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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Sira-sira store: A meal fit for a Pope

A STORM blew him to the shores of Tacloban City, and a storm met him with a cold shoulder when he landed. But the rain and wind did not prevent Pope Francis from fulfilling his mission: to comfort the vitims of typhoon Yolanda and to remind them God had not forgotten them.

Neither did the people of Tacloban allow the rain to dampen their spirits. They defied it in their flilmsy, yellow raincoats to greet their highest church leader with a heartwarming cheer.

There was this picture of humility that sticks in the mind. The pope chose to wear a similar raincoat rather than the one issued to him, most probably sturdy and with a good design.

According to ABS-CBN, typhoon Amang was threatening to hit Tacloban. So the pilots of Philippine Airlines advised the pontiff to fly back to Manila at 1 p.m., but did you know he had to depart in such a haste that he had only time for soup? Too bad the Kapamilya network did not say what type of soup it was. In the following days, more food stories trickled in, all focusing on what Manila had to offer.

“Last Saturday TV5 had the first report on what he ate. He had roast beef, sea bass (apahap) and mango flambe. The pope had also requested for a cake good for 80 people,” my nephew Jonatz said. (You know Pinoys. All children of cousins are called nieces and nephews! Does the pope know this detail about how much we want to keep bloodlines long and alive?)

“They had an update last Monday, Jonz,” his mom Dona said. “The pope was not fussy, and had only praise for chef Jessie Sincioco, who prepared all the meals. She said he ate everything on his plate, like the poached salmon with spinach, chicken chimichurri, and turon and banana cue for dessert. For lunch after his Rizal Park mass he had grilled ribeye steak. It was also reported by TV5 that he had grilled sea bass with a sauce of red tomato and artichokes. I didn’t catch which meal this was.”

Chimichurri is a green sauce made with finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil and white or red wine vinegar. The chicken dish must have made the pope feel at home since it is an Argentinian staple. We all know he is from Argentina.

“GMA-7 reported he told chef Jessie her steak was delicious and tender after she asked how he liked it,” my niece Krystall said.

“That’s because he is a caring man. I’m still amazed he met and comforted the father of Kristel Mae Padasas, the youth volunteer who died when a scaffolding fell on her after the mass in Tacloban,” my aunt Tita Blitte said.

Uncle Gustave said he liked the pope’s sense of humor. “GMA-7 reported that Christian Marquez, endearingly now called ‘holy waiter,’ had asked the pope how he wanted his steak. The pontiff said, ‘I want my steak alive.’ That’s rich.”

It took chef Jessie a month to conceptualize the menu, researching on the pope’s favorites, like media luna bread and ciabatta, and sweets to delight his sweet tooth. She served flambe mango with vanilla or mantecado ice cream, dulce de leche sponge cake, Italian ice cream with turon and banana cue, and chocolate souffle.

My niece Joy said, “He is a sweet man. GMA-7 said Tippi Tambunting baked the four cakes the pope had requested, to surprise a Vatican reporter who was turning 60 that Sunday. They came in mocha, butter, chocolate and cheese flavors.”

Peetong, Dona’s husband, admitted: “I drool over the menu: sea bass with wild rice risotto, spaghetti carbonara, pan-fried sea bass with potaotes and vegetables. TV5 was right. He had roast beef. For soup, the chef served consomme of asparagus. How about it, Dona?”

Dona, a great cook, teased him. “Sure! Let’s dine out tonight.”
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