Town & Country (Philippines) - - GUIDE TO LIFE -

There was a time, once, when I tried to give up eat­ing. Not be­cause I didn’t like food, but be­cause I did—I liked it so much I didn’t want to have a bad meal. So I tried sub­sist­ing on a wretched pow­der called Soy­lent, which when mixed with wa­ter and a bit of veg­etable oil looked like the sludge one scrapes off the un­der­side of the sink, but was sup­posed to pro­vide all the nu­tri­ents one needed to stay alive. I lasted about a week.

But the idea had been planted. I con­tin­ued to search for some­thing that would be a sim­u­lacrum of eat­ing with­out ac­tu­ally eat­ing, so that I could free my­self for other more noble pur­suits: for in­stance, writ­ing about eat­ing, or in the case of this piece, writ­ing about not eat­ing. In the end I dis­cov- ered what ev­ery col­lege stu­dent has known. In­stant noo­dles are the per­fect anti-food: they of­fer taste with­out sub­stance, re­quire no preparation, keep for­ever, make you think you’re full even though you haven’t ac­tu­ally eaten any­thing. It’s not that I love eat­ing less, but that I love food more.

Th­ese days my fa­vorite meal is of­ten the last meal of the day. It means that the chil­dren have been tucked away in bed, the house­hold chores are done, I’m on sched­ule for all of my dead­lines. I have two fa­vorite fla­vors, Beef and Spicy Beef. I can tell from the way the foil lid peels off the sty­ro­foam if the pack­age has been sit­ting on the su­per­mar­ket shelf a while, in the same way that a som­me­lier can get an in­ti­ma­tion of the wine from sniff­ing the cork. I break off a bit of raw ra­men and chew on it, and then put a lit­tle more or a lit­tle less wa­ter de­pend­ing on the dry­ness of the noo­dles, the way a caviar mas­ter makes a snap de­ci­sion on how much salt to mix with the stur­geon eggs to make the per­fect mal­os­sol.

The punch of un­mit­i­gated car­bo­hy­drate joy with a blast of monosodium glu­ta­mate is the per­fect an­ti­dote to any food crav­ing. There’s noth­ing your body wants more than pure carbs, and noth­ing you can crave more than salty umami broth. Any­thing af­ter that— even caviar it­self—falls flat (I’ve tried). It’s like pink noise for the palate, com­pletely void of mean­ing but just as over­whelm­ing. But ev­ery so of­ten, not nearly as of­ten as I’d like but enough for me to re­new my faith in food, I have a meal so per­fectly bal­anced, so sat­is­fy­ing to mind and gut and spirit that I don’t need a fix of in­stant noo­dles. If only ev­ery day could be like that. If only ev­ery meal could be like that.

T&c clin­ton palanca is a fic­tion­ist and food writer. his lat­est book, Gul­let: Dis­patches on philip­pine Food, came out in 2016.

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