.  


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