Rainy days are a recipe for disaster when you have school aged kids. It means that no matter how much your body doth protest, again and again, you glue your ear to the radio, waiting for some advisory, leave your warm, inviting bed and get started on the lunch packs, all the while hoping -- hoping!- the radio announcer says those magic words, "Classes suspended."
But it doesn't happen. Or rarely does. Unless the flesh of your flesh goes to school in some flood prone area, and then, not only do you suppress all the vile words working their way out of what is supposed to be a PG mouth, but you also have to start yelling at the radio to hurry up with their announcements or suffer some fate involving nameless insect infestations. And if classes are, by some arcane formula NOT suspended, one must search the memory for where the boots, raincoats, umbrellas, jackets, hats, pumpboats, oars and other rainy day essentials lie mocking you with their invisibility.
Ah, but there are the Zen moments too. Making breakfast, putting together even the simplest of meals to warm up the kids while they think of things to ask from you that you must magically produce at two seconds notice -- "Nanay, I think I need a cup of sand for school." Hmmmm... Still, nothing can disrupt the momentum of breakfast making, or er... assembling. For this, I thank the heavens for the wonderful invention called pan de sal for which I believe this country is marked as saved.
Oftentimes the only breakfast my befuddled, sleep deprived brain can rustle up at 4 or 5am is the unbeatable tandem of eggs, pandesal, butter or jam or cheese and coffee or hot chocolate. If its a bad day, they get instant -- coffee or chocolate. But ah... pandesal changes the tenor of the meal and turns it from a hurried slapped together one (which it is, in this case) to one that makes memories.
The aroma alone is worth the five pesos that would have National Artist Nick Joaquin perorating on the evils of inflation messing with REAL pan de sal. He once wrote about the bread of his childhood, big as his fist, brown and crusty and crumby on the outside, chewy on the inside, served hot at 4am and only a few cents per bun, looking down on the poor copies that they served then (the essay was written in the early 80s) . Of course I beg to differ. The specialty pan de sal bakeshops they have now would probably approximate sir Nick's childhood memories and still be bromate free. But I don't mind the neighborhood bakeshop version either. True, they may be a slightly paler, slightly smaller version, but the essentials are there -- aroma, light crust, crumbs and chewy insides.
And did I say aroma? That pervading smell of hot goodness, reminding you of comforting warmth, allowing you to slip into some childhood memory that evokes lullabies ...
And butter. Nothing beats butter (or margarine) melting on hot pandesal. If the gods are kind, the morning chill still hangs in the air providing a pleasing counterpoint to the sweet smelling heat and salty creaminess in your mouth. And for a few precious moments, the children fall silent, taking in the smell and taste.
And then, moment over, the school bus honks and they're off, warmed and fortified. And loved.