Recent dental work has left me feeling like a toothless old woman.
Here’s something you don’t know about me: I’ve never had a cavity. Ever. And I’m already 35. Unfortunately, such a dubious honor leaves me vulnerable to a whole host of other oral diseases, one of which is the reason my dentist had to go “digging.” At the end of my open-mouthed ordeal, I’m left with a cement patch on the left side of my mouth. It’s a feeling unlike any I’ve known before.
“See me next week so that I can remove that patch,” my dentist tells me, “and make sure you stick to a soft diet.” Eh. Baby food. Graveyard gook. Victuals for the invalid. My stomach growls.
So I’m limited to food that I can either suck through a straw ”“ preferably those thick pearl shake straws ”“ and “spoon-able” food. Having a mouth incapacitated by dental work gives me a profound appreciation for the food I used to be able to eat: hard, crunchy foods that detonate into bits on first bite, and stringy foods like beef brisket glazed in honey-mustard. And oh god, using only one side of my mouth to chew makes me realize how the act of mastication requires ”“ nay, demands (!) ”“ full participation of all teeth involved.
It’s enough to make a grown woman cry.
So I do the next best thing. Eat congee. For me, Luk Yuen has the best congee in Manila. With other congees, I have to pour in spoonfuls of soy sauce and calamansi (native lime) to induce flavor; it is gruel after all, just water and rice. On the other hand, Luk Yuen’s congee is tasty, even before the requisite condiments are added. I like their halo-halo congee that’s got a little bit of everything from pork strips to meatballs to slices of century egg, and the golden glory of a raw egg glimmering in the middle. It’s hot and satisfying like nothing else.
This morning, I make myself some butterscotch pudding, something I usually make when I need sweet solace. (Yes, I do have dessert for breakfast. Don’t you?) The recipe I use today produces a pudding that borders on (crÃ¨me) brulee. Instead of being stirred over the stovetop like most puddings, this one requires caramelizing sugar and water before being baked in a water bath for about 30 minutes. Quick and easy like most puddings it is not. But the extra step of caramelizing the sugar imbues a deep butterscotch flavor that borders on burnished, and the long, slow bake blesses this pudding-brulee with its jiggly, silken texture. Its salty-sweetness revivifies.
But my ultimate soft food, the one thing that I have an unabashed love for are eggs. It’s what I eat when I feel myself sinking into a cesspool of disgust and self-pity. I’ve printed paeans to this humble food here on this website, my lustful imaginings of them cooked in every way proving every bit as divine as the real thing. Eggs are a soft food-salve, a reminder that I’m not a toothless hag.
At least not yet.