when food plays pretend

Saturday, January 14, 2006

01. Technical Fowl

Lechon Manok (pit-roasted chicken) is the king of Filipino street foods and is such an ubiquitous part of Filipino life that stalls selling them can be found on almost every street corner.

Business booms, from the shawarma and pearl shake fads of the late nineties to the upsurge of the call center and medical transcription industries of today, is often compared with the lechon manok craze of the 1980's, when the stalls started sprouting like mushrooms all over the country. With good reason, too, while the pearl shakes have gone the way of the dodo, the Lechon Manok has shrugged of fads and changing tastes like water off a duck's back.

With the bird flu threat and with our economy neither here nor there, however, will the Filipino have to go cold turkey on their favorite pit-roasted chicken?

Not if PF Manufacturing of Bacoor, Cavite has anything to say about it. Through the magic of modern technology, they've come up with a cereal-based snack called Lechon Manok Crackers.
Retailing for 1 Philippine Peso (dollar value: pocket lint and a some string) per packet, these crackers are made of flour, fish, chicken, and a cocktail of complicated (but cheap) chemicals. They have become a favorite (by default) among penny-pinching alcoholic college students. Because, really, nothing washes away the sharp aftertaste of cheap gin better than ambiguously edible junk food.

Lechon Manok Crackers comes in three variants: Red, Green, and Yellow. Red is spicy, Green is vegetarian...no, I'm just kidding, there is no difference between them. The colors are just for flash and style .
They say, if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etcetera. These, however, definitely do not resemble lechon manok in any way, shape, or form. They don't even look edible, really.Being a dutiful researcher, I popped a handful in my mouth. You know how some people describe food as a taste explosion in their mouth? This was like a dirty bomb going off in a school district in my mouth. Or, more precisely, like swallowing the bomb itself (and not the kind that will bring us together.)

My dalmatian, Spot, eats anything, from hair to banana peels to plastic bags, so I gave her the rest of the packet. She sniffed at the crackers, and then promptly shambled away. Which just goes to show that dalmatians do not have the epicurean sophistication of alcoholics. Which is incidentally why they will never be the dominant species.

Our best bet, I think, is to pray for the economy to pick up, because nothing beats the real thing, and this dry, sandpapery snack has nothing on juicy chicken meat roasted on an open pit.

It's best to just flip it the bird, really.


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