Kapanalig Sa Wala - Literally, one who also have faith in nothing, is a play on words and wasn't really intended to mean something. It was made in jest to call the atheist camp when I was still actively debating god in one of the demised public forums out there. I think walang pananalig (faithless) would have proven to be more precise but I think the intended humor will be lost.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On Adobo

One casual moment, my manager told me about his mother who likes to cook chicken avocado which he said is a Filipino dish but surprisingly there's no avocado in it. I was a bit puzzled because I never heard of such a dish before so I asked him more questions. Finally, I figured out he was talking about chicken adobo so I explained to him what is adobo. I explained to him (I could be wrong) that adobo is a Filipino dish, the main characteristic of which is that it has vinegar in it. It doesn't matter what kind of vinegar, as long as it has vinegar. That not all Filipino dishes with vinegar are called adobo while no adobo has no vinegar. No vinegar, you don't have adobo. (This is not the fact it seems.) But there are many ways of making an adobo, and none of them are more adobo than the others. For example, in eastern parts of Laguna, there is a very common but different kind of adobo - cooked with coconut milk - while I have never encountered it elsewhere, it seems like it's quite well-known in the whole country. On our part, we call it, adobo sa gata (adobo on coconut milk), and it's usually chicken.

Based on the above, it now seems that the word adobo is a generic term, and based on the above-cited Wikipedia article, is in fact, Spanish in origin, which means marinate. Not a surprise of course given that the Philippines was under Spanish rule and cultural influence for over three hundred years. So adobo means different things to different Pinoys, and non-Pinoys for that matter. There is a standard-carinderia adobo and sub-culture adobo cooked in a non-conformist kitchen. Arguably, today's adobo is not the same as yesterday's adobo since ingredients also change over time. Whereas now we use commercial vinegar, my grandparents used vinegar from Balian (Pangil, Laguna) which also implies that tomorrow's adobo will be different still. At any given time, there will be an adobo dogma and adobo heresy. There is traditional adobo and fusion adobo. I bet that if adobo ever attains international recognition (doubtful), in the same way that pizza or chopsuey did, it will be a relative adobo to the culture it finds itself into. Indian adobo will be spicy, while Japanese adobo will definitely have mirin in it. Perhaps a Korean adobo will have a hint of kimchi and a Saudi pork adobo, though a valid theory, is less likely to exist in practice at all, the idea itself considered absurd/heretical by the gastronomical orthodoxy held by the zealots but nonetheless merits serious attention that holding the concept in public discourse must be punishable by public decapitation. Yet all of these variations are adobo in their own right taken in their respectively proper context. As long as adobo cannot be reduced to mathematical and mechanical means, adobo will continue to be a concept with different meanings and different degrees of having the quality of adobo-ness taken from different vantage points.

Pictured above is a mean pork Adobo with hard-boiled egg, Tokyo, circa 2007 CE.


rmacapobre said...

this is one of the first dishes that i learned to cook for myself being away from home. its easy. i have always thought that we got it from the spaniards.

Najo said...

Adobo. Yum.

My first try in real cooking? I chose Adobo. And I failed. I put in too much soy sauce and vinegar. Ended up with a plate of barely edible, almost-black...erm, food.

ted pagalanan said...

cleverly and deliciously written sir tony.

someday I will try to cook. and the first one would surely be another weird variety of an adobo.