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Showing posts from June, 2013

Rice Survivor (Wet Season edition): Weeding out the competition

For the past few sessions, our teachers kept telling us that field management depends on the conditions on the ground. There's no one approach that applies to all situations. That same principle applies to weed management. We had to know the enemy before we can do something about it.
On June 11, the Rice Survivors were introduced to the the weeds our rice seedlings would be up against. To guide us through the complicated world of weeds, we've got weed and farming system experts introduce us to these pesky plants.

There are weeds that thrive on dry land and those that love the water. Obviously, to prevent the growth of those dry land weeds, we have to keep the rice fields flooded. But that will allow the water lovers to grow. So, as usual, the Rice Survivors need to find that balance in weed management. 
Water, however, is not the only tool we have to keep weeds off the fields. According to the experts, we have to make sure that land preparation is conducted properly and that …

Culinary arts lesson #4: Don't forget to bring chemistry in the kitchen.

Back in college, I had a classmate whose hands got exposed to phenol, a chemical that transforms into phenolic acid (which causes nasty burns) when mixed with water. Because of this incident -- plus a few others that involved my MCB 101 classmates almost burning the lab down -- one professor remarked: " Don't forget to connect what you've learned in Chemistry class to what you're doing in other subjects". Then, I wasn't integrating ideas from different disciplines, except Human Physiology (HFDS 12, if I remember correctly) and Microbial Physiology (MCB 120) with Biochemistry (Chem 160.1).
As I attend the Fundamentals of Culinary Arts in ISCAHM these days, I notice that the instructors -- Chef Kenneth, Chef Joey, Chef Manoj, and Chef Rudolf -- are emphasizing the science behind the way food is prepared and cooked. I find it fascinating that the things I had learned in college, which I've always treated as concepts I only keep in school, are actually appli…

My birthday wish/shopping list for 2013

My birthday is coming up exactly one week from today. With seven days left, I list down my birthday wish list. Unlike the things I've listed in my 2011 wish list/ shopping list, I haven't acquired any of the things on this list yet. Let's see how many of these I'll be able to get or to do this year.
1. Noise-reducing or noise-canceling headphones 2. Ergonomic keyboard 3. Pretty flatware (spoons and forks) 4. Vacation (anywhere!!) 5. Visit the masterpieces inside the National Art Gallery in Manila 6. Copper pots and pans 7. A good chef's knife 8. Road trip to Ilocandia (yes, up to Pagudpud) 9. Try wakeboarding (must drop by the wake park in Nuvali sometime this year) 10. Chocolate mousse birthday cake

a crash course on traditional Filipino houses

On Dr Jose Rizal's birthday this year, I was back in historic Manila with Ate Bing, Ate Mary, and Manuel. But instead of visiting him, we opted to soak up on Philippine culture. Our first stop: the Cultural Center of the Philippines' (CCP) Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino
Aside from the musical instruments, I noticed the dioramas about Filipino homes. Filipinos living by the sea (the 'sea gypsies', Sama Dilaut or Badjao) have boathouses; those who live in the mountains, like the Bagobos, have developed interconnected houses in the trees; Filipinos who live along the path of the strongest typhoon winds, such as the Ivatans, have developed houses of thick limestone walls; and people who live in calmer conditions used bamboo and nipa to construct their houses, like the lowlanders and the Agtas.

It's so amazing to see that houses Filipinos live in are as different as their environment! These houses are just an indicator of the diversity of culture in the Philippines.

Culinary arts lesson #5: Respect the chives.

Chef Joey said it well. If we're given ingredients of high quality, we should handle (and cook) the food with the care that it deserves. 
Take chives, for instance. These vegetables are some of the most flavorful in the world. But when prepped using a blunt knife, the chives will be bruised and not cut properly... Then some of its flavor, the stuff that we pay for, is lost.
I guess this lesson is not just limited within the kitchen setting. Respect is something people have been taught to show, even as kids:
"Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." (Exodus 20:12, KJV)
And sometimes, as grown-ups, we forget.
I ought to really get myself a proper chef's knife.

Culinary arts lesson #3: Face your fear.

I am very much afraid of splattering cooking oil because I had a painful encounter with it as a child. In culinary arts class, I am forced to face that fear at last.
Have I conquered it though? Honestly, not yet. I can now saute with confidence but I am still intimidated by the wok filled with oil for deep-frying pork chops, tempura, and french fries. The nice thing about the class I'm attending is that the chefs tell students how to prevent oil from splattering. Also, since we're wearing long-sleeved coats, there's some protection right there. If only I won't look funny wearing a chef's coat at home as I cook.
Anyway, I'm halfway through cooking class. I'm sure that I would've at least gathered more courage to face the deep-fryer as I venture into the second half of the course. 
Fingers crossed!
--- On Saturdays, I attend the Fundamentals of Culinary Arts classes at the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management (ISCAHM) in Quezon City.…

Rice Survivor (Wet Season edition): Patience is a virtue

I'm participating in this wet season's "Rice Survivor" activity. The question that worries me the most is: will the plants I tend this season survive? :) It's going to be a challenging time, this wet season...
June 6, 2013
It was time, at last, to sow the seeds we got from other people. Team Tagumpay must have been the slowest of the planters because it took us two hours to finish sowing seeds. But to be fair, it was the first time for some of us to even be in a nursery. Even though it was quite hot when the team worked, it was all fun... at the beginning. As the first hour passed, planting rice started getting monotonous. Patience was starting to thin.
I wondered how people working in the field handled the slower pace in life.
But of course! There's music! One of the bird ladies (women who stayed in the fields to shoo away the birds) started walking about with her portable radio blaring. Just following the woman's lead, I started playing music from …

Rice Survivor (Wet Season edition): Choose your own adventure

I'm participating in this wet season's "Rice Survivor" activity. The question that worries me the most is: will the plants I tend this season survive? :) It's going to be a challenging time, this wet season...
June 6, 2013

"You've got to get it right at the start..."  -- James Quilty, Rice Survivor, Dry Season (heard on IRRI Radio)
Well, I can't say that we, the wet season Rice Survivors, weren't warned. Nevertheless, it is daunting for people who aren't normally in the rice field one day to be planting rice in another. It's a fish-out-of-water experience, really. And today, may I say, the rice grains were out of water as well.
We sowed seeds this morning. But before we even stepped onto the field, there were some decisions that we needed to make: 
What rice variety was Team Tagumpay going to plant? This is the most important question, I think. There are more than 100,000 rice varieties to choose from... and we only had a small ar…

What's your email address?

My morning was made when I received a funny email. It's not supposed to be funny because it's a real valid email (i.e., not spam) and I was really supposed to answer it properly.

Email sender: You are invited to attend... Please see the attachment for more details.

I checked, but the email didn't have an attachment.

Rochie's email reply: Can you please resend the attachment? I didn't receive it.

After several hours, I received a reply.

Email sender: What is your email address?

Seriously?!? You've sent me an email AND you don't know my email address?!? Toinks!

Review: food trip in Katipunan Avenue

I normally don't venture out to the Katipunan Avenue area because I feel that the place is too far away from my normal route. One day, though, Anna and I was waiting for the sudden rain to stop when we chanced to see two restaurants on the ground level of the FBR Building, which is right across the Ateneo de Manila University Loyola Heights campus; these restaurants caught my attention because they reminded me of the restaurants peppering Lopez Avenue in Los Banos (the approach to the University of the Philippines Los Banos).
One thing I learned while eating lunch at the Paranara Korean Restaurant was that Korean cuisine need not be expensive. My previous visits to Sariwon and to Bulgogi Brothers have made this impression on me. Apparently, I was wrong. The prices of the food at Paranara were relatively student-friendly... but still expensive by Los Banos standards, I think. Or do I need to reorient myself with Los Banos dining costs?

Right after eating lunch, we spied a pink and…

Review: a Kitchen Musical experience, sans the music.

One of last year's novel concepts on the telly was a series on musically talented kitchen and restaurant staff. This pan-Asian show was entitled "The Kitchen Musical". Filipino actors were part of the cast and crew. In that show, much of the drama going on among staff of a fine dining restaurant occurred as they practice mise-en-place. At pre-service meetings, the chef usually asked for wine pairings. A common feature among episodes is a focus on the plating and presentation of the food, from appetizer all the way to dessert. Two receptionists,with their outrageous hair and clothes, provide the humor to otherwise dramatic sequences.
Another thing I noticed about the show is that the footfalls of people could be heard subtly (or am I the only one who heard them?). Perhaps the wooden floors gave the actors an easier time in carrying the props and walking in sky-high heels... I don't know. Then there are the lights. They all seemed to fall beautifully on the plate and…

Culinary arts lesson #2: Parlez-vous français?

Julienne. Brunoise. Mirepoix. Chiffonade. Concasse. 
These are just five of the terms that I have to learn as I study culinary arts. They're all culinary knife cuts and, you guessed it, they're all French!
The universe must be telling me something because this is not the first time I'm getting a lesson in French. There's the European language phrasebook I bought more than a decade ago (French is in there); I had to learn a bit of French just in case I had to use it during my short visit to Hanoi; African French-speakers surrounded me one time at dinner and were attempting to teach me how to speak French; and my supervisor at the University of Queensland could speak French and his post-doctoral fellows at that time were French... that just to name a few instances. More recently, an economist was checking if I could already pronounce brownie in French.
So, do I add French now to the growing list of languages I'm going to study? Looks like a good idea, particularly si…

Culinary arts lesson #1: There is no escaping Zoo 113.

On Saturdays, I attend the Fundamentals of Culinary Arts classes at the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management (ISCAHM) in Quezon City. I'm listing a few things I'm learning (aside from how to cook the fine-dining-restaurant-way, of course) as I attend school, lest I forget them.
I opted not to take the infamous Zoology 113 course at the University of the Philippines Los Banos back when I was in college. It's a course on comparative vertebrate anatomy and it involves dissecting cats. I couldn't possibly open one up since I have cats as pets at home. I chose to take courses on human physiology and psychology instead.
Many years after not choosing to enroll in Zoo 113, ignorance doesn't sound as blissful anymore. On the second day of culinary arts class, I found out that I have to know the anatomy of the cow; on the fourth day, I learned that I have to study the anatomy of the pig and of the sheep too. If that isn't vertebrate anatomy, I…

Rice Survivor (Wet Season edition): Toys for the big boys (and girls)

I'm participating in this wet season's "Rice Survivor" activity. The question that worries me the most is: will the plants I tend this season survive? :) It's going to be a challenging time, this wet season...
May 29, 2013.
"So many questions, and the answers are so few..."  -- Side A (1996)
After the snails and field measurements, it was time to get this season's Rice Survivors acquainted with farming equipment. Leigh Vial, head of IRRI's Experiment Station kindly walked us through the garage to meet some of the big toys that we might use in the field.

Along the way, I saw tractors and farming implements that look familiar... Of course! The tools used to till the land in sugarcane farms are similar to what is used in rice fields. The only difference was that the ones used for rice are a bit smaller. I'm familiar with the disc plow, and only the disc plow, because I used to see that all the time in my grandfather's coffee and peppercorn…

Rice Survivor (Wet Season edition): A snail's pace is faster than you think

I'm participating in this wet season's "Rice Survivor" activity. The question that worries me the most is: will the plants I tend this season survive? :) It's going to be a challenging time, this wet season... --- May 29, 2013.
Contrary to popular belief, snails are not slow, particularly at chomping off plant parts. That's what I learned, though it's implicitly said, during the first field exposure of the wet season Rice Survivors. During this activity, Alex Stuart, a snail expert, walked us through the importance of keeping snails out of our rice field.
There are several strategies, it turns out. Two strategies that I remember are (1) kill the snails with pesticides; (2) pick the snails by hand (yes, you read that right... by hand!). A third approach involves collecting the pink snail eggs and crush them before snails start to hatch. 

I still don't know how my group is going to banish those snails from the rice field assigned to us. But one thing&…

Rice Survivor (Wet Season edition): Measuring a field

I'm participating in this wet season's "Rice Survivor" activity. The question that worries me the most is: will the plants I tend this season survive? :) It's going to be a challenging time, this wet season...
--- May 29, 2013
The first outdoor activity was about about field measurements. Simple enough, or so I thought. Normally, I would instantly grab measuring tape to get the dimensions of the field. Apparently, however, there are more ways than one for measuring one's field.
What we did...

My groupmates used measuring methods that ranged from the crude to the high-tech. Aside from measuring the field by counting one's steps (and multiplying it by his/her pace factor), we also measured the field using waypoint averaging... yes, we got a lot of measuring help from up above. Of course, we also measured the field using a tape measure, just cover all methods available to us.
Not surprisingly, we all got different measurements for field area. Which one to use…