Eating, cooking, and storing food on an island
Eating out every night is not practical. For one thing, I like to eat during the day too. Eating restaurant food three times a day on an island gets pretty monotonous after a while. Also, buying and cooking for yourself is a lot cheaper.
Warning, if you have a delicate stomach, you might not like this article – it’s not pretty, it’s reality.
Learning to cook without electricity
One of the things I learned in Africa is how to cook without electricity. The cooking part is easy, gas, wood etc,. What’s not so easy is how to preserve cooked food, or even raw food, particularly meat. In my island cottage in the Philippines I have no refrigerator. Just a gas stove. But, I have learned a few new things.
In Africa it’s common to immediately cook fresh from the slaughter-house meat in the form of a huge pot of stew. Then if no refrigerator available, reheat the next day, and the next and so on. Or in the case of chop houses, cook all day long. This reheating process essentially kills off the bacteria which can make one ill.
A refrigerator does the opposite and essentially slows down bacterial growth. I lived like this for quite a while. And yes I did get sick on occasion, but most of the time I did not. And either way, I had no choice.
Learning how to store food without a refrigerator in Asia
In the Philippines I’ve had a similar problem with refrigeration. I don’t have one. Eating out all the time is too expensive, and I am trying to see what living on an island is like. By virtue of this, I’ve discovered another way Filipinos make food last longer. I have discovered the antibacterial virtues of Adobo.
Adobo is a Filipino marinade made from garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar (plus lots of other things and variations that seem to change depending on the region). It’s quite nice. It wasn’t until I bought some beef adobo in El Nido and for one reason or another forgot to cook it for two days did I discover it was still edible!
Why? While posting a previous blog entry I read up on its Spanish history. The key ingredient is Vinegar, it stunts the development of bacteria. And there I was thinking it was used to tenderise the meat, but no, it prolongs the life of meat.
Old spanish sailors used this method, as do some Filipinos today, as am I. Though I do not recommend this to anyone, nor advocate it.
Reheating kills bacteria … most of the time
I usually just cook beef adobo. Pork adobo is okay, but the taste changes after a while. Chicken I prefer fresh. And fish … the smell alone turns my stomach. But I happen to know the squid adobo I eat at a cantina is often two days old, or at least reheated for two days. And, I’ve never had a problem with it.
But this is not Africa …
In africa it took me a while to master the length of time, or how many days you can reheat for. It all boils down to the heat and humidity of the days passing. Hence my learning curve involved an occasional backfire … no pun intended.
In the Philippines it’s really hard to tell how long adobo can last as it already has a distinct taste. And, I don’t want to push my luck too much. But it does help in avoiding daily market trips. Now it’s every other day.
Nothing beats fresh food. But I’ve learned something new, and something potentially valuable from living on island in the Philippines. What’s more it’s good to try to cook locally. I’ve noticed a few people relatively impressed at my attempts.
Old ladies give the odd nod at my attempts at buying ingredients. Sometimes they get a little too excited though, and an argument often kicks off between two ladies over the exact quantities of what that I will need. But it gets everyone laughing. And when you can make people laugh, you must be doing something right.
Again, I do not recommend anyone to try this method of cooking or preserving food.
Learning how to catch squid for dinner