AT SOME point in our lives, we’re expected to leave home and be “independent”. My history teacher used to say that this period is particularly significant because it is when we learn the art of hunting and picking food on our own. In his early 20s, my older brother moved to another island and adopted the vegan lifestyle for a time.

My friend Orleyne went to Saipan and trailed the path of a wine connoisseur. Two years ago, my friend MD also flew to Korea and learned to love kimchi. In my and my sister’s case, however, it was our parents who left us home – forcing us to be independent and to fend for ourselves.

By the time I graduated from college, my parents’ move to their new house by the beach was already complete. They did it so gradually over my last couple of years in school that I hardly noticed it. The way some furniture and appliances disappeared bit by bit should have sent the bells ringing. But when you have a thesis to think of, most things just fade away.

“Girls, we’ll be transferring the big TV to the new house. We’ll just trade in a new, sm aller one, okay?” I now remember Mami asking us.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go, go,go,” I mumbled as my eyes remained glued to the PC screen, trying to reconstruct bar graphs and make sense of statistical boink-ilations. “Who has time to watch TV anyway?”

Up to now I still can’t believe I said that. But my Mami swears by it so I can’t argue my way to repossessing the big TV back now that the thesis-tical fog has long cleared. Sneaky is what they are (I love you mom, pops).

And then, some of the kitchen utensils, clocks, linens, and what-else too said bye-bye. But it never really hit us until one day, my sister and I stood before our ref

(thank God it’s too big to move miles away) and discovered all the food was gone!

Resigned to the fact that our Mami has defected to another camp, go to the grocery store ourselves, we did. We tried. My sister and I really tried. But our first attempt at domestic survival 101 was a disaster and that, apparently, set a precedent to our other expeditions to grocery land. I don’t know, but we always seem to end up with too much junk food and not enough ingredients for a home-cooked meal.

Okay, so we’re not too hot on the kitchen department. Good thing for us, there are still TV, billboards, and friends to clue us in on the Generation X Survival Kit.

Table of Contents: FOOD … turn to page three.

There it is! The subtitles: Instant Cuisine (i.e. pancit canton, canned food, oatmeal, choco/coffee mix, etc.); Take-Out (i.e. Jollibee drive-thru; Dim sum and then some); Order-out (i.e. KFC, pizza, pizza, pizza); and Dining Out (i.e Welcome to Ayala Mall…

I love you more today than yesterdaaaay….)

And then, when reality bites, there’s the comforting Gen-X Menu, carefully crafted and passed on from one clueless food hunter to another of this generation.

The Gen-X Menu is a product of years of research, trial and error, and copying each other’s eating habits. For the benefit of those neophytes to independent life, let me share with you a portion of this menu. Perhaps, it’ll help make your adjustment a little easier. I make no guarantees. It may not pass the standards of today’s culinary artists but, I tell you, it’s fast and easy (Gen X’s mantra) to put together. Just add water, chill, or simply mix and match. Some may be tempted to brand it as weird but I call it simply an exotic mix. As for side effects, all I can say is -- I still don’t have any ulcer and my bowel movement remains relatively fine. Safe enough? So go, be adventurous. Have a few bites of the Gen-X Menu at your own risk. Here are some personal favorites:

Appetizers

Ripe banana dipped in yummy peanut butter

Steamed banana slathered with cheez whiz

Ripe banana topped with dried fish (from Fritz)

Green mangoes topped with shrimp paste

Soup

Nesvita milk cereal

Fresh milk with coco crunch

Main Course

Lucky Me pancit canton with skyflakes

Lucky Me pancit canton with Spanish bread

Lucky Me pancit canton with chicharon

Lucky Me pancit canton with fried/grilled fish

Milo (powder variety) mixed with white rice (from Maya and Louie)

Barbecue-flavored Chippy with white rice (from Ever)

Super cold leftover spaghetti

Canned tuna with crackers

Dessert

Black coffee with flavored French fries (try sour cream and cheese)

Black coffee with Cadbury chocolates (not to be mixed)

Hot tea with frozen yogurt

San Mig Strong Ice with semi-frozen cheesecake

Vodka Ice with DJ Mix

Of course, we’ll grow out of this menu eventually. Either we break down and visit our folks more often for some real food, or our bodies break down and we’re forced to submit to a healthier lifestyle. But till then, aahhh-cheeww!

(aileen.quijano@gmail.com)