Starweek Magazine


SINGKIT - Notes from the editor - The Philippine Star

It must have been on days as hot as we’re experiencing now that the ancient Chinese decided to make ice cream. Emperors of the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) created ice concoctions with cow, goat or buffalo milk, sometimes flavored with camphor harvested from evergreen trees. The ingenious Chinese put this mixture into metal containers and lowered them into an ice vat or pool until the mixture froze. “A History of Food” credits the Chinese “with inventing a device to make sorbets and ice cream. They poured a mixture of snow and saltpeter over the exteriors of containers filled with syrup, for, in the same way as salt raises the boiling-point of water, it lowers the freezing-point to below zero.”

Although the Roman emperor Nero put fruit toppings on top of ice brought in from the mountains, Marco Polo is said to have brought the ice cream making technique back to Italy from China, after tasting Kublai Khan’s cold secret in the court of the Mongols.

Hereabouts, ice cream comes in many guises and flavors, from fancy gelatos and sorbets to the always reliable man-in-the-street treats dirty ice cream and ice candy. Since my (mis)adventure in the streets of the city last week I have been having visions of halo halo, “oddly beautiful” as Anthony Bourdain describes it, a multi-sensory treat (don’t you just love the sound of ice being shaved the old-fashioned way, or the crunch of crushed ice?) that is as Pinoy as the summer heat and the fiestas of May.  

Thoughts of ice cream and halo halo may help us keep our cool these sweltering days, especially with soaring power costs and constant admonitions to save electricity and water in the face of threatened supplies. Water levels in the dams are dropping, both from the lack of rain and increased evaporation (currently 30 cm daily at Angat Dam, officials say), and the specter of a prolonged El Niño – one of the strongest in several decades, climate scientists warn – threatens both floods and drought. With water at critical or below critical level in the dams, not only the water coming out of our faucets will be adversely affected but also, and more importantly, power generation and irrigation for foodcrops.

Government says it has laid out contingency plans for El Niño’s effects on power, water and food supplies, including cloud seeding over watershed areas. The energy department is finally considering expanding solar power capacities (“The profile of solar really fits summer,” the secretary said...DUH!) while it is “coordinating with all sectors” to ensure there would be no problems on power supply. Exactly what this means I cannot say, but I am sure the people in Min-danao would have a thing or two to say about this.

I am one of the rare creatures who does not use an air conditioner or electric fan, even when temperatures inch up to near 40 degrees. Perhaps, like a snake, I have the ability to thermoregulate. But just give me a pamaypay and add in some ice cream and I’m happy, through the long languid days of summer in Manila.    

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