Saturday, August 27, 2016
One of the least desirable aspects of living in Philippines is the difficulty, if not impossibility, of getting the ingredients for the food dishes I grew up eating in the American South.
Not everything is a problem - fruits, like watermelon are available year 'round. You can't go out and buy a sausage and biscuit, but at least flour and Crisco are easy enough to get, so making biscuits at home solves that. Finding good fried chicken isn't difficult either. Jollibee, Chow King, and even McDonald's serve up really great fried chicken, and for the purist there are pretty respectable KFCs here.
Okra is widely available, but lots of luck finding yellow squash or a decent tomato.
The biggest problem, for me, is finding items needed for traditional Southern desserts. Making a banana pudding is......uh....a piece of cake - you can't find vanilla wafers, but there are cookies that can be used as a substitute. I've never seen a frozen, pre-made pie crust here. If you want a sweet potato pie, you have to learn to make your own crust. That's doable, I guess.
No, the biggest problem is finding the ingredients for pecan pie. OK, you can make your own crust, and finding Karo Syrup isn't as difficult as you might think. The real obstacle in having that pecan pie for Thanksgiving or Christmas is the absence of the one, absolutely necessary ingredient - pecans.
After living here for two years without seeing a pecan, I was in for a surprise when I stopped by a business in Dumaguete called Yan Yan Commercial. Yan Yan specializes in carrying everything one might need for baking. The regular items, such as flour, baking powder and sugar (refined, brown, or confectioners) are cheaper there than anywhere else in Dumaguete. The same goes for whipped cream, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. I've even seen canned fruits - peaches and blueberries - on their shelves. The big shock, for me, was seeing bags of shelled pecans in the cooler near the cash registers.
I couldn't resist looking at the price while I was checking out. A 1 kilo bag is priced at 1450 Philippine peso.
Let me translate that for my American friends. 1 kilo is 2.2 lbs. At the current rate of exchange, 1450 Philippine pesos comes to.........just over $31.00. Let that sink in.
Thirty one dollars for a two & 2/10 pound bag of pecans.
I knew the pecans would be high. Heck, in Georgia, where pecans are grown, they ain't cheap. But, good Lord, I didn't expect $14.00 a pound.
Looks like it'll be quite some time before I have another pecan pie.