Showing posts with label philippines. cavite. Show all posts
Showing posts with label philippines. cavite. Show all posts

13 April 2009

Unwarranted Coffee Expectations

Green coffee beans drying out in Sagada.

I was sent a package of roasted coffee from Mindanao sometime ago, and several packets were ground very finely and burnt quite severely. It was bitter, and the solids kept getting into the beverage, when done both on a drip machine and a French press. When I asked my friend, whose coffee ("Kape Moro") is a hit every week at the local wet markets, he explained to me that every town has its own preferred form and way of preparing the bean.

More green beans in Sagada.

Some areas like it roasted until it is extremely bitter. Some like it a little bit lighter. Because they do not own coffeemakers, some people boil grounds with water in a pot or kettle and strain the liquid. Others pour boiling water into a cup containing finely powdered coffee-- and eat the resulting bitter muck at the bottom when they are finished drinking. The bitterness is often a measure for potency and provides a "kick". Apparently, because the Moslems cannot take alcohol, there are some "everyday" avenues for mind-alteration.

Coffee drying out in Alfonso, Cavite.

In a world where a small group of connoisseurs exist for every large commodity, it can be easy to invalidate folk usage. Sometimes we have to be reminded that there is no one (or two, or three) way(s) to prepare a certain food, and we need to be confident enough to explore our own preferences. In a country where many people still grow coffee trees in their backyards for personal stash, there are equally many ways to enjoy it.

19 January 2009

Itaks and Coconuts


I am soon buying my very own itak. Now, if I lived in an agricultural community, this decision would have come sooner and with much less romance. I would have had an itak hanging off my left hip (I am right-handed), using it to clear the persistent tropical vegetation that is often in one's way.

Handmade and heavy.

The straight ones associated with various equatorial revolutions are preferred for making people taga-- and not ripping them off, as it has come to mean, but chopping them to pieces. The curved, top-heavy variety pictured in this post is ideal for slashing banana trunks, sugarcane, softwood, young trees. I've often used ours in place of a trowel (to dig a whole in the ground), in place of a saw (to go through heavy branches), or a cleaver (to open unwieldy fruit like durian). Not to mention coconuts!

Wooden handle and case.

Though I have no photos to illustrate, I really enjoy watching people use their itak to poke, lift, and slap (after removing it from the knife end, to listen for juice content) coconuts, then proceed to whittle a side down until the white flesh peeps out. This they punch a whole through with the tip of the itak and pour the juice out. And I won't even begin to talk about the simple cleverness of slicing "spoons" from the outer husk to eat the meat!

The coconut, unlike other fruit, grows not by letting humans eating its meat, but by leaving it alone. We need force to get into this giant seed, and in human settlements, it is intent (or neglect-- or satiation) that causes its propagation.

A baby coconut palm tree.


We are People of the Coconut. Poking around a provincial backyard will inevitably yield tools and traces of interacting with palm fruit. One of them is the kabayo, a wooden "horse" (sometimes fashioned out of a single piece of driftwood) with a metal attachment that shreds the mature coconut for milk extraction. It isn't used for fresh green coconuts.

A kabayo in Cavite, with some husks all about.

When I was little, I would watch our helper sit on the kabayo and rhythmically grate niyog against the sharp "head", producing the white shreds that looked not unlike flaky sea salt. She did this until brown specks appeared, signaling that she was beginning to grate the shell portion and making her shift the niyog to attack a different section. (If you still don't get it, here's a YouTube video.)

Nailed firm.

While some city households still prefer to grate their own, most rely on mechanized graters in markets or groceries. This is just fine, as long as we can get to them easily. I have personally developed a newfound appreciation for the kabayo after, in colder climes, I had resorted to the arduous scraping of an imported niyog with a fork, or breaking the hard flesh apart and dumping it in a blender with some water.

15 January 2009

Living Posts

A low basketball ring on a tree.

The best support has roots down into the ground. A walk around a home in the province will give you ideas of improvisation along those lines.

A chair resting on a coconut trunk.

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