Thursday, July 14, 2011

I've never tasted something as awesome as this food!

Yes, I've never tasted something this good.

photo | RV ESCATRON
the warning. I was forewarned that the taste is at its best when its older. I picked the oldest in the batch, shoved a slice inside my mouth. I waited for that moment when its rich flavor with a sweet, fatty kick melted in my tongue. The velvety smooth texture as it touches ones palate has been the stuff of legend in my clan (it dates back to the time when my great grandfather, the dakilang lolo Kikoy, was still alive). My pilyang mother when she was very young was severely punished several times by the (feared and revered) old man for having been caught sneaking into the kitchen when everyone was asleep just so she could have a bite of this food which-we-shall-not-name-for-now. Must be that tempting, ha!

family secret. The baker (okay, giveaway clue number one: it's a baked goody) must only be from a southern town in Cebu and great grandfather paid the services for a couple of days baking in a small and unknown town in Bohol, in the kitchen of a daku nga bay (big house) overlooking a pea-green river that cuts coconut and cacao plantations on one side and a vast rice field on the other.

The tradition started during the golden era of the old man (He had gold dentures din. Pun intended.). He was a hardworking farmer ("intense!" all my grandaunts would say) and had a strong devotion to San Isidro Labrador. For a couple of days in May, he would pull all stops to celebrate the feast day of his patron saint. And just because he had everything at his disposal, he could be decadent and get away with it. For the feast, cows from his ranch were roasted. For the morning guests, cacaos were grounded and whisked to form a rich, thick and frothy hot chocolate. What could go best with a cup of sinfully hot chocolate than a slice of a decadent local cake known as (drum rolls, please) torta!

source

The ingredients of this torta are deadly. It's a lethal combination of egg yolk and pork lard. Plus sugar, flour and leavened by tuba (coconut wine). 

Sa di inaasahang pangyayari, after decades of grand annual fiestas, the old man's health deteriorated and so everything was put on hold. His eventual passing signaled the end of an era. Later on, most of my grandaunts turned against each other. The colorful family saga is one good material for a soap opera, I tell you. With that being said, the tradition simply stopped. All that remained were stories of epic proportion, stories which are a treasure trove of family traditions but just written inside the head.

Nag-ala Indiana Jones ako for this project. Sabi ni ermats, the bakers were known to have come from Argao town, 68 kilometers southeast of Cebu.

On a lazy Sunday morning, I grabbed my backpack and off I went to Cebu South Bus terminal. I arrived just in time for the 9am departure. Seventy pesos and two hours later, I was already in Argao ready to find the torta which has figured prominently in my clan's bygone fiesta celebration. I promised myself not to return home (joke lang!) unless the adjectives my relatives used to describe the decadence of the torta mirrored mine. 

photo | RV ESCATRON

I bought one piece of OJ's torta (Php25.00), gingerly open the oily wax paper cover. The brown fluffy goodness laid open before my eyes. So, without much ado, eto na yon. The eureka feeling! Yong tipong you throw the box of clues across the street! lol.
I waited for that moment when its rich flavor with a sweet, fatty kick melted in my tongue. And it happened! The texture was velvety. And yes, it tasted dang good!
But medyo di pa ako nakuntento, so I got another torta.

photo | RV ESCATRON

This time Chitang's. The torta was a disappointment. The fluffiness was almost like a mamon which I'm not really a fan of. I was expecting a rich and flavorful torta. The little oily goodness, the generous sprinkle of cheese and some raisins helped a bit.

Any estranghero's visit to Argao is never complete without the obligatory visit to the old town square and the centuries-old Saint Michael Archangel Church, convent and many other antiquated structures. There's Argao beach also--ideal for skim boarding. But during this trip, sidelights lang mga yan.

On the bus back home, one vendor climbed up the bus and started selling what he said was special Argao torta. I found the plastic packaging suspicious. I got one piece and prepared myself to be disappointed and sure I was disappointed. That wasn't a torta but a mamon passed off as torta! Argao Municipal Tourism office should sanction these vendors who sell these goodies. It's giving the torta which was perfected centuries ago a bad name.

I got home with a story brewing inside my head. As I write this, I have already plotted my next schedule to Argao to see first-hand how torta is made. I hope the guys at OJ's torta will allow me entry into their kitchen.




*This is my post for this month's Pinoy Travel Blogger's blog carnival. 
Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet is the awesome host.  

cl|ck, cl|ck
Read the collective entry by clicking this link >>>


4 comments:

  1. This reminds me of the plot of "the baker king" when they have to bake that bread by the master. That torta looks tempting!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've heard a lot of good reviews about that soap.
    Yea, you should try the torta! Lethal and sinfully delicious :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. no amount of "east-west" kitchen's influence can beat the yumminess of the local torta..super agree with u Bugoy!-PTK/ivy

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am from Cebu so I know about Torta Cebuana. One of the famous snack there when I was young.

    ReplyDelete

What's your two-cents about this travel adventure and/or misadventure? Do leave a comment here. Thank you.

LinkWithin