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Ice buckets and food tours

Really amusing are outtakes on the “bucket challenge” on YouTube, where those who take up the dare end up not just getting soaked in ice-cold water but even bonked on the head with the pails and buckets, falling down steps, and slipping on the spilled water.

The “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” is actually the latest fad gone viral, beginning when a pair of friends started challenging other friends on YouTube to have ice buckets full of cold water dumped on them. The point of the challenge was for those getting soaked to pledge donations to research on ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

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So far, say reports, the challenge has done an excellent job of raising money—and awareness—of the disease. Donations to the ALS association in the United States have reportedly increased tenfold, totaling some $41.8 million just from July 29 to Aug. 21 this year.

Even more significant is that the ice bucket challenge has managed to get even the biggest celebrities—from the worlds of politics, entertainment and sports—to take up the dare.

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Although observers complain that after videos of the challenge went viral, people taking part neglected to mention ALS—or any other disease or affliction deserving of attention—or even of the reason for taking up the dare which is to raise funds in support of these causes.

An American newscaster, after being dared, thanked his friends but said he was turning down the opportunity and was just donating to his favorite cause, which was cancer research. The guy then went on to say that one need not be challenged to dump icy water over one’s head before helping out various causes deserving of public awareness and support.

I don’t know if that will bring a halt to the silliness of the bucket challenge, or the many wannabes feeding on its potentials for free publicity. But it was good while it lasted, and is a timely reminder of the need for people of good will to show their support—quietly, maybe but regularly and consistently—for the many causes begging for public attention.

Also goes to show the potential of turning fun and silliness into doing good, quite a “painless” way to help without breaking a sweat or thinking or feeling too deeply.

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Men who cook rock my world. Among my favorite TV shows these days is “Destination Flavour Japan,” which stars lawyer-cook (he prefers the term to “chef”) Adam Liaw. The winner of the second season of “Masterchef Australia,” Liaw was born in Malaysia to a Chinese father and an English-Singaporean mother, but grew up with his paternal grandmother after his parents’ divorce before migrating to Australia. It was from his grandmother that Liaw learned the basics of Chinese-Malaysian cuisine, but it was after he spent seven years in Japan that he developed a life-long obsession with Japanese food.

Married to a Japanese, Liaw brings viewers on a tour of Japan, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, to small farms and roadside inns, city restaurants and snack stalls, meeting farmers and well-known chefs, and even the proprietor of a school for aspiring sumo wrestlers.

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But by far my favorite episode is that featuring a family of soy sauce makers, whose product was chosen as the best soy sauce of Japan in 2010 but whose factory was inundated by the 2011 tsunami. They were able to save their workers by evacuating them to a hillside shelter, a move they had practiced countless times over the years. But their livelihood was devastated when they came down after the waters receded.

This isn’t the most touching development, though. It’s what follows: Another soy sauce factory made room for them in its  factory floor, while their traditional partners and sources extended the credit they needed to buy ingredients and machines to continue their production.

I fully appreciate how Liaw allows the people he meets to dominate each episode, with no need to insert himself unnecessarily or call attention to himself. He does demonstrate some dishes, though, and every show is a mouth-watering invitation to rush to the nearest Japanese restaurant.

“Destination Flavour Japan” is the best demonstration of how food is not just about eating or gluttony, or even flavor or taste, but also about the people who spend their lives pleasing palates and nourishing body and soul.

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Locally, my favorite food show is “Food Prints,” (on the Lifestyle channel) hosted by Sandy Daza, chef and food columnist for this paper, as well as the proprietor of Wooden Spoon, a popular restaurant with branches on Katipunan Avenue and Power Plant.

Sandy also happens to be the son of Nora Daza, a name normally preceded by “the iconic” doyenne of the Philippine food scene, who popularized French cuisine in Manila through the restaurant Au Bon

Vivant and innovative Filipino cooking with Aux Iles Philippines in Paris. But I suspect that she is best known among Filipinos for her popular and enduring cookbooks and cooking shows.

Sandy lives up to this heritage not just with all his endeavors but also with the evident joy and thrill with which he approaches cooking and savoring food. I especially enjoyed the episodes shot in Spain during an international food festival (I don’t know how he managed to still walk after stuffing himself silly), and the one on his search for the best  sisig  in Pampanga as well as the rest of the rich culinary offerings of this province.

The only drawback to shows like “Food Prints” and “Destination Flavour Japan” is that they leave the viewer yearning and salivating for a taste of the featured dishes. An occupational hazard for the diabetic!

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TAGS: Cooking, fad, food, ice bucket challenge, news, youtube
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