In music as it in flavors, counterpoint is the blending of two opposing tastes but complementary when taken together. I think it is a springboard for a wealth of epicurean possibilities. It is this taste that makes champorado (Philippine chocolate rice porridge) sit well with tuyo (anchovy-like dried fish). It’s quite unusual, even horrible to think about, but when you taste it, contrasting flavors actually make sense, like the female soprano and the male tenor making beautiful music together.
Counterpoint flavors are usually strong, sharp and contrasting flavors, usually the basis for pairing food with a beverage, most likely an alcoholic one. Not only does counterpoint spread to all areas of the tongue, but evokes feelings and sensations unique and highly associative of a specific memory or event. Champorado and tuyo will always remind me of those lazy summer afternoons with my Ma-ma (what I used to call my nanny) when I was 8 years old. Miswa and Calamansi juice reminds me of our old home in Quezon City. Sugo peanuts and RC Cola remind me of the days when I was gout-free. Ah happy memories.
I urge you dear reader, to be more adventurous with your taste buds, but before you can develop the appetite for all things exciting, I suggest you “train” your palate. How do you do this? You start with regular food items that scream counterpoint all over. My suggestion, ask the ladies. For some reason they are very well versed with this contrast in flavors. Especially pregnant women.
Five (5) food items that give the most amazing counterpoint flavors:
- Wendy’s Frosty and Fries – Ageless as ever. I only see it with very few women back in the late 1980s but now, it is standard fare for just about anyone who frequents fast food joints.
- Chippy and Coke – the quintessential counterpoint flavor of them all. This is where it all starts for most of us. As children, this is how we are acquainted with the fact that the sweet can be enjoyed with the salty.
3. Erica Paredes’ Chocolate-covered Bacon – Happy Bacon is just one of the most palatable epicurean revolutions to date. Chocolate coupled with salty, savory food is a delightful surprise indeed. I was very skeptical at first, but when I tried it, I was an immediate convert. I don’t know here Happy Bacon is sold but if you do come across, don’t hesitate to buy a lot.
4. Holy Kettle Corn – I found this strange the first time I tried it but I realized it was addicting. This popcorn made my palate go schizo, it’s salty, no it’s sweet, salty?, sweet! Seriously it was the first time I enjoyed such a combination. When I was in the my 20s, my palate was not very tolerant of weird tastes, especially snack food, but a little training goes a long way.
5. Beer and sardines – for the life of me, I thought back then, I will never understand beer. How can something so bitter be so delicious? But beer is very good, especially when taken in moderation. The bitter taste washes over your palate to prepare you for the savory that is to come. In this respect, beer is like UV light to a thousand-peso bill. The light will let you see the authenticity of the bill, just as beer will make you taste the REAL flavors of the fish, flavors that will not become apparent had you not taken it with beer.