Comfort (Food)

What do you consider your ‘comfort food’?

For Char, it’s macaroni and cheese. She says it makes her feel like a kid again.

For my buddy Luigi, his “Pinoy Comfort Food” restaurant menu consists of different variations of longganiza and chorizo recipes.

For the gang at Hurry up the Cakes Favorite 2nd’s, it’s a smorgasbord of homemade filipino dishes, usually with a lovely modern gourmet twist.

It took a while for me to remember mine, though. My whole world is comfort food–if it doesn’t bring me some kind of happiness, pleasure, or comfort, I probably wouldn’t eat it. Char asked me this question a long time ago, and I think I answered based on what I would miss the most if I were deprived of all of my favorites. My answer was the patented Llorin breakfast: garlic fried rice, runny sunny side up eggs, thick hot chocolate, and any combination of tapa, longganisa, dried fish, chorizo, or cured meats.

Most people answer that question based on what dish or food type transports them to their warm, cozy, idealized concept their childhood home. I couldn’t think of anything that would “transport” me because most of the time I’m exactly where I want to be. Which is usually in front of good food.

So today I found a more precise answer.

Pizza Hut.

Yes, Pizza Hut. Widely regarded by this generation of Filipinos as “it counts as pizza but not really”, Pizza Hut became a staple of house parties and packed hangouts because of their gimmicky flavored crusts (cheesy crusts, stuffed crusts, pepperoni crusts, and the like), and their now-ubiquitous PALM (“Pizza And Lots More!”) card, which sent a free pizza-of-the-day for every pizza ordered.

However, Pizza Hut is never really in the conversation when it comes to great pizzas. Shakey’s? Sure. Yellow Cab? Of course! S&R? Why not?

But Pizza Hut? Nuh uh. There’s real Pizza, and then there’s Pizza Hut. (And then there’s Greenwich, and it’s downhill from there. But that’s another story.)

And then I remembered that Pizza Hut was the host of my first-ever Pizza experience.

When I was around three or four years old, my dad and I would bring my mom to the PICC–one of Manila’s theater-cum-cultural-centers for church service. At the time, my dad couldn’t have cared less about religion, church, or worship services. Some Sundays I’d be with my mom (and promptly get bored to death by the sermon), and others I’d be with my dad.

I have several happy memories about those Sundays–there was that time my dad said I could only buy a toy if I found one that cost less than thirty pesos (which I think he thought was impossible), and then I found the most wonderfully beautiful gray plastic sword I’ve ever seen. I can still draw it for you to this day. And there was the time that I thought I was so deathly hungry, and he told me I should pray to God that the food would arrive, and I did, and instantly the waiter came with the food. (I think he timed his instruction.) And there were other happy times. But the one constant in ALL of those Sundays with my father was that we ate in Pizza Hut, at the corner of Harrison Plaza, and that we had one order of mushroom soup, a regular Super Supreme pan pizza, and two mugs of Pepsi.

The mushroom soup tastes like watered down Campbell’s with butter. The pizza tastes like the kind of food you would buy if you were lining up outside a movie theatre and you were dying of hunger. And Pepsi sucks compared to Coke. (Sorry, CM Punk.) But in those days, the mushroom soup was the best in the world, and the pizza was the only one that existed in the whole universe.

Growing up, of course, I discovered what good soup and good pizza and good soda were really like. Pizza Hut became relegated to home delivery during intense NBA 2K sessions.

But today, I had lunch with my dad and had the bright idea to eat in Pizza Hut. Mushroom soup, Super Supreme pan pizza, and a mug of (Diet) Pepsi. And in that moment, Pizza Hut became the best in the world again.

Cheers, Dad.

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