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Cook a doodle doo

(article, Liz Crain)

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For a couple of years now, Johanna Blanco has been writing about food on her blog, 80 Breakfasts. (The name is a riff on the classic Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty Days.) Blanco originally intended to chronicle her favorite daily meal one day at a time, but what started out as a breakfast-only blog has become much more. Now you'll find plenty of lunch, dinner, and dessert recipes, as well as ruminations.
 
Blanco lives in the Philippines, but her cooking frequently favors Spanish and Greek foods. And because she travels regularly for her job as director of a media-consulting firm, the foods Blanco encounters on the road often make their way onto her blog. In fact, Blanco recently decided to hunker down and learn her native Filipino cuisine.

[%image promo-image float=right width=400 caption="Blanco's rendition of bagnet with bagoong fried rice." credit="Photo courtesy Johanna Blanco"]

p(blue). Blog: 80 Breakfasts
Average posts per month: 10
Blogger: Johanna Blanco
Age: 32
Blog place of origin: Manila, Philippines
 
You frequently deprecate your Filipino cooking skills. Do you really think you're inexperienced with the cuisine, or are you just being humble?
It’s true! I have only made adobo once, and it was far from perfect. There are probably only two Filipino dishes that I can cook confidently. Blame it on culinary wanderlust, but that is the way it turned out. 
 
Then I woke up one day married to a guy who loves adobo, with no idea how to make it. That’s when I realized that I was missing out on what could be the most important cuisine I would learn: my own. 
 
What's the Lasang Pinoy food-blog event?
The event was started by a group of Filipino bloggers in 2005. Lasang Pinoy literally means "Filipino Taste," "Pinoy" being slang for Filipino. The event was created to celebrate Filipino food in all its incarnations. Each month a theme is chosen that is related to Filipino food, and all participants whip up dishes using the said theme. 
 
It's the rainy season in the Philippines right now. How does this affect your food and cooking?
It means I will not be sweating as much in the kitchen. Seriously, with the departure of the scalding summer heat, standing by a hot stove is a little more comfortable. 
 
The rains will bring on cravings for familiar comfort food and soups like monggo guisado (mung bean stew) and sinigang (a sour soup with vegetable and either beef, pork, fish, or shrimp). The wet season also means less stellar veggies at the markets and prices going up. Sigh.
  
How has your frequent traveling affected your cooking?
One of the aspects of traveling that I enjoy the most is tasting new cuisines. No trip is complete without tucking into local eats. I’ll try anything. And a lot of what I try while traveling, I want to bring home and recreate, so this has really stretched the breadth of what goes on in my kitchen. 
 
When I travel, I like to get a good mix of restaurants, street food, and — if I’m lucky — home cooking. Beyond food, even the scenery and the vibe can provide kitchen inspiration. And then there’s the shopping! Although I haven’t found ways (yet!) to smuggle in fresh fruits and whole legs of lamb, spices and chocolate (and anything else not-so-perishable) are some of my best souvenirs. I went to Egypt with a backpack full of Ziploc bags just for this purpose.
 
What foods from your travels do you miss the most?
Dallaspulla from Finland. Oliebollen, raw herring, and stroop from the Netherlands. Real Greek food in Greece; I miss practically everything from there. The best gyros I have ever tasted, dolmades, lamb youvetsi — and the baklava, so heavy and sweet and sticky. Lechal (suckling lamb) from Asador Aranda in Barcelona; it’s unbelievably tender and so flavorful. Horchata and fideuá from Barcelona. 
 
What aspects of Filipino cuisine are most important to you?
The history and tradition surrounding it. There are not as many Filipino cookbooks out there as, say, Thai or Chinese or Vietnamese or, OK, practically every other Asian culture. I think most Filipinos really rely on family (and more recently friends, too) for their indigenous recipes, rather than on books. I like that. Although I dream of the day when Filipino cuisine finally dazzles the world, I like this cozy, family-heritage feeling it gives me. 
 
Name some local ingredients that you couldn't do without.
Kalamansi (calamondin), a local citrus fruit, like a lemon/lime/tangerine mix, that we use in everything — cooking, marinades, and dipping sauces. It also makes a gorgeously refreshing juice. 
 
Patis (fish sauce) is also used to season a lot of dishes, as well as toyo (soy sauce). Along with patis and toyo, I never run out of sinamak (vinegar with lots of chiles, garlic, ginger, and peppercorns) and various other local vinegars. Vinegar is the main component in adobo, after all, which I am still trying to perfect. 
 
I also have a bunch of chiles around because we like things spicy — usually some sili labuyo (bird’s eye chile) and sili pangsigang (long green chile that we use for soups and stews). I always have some bagoong (shrimp paste) stashed away, usually more than one kind. 

[[block(sidebar).

h1. Liz's favorite posts

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1. Prawns with Aligue
2. Kumquat Marmalade
3. Sunday Brunch Meme: Tapsilog
4. Lasang Pinoy 7: Tuyo

]]
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What is your food heritage?
My family is of Spanish descent, so there are a lot of Spanish influences in our home cooking. My aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents — they all have their own specialties when it comes to Spanish cuisine. Most of them I have badgered for recipes already. Filipino food, of course, was also present on our table when I was growing up. Those are my two main gastronomic "ancestors." 

As for mentors, my father and all his brothers are great cooks and love food and cooking. They can talk about cooking for hours. My dad makes his own jam. I learned a lot from my mother also, whose food I have loved to eat all my life.

What do you need to go to the market or grocery store for today?
Some pork belly for a Filipino dish (binagoongan baboy, one of the two that I can cook) I am making for a dinner party I’m hosting. Leeks for an experimental fish dish I am trying out. Parsley just because. Milk, because we drink tons and always run out. Smoked bangus (milkfish), a favorite in our house so I always like to have some on hand. Olive oil; the supply was getting low and making me nervous. Yogurt, because I cannot be without it. And more chiles.

p(bio). Liz Crain is a writer based in Portland, Oregon.


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