One quick scroll at Ronald Holmes’ Facebook timeline will tell you the guy is a foodie. It’s a side to the head of Pulse Asia Research Inc. not known to many. Being president of one of the most controversial outfits during election season can be a stressful thing, especially when you have to defend your latest survey results over and over. So thank heavens for the kitchen. It's where Ronnie spends his time when not in the office, giving interviews, or teaching Political Science at De La Salle University.
Every few days, Ronnie would post a photograph of a dish he’s just whipped up. Quite obvious is his love for Japanese food—he’s posted an okonomiyaki, a tonkatsu, karaage, yakiniku, tempura, udon, sukiyaki, etc. Pizza night happens quite often in the Holmes household. And we also spotted Filipino favorites like kare-kare, adobo, and bulalo, as well as mouthwatering photos of lobster thermidor, steaks, salads, pies, and breads.
Cooking for the fam
Ronnie says he’s been into cooking for the last four decades, but he only got to spend more time in the kitchen since the start of the pandemic. He’s had more time to prepare meals now than when he used to do face-to-face classes in DLSU (he’s been teaching Pol Sci for 36 years). When before the guy only had time to prepare breakfast and dinner for his brood, now he gets to cook lunch, too, even snacks. It’s a task he had voluntarily and happily submitted himself to since he started a family.
It was his mother Luisa David Holmes, a Kapampangan, who cooked a lot for the family when Ronnie and his four siblings were growing up in Pasay, and eventually in Bacoor, Cavite. While their mom did not exactly teach her kids to cook, everyone was welcome to watch and observe her in the family’s open kitchen. “Nagshe-share lang sya ng mga tips and techniques—like, wag haluin ang suka nang hindi pa kumukulo, kasi hindi ito maluluto,” Ronnie recalls. (Ronnie’s father, the son of an American who came to the Philippines in the ‘30s and married a Bicolana, is from Sorsogon and wasn’t really a cook. He passed away in 2005.)
Eventually, the kid would learn his own cooking techniques as his personal taste and preferences developed. Ronnie discovered his interest in cooking at age 17. He recalls starting with scrambled eggs, fried pork, and eventually, adobo.
He bakes, too
Holmes can cook a wide range of Filipino food staples—menudo, sinigang, kare-kare, and a Pampango asado. When he prepares pizza for the family, he makes the dough from scratch and makes do with what’s on hand when it comes to toppings. And, yes, he can prepare all sorts of Japanese meals. “The only Japanese food I cannot prepare is sushi kasi may special skill yun and the ingredients are quite difficult to source,” he tells ANCX.
The Pulse Asia chief also bakes breads: brioche, baguettes, croissants. “I have not done sour dough—medyo impatient ako e,” he offers. “Yung brioche medyo mabilis lang yun gawin. I put cheese or other fillings. Croissant is a little tricky to make. Kailangan naka-aircon ka para hindi natutunaw ang butter habang fino-fold ang dough.” He’s become better at it over time. After five tries, his croissants are finally flaky (thanks to YouTube videos). He makes sure to make them regularly so he won’t lose the technique.
Back when there was no internet yet, the Holmeses used to consult their Nora Daza cookbook. Ronnie would refer to it every now and then, but would not really follow the recipes to the letter. “I didn’t follow the measurements and simply made do with the ingredients we had. It’s mainly based on taste, more than anything else.”
Did he ever consider the culinary field as a career path? Holmes says that when he was an undergrad at DLSU, there was a time he was thinking of taking Hotel and Restaurant Management, which was still offered in the university then. When it was time for him to take major subjects, however, the culinary program was shelved. “If I had pursued HRM, I would have taken the culinary track,” he says.
All five members of the Holmes household can cook. Ronnie’s children take over kitchen duties when Daddy is swamped with work. It helps that the fam has developed a system that makes everything more seamless in terms of food prep. Ronnie usually prepares the ingredients during the weekend—like cleaning, cutting and portioning the meat after buying them. “May certain degree of efficiency na kasi we’ve been doing it for quite some time,” he offers. This allows Ronnie to cook simple meals in 30 minutes to an hour tops.
Aside from allowing the family to save on food expenses, cooking and baking have helped Ronnie deal with the stresses of work. He’s had to deal with a lot of questioning and criticism every time new survey results are released, whether its approval ratings or who’s topping the presidential race to 2022. “The ones that bash you don’t even know exactly the work that you do or who you are,” he says with a hint of distress in his voice. “We’re basically messengers. They are shooting down the messenger. They are insinuating that we are doing this to enrich ourselves, that we fudge the data. Maraming trolls and bashers, which make [work] quite stressful.”
Which is why he cooks more often now than in the past. It gets his mind off things, at least for a while. It keeps him sane. “In my case, it’s really therapeutic. It’s a time that you do what you want to do, without being told to do it. It’s volitional, not something that is a task or an obligation,” he says.
But he doesn’t cook when he’s exhausted or anxious, or really overwhelmed at work. “If you don’t see a post about anything that has been cooked at home,” ibig sabihin na-overwhelm na ako ng trabaho,” Ronnie Holmes says with a laugh.
Photos courtesy of Ronnie Holmes