Food is one of the many many things that binds the Beets. I know, naming your barkada (group of friends) is a bit (very) sixth grade—but we can live with that. In fact, we sort of relish it. Peter Pan Syndrome? =) Perhaps.
The Beets—comprised of myself, Twin, Beets, and T3—were so named after the Butete lifestyle. Butete (the Tagalog word for tadpole) has been used to describe the condition one suffers from after stuffing one's face almost to the point of obscene gluttony. As in—"Ugh, I feel so butete right now!"
Last Monday, we planned to spend the afternoon lounging lazily at an outdoor picnic. However, since our schedules didn't mesh, and the weather didn't cooperate, the outdoor picnic was a no-go. But the Twins had something else in mind: "Hey, rainy Manila weather! We're having our picnic inside!"—and so we did. "Take that Mother Nature!"
After a BBM frenzy, we decided that we were going to head over to Beets' temporary place to break in her kitchen. We were warned that the most the kitchen has been used for was, well, it hasn't really been used. She also told us that somebody had given her some laing (a deliciously spicy Filipino vegetable dish in a coconut milk base) and that we could whip something up with it.
After a few minutes I found myself packing a table cloth, a bottle of Sangria, two pots and a spatula (which mysteriously disappeared throughout the course of the night) into Twin's car. Armed with the prospect of laing experimentation and an unmatched Twin-thusiasm, we headed for the supermarket for some impromptu supply shopping.
We got to Beets' apartment, supplies in hand and got into Iron Chef mode.
But there was something we didn't expect—
The giant stove monster.
Standing in front of us, glaring and taunting, was this machine none of us knew how to work. After an hour and a half of lighting up tissues to ignite the flame, and pressing the ignition and hearing its foreboding clicking for twenty seconds at a time, we called the concierge.
A few minutes later, the maintenance man came. He pushed a button to turn off the safety switch and the stove was now ready for use. It took all of four seconds.
After laughing at ourselves we set to work. After the initial preparations and setting the 'table' (we opted to sit on the floor to recreate the picnic feel and luckily, Beets had a large coffee table/ottoman thing which was perfect) we were ready to eat. Here's what we came up with that night.
|Soup and Salad.|
Inspired by the laing, we tried to stick to an Asian/Filipino/Tropical theme. The greens were store-bought (which included the red onions, dried shrimp flakes and salted red egg—the last two are Filipino delicacies) as was the dressing (Beets had a bottle of ginger-sesame dressing in her fridge). Come to think of it, the tomato soup came from a can as well, which after more thinking isn't really too 'Asian', but it was prepared with love and was yummy, so there.
|Don Simon Sangria!|
|Spicy Tuna - Laing Pasta with Feta Cheese Garnish and Garlic Breadsticks.|
Now, Beets wasn't kidding when she said that her kitchen was a bit understocked. We got totally medieval on those ingredients.
It was a blast!!!
Beets crushed garlic with a fork. I chopped onions with a bread knife. Twin cooked the pasta with a serving spoon. T3 arrived minutes later and joined into the fray.
We used the oil from the prepared feta cheese soaked in oil with herbs to sauté the garlic and onions. Next we added some canned spicy tuna (with a little bit of the oil it came in). Finally we tossed in the cooked fettuccine, seasoned with salt (Beets was out of pepper) and finished it all off by throwing some lemon slices into the pot.
Plating and presentation do go a long way. The pasta was swirled and spiked with garlic breadsticks (which came from a box, too) and a side of feta cheese (pre-packaged, as I've mentioned) was added as a final touch.
|Coffee/Tea and Red Velvet Cupcakes from Sonja's care of T3. Thanks T3!|
A fancy dinner doesn't have to happen in a fancy restaurant. A meal can be 'authentic' even if it isn't made entirely from scratch. And a get-together can be special even if it's not a 'special occasion'.
Everything that went wrong that night, the ingredients we wished we had, all of that made preparing that meal an adventure. It made it even more fun and memorable. Because of all the meal mishaps we laughed, we talked, we bonded.
Really, all you need are the bare essentials. Stuff that's already in your fridge, a bag or two of groceries, good company and a little imagination. Seriously, the simpler things can go a long long way. A picnic turned into dinner, which turned into coffee, which turned into drinks, which turned into a movie, which turned into a sleepover.
In fact, the very next day the three of us simply went home, showered, packed an overnight bag and returned to Beet's place for a second sleepover.
I'd take that night over a 'fancy dinner' any day.
—to future memories of nights like these.