Sira-sira store: English in the kitchen-A A +A
By Ober Khok
Friday, November 2, 2012
A STROLL around downtown Cebu gave me a glimpse of how Filipinos use English.
“We served lunch” was a window notice that stopped me on my tracks. I wondered whether the restaurant would still serve lunch the following day.
Another notice made me smile: “We are close”—close to what?
All our lives we have been eating banana- or camote-cue and never once asked about its odd name. This snack is made of bananas (sab-a or kardaba) or camote cooked either caramelized or rolled in brown sugar and threaded through a thin bamboo stick.
It is similar to the barbecue, this time made of pork cut into thin strips and threaded through a bamboo stick before it is grilled. It is the English equivalent of the kebab.
This one I’ve seen on the menus in some restaurants: steak ala pobre, chicken ala king, and so on. The common denominator is “ala,” which is the bastardized cousin of the correct term “a la,” which means “in the style or manner of.” But we Pinoys insist on using the one-word term. We just love it.
There is a restaurant in Baguio City that serves “boodle fight” daily. Kalapaw, the restaurant, offers many choices and combinations with each one carrying the house specialty, the bagnet or Ilocano lechon kawali.
Lest you think there are fights in the house each day, a boodle fight is a feast spread on banana leaves. It can feature canned sardines, vegetables, pork, pancit, or anything available, with rice of course. The boodle is eaten with bare hands, the way our forefathers consumed their food, but eating from one dish is not the Pinoy way.
This system of communal dining was created by the Philippine Military Academy cadets who wanted to show unity, equality and friendship. They borrowed the word “boodle,” a West Point slang for sweets, pastry or cold snacks like ice cream, and attached it to “fight.” And fight just refers to the many hands digging in, fighting for a piece of fish or vegetable.
After a party, we expect a “bring house” or a parcel containing some of the food served during the event. American English might be more comfortable with “take home” but we would rather “bring it to the house.”
All big offices have canteens where meals can be had all throughout the day. It is an odd word because the proper one is cafeteria. A canteen is a water container that soldiers use to refresh themselves in the middle of a hot day. Maybe this how canteen is used—meaning “a place where you get refreshments.”
Dine-in and eat-all-you-can are advertised all over town. When we say we will dine-in, we are indicating that we will eat at the restaurant. The correct English term is “eat in.” Eat-all-you-can is actually “all-you-can-eat.”
Americans say “we do” as in “we do catering” or “we do cakes.”
Not Pinoys. We would rather “accept” something—from the Cebuano modawat or the Tagalog tumatanggap. So we see flyers, posters and billboards cheerfully saying “we accept wedding banquets” or “we accept party catering.” Why should we “do” something when we can “accept” it, right?
We accept the job to do the wedding banquet, that’s what we mean. It’s just the way we think.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 03, 2012.