Life in terms of food in the Philippines wasn’t so bad, and it could certainly have been worse. Where we lived, we had good access to a decent array of fruits and vegetables, and we eventually found a couple of places we could buy tofu (as it’s a common foodstuff, but not found in the supermarket) and learned how to make mungo beans. But there were a few things we had to go without. For C, I think the hardest of these was (what we consider good) bread, but he finally bit the bullet and started baking his own, which was awesome for both of us.
Some foods we couldn’t compensate for, though most of these were no big loss: apples, oranges and grapes were on offer but out of the question. The apples were tasteless and powdery, the oranges were juiceless and neither sour nor sweet, and I never got around to sampling the grapes…but I wasn’t bothered – we had mangos and rambutan and lanzones and jackfruit and like 4 kinds of bananas (though I’ve heard there were once hundreds of varieties in Mindanao, but due to monoculture there are only a few now – and there are far worse consequences, but I digress).
Something we absolutely never bought, though – except for that first time out of sheer naivety – was lettuce. The lettuce was awful. It was hard and bitter and dry…the climate just isn’t conducive to growing the stuff. So upon arriving in France, I was ecstatic about salad. The French love salad. Most families serve it with every dinner and sometimes lunch, too. The only problem is that for them, salade is the word they use for “lettuce”. Which is to say that they eat lettuce with their meals, with dressing of course. But rarely anything else, unless the salad is the main dish, which is typically only for eating out. Not having lettuce in the Philippines had forced us to learn to love a whole bunch of other raw vegetables, and lettuce and sauce just didn’t cut it for me anymore.