After a five-year hiatus, there it was.
It was back.
I guess it must have been more than five years ago, definitely in the late 1990s, I was visiting Manila, Philippines and found myself (as always) stuck in traffic on the EDSA. For those of you unfamiliar, The EDSA is what Filipino civil engineers call a circumferencial road. Meaning: it goes around the city. But really, The EDSA and it's counterparts are more like a half-circle, radiating out and around the sprawling megaplex that is Metro Manila.
In a word, The EDSA is insane.
All day, and most of the night, it's jam packed with vehicles and people. In the 90s, it was commonplace that a trip on EDSA would take hours. The same trip that took hours would take fifteen minutes when they finished building the MetroStar elevated railway in the late, late 1990s.
But that's not important to our story.
So, there I was, stuck in traffic. Sitting in the passenger seat wondering how much longer this short commute was going to take us when I spotted one of the many billboards that line The EDSA near the Araneta Coliseum. It was a billboard for Magnolia ice cream - the national ice cream of the Philippines and the weathervane for the tastes of the nation. But this wasn't just any old vanilla or chocolate they were advertising. Oh no. This was for Queso Ice Cream.
That's right, Cheese Ice Cream.
God, if that didn't sound nasty. Just utterly disgusting. Horrific. Words could not do justice to the horrors in my mind about eating a cheese-flavored ice cream. That's like mixing slices of Kraft American with your vanilla sundae. Yuck!
Mark that down as something never to try.
I was in Manila to visit friends and family. It's always a fun trip. The details of which are irrelevant for this discussion. But about two weeks later, I find myself at a family gathering where some bright mind had the idea of: "Let's bring the Pride of Our Nation Ice Cream so that our cousin from the States can taste real Filipino ice cream." To my horror there was a half-gallon tub of Queso Ice Cream.
Most of the time, I try not to be rude and since they were oh so excited to let me try this, I couldn't just tell them: "That's fucking disgusting, get that crap away from me!" That would be rude. So, I played along and let them serve me a small cup of this cheese-flavored ice cream.
The texture was like most Magnolia ice cream I had tried in the past: creamy but slightly coarse, if that makes sense. Oh, but what was that little nub on my tounge? I think it was a small bit of cheese. Yes, definitely small bits of cheese. Like chocolate chips in cookie dough ice cream. It wasn't nasty. It was just weird. The flavor was odd too. It tasted like, well, cheese. But it was weird. And strangely compelling.
I can't say that I liked it, but I didn't hate it either. It has such a compelling taste that I wanted to figure out. I had another serving. Still odd. Still strange. Still compelling. I had to have more.
In the end, I must have consumed nearly half the tub.
But I still didn't LOVE it. It was just too weird. But too compelling to stop.
Fast forward to this evening. My parents were hosting a party for a family friend so I went to the party. And what were they eating at the end? Magnolia Ice Cream. Not Queso Ice Cream. This time is was Mais Con Queso.
Corn and Cheese Ice Cream.
And there was that odd and strangely compelling flavor from my past.
Damn you Mister Sorbetes.