Saturday, March 17, 2007

Wallpaper Paste

I will not lay claim to being a gourmet or a connoisseur; I am but a mere pedestrian who wishes to get my money's worth when it comes to food. Like every other consumer out there, I want to get the most bang for the buck and I'm not just talking about volume.

We all have them, the places we love to eat and the establishments we abhor. When something is wrong, it is our moral duty, as consumers, to point out these infractions to our taste and, crossing our fingers, hope that the management takes action. However, upon returning and still finding the food and the place as worse as before, it is probably forgivable for a person to blog about it, right?

First off is a local fastfood chain of Oriental cuisine, which we'll just refer to as Cho-king. Now, in reality, I have not much complaints about their food; truth be told, I love their king's congee, pork tofu and nai-cha (milk tea). There is, however, one branch of this chain that does great injustice to the other branches. Its Philcoa branch is, to say the least, the dirtiest branch I have ever been to. The chairs are all smudgy, the floors are grimy and the table all greasy.

If you order any congee in this place, expect a rice mash that, if anything, tastes like wallpaper paste. Believe me, I know what wallpaper paste tastes like. With pork tofu, they cannot seem to find the right balance between pork and tofu. I often get served a heaping of tofu with very little pork. Other times, though, they get the right balance with pure pork fat and tofu. Worse, the sauces they used on that side dish seemed to be comprised of colored warm water. I cannot taste soy sauce or even vinegar there.

If, on the other hand, you avoid the horrors I mentioned and decided to buy Chao Fan, or mixed rice, expect your serving to be over-moist, sticky and soggy. In truth, it tastes like it has been freshly reheated. If you order braised beef toppings on your rice, expect a helluva lot more rice than beef. Oh, sorry, I meant, "Expect more rice than rubber." As a matter of fact, anything that is supposed to contain beef probably must have been substituted with rubber.

I know I sound bitter, crazy and clueless to what I'm ranting. I am bitter, yes, because I feel like I have been cheated. More than twice. Crazy, maybe, because I kept on hoping they'd at least heed my feedback and improve their food and services. Clueless? Most probably not. I know what I'm talking about because I've been to three other branches: Berkeley Square, SM North and SM Fairview. I'd especially like to commend their Berkeley Square branch.

That branch is noticeably cleaner than any of the other branches I've been to. The staff is really friendly, the food really is hot (at least, not re-heated) and when you order soda with ice, you don't get a heaping of ice with a little soda. Their beef is tender, not rubber; their congee is tasty, not bland, their pork tofu really has pork, not pork fat and their mixed rice dishes are moist enough but not too soggy.

Like I said, I'm not primarily a "taster" but a "feeder" but just because I like to eat does not mean I have no sense of taste. I'm not a professional critic who'd say, "The flavor of this ingredient is overwhelming the natural taste of the other," like those judges on Iron Chef. I am merely a consumer who, unlike those judges, needs to spend to eat.

Eat, devour and make merry
for this very day we'll all die.
Drink, imbibe and be happy
'til it's time to say good-bye.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

My Name is Mavi

Today is the first day
of the rest of my life.
The future starts today.
Tomorrow, perhaps, a blur?

I just found out that I liked job interviews.

While the notion of being subject to the scrutinizing gaze and almost-too-personal interrogation might not be to a lot of people's liking, I happen to enjoy the attention. I find pleasure in those brief golden moments in time when what one says and how one says it really does matter.

I've been through three job interviews in my life. The first one was almost just a formality; my employers already knew me before I applied or, more correctly, was recruited for the job.

The second one was for an outsourcing company, which, interestingly enough, was one of the top 10% highest-paying IT companies in the country (If you have the same priorities as I do, you'd find those numbers quite interesting indeed). I believe the interview began with the interviewer asking me what she should call me.

"Mavi," I replied.

It was going fine until I, in my foolishness, blurted out, "I am a totally honest, God-fearing person entirely incapable of fabricating fictitious events in my personal history." Okay, so maybe it wasn't really that; it was more along the lines of, "I am a level 2 probationary acolyte of Northrend's Undead Cult. My personal goal in life is to be a level 10 dual-class necro-sorcerer," to which the interviewer replied, "Oookay... care to explain further?" Then it all went downhill.

The most recent one was for an offshore company. They are one of the top 25% highest-paying IT companies in the country (Again, another interestingly noteworthy piece of info). I was almost ready to give up as I spent forty minutes waiting at their reception area. Granted, I was ten minutes early but that still meant the interviewer was 30 minutes late.

What they lack in punctuality, I soon found out, they made up for in the liberties they gave their employees. It was a bittersweet company, a sharp contrast of nice and nasty. There are certain aspects I like a lot and there are others that make me think twice. Allow me to point out, though, that, for this one, I did not voluntarily divulge being an initiate to an unorthodox paranormal organization.

I digress, though. This third interview began with, "So... what should I call you?"

"Mavi," I replied.

It might sound strange that for two job interviews, I began with a name that, once upon a time, was not my own. Now, of course, my pen name is as integral a part of my identity as my eyeglasses. Still, I am quite touched that the next question of both interviewers is, "Mavi? Why Mavi?"

See, it may sound pathetic but I am really moved that they considered me as a person with a nickname totally different from his given name and not just another prospective employee. After all, they could have chosen not to take interest in my unorthodox nickname and proceed with, "So, Mr. Mavi, about your application..."

On the bus ride home, I suddenly remembered a scene between Agent Smith and Neo in the movie The Matrix. Agent Smith, of course, addressed Neo by his given name, Mr. Anderson.

Through gritted teeth: "My name is Neo."

It is with apprehension and a bit of fear that I wonder whether Mavi might, one day, take over my life and wrestle the reins from me.