ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya (The Freeman) - April 10, 2021 - 12:00am

My family consumed porridge on many occasions during our early years, when life was difficult. And now, because it means so much to us, it's one of our most cherished memories. It is not only a food which we can readily identify, but it also represents deeper meanings.

For those who have eaten the meal, it is a sign of resiliency, demonstrating that we can find ways to survive in difficult times. When resources are limited, we find creative ways to extend them for the sake of survival.

We are not ashamed to use our creativity to add a range of flavors to a very bland taste, but the basic is still salt. If our budget allows, add some ginger or onion for an extra kick. And, even luckier, shredded pork or chicken meat is a delight.

In rural areas, finding something to eat is a challenge during any meal, but families find ways to get to the last meal of the journey. Porridge is the solution to the dreaded once-a-day meal.

Ask about the foods that have dominated the world, and you're likely to learn about Coca-Cola and MacDonald's Big Macs, according to Eliza Barclay's article "Ramen to the Rescue: How Instant Noodles Fight Global Hunger". Ramen has a touching story to tell about fighting global hunger. From its birth in post-war Japan to its global sales of just over 100 billion servings in 2012, the most profitable industrial food ever produced has remained largely unnoticed.

Consider this: That's about 14 servings for every single person on the planet, at a cost of just a few cents each. That's a huge amount, particularly for American consumers, who don't think of stiff, wavy blocks of noodles as a staple, despite the fact that they are for some college students, inmates, and low-income Americans.

Consumer demand for novel ramen products is so strong in Japan, the birthplace of instant ramen, that manufacturers release 600 new flavors per year. However, it all began in the post-war period.

All the fat keeps you fuller for longer and lowers the glycemic index of the noodles. The fact that instant noodles transform into soup once added with water also helps; soup lasts longer than noodles alone. That explains why ramen has become a favorite of the world's starving and is included in some humanitarian food aid packages.

Authorities in the northern Chinese city of Shijiazhuang placed a sudden and tight lockdown, catching 11 million locals off guard. Some of them were unable to obtain supplies due to a lack of time. When a sudden and harsh coronavirus lockdown of a city in China's north left 11 million people without time to buy essentials, all they had was a bag of flour, a cabbage, and a stash of instant noodles.

As we hit the point of needing to be resourceful in our survival methods, and when people are forced to stay at home, survival techniques are enabled. Porridge has been an important part of a Filipino family's diet for a long time. And even more in times of economic and health crises providing a viable alternative to growling stomachs.

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