dinner with white people


versatilebloggeraward11[ Note : this is not meant to disparage mock or make fun of our hosts here in New Zealand, just that the title sounded catchy, and of course, since we are of the Asian persuasion, the whiteness of Kiwi friends here stand out rather famously among brown brothers like us. ]

EATING IS a universal exercise and it is elementary to existence.  So is drinking, specifically drinking alcoholic beverages like wine, beer and spirits.  Such that you would expect people to eat and drink in almost the same way across races, countries and continents.

The reality of course is that there are as many ways of eating and drinking as there are shades of skin, combinations of eyes, nose and hair, or nuances of culture.  Using the left hand for example when you’re eating is frowned upon in countries where Islam is dominant.  On the other hand, slurping soup or making noises with your cutlery or chopsticks is quite normal, in fact is indicative of rave food reviews, in China and the Far East.

Being the parochial Pinoy that I am, I’ve hardly broken bread with my esteemed hosts here, but had a few chances for catered and sit-down dinners with my workmates, majority of whom are Kiwis.  Here are some observations :

Basic bread and butter.  It’s pretty much meat-and-potatoes in many Kiwi barbecues and repasts, often there’s the main dish which is grilled steak, grilled burgers and grilled sausages, roast beef, roast pork and roast lamb, see the pattern?  Salads, greens and pasta will usually oblige to be the side dishes, but give your average Kiwi bloke some meats and all is good.  The bread is quite basic, nothing fancy, and the dessert is the famous Pavlova and cheesecake, you won’t hear any complaints from the crowd.

what u c is what u get :)

what u c is what u get 🙂

On the other hand, it’s no boast, but there are multitudes of dishes from Asian fusion, Spanish-influenced and Western-influenced cuisines from Pinoy cooking alone, not to mention double approaches if the hosts are from blended (Pinoy and non-Pinoy) unions.  No two meals are alike, but I admit that there are basic Filipino comfort foods that I can’t go long without.

there are as many beer brands as there are dialects in our humble Philippines... maybe more :)

there are as many beer brands as there are dialects in our humble Philippines… maybe more 🙂

Beer and wine.  And this is the reason why Kiwis are not that picky when it comes to food.  Just bring out the twelve-pack for the men, and chill a couple of Merlots for the ladies and everyone will be buzzing with delight (emphasis on the buzz), as the firewater is known to bring out the mellow and the charm in all of us, especially during these festive days.  On the other hand, try to organize an event without alcohol, as our head office did two years ago, and the grumbles and annoyed faces will be seen almost immediately.  What, no grog? What kind of party is this? I can almost hear them say.

If you’re looking for a healthy contrast among teetotalling, abstaining and fitness-conscious Pinoys, well good luck to you.  Pinoys aren’t heavy drinkers, but from early childhood are taught that San Miguel Beer is the universal drink of red-blooded brown men, that Ginebra San Miguel (by coincidence similarly-named) is the drink of true Filipinos (ang inumin ng tunay na Pilipino), and that imbibing coconut wine (lambanog) in a shot glass rounds till everybody topples over is a rite of passage for youths all over the archipelago.  So put Pinoy and Kiwi drinkers together in one drinkathon, and you will have one happy, if intoxicated shindig.

Conversation.  The basic components of conversation during Kiwi get-togethers are rowdy and sometimes off-color jokes, whining about the boss (if he/she’s not present) and, if the sob stories get thin, more lame jokes.  Which isn’t that much different from material during Pinoy gatherings, except for one crucial difference.  You have to get both the pitter-patter intonation of Kiwi accent, and the usual themes of Kiwi humor.  Otherwise, if you’re like me, clueless and unwilling to stand out, you just go with the flow.

The Kiwi accent is not any of the various American accents, not a British accent, not a more-or-less neutral accent (like the Canadians or Europeans) and definitely not an Australian accent.  Asserting a negative doesn’t mean anything, so just try to listen to the way Anna Pacquin (of X-Men and True Blood), Temuera Morrison (Star Wars’ Bobba Fett) or Peter Jackson (LOTR and The Hobbit) talk, as the trio are all Kiwis.

Surprise, surprise!  Most of the conversation in Pinoy parties isn’t much different, except that friends who aren’t present better beware, because they usually end up as Topic Number One in discussions among their so-called friends.  😉 Whining about work isn’t the hottest issue (good jobs are after all still scarce back home), but it definitely ranks in the top five.  Politics is a perennial favorite with kabayan, along with entertainment / showbiz, but only because the two worlds frequently collide.  With Kiwis, counterpart buzz among politics and entertainment crowd out rugby, rugby and rugby only during the latter’s off-season.  And why not?  It’s only the national sport, it has a grassroots following, and New Zealand is the reigning Rugby World Cup champion.

Just remember to do as the Romans do, and pretend you understand every word you hear, and you’re good to go.  Until, of course, you’re exposed.

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