Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On Mansions, Olive Oils and Fried Foods

This is a photo of the controversial Arlegui Mansion located inside the Malacanang complex in San Miguel, Manila.  I took it before going to a photo shoot inside the palace grounds.  To facilitate it, Ivan Man Dy, diverted the guards’ attention with some meaningless queries, while I took pictures.  You see, taking unofficial photographs in and around the palace vicinity is highly restricted. 

At that time, this mansion was being used as the office of the Press Secretary.  And just before the Arroyo administration ended, a much-needed maintenance work on this mansion was done at a cost of P180,000.  The repair took 12 days, including two days to vacate the place and 10 days to fix the facility.

Historically, Tita Cory, dismayed by what she deemed veritable excesses by the Marcos regime, set up residence in this grand mansion instead of in the nearby Malacanang Palace when she assumed presidency.  This noble yet quirky decision of hers certainly created nightmares for her presidential security guard unit, because unlike Malacanang Palace which is located within a gated complex equipped with formidable security measures, this grand mansion is on a busy street with rows of private houses, including two private schools nearby. 

I’m not sure who is now using this beautiful mansion and for what purpose; however, if I were a billionaire, I'd buy it in a jiffy and turn it into a museum and then donate it to the Filipino people before I kick the bucket. 

Anyway, although I never had a guided tour of the inside, one thing I’m sure of: as in most houses in the Philippines – huge or modest – this one has a “dirty kitchen.”  And where do I base my assumption from, you may ask?  Well, Filipinos simply adore fried foods.  And since grease can go airborne and attach themselves to the walls and draperies and then harbor lingering scents of meals gone by, the dirty kitchen became an undisputed necessity.

Hence, there is absolutely no going back to just plain boiling, roasting, and souring of our local foods.  Even health-conscious Pinoys who appear to abhor the mere thought of ingesting fried foods could not last too long without the greasy tapsilog and lumpiang Shanghai every now and then.  But rejoice!  A recent study now claims that eating fried foods may not put you at higher risk for coronary heart disease; that is, as long as you're frying those foods in olive or sunflower oils.

A study published this week in the British Medical Journal analyzed data on 40,757 Spanish adults age 29 to 69 who were followed for an average 11 years. Free of coronary heart disease at the beginning of the study, they were asked what they ate and what cooking methods they used, then were tracked to see who developed coronary heart disease and who died.  The bottom line: those who regularly eat fried foods cooked with olive or sunflower oil did not develop coronary heart disease and die from it.

Pinoys can now breathe a little easier, but there stems a new dilemma: the recent scandals of the Italian virgin olive oil production and labeling. How can we be certain about the quality of olive oils out there in the local market?  Unless we’re as savvy as Lael Hazan when it comes to olive oils, we will remain at the mercy of the importers and local grocers.  Lael Hazan and her husband import their own line of extra virgin olive oil --  A & H selections -- from the most southern region of Italy, Apulia. It is made from 100% Ogliarola olives; it is to olive oil what a single varietal estate reserve bottle is to wine.  Fret not, you can order their olive oil on the Internet site cybercuccina.

There are also online sites that offer olive oil-buying tips such as Real Simple  and indiaparenting.com.  The New Yorker also has an excellent article about the olive oil business that you may want to read.  Better yet, just befriend the chefs at your favorite Italian restaurants and ask for their sources for olive oils.

And once you have genuine sunflower or virgin olive oils at your disposal, you may want to check out these recipes: six steps to perfect fried chicken and fried chicken ala Max's.  You may also want to just come over to Panglao Island and indulge in some of the tasty dishes served at restaurants here like at Saffron's breakfast buffet:

Chicken parmagiana

Herbed vermicelli mustard cream dory fish fillet

Potato croquette

Fried chicken
Baked fussili with homemade meatballs

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I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!



  1. i was planning a visit to the mansion until i saw the food!:p i wish i could afford to use olive oil everyday. my sister sent sunflower oil a few months ago but my mom doesn't like it.:p

    1. Olive oils are really expensive because of the costs of importing them over here.

      While writing this post, Luna, I couldn't help but think of the characters of Mario Puzzo's "The Godfather." Olive oil was the Carleone family's legit business, remember?

  2. I think the palace guards are after your hide for taking verboten shots LOL.

    1. Hope not, bertN, cause I think I did a good on my assignment while over there: