Perhaps because of the searing heat these days, I remembered the traditional “Buco Lechias” sherbet which was made in a wood-and-steel “garapinera” churn with lots of rock salt outside (to keep cold?). As far as I knew, it was made in every good Capampangan household. In Lola Charing’s home, it was made by the mayordomo, Benito Nuqui or “Bito” for short. ”Bito” was modernized to “Bits” in the hip 60s. LOL.
I was a preteen in the late 70s (born 1967). Lola Charing had passed on in mid-1977 and my uncle Brother Andrew FSC of De La Salle University became the principal figure in the family. Brother Andrew had the most luxurious and demanding gustatory tastes. In one of those phases, he became obsessed with producing an excellent “Buco Lechias” sherbet. He insisted that the “Buco Lechias” sherbet of his childhood (late 40s) at Lola Titay’s (the Arnedo ancestral house in Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga) had the WHITEST lychee fruit flesh, not the pale pink ones in the cans currently available. So he sent Bito to Binondo/Chinatown to look for the whitest lychee fruit flesh. Well, what did he expect? It was the Marcos years and there were tight import controls. No whitest lychees. Just cans of lychees with pinkish fruit flesh. Bito returned with the palest pink lychee fruit flesh. No can do. Bito was scolded. Bito was sent back to Binondo/Chinatown and — nobody knew how he did it — but he returned with the whitest lychee fruit flesh!!! Brother Andrew finally had his excellent “Buco Lechias” sherbet with the whitest lychee fruit flesh. Brother Andrew was satisfied, at least for that Sunday.
I remembered that at Lola Charing’s house sherbet and ice cream were served on etched crystal stems on porcelain saucers for everyday. During beautiful lunches and dinners, sherbets and ice cream appeared on chic, Art Deco Christofle footed bowls on Brussels lace doilies on matching Christofle saucers. Of course, I know all about the metallic taste that silver imparts to food, but I’ll use beautiful silver anytime.
The sherbet/ice cream phase did not end there. Brother Andrew wanted a “Calamansi” sherbet. He wanted it tart and dry, something like lime mixed with champagne brut. Not sweet at all (Brother Andrew intensely disliked sweetish food that was not meant to be sweet, like spaghetti). Odd, but “Calamansi” tended to sweeten slightly in sherbet form. No can do. It took Bito several tries to produce that tart and dry “Calamansi” sherbet, but he did, even if he couldn’t tell the difference. Brother Andrew was satisfied, at least for that Sunday.
Now in 2013, I wonder why it didn’t occur to Brother Andrew to have a “Dayap” sherbet, when in fact fragrant “dayap” lime (“dalayap” in Capampangan) was used extensively — on practically everything — in our Capampangan/Sulipan cooking?
The best version of “Buco Lechias” sherbet that I’ve had in recent years — exquisitely and expertly tinged with “dayap” lime rind with a hint of cordial — was served at dinner by my dear friend Albert Salgado Paloma, who is an equal (perhaps even a superior) to Brother Andrew’s luxurious and demanding gustatory tastes. Worldly and elegant Albert thinks nothing of marinating Italian veal shanks in a very expensive French grand cru for his “Ossobuco” and of marinating goat meat in a very expensive French X.O. cognac for his “Caldereta de Cabrito.” For Albert, luxurious excess is the only culinary way to go. Truly Capampangan.
Back to Brother Andrew, the sherbet/ice cream phase did not end there. He wanted the “Mantecado” ice cream of his childhood at Lola Titay’s (the Arnedo ancestral house in Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga). Mind you, it was not the commercial, vanilla-flavored “Mantecado” ice cream you can buy at the megasupermarkets now. Brother Andrew’s inherited idea of “Mantecado” ice cream was of thick carabao’s milk, full of egg yolks, and “dayap” lime rind shavings. It was golden yellow with sprinklings of grass green. It looked so chic! If Hermes and Chanel made ice cream, that would definitely be it. So Bito produced our family’s version of “Mantecado” ice cream with “dayap” lime from Lola Charing’s rose garden. It was ambrosial. I would have finished off a gallon if I were permitted to do so.
So this is what this warm, warm spell does to me. It makes me think of sherbet and ice cream from the past. From the distant past.
These days, I am delightfully condemned to the highly unusual, positively weird, molecular gastronomy, New Age ice cream concoctions of my brother and nephew. But it’s a nice problem to have. LOL.