Five Life Lessons I Have Learned From Cooking Adobo (Other than that it is better served with rice)

13872576_1239870336046230_1509473563_nAt that moment, the image in my head was as vivid as ever. The rich, thick, and golden brown sauce pooled around the deep smell of glazed chicken as the salty and sour aromatic sensation of garlic, peppercorn and bay leaf swirled in the air and the smell of vinegar stung my nostrils. It was an undeniable evidence of authentic and native presence.

It’s been more than a month since I arrived in New York for the World Youth Alliance International Internship. And let me tell you that residing in a foreign place for some time is both overwhelming and exciting at the same time. The diverse culture always took my breath away but no matter how far my feet would take me, nothing could compare to home cooked Adobo.

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about. Well, Adobo is a Filipino dish of chicken or pork stewed in vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, bay leaves, and peppercorns. It is an authentic Filipino dish and believe it or not but it’s the simplest and most recognized recipe in the Philippines.

I was feeling nostalgic one day and the realization just came to me. Despite its preservative qualities, cooking Adobo has actually taught me some things that are in line with the values that WYA promotes.

Here are five life lessons I have learned from cooking Adobo and how it reflects the values and ideals of WYA:

1. Solidarity in diversity creates the best outcomes

In a large container, combine the soy sauce and garlic then marinate the chicken for at least 1 to 3 hours. Bring the chicken to a boil over high heat.

13616323_1245776225441119_1781779371_oDespite the term Adobo coming from the Spanish term Adobar meaning “marinade”, and one of the key ingredients which is soy sauce which was introduced by the Chinese, the Philippine Adobo is a perfect representation of how different ingredients working in solidarity can create the best outcomes. The way the different flavors and ingredients work together to create something beautiful shows us that we as people, from all walks of life, can create a lasting impact on society if we are living in solidarity with one another.

2. The way something is made is reflective of its culture

Add the dried bay leaves and whole peppercorn. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

A lot of people say that cooking Adobo is personal. And they’re right.  The dish is actually tailored to one’s own preference or is dependent on the culture of a specific province in the country. Some places in the Philippines may create Adobo which is different from how other provinces would make it. Other people use siling labuyo or bird’s eye chili, olive oil, jalapeño pepper, red bell pepper, brown sugar, potatoes, onions or even pineapple. Cooking food is an art and art is an expansion of culture and connects people. This also made me realize something very important: Wherever you are in the world, embrace your own culture and respect other’s culture as well.

3. How much vinegar? “Enough…”

Add vinegar. Stir and cook for 10 minutes. Put-in the sugar, and salt. Stir and turn the heat off.

When you make Adobo you have the freedom to put as much salt or pepper as you want. You can pour the entire bottle of vinegar or soy sauce if you want. However, deep down you have this feeling of being considerate to other people’s taste palettes that are going to try your Adobo. Knowing this struck me because it reflected something pivotal about the integral human experience. We have the freedom to do what we want but if we selfishly pursue our own desires, we not only end up hurting ourselves but we end up hurting other people as well. How much vinegar should you put into the pot? “Enough…”

4. Substance over style

Let it stay for a moment. Taste it, smell it, and experience it.

13835837_1245776382107770_603585874_oThe sugar will slowly turn to caramel and the vinegar will start to lose its acidity. You have to know that what you have made may not be that familiar to other people in terms of how it will look. You should know that there are a lot of variations in making Adobo. In southern Luzon and Muslim regions in the Philippines, it is common to see Adobo cooked with coconut milk. Some people from the province of Cavite add mashed pork liver to their Adobo. In Laguna, turmeric is added, giving their Adobo a yellowish color.

This may seem silly but what it teaches should actually be applied on how we see people. People are like this. They may speak different languages or the color of their skin may be different, but by the end of the day, we are all human beings and we are responsible for one another. We must not judge the food based on what it looks like but we must taste it to experience it first. Just like how we should perceive people, each individual must be perceived, respected, understood, and experienced as individuals who have intrinsic worth.

By the end of the day, no matter the color of the Adobo or the taste, it will still be Adobo. In the same sense, no matter their circumstances and backgrounds, human beings are still human beings and are uniquely equal.

5. Simple acts can create great impacts

Serve hot with steamed rice. Share and Enjoy!

Food always tastes better when it is shared family, friends, and loved ones. Simple acts such as cooking Adobo and sharing it can make someone feel happy, loved, and accepted. Your knowledge, your culture, and your kindness, no matter how small or simple it may be, must be imparted and shared to other people. Like a ripple effect, our deeds can influence perceptions and inspire other people. An example for me would be the work of the World Youth Alliance wherein it continues to advocate the values and ideals of what it means to be human and how simple acts such as signing the charter can contribute to the millions of voices promoting and defending human dignity.

Written by Ana Mariela D. Gonzales, a Batch 2 intern from WYA Headquarters.