Anybody who was able to read my 25 gentle things would surely know by now of my disgust.. nope, scratch that—repulsion to the balut. I can just imagine the half-formed chick, with its wispy feathers and fragile, crunchable body frame, opening its semi-formed eyes and chirping its first and final chirp the moment i put that helpless bloodied thing to my mouth. Mmm… yum!
Now that I’ve already whetted your appetite (!) I am now declaring that I fell completely in love with its sister, the penoy. Hehehe.
yes, twenty-seven years, and yet, another first . Now you might begin to think that I’m some totally sheltered cutie who’s just getting acquainted with the harsh, exciting outside world. You might have a point on that, but allow me to say that I am not a total virgin when it comes to street food. Lemme say that I’m totally comfortable with those fishballs dipped in the vinegar concoction manong fishball would freely offer to you for a second or third round of dipping even if the stick has already been coated with a generous helping of your saliva. Mmm! Hahaha!
Now, back to the penoy. I didn’t think I’d ever come to the day that I’d dip my virgin mouth to that soft, gelatinous, salty-creamy tasting wonder of an egg that manong magbabalut alternately shouts with the star of his nightly trade. But on this particular Saturday night, I found myself throwing all my reservations to the wind.
My penoy-tasting session happened outside mag:net café in katipunan, fronting the Miriam college and Ateneo schools. We just came out for a breath of fresh air after listening to a poet, who goes by the name of chingbee cruz, explain her creative process amidst a dimly lit, smoke-filled room in the second floor of the establishment. the arts crowd, the music, and the beer mingling in my head have already started to make me feel a little giddy; perfect for what will eventually ensue.
Bloggagotchi girl, now devoid of her everyday immaculate call center accent, called out to manong for a penoy. Its already 9:30 in the evening, and the bands are already setting up their drums and readying their guitars upstairs. The paying crowd are already assembling outside while the three of us sit like vagrants along the entrance to the café-cum -music bar-cum-arts venue. Our crowd (the poetry session/ free-riding crowd) are now slowly dispersing, while manong magbabalot is handling bloggagotchi girl some salt for the penoy, already in her hand.
Taking a bite from her penoy, she casually offered the egg to us. Eyvicat politely said no, but I’m not the one to be denied of my education. I timidly asked, “anong lasa?” to this, bloggagotchi’s chinky eyes seemed to take on a different glow as she answered, “tikman mo”; eager, it seems to play mentor to the uninitiated. “lagyan muna natin ng asin”, she told me as one hand expertly sprinkled a dash of salt to the egg. Taking the penoy from her hand and slowly dipping my lips to the creamy white thing contained in the shell, I smelled something close to the smell of balut, but the texture, and the taste that followed it completely knocked me out: its as if I am eating cream cheese. Heavenly.
Later on, bloggagotchi girl would complete my lesson by saying that the penoy is basically an unfertilized egg. Although numerous images would eventually assault my fertile imagination, my thoughts at that time revolved only on cream cheese, soft and melting with every bite.