How to avoid a faux pas in Provence
PURPLE SHADES By Letty Jacinto-Lopez Updated May 03, 2009 12:00 AM
To avoid a faux pas while traveling through France, take note of the following:
Q: How is bouillabaisse eaten?
A: In the following order:
• A platter of live and snapping crustaceans is brought in for your approval. I actually saw them fish the lobster out of the huge wall-to-wall tank.
• The soup stock (strong with all the juices of the crustaceans) is served first.
• Slurp it with gusto and savor each taste of fat and roe. (Make a mental note not to report this to your family cardiologist.)
• The cooked crustaceans that have been boiled in their natural juices with herbs and spices are then served with a basket-full of French baguettes and a special thick, creamy sauce in which you can dip the French bread.
Bouillabaisse is not an ordinary seafood soup. It is not like our sinigang or the Thai’s tom yong where the meat and veggies are mixed and can be taken while floating or submerged in the tasty stock. The art of eating (and enjoying) bouillabaisse is done in stages.
Q: How did we give our “identity” as foreigners away?
A: By not ordering wine.
The owner, Pierre, came to our table to ask what wine we would like with our lunch. My husband shook his head and replied, “L’eau minerale, s’il vous plait.” Pierre was horrified. “N’est pas possible!” he declared. “You can’t have bouillabaisse with water. It’s a sacrilege.” “D’accord,” I replied. “Give us one half carafe of your house wine (une demi-pitchet vin pays),” but not before we got my husband’s Perrier and son’s Coca/Orangina.
We were in vin territory where it is de rigueur to have local wine rather than water with meals. Pierre even took us to his underground cellar where you could actually buy generic wine being aged in wood barrels with their own tap. Imagine helping yourself to some fresh and fruity rosé or chardonnay. If you don’t want to go for the generic wines, there was the red Chateauneuf-du-Pape grown in southern Rhone, the dry white wines of seaside Cassis and the Provencale rosé grown in Bandol or Cotes (rocky hillsides) de Provence. When in France, it’s a crime to be a teetotaler.
Avoid sidewalk cafés during the festival months. Dine indoors during odd hours and choose restaurants where the chef is also the owner/operator; the food is guaranteed to taste good and special. Don’t be taken by the glossy photos posted outside sidewalk cafés; the actual dish served is guaranteed to be blah and lousy.
Q: Where are the drug kingpins to be found in Marseilles (like the ones in the cop thriller The French Connection filmed in Marseilles in 1971 with a young Gene Hackman)?
They have beautiful museums of Marseilles’ history, the Roman docks, the Palais Longchamps and the Golden Madonna on a 150-foot bell tower at the Basilique de Notre Dame dela Garde plus the old commercial docks and the old town rebuilt. Marseilles has enough attractions without investigating its dark side.
Q: When and where are truffles to be found?
A: Wait until November (autumn) or December (winter). The richly flavored fungi is a close cousin of the mushroom, harvested in the woods or forests of Haute Provence and sold in the market stalls. What makes them unique? Trained pigs sniff them out from underground, near the roots of oak trees. (Lately, I am told, they substitute dogs to do the sniffing because the pigs tend to sniff and eat the truffles).
The golfball-sized truffles are collected in winter when they are at their most fragrant. Local markets specialize in truffles when they are in season but because of their rarity, they always tend to be expensive to horde.
If you see “truffes” on the menu, make sure your host is truly your bosom friend who would willingly spend a ransom for you or your worst competitor who would spare nothing to impress you.
Q: What are santons?
A: Gaily painted traditional or religious figures in terra cotta garbed in rural attire depicting the different lifestyles of rural France. Some are reasonably priced but because of their weight, it is difficult to smuggle many into my luggage without husband “detecting” them.
Q: What is le mistral?
A: It’s the wind blowing from the northwest of Europe.
Life and living conditions in Provence are influenced by the weather and I’ve often heard them talk about le mistral. Described as strong, fierce, icy and relentless, this thick Herculean white mass of “goodwill” blows the clouds away in spring and cools down the heat in summer. But sometimes, they say it can be a cruel, “ill” wind. I find it captivating that the French could give a name and a personality to the wind.
Q: How do you greet someone or say goodbye in Provence?
A: With two or three kisses, usually one on each cheek.
The usual greeting among friends of either sex is generally two or three kisses on the cheek. Our beso-beso must have been patterned after this ritual of camaraderie and politeness, though in Provence it seems to look more sincere and spontaneous.
And on a high note:
Q: Why do the lavender fields and the color purple have a romantic appeal?
A: The color purple speaks of wanting to be loved.
Oui, c’est l’amour, ma chère, ‘tis love.
This question is pretty simple; however, the answer isn’t quite as straightforward. The best answer is that it isn’t good or bad whether or not you eat before exercise.
To answer as correctly and thoroughly as possible, I did a lot of research instead of merely giving you my opinion on the subject.
The reason for eating before a workout is so that you’ll have energy when you’re going through your program or following an exercise class. But it’s all about balance. There’s a pretty thin line between providing enough food to give you a needed boost and feeling overly full when you’re working out.
Once, a bunch of us had come from yoga pictorials and we were running late for my evening yoga class, which they all were attending. Everyone was starving because, of course, we had done the pictorials on empty stomachs so we’d be able to do difficult poses looking as fit as possible.
We still had about an hour so we ordered several vegetarian pizzas to go and ate them on the way to class. Unfortunately, they took a bit long to fill the orders so we were not only hungrier, we were also so late that we only had enough time to munch quickly and put our mats in place.
In a class of about 20 or so people that night, there were about six of us who were feeling really sick, especially during the bent-over stretches! I’m sure I am speaking for all of us when I say we learned our lesson.
Research shows that when you eat before exercise instead of exercising with an empty stomach, it improves your athletic performance. We’re not talking about full meal here; this is just a snack, so generally, a snack taken before an activity will provide fuel for that activity – or practice, game, workout, run, etc. – depending on how long the session lasts.
When you exercise with an empty stomach, your body burns more fat than if you ate before you exercised, But – and this is an important consideration – your body also ends up burning lean mass or muscle.
Remember that your body will still burn fat even if you don’t exercise with an empty stomach; it just won’t burn as much. But to be able to burn fat as a fuel, your body needs carbohydrates.
Also, a snack before a workout will keep you from becoming very hungry after a workout, which happens often and ends up making you eat more than you intend to and definitely more than is good for you.
If you decide to go ahead and eat before exercise, these are the best ways to do it for maximum benefit:
• Choose a light 200- to 300-calorie meal containing some carbohydrates and protein.
• Allow at least one half to an hour to pass before you begin your workout.
• Dehydrated muscles perform poorly so drink water not just before, during, and after a workout, but throughout the day.
• Don’t go longer than four hours without eating. Make sure that in between meals, instead of suddenly feeling hungry and grabbing the nearest unhealthy snack, you have planned nutritious snacks.
Some possibilities (these can also be breakfast if you exercise early in the morning):
• egg whites
• cottage cheese
• nonfat or low-fat yogurt
• protein shake
• fruits (bananas, oranges, apples, grapes)
• unsalted and/or whole-grain crackers
• a slice of whole-wheat or multi-grain bread
• soups that are low in fat and salt (pureed soups, minestrone, miso, etc.)
Avoid high-fat proteins:
• peanut butter
• red meat
These take longer to digest and sometimes make you feel even more tired. Look for food that is quickly digested and absorbed. Experiment with various options.
And if you have an important event or scheduled workout activity with a friend, this may not be the best time to try a new food, just to be safe.
Sources: Go Ask Alice! Columbia University Health Services; Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 1997; American Dietetic Association.
Note: I heard from some friends and readers that my mail bounces. If it does, please email me at email@example.com.
Updated February 22, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – There’s a much improved scientific way of processing and packaging burong dalag (fermented mudfish).
The technology was developed by researchers Raquel Pambid, Wilma de Vera, Veronica Austria, Teresita Sunga, and Rosabella Mendez of the Pangasinan State University (PSU, Bayambang campus).
Their research project, titled “Processing and Packaging Improvement of Burong Dalag”, won the top prize in the 2009 Aquatic Technology Competition and Marketplace (ATCOM) sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (DOST-PCAMRD).
The PSU researchers said the practice of making buro dates to the Spanish times when, during semana santa (Holy Week), the people abstained from eating meat. Instead, they turned to fish and vegetables.
They noted: “To enjoy their fare of fish even during semana santa they preserved fish drenched in salt and mixed with rice and left it to ferment in earthen jars. Thus, buro was born.”
The PSU study aimed to make buro retain its delicious taste and at the same time eliminate its unfavorable odor so that it can be marketable locally and abroad. It also wanted to help buro makers perfect the product not only as raw material but cooked as well.
The researchers focused on salting, a critical point in making buro.
“The new formula used 24 percent rock salt to ferment dalag in 18-20 days. Beyond 20 days, bad smell develops and some molds may start to grow,” they said.
The new technology observes the following procedures: cleaning of the fish (minus head and internal organs), freezing of the cleansed fish, salting and soaking, draining of salted fish, stuffing of salted fish with cooked cooled rice, fermenting, cooking, sterilizing, bottling, and labeling.
The technology has been adopted by PSU, which has established markets in some restaurants, schools, and offices in Pangasinan. – Rudy A. Fernandez
WITH THE expected slowdown in the Philippine economy this year as confirmed by the International Monetary Fund, entrepreneurs are finding ways to deal with the global financial crisis.
“When the economy is down, nobody spends,” says Karat World top man Felix Gorriceta III. The times thus call for streamlining of inventory. “Stock up on what sells. We don’t experiment much on new merchandise, which we had the luxury of doing so before,” he says.
At publishing company Adarna House, Emelina Almario, president, shares these strategies:
1. Streamline business processes. “We are auditing current business processes and looking at ways to improve them in terms of cutting costs.”
2. Manage risks. “Our various sales channels present different levels and types of risks and we are also looking into these.”
3. Practice prudence with resources. This goes for “electricity, paper and gas (even the small things count!).”
Her daughter, Ani Rosa Almario, who co-owns The Raya School with partners, reveals they are holding off on tuition fee hikes “so as not to add to [the parents’] financial woes.”
But there’s always opportunity in tough times. Gorriceta cites Henry Sy, who built his very first SM mall when the economy was hard up in the ‘80s. “Spaces are being offered now and it’s a good idea to grab them. But don’t just open [a store] anywhere. Choose places where you think you will profit, where business will prosper,” he advises. Indeed, during tough times, the tough gets going.
If you’re an organized person (bordering on being OC?), you probably draw up a daily checklist of things to do at home and at work, so that your life runs like clockwork. Without your checklist, your multi-tasking life could go haywire. Or you could go bonkers.
On top of our daily checklist, we must have a (mini) health audit every day, according to Handbook for Life (how to make friends, beds, love, tea, money … and the world a better place) by Caroline Righton (available at National Book Store).
Right on, Caroline! Listen up, everyone: “Whoever you are and whatever your age and general state of health, the key thing is to ask yourself if your body easily meets the demands made on it by the life you lead, and whether, if you would like to have a different sort of life, you might need to raise your game to improve your health …”
So, what are the things you need to ask yourself when you do your mini health audit? Here are a few questions and some answers:
1) Do you sleep well?
I guess for most of us who work such looong hours, the answer is a yawning no. Yes, says Caroline, “Most people need between seven and eight hours’ sleep a night … Sleep is needed by your body and brain to recharge and stay healthy. Too little and your immunity can decrease and your concentration suffer. Too much and you may feel lethargic and even depressed.”
What to do?
Take a few tips for a night of bedded bliss:
• Don’t eat or drink too late, yes, and say no to spicy foods, caffeine or alcohol.
• Take a warm milky drink. Milk does help as it contains brain-calming tryptophan.
• Don’t do any strenuous exercise close to bedtime. Allow your body several hours to relax and cool down before getting some shut-eye.
If the problem persists, says Caroline, go and see your doctor. For sure, you won’t be the only insomniac in the waiting room. Zzzz you there!
2) Do you feel stiff or have creaky joints when you wake up?
If your only form of exercise is stretching a point or bending your principles, you could be in trouble. “This (having creaky joints) is probably a reflection of your level of fitness,” writes Caroline. “… If you are worried about it, of course see your doctor, because it can be an indication of medical problems, but first try stretching out and gently flexing the offending creaking parts while lying in bed … Even gentle exercise, such as swimming, can help if it’s carried out regularly.”
3) Does your tongue look less than rosy pink?
Now, that’s no tongue-in-cheek question. Caroline has a mouthful to say on that: “Tongues really aren’t at their best in the morning, but serious badger’s bum furring is most likely to indicate that you are dehydrated and so, drinking the recommended eight glasses of water a day and not overdoing coffee and booze should help.”
4) What color is your urine and does it smell?
Don’t get pissed off now, but your urine has a lot of story to tell about your health. For instance, smelly pee means you might have a urinary tract infection. And the darker yellow it is, the more likely you are to be dehydrated. Drinking alcohol can dehydrate your body so your urine may be dark after a night of boozing it up. Rehydrate, but if your problem persists, see a doctor.
5) Is your waist size over 94 cm. (man), 80 cm. (women)?
As the experts say, “The broader the waistline, the shorter the lifeline.” For an overall picture, says Caroline, look at your body fat percentage, your blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cholesterol levels.
6) Have you got your stress levels under control?
Caroline’s book can’t stress this enough: “Stress is a killer, which is ironic given that it was once a lifesaver as the body’s front-line defense mechanism.”
Today, you are probably stressed if you feel guilty when you relax — yup, you’re stressed because there’s no stress in your life.
Here’s an antidote to stress, according to Caroline: “Get the stress in perspective … Count your blessings and accentuate the positive in your life …”
It’s a fact, as proven by medical tests, that optimists respond better to medical treatment. Indeed, a dose of positivism keeps ill health at bay.
7) Do you eat a sensible diet with restricted fatty or sugary foods?
Once more with feeling: A high-fat, high-sugar diet puts one at high risk of heart disease and diabetes.
8) Do you keep your salt intake low — to less than 6 g. a day?
How low should you go? Here’s the lowdown on salt from the life audit handbook: 6 g. is about the same amount as one level teaspoon. Too much salt raises the blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack. You better watch out, too, for processed foods, bread and cereals that contain salt.
9) Do you drink enough water?
How much is enough? Answer: Eight or more glasses keep the immune system healthy. An added bonus is that it helps you lose weight, too. But that’s another weighty issue that deserves another lengthy discussion.
So, how did you fare in this life audit?
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We’d love to hear from you. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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By CHING M. ALANO
Updated February 17, 2009 12:00 AM
As the impact of the global financial crisis unravels, we find our country affected the most with the closure of companies and factories and the termination of OFW contracts. The Department of Labor (DOLE) reports that more than 15,000 workers have been retrenched over the past two months, while 19,000 others had their working hours reduced. As many as 800,000 people are expected to add to the swelling unemployment rate which presently stands at 6.8 % or about five million unemployed and underemployed adults.
We have read of various efforts to address this problem of worsening unemployment. Business and labor groups have banded with academe and the government to push for the creation of 1.3 million jobs within the year, which will be sourced from both domestic and overseas establishments. Active players will be the government, business process outsourcing (BPO) centers and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
While we read of these various solutions and wonder at the same time whether the wheels will turn in favor of the displaced workers, we are able to see a brighter future with actual programs already being done in Makati. Mayor Jejomar Binay reports that his Public Services Employment Office (PESO) had successfully employed more than 15,000 job seekers in multinational firms and local companies just last year. Around 4,499 applicants were hired through a Mini Job Fair held last year, while 2,015 people were employed under the Regular Job Placement Program. PESO Satellite offices also reported that they were able to find jobs for 1,940 job applicants and 1,896 applicants who joined the Mega Job Fair in May and November last year. Under Makati City’s Government Internship Program, 3,275 young adults found work, while another 1,569 became gainfully employed through the city government’s coordination with private companies who sponsored job fairs.
Mayor Binay, whose great advantage over other mayors is the number of large establishments in a prime commercial city that is Makati, certainly has a simple and practical example to ensure that services are delivered directly to people. What he does is simply match the wealth of available resources and opportunities in his city with the most urgent need of his constituents. His PESO is an effective vehicle that makes plans happen, ensuring that objectives are met. The important thing is he works on hand and stays on top of the situation. Progress is monitored and evaluated and the numbers are recorded so that a sense of achievement permeates his whole organization, with each member knowing that they have contributed meaningfully to solving a problem. Lest we become engulfed in the technical jargon of economics, having to figure out their meaning and impact on our common problems before being able to formulate a solution, let us get down on ground and deal with the problems directly. We need not be or pretend to be economic experts to do this.
Nowadays, there are two kinds of leaders those who are interested in the fleece and those who care about the flock. We challenge our local leaders to become true leaders in these trying times. Their being in the grassroots is an advantage; they can develop the potentials in their respective areas and create new opportunities for their people. Collectively, their efforts will push the nation forward even in hard times. If they just keep the needs of the people in mind, they will not miss knowing the best and most practical solution. This is a simple formula that cannot go wrong.
By Alejandro R. Roces
Updated February 12, 2009 12:00 AM
RECENT CHATS with family and friends based abroad revealed that one of the foremost things in the minds of most people these days is how the crisis is affecting us. My friend Sean based in Australia asked me if it is true that companies based here in the Philippines are laying off people. Another friend, Cheryl based in the US, wanted to know how the Philippine economy is doing.
On the other hand, we here in the Philippines are curious to know how life is abroad. My sister based in the US reported that home stores are closing, and car dealerships are not doing well. Publishing companies abroad are discontinuing titles. On the other hand, my friend Nenette said her brother-in-law in the US is not affected by the crisis—since he is in the auto repair business, business is booming with lesser people buying cars and more people just opting to have their old cars repaired. Health care is not as hit by other industries because, well, people get sick whether or not there is a crisis.
Entrepreneurs are coping with the global financial crisis in their own ways wherever they may be. Rossana Llenado, president Ahead Learning Systems, Inc., the company behind Ahead Tutorial and Review Center in the Philippines, reveals they are very much aware of what is happening, but are not quite as frazzled about the crisis as most. “We try to remain as optimistic as possible, always searching for the silver lining behind the dark clouds. I remind my staff that we had already been in this kind of situation during the Asian financial crisis so I am very confident that we will be able to weather this storm. We recall what we learned in the past and apply those lessons in the present situation. I’ll make sure as well that we all learn more from this experience,” she says.
Ahead employs precautionary measures to make sure that they don’t close shop or lay people off. Rossana’s prime consideration, after all, is their market—the students, who are greatly helped by the review center in preparing for college entrance exams and in getting better grades in school. To cope with the crisis, Rossana says, “I try to keep all our employees well-informed so that they have a better understanding of the decisions being made in the company. I advise them to work even harder and be more cost-efficient in order to maximize our resources.”
These are the specific ways Ahead has adopted to cope with the global financial crisis:
* OPERATIONS: Instead of cutting costs, resolve to perform even better than before.
a. Beef up customer service.
b. Involve all employees in the planning process so that they will be able to fully understand and assist in the implementation.
c. Have everyone be more proactive in sales and marketing activities to make people more aware of Ahead’s services and ultimately convince them to choose to be ‘ahead.’ “We have a lot of training lined up for this purpose,” says Rossana.
* RECRUITMENT: Don’t fire people; hire more to help in doing the job even better.
a. Maximize current workforce by placing people in other positions where they displayed greater efficiency and effectivity.
b. Give staff more paid vacations rather than provide increase in pay.
* SALES AND MARKETING: Be more aggressive.
a. Go to schools to promote services, not wait for people to line up at the doors.
b. Set specific quotas.
c. Maintain advertising budget to match last year’s.
d. Add below-the-line ‘zero budget’ activities to remind clients about Ahead without spending so much.
e. Develop new designs for marketing materials using students as models. “We have been doing this since we started almost 14 years ago. Since they are happy with our services, they are very willing to endorse our services and pose as models for our flyers, brochures, and ads,” says Rossana.
* BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT: Continue to prioritize.
a. Innovate offerings.
b. Develop products and services. Six books will be published this year following the success of Ahead’s books in previous years.
c. Forge partnerships with business allies. Ahead will host an event gathering the university presidents of UP, Ateneo, and UST in a conference to share their learnings and plans. They will also partner with Salt and Light Ventures to bring speaker Tony Buzan to talk about mind mapping for the academe.
d. Utilize developments in technology. The company now employs computer-assisted registration, enrollment and payment; text and e-mail blasting; use of bar codes and LCD projectors; and acceptance of credit card payments at zero percent interest for three months. They also improved their website. And they now offer online learning by partnering with IT company BC Net.
* ADMINISTRATIVE: Remain vigilant in implementing more systematic administrative processes in order to maximize efficiency.
To do this, they find ways to save on costs: get better suppliers, ask for more discounts, request for longer credit lines, buy in bulk and follow a budget. “Before, we never followed a budget. Now, it has become a necessity to stick to a set plan, with ours being to spend less than the previous year,” says Rossana. “One way we are cutting down costs is by buying a new copier in order to lower our expenses in material production.”
How about you? What are you doing to cope with the global financial crisis?
By Karen Galarpe