Xenophobia is defined as the fear of strangers or foreigners and while I was never afraid of strange or foreign people, I was afraid of strange food.
We were on a tight budget at my house when I was growing up and the food we ate reflected that. We ate well and never went hungry, we just never ate real ethnic foods. Spaghetti was as Italian as we got. Chili as Mexican. Canned Chun-King chow mein with the wet stuff in the bottom can and the noodles in the top can was as Chinese as it got at my house.
I declined an invitation to have Chinese food with one of my girlfriends’ families once just because I had no idea what the food was and was scared that I would embarrass myself by not liking it. In fact, I didn’t have restaurant Chinese food until I was in my twenties! Shocking, I know, to anyone who has seen me recently as I chow down on jellyfish salad.
Now, of course, everything has changed. I eat Asian food more often than I eat typical American food. I had adobong manok for lunch today and a side dish of kangkong last night and for some reason, I’ve been thinking about my wife Menchu’s lechon paksiw off and on for the last three days.
While my stomach is prepared for life in the Philippines, amazingly, I read about people who are considering a move there who don’t like Filipino food or who haven’t tried it yet! The other day I read an article by a fellow who said that when he moved to the Philippines, he had to have his girlfriend order everything at restaurants because he didn’t know what the dishes were. Another guy I read a couple of weeks back said he was moving to Iloilo and then later said that he didn’t like fish or shellfish. I guess it’s possible to get by in the tropics without eating fish but I wonder if that guy is truly suited for a move to the Philippines.
The old saying goes, “You are what you eat.” I think those of us who have Filipino spouses, are looking for Filipino partners or who are seriously considering a move to the Philippines in the future should change that old saying into something new: “You are where you eat!”
What do you think?