DALY CITY, California — There’s nothing more comforting than a home-cooked meal, especially one that harks back to now-clearly carefree days before the coronavirus assault on the planet.
Count on ever-resilient Filipinos to find assorted ways to be productive in quarantine. More often than not, they will gravitate toward the kitchen to chop and saute their attention away from the dreaded illness that has killed more Americans than the Vietnam War and seems closer to plunging this country into the next Great Depression every day.
Food feeds the soul and no one knows that more than Filipinos, who tend to feast in triumph or in tragedy. Food heals even more when shared, a reality Daly City Council Member Ray Buenaventura wants to exemplify in his latest project to assuage hunger and lift the spirits of anxious constituents.
Timed for Sunday, May 10, Mothers’ Day, the simply titled Adobo Community Feed will honor the Filipino tradition of hospitality and “bayanihan” or solidarity, focusing on the Philippine national dish.
Buenaventura is cautious about instigating the first live public event in his town since Gov. Gavin Newsom mandated Californians to shelter in place as Covid-19 began to spread throughout the Golden State. While distribution of the meals will be in person, preparation will take place in each participant’s home. Buenaventura gave as much thought to social distancing as to quelling loneliness and providing nutrition while he percolated plans.
“I started noticing more and more people were staying at home and doing their own cooking,” the only Philippine-born of the four Filipino American City Council Members told Inquirer.net of his observation since the state lockdown order came down in mid-March.
Pre-pandemic, foodies frequenting restaurants typically posted photos of their lovingly plated orders on social media. Food continues to be a favorite focal point in the escapist corners of the Internet, but provenance has shifted, the immediate past mayor of Daly City noted.
“My Facebook friends would post all these delicious meals they were making and it got me thinking: What if we could harness all that energy and cooking skills for the betterment of the community?”
Ready-to-eat meals, in fact, have been a longtime lifeline for isolated older and dependent adults, delivered to their homes or served at community centers. Organizations and individuals also have been distributing packaged lunches for health care workers of all ages who are unable to leave their workplace to purchase food because of safety guidelines, Buenaventura also observed.
“But then, I also saw the need to feed our own general community,” his attention turned past front liners and first responders. “I saw long lines of cars waiting for hours to get donated food supplies from Second Harvest Food Bank. It was clear that people were suffering from the Covid-19 crisis and that families were hungry and needed to be fed.”
“I wanted to do something different than just giving away raw food and groceries,” he told Inquirer.net. “I thought what better way than ask the community to cook a very simple but iconic dish of the Filipino — adobo and rice. Who doesn’t like that combination? Filipinos are known for this traditional meal and it appeals to all diversity groups.”
He was looking back at his childhood watching his grandmother cook chicken adobo, that stew bubbling away in garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, pepper and bay leaves — the basis for the classic aromatic dish Filipinos made their own after learning to “adobar” or marinate, from their Spanish colonizers.
The senior-most Daly City Council Member reached out to his City Hall successor Mayor Glenn Sylvester, who has been coordinating responses to and keeping tabs of resources for those most vulnerable to the deadly virus.
Stoked, Sylvester connected with Vice Mayor Juslyn Manalo, who happens to be current president of the Filipino American Democratic Club (FADC) and a big proponent of a most democratic exercise — breaking bread together.
“This is a wonderful idea get everyone involved and give to the most in need of food, most especially with the ‘food insecurity’ that is rampant during Covid-19 crisis,” Manalo told Inquirer.net.
With FADC vice president and her fellow Council Member Dr. Rod Daus-Magbual, she aired an appeal on social media for concerned residents to “cook a pot of adobo and rice” and deliver to partner organization Pilipino Bayanihan Resource Center between 10 a.m. and 12 noon on Mothers’ Day.”
“We will then package the food and distribute to the community starting at 2 p.m.,” detailed Manalo. She suggested each pot to be good to feed 10 persons.
Caring community members unable to cook and/or deliver may choose to donate funds to purchase additional adobo from restaurants.
“Our project serves four purposes,” Buenaventura, the mastermind, said. “‘Giving the people an opportunity to help. Feeding 500-1000 people home-cooked adobo and rice. Supporting local restaurants and reminding people on the importance of completing the Census2020.”
The team also wants to improve early survey results showing Daly City residents among lowest response rates to this year’s national count, despite San Mateo County having the highest rate of return so far in California. An undercount would deprive the city of federal funds for programs vital to the community, which the Feed organizers want to impress on participants.
The event follows the collaborators’ successful donation drive for residents of areas severely impacted by the massive ashfall from Taal Volcano in Batangas, Philippines.
“Meal packages of adobo and rice will be given for free to anyone in need,” Manalo promised. “No questions asked. No registration required. Just show up, pop open your trunk, and the meal packages will be loaded onto your car. Families in need are encouraged to come.”
Of course, there are countless adobo recipes with innovations and improvisations depending on the cook’s origin in the Philippines or location in the Diaspora. Vegans simmer kang-kong (water spinach), pescaterians do the same with bangus (milkfish), carnivores marry chicken and pork. In the Bicol Region of Southern Luzon, coconut cream (gata) enriches the stew. Somewhere in the Visayas, pineapple sweetens the recipe.
A self-avowed foodie, Buenaventura auditioned for TV’s “MasterChef” and proudly declared having “advanced several rounds before being eliminated during tryouts.”
Always in lawyer mode, he defends his case: “I think the key to good adobo is to not overcook the chicken so that’s it’s not rubbery. It should have the taste and texture of a rotisserie chicken, juicy and tender. Not tough or dry. The secret is using three cooking methods, frying, baking, and then boiling. It’s worth the effort and results in a better tasting adobo.”
The proof is in the tasting, er, the feeding.
Here are the family recipes from the Manalo and Buenaventura kitchens:
Mama Josie Manalo’s Chicken Adobo
12 drumsticks or 1 large chicken (cut to desired size)
1/3 cup of white vinegar
1/3 cup of Marca Pina soy sauce
6 tablespoon of oyster sauce
8 grains of peppercorns
5 bay leaves
1/3 teaspoon of minced ginger
1 head of crushed garlic
Optional topping: 3 potatoes medium cut and fried
*Cut and clean the chicken
drain and mixed all the ingredients mentioned above
for overnight .
Cook the marinated chicken
in medium heat so the chicken will absorb some of the marinade
Until it gets tender, simmer low till finally done!
Then fry either of the garnish for serving!
Ray Buenaventura’s Adobo
Marinate the chicken in 1 part vinegar (Sukang Asim) and 1 part soy sauce (Toyo). Drain after 1 hour.
Pat dry the chicken. Fry in oil just to get it brown. Do not cook chicken completely but just to slightly caramelize it.
Transfer chicken to baking sheet. Bake in oven (350 degrees) until internal temperature of chicken is 165 degrees (about 1 hour).
In separate pot, on medium heat, add oil and fry garlic cloves. Do not burn garlic. Just cook until slightly brown. Then add 1 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and salt to taste. Once liquid is simmering, add the baked chicken and cook for 15 minutes.
Serve with rice.
For more information on Adobo Community Feed, visit https://bit.ly/filamcommunityfeedsignup
or email [email protected].
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