By the time this sees print, I will have already eaten a meal so unapologetically sinful, calorific, delicious, greasy, salty, and sweet — maybe not all together but definitely on the heels of each other. In short, it will have been a meal rich and robust, glorious in all its excess. Chances are, the first bite of that gutsy, lusty meal will have taken place the first minute after the stroke of midnight of Black Saturday, technically the first minute, too, of Easter Sunday. With the rising of Christ comes new life, new hope, yet one more chance to pick up where New Year’s resolutions have trailed off. For me, it is all that plus yummy more.
Easter Sunday is also the time when I officially break my 40-day abstinence from all things meat and sweet. Somewhere in the kitchen of our home in Ormoc, my sister Caren will have been doing the exact same thing at the exact same time, only her plate will hold an assortment of different meats but absolutely no sweets. She cannot match my sweet tooth, not that she even wants or tries to. Afterwards, for sure, we will have texted each other this year’s personal brand of happiness in a plate, sunshine on a spoon.
I’m guessing that she went for lechon and maybe some corned beef, cooked in the wet, greasy way she prefers with no onions and with white rice. If I were to go down memory lane, I’d remember the bacon and double yolk fried eggs that Richard bought from DEC. And the steak from the splendid batch that Kris sent for Richard’s birthday last Tuesday, seasoned with salt and pepper and doused with steak sauce, chased by spoonfuls of rice.
I know this sounds like a very simple meal, really, nothing worth raving over or writing about, but you have to understand where I am coming from. A sweet-toothed carnivore like me (a very potent combination, Daddy once told me) going without meat and sweet treats for 40 days straight — no cheating, no days off; I did not cut myself any slack. Add to that the appeal of the forbidden — knowing that I am not supposed to have it just makes me want it even more — and you will see how every day except Friday when the rest of the household cooperates, beginning Ash Wednesday and ending today, it has been a battlefield — of will, desire and self-control. The table is always laden with good food, most of which I cannot enjoy.
Abstinence is a daily commitment, I’m finding out now more than ever. And when you go without something for so long, choices and options just feel like red tape. When you’re finally allowed to enjoy what was once forbidden, instinct leads you to stay true to what you want and get right on to it, in which case, the simple will be just as good as the fancy. It is as warm as having your first crush smile at you for no reason at all. It should really not feel that good but it just does.
I’m guessing my heart has said bacon again this year. I know the bacon I will have prepared for my special Easter meal will be slippery and sloppy, cooked in its own fat until it is a nice pink — not crispy. I don’t like crispy bacon unless it is in a sandwich, with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. My slippery, sloppy pink bacon will come with ribbons of white fat that I will not trim off but instead resplendently savor for its criminal goodness. Some of the salty fat melts into a greasy sauce with the heat in the cooking process. I will have spooned off and dumped it onto my plate heaped with hot white rice. I know any advocate of health and wellness will frown upon the unhealthiness of all this. But it is just so wonderful in a this-is-so-terrific-and-I-promise-to-do-this-just-once-a-year kind of way.
Dessert will have followed naturally. Sweet, glorious dessert. Alleluia! I am a cookie monster, an ice cream and cupcake devotee, too. They make me weak in the knees. I have a thing for cozy coffee shops that play nice music that old souls like me can relate to, with their counter studded with cakes that proudly look like contestants in a beauty pageant. I can stay there for hours, with a good book and good company, just feeling the world go by. It’s a happy thing. I would glance at the cakes from time to time and they always seem to smile back at me — I think they know I am a friend, willing and able to celebrate each of them for their diversity.
We humans can get used to anything. Those 40 days when sight and scent were enough, and taste was but a wistful dream, I learned to experience things vicariously, which was satisfying in a dreamy kind of way, if that makes sense to you at all. But now that I have my freedom back, all my suppressed desires for this hotdog and that cake gush forth in streams of dreams. How lovely can life get on a Sunday, really?
So between midnight of Black Saturday and today I will have had my fill already, or at least as much as I can take without getting sick. Before that window, I would have gone to bed with visions of pies and cupcakes. I was so deprived of chocolate that once I actually dreamt I was eating a bar of chocolate with rice. I would not have been surprised if I dreamt of chocolate in my soup, too. Or in a sandwich, preferably a croissant with buttery, flaky swirls.
I remember gulping down evaporated milk because that was the closest I could get to something sweetish without cheating. Even now, as you read this, I am surely already stuffed with more sweets than meat. That said though, I just know that when I lay me down to sleep tonight my dreams will still drift the way of yet another cookie or biscotti from Roshan, or the red, velvet cupcakes from Sonja, or a big, fat slice of the pound cake from Marta’s, or maybe the caramel cake from Big Al’s. I just know that I will also be wanting some fat scoops of ube ice cream with soda plus a couple of tubs of Roshan’s designer ice cream, too.
I know that at some point I will have prayed, “Dear God, please stop me from eating all that I have dreamed of and which are now before me.”
But after 40 days of abstinence/obedience/sacrifice, even if it is self-imposed, I also know that I deserve this day to indulge and perhaps even overindulge in happiness — the kind that, for the moment at least, can twistedly be found in a plate.