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Food Chained

I remember one of the reasons why I left my first job was the fly I almost ate while dissecting a longganisa the size of a baby's arm. Being inside a manufacturing plant that is inside an industrial zone where the nearest neighbor is still another manufacturing plant, there is no choice but to eat inside its cafeteria. A fastfood joint was unheard of in those Erap days as the industrial zones were just starting to pick up. Read: it's terra incognita. You could die of heatstroke just by walking the EDSA-wide roads if you want a McChicken. These zone planners surely know how to kill a Filipino engineer.

My stomach fared better on my second job, except that like the first, I have to eat early, around 4AM if I want a homecooked meal. Earlier if I want to cook myself a homecooked meal. And because this company knew how to deal, it made sure that everything must be safe, gastronomically. And because everybody wanted to be associated with the name that launched a billion chips (and counting), bulalo houses, shopping arcades and laundry shops sprang out of idyllic General Trias naturally as it does in SIM City, and I mean this other way around. Soon Robinsons and SM changed the landscape and dampa-style joints suddenly competed for vendors-of-choice. Tagaytay beef is 30-minutes away and visitors from Shanghai saw a volcano and a lake for the first time in their skyscrapered lives.

Oh, and because I was assigned to the Makati plant in my first year before it closed down, Glorietta was just a drive away. (And if you are following this blog closely enough, you would still wonder why I left.)

I am now on my third job and while I am not really missing the menu of the second, I know that I am in for a larger health risk other than flies. Squash pulp unbelievably neon in color and Goodyear-grade beef fibers devoid of flavor are my daily fare. Tocino has the word "cancer" written in glossy, oily letters. And how about this: packed lunches are forbidden even in office areas and guards sneak in to hunt tupperware-toting engineers and slap tickets to explain to the boss later. Goodbye, Tuna Penne a la Bodyelectric.

I believe there is a conspiracy between the security agency and the canteen contractors.

Cafeteria food, while obviously a gourmet's nightmare, is far worse than I imagined. It's like a planet where nutritionists got frustrated and walked out in the name of cost cutting and waste reduction. While the price of food ingredients remains relatively low in province-based industrial zones, quality is also proportionate. Depending on the mood of the cooks, the themes change from Dude, Where's my Salt? to Got Fat? Here's More! to Save the World: We Recycle!

So-called modified meals are available, but these are more devoid of taste than the salt and fat that they claim. Most would drown themselves in two cups of rice to forget the taste, not realizing that a full stomach does not equate to healthy eating.

Given that I can drive by the nearest fastfood serving salads such as Wendy's when I get home, this is not enough for a guy whose lunch plate looked more like Della Reese's Pieces that would make an anorexic pale in comparison (pun not intended). I must order a Bacon Mushroom Melt combo as a centerpiece.

Right now my food pyramid has been inverted. I eat more at night to compensate the morsels I sneak in my clutch bag to eat at my desk, which I call breakfast. Lunch is a game of Russian roulette as I fall in line at the cafeteria without knowing what meal awaits us, but we know where we will end if we take them.

No amount of papaya garnish, fruit basket or carrot flowers can mask the poor taste nor fill in the vitamins that an engineer needs to survive the high-tech Sahara desert.

What price healthy eating?

“Food Chained”