IMAGINE a magical time in the kitchen where all you have to do is sit back, open a packet of granules or broth cubes and—voilà—you conjure a genie chef, say, an Ina Garten, perhaps, a Boy Logro, who’ll concoct your raw ingredients.
I think that’s exactly how these artificial condiments in the market today work, except that, instead of saying Logro’s signature bingbingbingbing!, Logro and his friends themselves are being bingbingbing-ed upon.
The way things are going, especially with all manners of false flavors in deli, chefs might, as well, vanish from these fancy alta-class restos and find their ways to our chaotic household kitchens in the guise of sachets our mothers buy from the sari-sari stores for P4.
These granules have become integral, so that the generation I grew up in almost refers to instant noodles when we talk about pancit canton. Talk about noodle soup, and what get our top-of-mind recall are the ones we send in relief operations. When we talk about sardines…well, we are reminded of the cans as if the cans are what we harvest out of the water.
These packets of granules attest to a point in the evolutionary ladder, where all these generations of search for spices and age of discovery have broken down. At the rate it is going, this means the people in charge of overhauling our outdated textbooks (like the creator of Hello Kitty disabusing us of the belief our childhood icon is not, all along, a cat, or some cosmic authority classifying Pluto as not a planet) might, as well, in the future include granules in the food groups—as in Go, Grow, Glow and Granules (which would constitute everything from instant noodles to “instant” monggo to crispy fried chicken to every microwavable meal devoid of any nutrient you get from a small hole in the wall).
And a “Granules food” group would not be very surprising—at least to me, who eat because I’m basically enjoying it, not because of the nutrients, not because I’m hungry, but because I drool over, say, a roast-beef sandwich or am excited to go across town to try a newly opened patchouli burger place.
But we shun these fares because either that we are told by our parents or that we get the guilty feeling of chewing plastic and eating salts. Yet, nowadays, we never get to eat home-cooked meals without giving our bladders the same torment as when we eat instant noodles: The rice is anemic without Rice Mate. Your mom prefers sampaloc cubes to an actual tamarind in sinigang. Eating barbecued pork without “oyster” sauce is so Neanderthal. Putting a pungent mix is the only way to make your kid brother eat vegetables. And, when you eat at the carinderia and you get free soup, you’re never ever thankful because it tastes like broth cubes!
An old wives’ tale says that, if you eat too much chicherias (which a friend endearingly calls vetsin), you will incur sakit sa bato. Another old wives’ tale says that, if you eat MSG (monosodium glutamate) like how you eat these chicherias, your mouth will bubble from toxicity and you’ll die instantly. I heard it from my mom, who was then cooking dinuguan and sprinkling two packets of MSG on the brew. So I grew up believing MSG is only toxic when eaten alone and that you will not die from the same amount of dissolved MSG even when you eat all of mom’s dinuguan.
And, for a while there, I also wondered if there are artificial blood cubes or a bloody sort of granules just made for an instant dinuguan in the market today. If there ever were, it would defeat the purpose.
Image credits: Jimbo Albano