Fresh and Simple in Easter

Easter Sunday is a celebration of what is new. This is actually the reason why our “Sabbath” is Sunday. The Jews celebrate the Sabbath on a Saturday. Since Jesus resurrected on a Sunday, Sunday became our Sabbaths. St. Paul says that the resurrection of Jesus is a new creation.

What right do we have to change it? Jesus said, “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” As the first day of the week, the first Christians dedicated the dies solis to the public and solemn worship of God (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2; Rev 1:10). St. Ignatius of Antioch (Ep. ad Magnes. ix) speaks of Christians as “no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also Our Lord rose again.”

This Easter Sunday, we celebrate by coming together and breaking bread as a community (Didache). We can therefore savor fresh and simple food as our homage to new Eden.

At home, ginataang langka is perfect with deep fried tilapia. The jackfruit is sliced and cooked in simmering thick coconut milk seasoned with garlic, black pepper, smoked fish (tinapa) or pork, siling labuyo and pink shrimp paste (balaw). Locals said that one has be ‘sensitive’ to the coconut milk to determine the perfect time to mix the chopped jackfruit. When the thick coconut milk begins to curdle to release some oil, you put everything into the wok.

These make it different from other provinces: First, the Bicol ginataang langka is cooked without ginger.  Second, the amount of small chili is determined by the cook. The hotter it gets, the more it becomes ours. The Guinness World record for eating sili is a relative: Bert Gonzales is the world’s “Sili King.”

The tastiest tilapia, I believe, is from Bicol. It is our version of the “St. Peter’s fish” which the disciple caught with a coin in its mouth (Gospel of Matthew). Ours are usually small, but they possess more flavor than their larger counterparts. Because we buy them swimming in a bucket of water in the market, the flavor is full and robust. At home, my mom would chop tomatoes and red shallots and mix them with black pepper, fish sauce and chili. The tomato salad is then filled into the stomachs of the tilapia and then deep fried covered in banana leaves to retain its juice.

Tilapia is best eaten smoking hot and dipped into spiced vinegar. A friend once remarked when tilapia has been cold from sitting for an hour: “It’s a dead fish.”

Clean the palate with chilled cubed watermelon. Dig in. Use your hands. It is still a mystery to me why our appetites increase when we eat with our bare hands. Maybe we’re not meant to use spoons.

Easter Sunday is an experience of community and the newness that oozes out of our relationships. We know that those who eat together become closer and closer to each other especially when stories are shared and celebrated.

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