Thursday, October 28, 2010

One Fear Down: Balut

     I have always prided myself on being a person who could taste food objectively.  Gamy expectations doesn't sour undiscovered flavors for me.  Fear doesn't turn my stomach before the meal gets a chance.  If it's good: it's good.  If it's bad: it's bad.  However, one dish turns me in to a yellow-bellied hypocrite!  One dish that had me shaking in my boots..

     My bad responses stem from watching the "Dumplings" segment of 3 Extremes; where they subtly equivocate eating Balut with.....umm, maybe you should watch the movie for yourself.
     Anyways, the thought of chewing on a duck's embryo made my face twitch.  It also didn't help that balut is a dish that is eaten relatively slow.  It just seemed too far.  Having something I've never tasted on my blacklist made me feel bad.  Although everyone agreed with me, I saw my fear as a blemish on one of my best qualities: the willingness to try anything at least once.
     One day, a Filipino friend of mine invited me to eat with her.  Today's menu: rice, chicken and balut, her treat!  I reluctantly accepted her invitation.  Excited and nervous simultaneously, I didn't want to disrespect her culture by spitting out her food.  Millions of people consider this a delicacy, who am I to find it unnatural?

     She taught me the proper way of eating balut: cracking the shell at the top of the egg, after sprinkling a little salt, you sip the broth.  To my surprise, it wasn't bad at all, it was like a salty, egg soup.  The visual aspect was the trial I had to overcome.  Peeling the shell off, there was also a thin, veiny membrane encasing the yolk and embryo.  I couldn't help but think, "Poor baby," as I caught the first glimpse of his/her beak and eyes.
    (Side note: I never understood why people object to eating baby animals while devouring their adult counterparts.  As if veal and baby chickens were robbed of a happy childhood locked in a barn,  Barn life seems miserable.  I think eating them while they are young is a more humane approach.)

     The egg yolk was exactly like a hardboiled egg, no noticeable difference.  Although it looked slimier, the texture remained the same, as well.  Watching my friend eat her balut, she merely sucked the body out from the egg.  I followed suit.  I actually enjoyed the flavor, the bones were barely noticeable.  No feathers.  No burst of blood.  No tortured baby quacking.  

After my second and third helping
I felt silly for being so afraid.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sacred Space: Yusef Lateef Live

Iqbal Remembered

When I read:

Grace Cathedral’s soaring vault produces a natural, seven-second reverberation. This effect, different from typical concert hall acoustics, will be an integral component of this performance.”

I was instantly intrigued…

     From nowhere, a strange whistling sound fills the air.  Reverberating throughout the entire cathedral, we turn our heads like owls, looking all over for Yusef Lateef.  The sustained whistling, building atop its own resonance, gets louder as Adam Rudolph enters the sanctuary.  Twirling a long tube over his head, the source of the sound, he slowly marches down the aisle.  Suddenly, light and staccato notes from a flute enters the space; played by Yusef.  Ninety years old, He joins Rudolph’s small steps around the entire sanctuary.

This is the first time I’ve ever heard music with a fragrance.
Sage and Amber

     Taking center stage, they begin to make sounds that could be best described as impressions.  Clapping the palm of his hand at the end of his flute, Yusef, sounding like the first scattered drops of rain.  Softy playing his extensive collection of hand drums and cymbals, Adam impersonates a distant storm slowly drawing near.  Removing the instrument from his lips, Yusef begins to sing a haunting rendition of “When The Saint Go Marching In.”  Lamenting about when “The Sun refusing to shine.”  The sounds they were producing, painted a clear picture of dark clouds gathering…Geese migrating…Leaves trembling on windblown limbs.
     Seeing them live was an enveloping experience.  Skillfully, their instruments created images…spirits were invoked…mankind was dissected.  We witnessed eggs hatching alongside pristine riverbanks.  The audience were placed in the conflict between man’s loud thoughts and the small, still voice of God.  Our sneezing, shuffling pant legs and cracking joints became part of the musical suite.  Somehow, between woodwind instruments and percussion, they’ve managed to impersonate life.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Welcome to My New Blog!

If you haven't noticed, I have peculiar taste.

     Avant-garde and dissonant music.  Strange and exotic cuisine.  Crazy movies that gives me a headache. Anything experimental... Anything fresh... Anything the stimulates a strange response: I need it.
     This peculiar taste has proven to be an isolating quality.  I've never met anyone who listens to the kind of music that's in my collection.  Nor have I found anyone willing to go dutch with me at an expense, bizarre restaurant.  There is a lot in my iPod and refrigerator that I have to enjoy alone.  (And let's not get into my ill-fated, movie suggestions!)
     The primary purpose of this new blog is to put it out there.  John Zorn. Visitor Q.  Fernet Branca.  Alice Coltrane.  Holy Mountain.  Dinuguan.  These are a few of my favorite things.  Hopefully, I can find others that appreciate the lesser known pleasures.