Pancit, Passports and Pacific War Stories

Friday of last week was one of the most enjoyable evenings I’ve had locally since I can remember.  And it was entirely unanticipated. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

The right place was a small park like area near where we live that was the site of a “food truck fest.”  About a half dozen food trucks would be there from 6 to 10 in the evening and there’d also be live music and karaoke.  I wasn’t interested in either the live music or the karaoke.

But I was very interested in one of the food trucks: it’d be serving up Filipino food.  Since the only time I normally get to eat Filipino food where I live is the annual Asian Festival and sometimes at other festivals, I wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity. So we showed up shortly after six and ordered up a plate of chicken adobo and a plate of pancit.

Turns out the chef prepared these classics in a style found in a different part of the Philippines than where I lived. I’m used to a dark adobo sauce made from vinegar and soy sauce.  His sauce was a clear chicken stock with a very mild seasoning.  I’m used to whole pieces of chicken, but his was small chicken pieces, which is how pork adobo is prepared.  His pancit was vegetarian (no pork or shrimp as I‘m used to) and also used a slightly larger rice noodle than what I normally see. But hey…any Filipino food is better than no Filipino food.

We were the first to sit down at a table for eight and perhaps five minutes later were joined by an elderly woman and a couple who turned out to be her daughter and her daughter’s husband.  I immediately noticed the mother’s watch because the face was a large, colorful postage stamp with an Asian design.  I complimented her on it and noted that while I had some stamp pins I had not seen a stamp watch before.  I asked where she had bought it and she replied… “the British Museum.” Turns out her daughter had lived in London for eleven years and she had visited a few times.

I mentioned we had spent a week in London in 1988 but did not visit the British Museum. I reasoned that it was so large that even a day would not do it justice and so I left it off the agenda until a future trip when we’d not be as rushed to “see everything.”  (Of course, we have not been back to London because there were too may other places to visit first.)

This led into a nice discussion with her daughter about overseas travel. In response to my comment about how ornery I consider British “cuisine” to be, she said that Italy and France have good food. I agreed with her about Italian food but we‘d not been to France.  At the top of my list for food is Spain and I disclosed that I was probably being chauvinistic since I’m 25% Spanish.

I noted we want to visit Amsterdam and the Low countries as well as eastern Europe, especially Prague and Budapest.  She’s visited Amsterdam and Brussels and enjoyed them. She’d been to Prague but not to other eastern European cities and also wanted to see more of that part of Europe.

I asked if she’d been to Asia. Yes, she’d been to Hong Kong and Singapore.  I pronounced that if I was to live in a foreign city and neither price nor politics was a consideration, then that city would be Hong Kong because if you can’t find it in Hong Kong then it doesn’t exist. She laughed and agreed, noting how inexpensive shopping, transportation and food can be.

I asked if she had ever flown into the old Kai Tak Airport, where runways were built on reclaimed land and jutted into the sea.  If the pilot overshot the takeoff, the plane would end up in the ocean and the landing approach required navigation between skyscrapers where you could see folks hanging up their laundry and they’d wave to you. She’d heard of that but had visited after the new airport was constructed in 1998 in a minimally developed island in the boonies and you have to take a special train into the city.

                Landing at the old HK airport wasn’t for the faint hearted

When I mentioned I was born and raised in the Philippines, this became the cue for a man who had sat down at the table a few minutes earlier to note that his father had been a Sea Bee at Subic Naval Base before the Second World War. He was a WW2 buff and we began a long discussion about the Pacific War after the three others left for some ice cream.

Lee was pretty knowledgeable about McArthur’s bumbling in the Philippines by miscalculating Japanese intentions and the ability of the U.S. to defend against an invasion. Not to mention allowing the U.S. Air Force to be bombed on the ground rather than evacuating the planes out of Japanese range, which his air force commander had pleaded to do as soon as they received word about Pearl Harbor.

Lee was also aware that certain high Japanese military officials were executed when in fact they had been “good guys.”  He was not aware that Tojo was one of the “good guys.”

I read Tojo’s biography and it points out that Emperor Hirorito selected him as Prime Minister because Tojo was one of the moderate generals and Hirorito hoped Tojo could control the expansionists.  But the expansionist group threatened to forcibly retire Tojo if he did not go along with their demands. Under a policy pushed through by the military, the Prime Minister had to be an active duty general, so Tojo had to walk a tightrope since he had to worry about being replaced by an expansionist if the High Command retired him.

We talked about a lot of other Pacific War history but I doubt many of you are interested in that so I’ll not go into the minutiae.  Before I knew it, it was 7:30.  An hour and a half had zoomed by thanks to my being engrossed in conversation involving two of my favorite topics.  Susie probably enjoyed the travel talk but I’m sure she zoned out during the war talk. But she had a belly buster Coke to sip on….

I’m looking forward to the next Food Truck Fest!  Hopefully, our table mates will return and we can pick up where we left off….

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4 responses to “Pancit, Passports and Pacific War Stories

  1. Wow…were you ever in your element or what? Filipino food and good conversation about travel and WWII. I guess the only thing that would have made it better was it being indoors, because there you were, out in “Nature” with the bees, mosquitoes, etc 🙂
    I hadn’t heard of this food truck fest concept, but I like it! Maybe one will come to my neighborhood or near it one day.

    • For whatever reason, there were almost no bugs.

      I’ll let you know when the next one is. I stumbled onto it in the Limelight. Held next to the BK at corner of Tharpe and MLK Blvd. After that, we can go grocery shopping at Publix since we usually do that Friday evening.

      I think they also do it during one or two weekdays, but Friday allows you to dawdle.

      • Great, I’d like to try it. Plus–I’ve never had Filipino food! I can’t picture as space next to BK where it can be held. Especially with tables?

        • It’s a long narrow lot, with a few concrete tables. They also set up folding tables. Parking is very limited, but Publix lot is across then street….

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