25 December 2009

Have a Blessed Christmas!

Nativity at the Parish of St. Joseph the Worker (detail)

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
- Luke 2:11 (New King James Version)

Wishing you and everyone you hold dear a very Blessed Christmas filled with love, peace, and joy.

16 December 2009

Rage and Release

Artwork: Poison Control 1 - Kenichi Hoshine, date unknown

for my
tearing out,
tearing away,
tearing apart
the very
of my

threads of
and then
some -

i will
out of
than i
have ever

i will
my fragile
and make
for the

when that
day comes:

i feel
for anyone
who gets

09 December 2009

Lamb to the Slaughter

Artwork: The Island - Thylacine - Walton Ford, date unknown

my hands
are tied;
am bound
in chains

to parts
like a
to the

my spirit
my heart
in shreds;

to live
to die

is left
for me.

spat upon
with savage
from all
sides -
by all
who know -
or knew -
me best.

in death
i will

03 December 2009

Secret Self

Artwork: Tsukuyomi - Hiromi Sato, date unknown

i write
to my
secret self
and tell
who i
who i
who i
to be.

under cover
of darkness,
under cloak
of shadow:
our conversations
of blighted
forlorn conclusions
of silly
mundane matters
of the

but i
still see
growing into

more beautiful.

i will
have no
to speak
to my
secret self.

when that
day comes
she and i
will be

13 November 2009

Taryan: Raise the Empire - First Public Preview

Hello, everyone! I am currently working on a new story concept which has elements of both high-fantasy and science-fiction called Taryan: Raise the Empire.

Here's a preview of what's to come; constructive criticism appreciated, as always...


His first memory of the whole thing, the most potent recollection of all, was stumbling onto his mother’s laboratory when he was ten.

He and his older brother Schendahl were kicking a ball around as they ran through one of the many hallways of their father’s palace, playing a game of keep-away with their little brother Grendlin. Their older sister Audene came tearing after them.

“Wait till I get my hands on all of you!” she yelled at them from the entrance of the hallway. “If Mother finds out you’re playing indoors…”

“Aw, but it’s raining outside!” Schendahl shouted back in reply.

Artavian snickered when he heard his sister’s almost inarticulate roar of rage. Aei [older sister] Audene could be such a pill sometimes! She was no fun at all; she was even worse now because she would be starting at the Amadera in the Souraingite capital of Kanna come fall.

“I’ll be glad when Aei leaves,” he declared to his brothers.

“Who wouldn’t be?” Schendhal snorted derisively.

“Where’s she going?” Grendlin piped up.

“School,” Artavian replied, kicking the ball just out of the younger boy’s reach

“And her school’s going to be really far away,” Schendahl added. He crowed happily when Artavian kicked the ball over to him. “Here goes…!”

He kicked the ball hard, causing it to bounce from wall to wall. Artavian and Grendlin chased after it before it rolled down the flight of stairs at the end of the hall. To their dismay, the ball tumbled down the steps.

“I’ll get it!” Artavian went scrambling down the steps.

“Artie!” Schendahl called after him, his voice agitated. “Wait! Don’t…”

When he reached the floor below, Artavian suddenly felt a deep sense of foreboding grip his heart. For a moment, he could not seem to move. The corridor was pretty much the same as the one above it, but he remembered too late that his parents had forbidden them to enter this part of the palace.

The corridor beyond was lined with doors on both sides, just as the one upstairs. However, the doors on the ground floor of the palace were wooden ones with brass latches that shone like gold because they were so well-polished. The ones here in the basement seemed to be all made of solid steel. At the same time, the hallways of the upper regions of the palace were well-lit and exuded warmth and a pleasant welcome to all who walked in them. This corridor was rather dimly lit and there was a most unusual chill emanating from the walls.

Artavian shivered nervously as he made his way to where the ball rolled. For all his nervousness, however, he was more curious than frightened. He wondered why his parents did not want them to come into this part of the palace. Apart from the intimidating doors and the darker lighting, there did not seem to be any difference between this corridor and anywhere else.

The ball had rolled into the middle of the corridor, just outside a door that was slightly ajar. When Artavian came to retrieve the toy, he overheard voices coming out of the open room. He hesitated for a moment; then his curiosity got the better of him.

“Are you sure that was what the High Oracle said?” a man’s voice demanded. Artavian drew back a little, eyes widening worriedly. That was his father’s voice!

“Yes, your Grace,” another man’s voice replied. Artavian could not identify this one, but he presumed it was the emissary from Klos who arrived earlier that day. He heard the rustle of paper; perhaps he was passing a package over to the Grand Duke. “The High Priest sent a copy of the recording to Loch Nendath. His Grace ordered copies made and sent to you and the other Oligarchs.”

“Here,” a woman’s voice chimed in; Artavian knew it was his mother. “Let’s play that back.”

He could hear clicking sounds as something was slid into a slot. The boy felt the hair on the backs of his neck and arms rising when he heard another woman’s voice speak. It was a horrible voice: aged, cracking, sounding almost as if the speaker lay in her grave. It chanted a series of verses over and over again:

Two years before nine millennia:
Sourainge will be ruled:
Not by a son, but a daughter,
Neither mage nor warrior
But both in one body.

Two years before nine millennia:
Where there are eight
There will be one,
One land united –
United against the darkness.

A prince among princes
Will rise to the fore,
A princess of noble blood
Will fall to the shadows.

One voice will call,
One hand shall lead,
One soul, one heart
One empire rising.

The adults in the room were all silent for a few moments after the last words faded into silence. Then:

“Fadenth Sourainge has no sons to take his place when the time comes,” he heard his father say quietly. “His wife suffered four miscarriages before she finally gave birth – and that child was a girl.”

“That prophecy has been made time and again for nearly four thousand years, your Grace,” the emissary informed him. “Only in the past, no one seemed to take it seriously.” There was a pause. “Until now, of course, that the heir apparent to the Duchy of Sourainge is female rather than male.”

Artavian gasped at that. He quickly covered his mouth; luckily, no one seemed to have heard him. He met the girl in question, the only child of the Souraingite Grand Duke. She was a quiet sort of girl and Artavian had dismissed her outright as one of those milksop princesses like his sister and her friends. He played a trick on her involving an open door and a bucket of water; he did not expect her to retaliate. It was, as he recollected rather glumly, not one of the smartest things he’d ever done as she nearly beat him to a pulp when she caught up with him. To be quite frank about it, she had heavier hands than most boys their age and it took a whole week for the bruises to fade.

His curiosity now piqued, the boy put the ball down by the door and tiptoed into the room. Apparently, it was not just a room but a suite of several. On silent feet, he slipped through the anteroom and into a second chamber. This one was really cold, almost like the refrigerated room up in the palace kitchen where meat, fish, and those frozen desserts the ducal family was so fond of were stored. It was also very dark and the only light came in the form of small colored pinpoints, like those on a control console for a machine.

As he inched through the room, he noticed that the walls felt different. It was as if the walls were made of steel. Not only that, it seemed like the walls were segmented: rectangular blocks spaced about a foot from each other. Muttering slightly under breath, he took a small multi-knife from his pocket and pulled out the miniature flashlight to see better.

He wished he hadn’t when he saw that what his hands were passing over weren’t walls but a line of what appeared to be steel tanks with digital displays and clear glass windows in front. What was shown in the displays only made Artavian more uncomfortable.

There were names and dates glowing in the panels. Some names were unnervingly familiar: they were the names of princes, the sons of his father’s fellow oligarchs. Some were familiar because they were the names of the sons of a number of noble Haikahnese houses.

Kandren… Shilmaris… Anverdis…

Artavian stopped before one of the tanks when he saw the name Martindale flashed in the front panel. He frowned at this and drew in for a closer look.

Not Jartram du Martindale? he thought. Jartram was the eldest son, the heir apparent of the Grand Duke of Faimeh. Artavian knew him because he would escort his sister at diplomatic functions. Audene was sweet on him and Jar made no secret of the fact that he felt the same way. It was rather sickening the way they behaved when they were together.

Artavian stared in disbelief at the name in the panel: Jartram Hathris so Meade du Martindale, Marquis of Saori.

“What’s this?” Artavian muttered, standing on tiptoe to peer through the glass panel on the tank.

What he saw made him scream in genuine horror.


“Shh…” Tenderly, Eowhin de Haikahn tried to comfort the gibbering child on her lap. The intensity of their discussion on the prophecy of the Klossian High Oracle was cut short by a high-pitched scream just outside her main laboratory.

The first thing she saw as soon as her husband threw back the door was their son Artavian sprawled on the floor, staring in horror at the hypermaturation tank that held Jartram du Martindale. Eowhin quickly scooped the sobbing boy in her arms and tried to soothe him.

“I’m sorry!” he wailed. “I didn’t… I wasn’t… I didn’t mean to come here! We just dropped our ball…”

Grayfaith von Haikahn, normally a stern father to his children, was suddenly gentle and crouched down so that he was eye-level with Artavian.

“Now you know why Mother and I forbade you to come here,” he said in a soft voice.

“What is this place, Father?” Artavian asked in a wobbly voice. “Is Jar dead?”

“No, Artie, not dead,” Grayfaith assured the child. “None of the boys in the tanks are dead.”

“They’re asleep,” Eowhin added. “Not the sort of sleep you do every night, though. This is different – much different, as a matter of fact.”

“Is he sick?”

“No, dear.”

“Then, why…”

Eowhin turned to Grayfaith, a question in her eyes. The latter looked thoughtful for a moment, then shrugged.

“If he’s old enough to ask the questions, then he’s probably old enough to hear the answers,” was all he would say on the matter. He turned to the emissary with a grin. “My good Xortre, would you be so kind as to pass by the kitchen? I think our young lad here needs a spot of hot chocolate or almond milk.”

The emissary bowed and smiled kindly at the still-trembling child. “Of course, your Grace,” he said. He bowed again and left the room.

“This is a Matrix’s lab, son,” Grayfaith explained, taking Artavian from his mother. He carried the boy into the room just beyond where the tanks were. All sorts of medical monitors were installed in the room, glass-fronted cabinets held scalpels and other implements or jars filled with various medications or chemical compounds.

“A Matrix is a sort of doctor?” Artavian asked.

“Sort of,” Eowhin chimed in agreement. “We’re doctors and teachers at the same time. We make sure that young princes will grow up strong, healthy, and wise enough to lead their people when the time comes.”

His small eyes widening in wonder, Artavian looked up at his father. “Did you sleep like them, Father?”

Grayfaith nodded. “I did,” he replied. “And so will Schendahl when he turns sixteen and Bander of Sullah, as well.”

“Will I need to sleep like them?”

Grayfaith turned worriedly to Eowhin. “I… I do not know, as yet, son,” he admitted truthfully. “To go into hypermaturation means you’re going to be a Grand Duke or you’ll be married to a Grand Duchess when you’re all grown up.”

“Do girls have to sleep like them, too?”

Eowhin shook her head. “The process for girls is different,” she said.

“But what about Maedris La Sourainge?” Artavian wondered. “She doesn’t have any big brothers. Is she going to be Grand Duchess someday?”

Grayfaith looked somber at that point and looked over to his wife. “We aren’t sure about that now,” he admitted. “We always thought she would be Grand Duchess, but now it seems like things are going to be different.”

“She’s going to have a little brother?”

Eowhin shook her head, her lips pursed into a thin line. She regarded her son intently. “How much of what we were talking about did you hear?” she asked him.

“Um…” Artavian screwed his little face up as he tried to recollect what had been said. “You and Father and the man who was here were talking about something from Klos. Then, there was the voice of a really old lady.” He looked up at his father, his face pale. “Who was she, Father? Her voice was really creepy!”

“That was the High Oracle of Klos,” Eowhin replied. “Lysuva ni Therama, Maedris’s grandmother.”

“What’s an Oracle, Mother?”

“Someone who can see the future, dear.” Eowhin sighed worriedly and absently began putting some of her instruments back into place. “What she said is one of a series of verses called the Oracle of the Rising Empire.”

Grayfaith settled Artavian down on a nearby chair and sat down in the one across from it. “Many, many years ago,” he began, “the fortune tellers of Klos said that the eight provinces of Taryan would be united under a single ruler.

“They said that an oligarch’s daughter would be led astray by enemies, people who would fill her head with thoughts of wealth and power. This princess would try to conquer Taryan and enslave the people.

“However, the Oracle also speaks of a second princess, the first girl to become heir apparent. This one would rise to lead us all against the princess of shadows and the oligarchs will promise her their loyalty.”

Artavian cocked his head to one side curiously. “What’ll happen if the princess doesn’t beat the evil one?” he asked.

Grayfaith regarded the child grimly. “Then all Taryan will fall into the darkness.”


Two years later…

“Artie? Artie, where are you?”

“I’m in the lab, Gren.”

Grendlin von Haikahn peeked around the door. Inside, his older brother was hunched over a table and poring over his notes. There was a chemist’s set-up within his reach; a beaker filled with a clear liquid was bubbling over a burner.

“What are you doing?” the younger boy asked.

“Studying,” Artavian replied, looking up from his notes.

Grendlin pulled up a chair and sat down, regarding his brother with a dismal pout. “You’re no fun anymore,” he complained sulkily. “Kui (older brother) Schend’s always with Father, Aei is at school, and all you do is hang around Mother’s lab downstairs.”

Kui needs to be with Father because Father’s teaching him how to be a Grand Duke,” Artavian explained, going back to his notes.

“But I haven’t anyone to play with!”

Artavian looked up and peered at his brother through his glasses. “Why don’t you help me out down here?” he suggested.

The little boy brightened up and leaned over to see what his brother was working on. “You’re learning how to turn someone into a Homo mirabilis!” he marveled breathlessly. “Wicked cool!” He pointed to the stuff in the beaker. “Is that viar?”

Artavian nodded. “Yup, it’s what cushions a guy inside the tank for the whole five years he spends in hypermaturation,” he explained as he turned off the burner.

“You’re learning how to make it?”

“Yup.” He reached for a small dish and poured a measure of the liquid into it.

“It looks kinda runny,” Grendlin noted.

“Yes, but…” Artavian held the dish to him. “Try poking it.”

The boy hesitated for a moment, then tapped at the substance with his finger. To his wonder, it flowed about the dish like an ordinary liquid, but it went solid almost as soon as he touched it. He gasped, obviously impressed by this.

Before he could say anything, however, a girl about Artavian’s age came into the room without so much as knocking. Artavian looked up and raised an eyebrow at her.

“Shouldn’t you be upstairs with the Grand Dukes?” he demanded without preamble.

“Your father called for a recess,” the girl replied, coming to stand beside him. “How are the Matrix lessons going?”

“Pretty well, I guess.”

“Hullo, Aei Maedris.” Grendlin got up and went to hug the newcomer who playfully ruffled his hair.

“Hullo, Gren. What are you doing here? It’s kinda boring; wouldn’t you like to go play with Ninaris upstairs?” Ninaris was the heir apparent to the province of Dahm where her mother was Grand Duchess. She was a pretty little girl the same age as Grendlin and the two had been friends from the cradle.

Grendlin smiled eagerly. “Nari’s upstairs?” he exclaimed, bolting out of the room.

“Practically bonded to each other, aren’t they?” Maedris remarked when the boy had gone.

“Sort of,” Artavian agreed. He narrowed his already small eyes at Maedris. “What are you doing here, really?”

“I came to see you,” she replied, sitting in the chair Grendlin vacated. She playfully stuck her tongue out at him. “Seeing how you’ve been so antisocial of late, I decided to come visit.”

Artavian scowled, but she merely laughed at him. They were too much alike: the same age, mostly the same interests, and they shared a peculiar sort of precociousness and a rather adult manner of speaking. Honestly, Artavian couldn’t help but feel as if Maedris La Sourainge already had him cornered.

“Much as I appreciate your visit, I suggest you go on back up,” he advised her coldly.

Maedris pouted, but her eyes glittered mirthfully. “I suppose,” she drawled, “that you’ll be a crusty old bachelor of a genetic engineer.” She threw him a pleading look. “Come up and play, Artie.”

“I can’t!” he protested, gesturing towards his workplace. “There’s too much for me to do!”

“What’s so important that you can’t leave it alone for a few minutes?” she demanded, grabbing his notes. He would have snatched them away, but she was quick to swat him off. As she read them, her eyes widened. She looked up, a grave look on her face. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“It’s a hypothesis, Maedris,” Artavian told her.

“But you’re trying to make my decision for me!” she all but screamed at him, flinging the notes at him violently. Angrily, she stomped out of the room.

Artavian stared after her, flustered by her tirade but did not dare move. A few minutes later, his mother came in and demanded answers.

“Maedris went down here to say hello and she went back upstairs in tears,” she informed her son severely. “What did you do?”

Mutely, Artavian handed her the notes that so horrified Maedris. Eowhin sank into a chair and read through them carefully.

“A Homo mirabilis who spends a longer time in viar?” she exclaimed, obviously intrigued.

“Well, he spends two years in viar,” Artavian explained. “Then he spends a year on the outside, another two years in the soup, one more year out, and just two more years in the tank. He’s then able to interact more, to learn more, and his body gets accustomed to its enhancements much quicker, allowing him to maximize his abilities.”

Eowhin nodded slowly. “This is all well and good,” she said in a quiet voice. “But what noble family will be willing enough… For that matter, what boy would be willing enough to undergo such a revolutionary process?” When she looked up, she went very pale when she saw the grim look on her son’s face. “Oh, no… No, Artie…”

Artavian, however, nodded. “If the prophecy is true,” he said, “then Maedris needs someone strong and capable enough to fight and rule by her side. She doesn’t need some ordinary fellow who’ll just do as he’s told.”

“As a Matrix, I admire you for your initiative,” his mother told him. “But, as your mother, I worry as to how things are going to be. Besides, what if the prophecy isn’t true?”

Artavian smiled at her. “Then Maedris marries someone who can easily put her in her place,” was all he said regarding the matter.

04 November 2009

Making Do with What One Has

Artwork: The Fairy Queen - Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, 2009

hate me
to the very
of your
act like
i'm not there:

i'd rather
feel your
it's a
deal than
indifference -

at least
the fact
that i

i ache,
i weep,
i yearn -
to no

i know
you live
and breathe;

you're well.

and i

that's all
i can

for now.

03 November 2009


Artwork: The Calling - Remedios Varo, 1961

into the
i tread
the measure
the eternal
the rhythm
that never

into the
i walk
the paths
that lead
to those
in need
of solace,
of tenderness,
of love.

fire of
spark of

guiding light,
watch over
my every

lead me
to where
i am

lead me
to the

A Different Approach to Curry Rice

(Cross-posted, again, from my food blog.)

You all know that I've been a sucker for Japanese-style curry for the longest time; it's a dish that I prepare at home quite often. Strangely enough, though, it's something I don't usually order at Japanese restaurants. I am not sure why this is so, but whenever I do order Japanese curry outside the house, it's always a toss-up between the curry rice at JiPan or the torikatsu kare-don over at Bento Box shown here.

The torikatsu kare-don is a literal translation of its Japanese name: a breaded and deep-fried chicken cutlet (a thigh fillet in this case) on top of a bowl of fluffy white rice; a sweetish brown curry sauce is poured on top with extra sauce on the side.

If you're a fan of Thai-style sweet chili sauce or even the sweetish tang of Mang Tomas's Sarsa ng Litson (commercially available bottled liver sauce for lechon), the sweet curry at Bento Box will suit your tastebuds just fine. While it does have the usual nuances intrinsic to Japanese curry - hints of cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg - it has a sweetish counterpoint that helps it go down with rice - and a lot of rice, if I may add! I have an inkling that the sweetness comes from a blend of apples, honey (or possibly brown sugar), and carrots.

The chicken cutlet comes beautifully crisp and is certainly not greasy. The crunch is a pleasant contrast to the softness of the rice and the gooey texture of the sauce. At Bento Box, this dish comes garnished with crisp takuan (sweet pickled daikon radish) which adds an element of tart-ish sharpness to one's meal.

21 October 2009

On Love and Katsudon

(Cross-posted on my food blog! ;D)

, that surprisingly simple donburi where a breaded pork cutlet sits atop a bowl of rice, was made romantic when Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto used it as a focal element in her award-winning novella Kitchen.

In the story, the heroine - Mikage Sakurai - chances upon a beautifully-done katsudon at a small restaurant. The dish is so good that she impulsively decides to share it with her friend - possibly her lover - Yuichi Tanabe who has fled to Izu in deepest mourning. As she hands the katsudon to Yuichi and watches him eat, Mikage realizes that their relationship has reached the point where it permanently changes from mere friendship to a full-blown romance.

In my personal opinion, I can't think of any literary moment that is as sweet. Then again, I'm a foodie and I believe romance should be accompanied by a good square meal!

I was re-reading Kitchen for the nth time recently and was toying with the idea of actually preparing a katsudon for the wonderful Mr. W. Of course, as usual, we all know what a major coward I am in the love department, but I still think it's worth a shot at doing.

The following recipe is adapted from the one posted by About.com's Japanese food expert Setsuko Yoshizuka. It has, of course, been tweaked based on what I had available in my kitchen the first time I attempted this recipe.

For the tonkatsu:
  • 4 pork cutlets, each pounded to about 1/2 an inch thick
  • flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • panko [Japanese breadcrumbs]
  • oil for deep frying
  • salt and pepper
For the sauce:
  • 1 white onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 sachet dashi-no-moto [instant dashi stock], dissolved in 1-1/4 cups hot water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin or sweet Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups cooked rice
Season cutlets with salt and pepper; allow to marinate for about 10 - 20 minutes. Dredge each cutlet in flour, dip in the beaten egg, and roll in the panko till well covered. Deep-fry till golden brown. Set aside.

Over medium heat, combine the dissolved dashi-no-moto with the soy sauce, cooking wine, and sugar in a saucepan. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes. Slice the fried cutlets and add to the sauce; bring to a boil. Add the four beaten eggs, spreading them evenly over the cutlets. Lower the heat and cover for a minute or so. Turn off the heat.

Place the rice in four deep bowls. Divide the tonkatsu mixture evenly over the rice.

Serves 4.

Now, if you're not exactly confident about your skills in the kitchen, you could always do what Mikage did in the story and just buy a katsudon from a reputable Japanese restaurant. (The one pictured here is from Teriyaki Boy; always a nice choice! :D) After all, it's the thought that counts.

However, I am of the opinion that nothing says "I love you" more passionately than fixing your beloved a good meal. Then again, that's just me. ;)

15 October 2009

Unrequited: A Dirge

Artwork: Dopo la Fine - Margherita Manzelli, 2008

my love:

forgive me
for loving

i dread
your hate,
your rage
at finding

i have
no beauty
you could
take pride

i have
no wit,
no glitter,
no glamour
to mask
my flaws.

i have
but the
the contempt
of my
foes -
and there
are many
of them -

who would
want me

i tire
of weeping
but what
can i

i am

i do

least of

and yet,
mean more
to me
in this

if i


it would

13 October 2009

Saturday Night Supper: Pasta Tossed with Red Wine and Mushrooms

I apologize for not having posted anything for the past several days. When real life gets in the way of one's real life, things can get seriously awry. And, as if that weren't bad enough, several events occurred that have left a really bad taste in my mouth. But enough with the grumping about; let's have some real food, shall we?

I recently bought Sharon Boorstin's culinary memoir Let Us Eat Cake, a lively autobiography that shows the role played by food in building friendships among women over the years. It's quite interesting, really amusing with some laugh-out-loud moments, and the recipes are so appealing, even the most reluctant will be bounding off to the kitchen to do some cooking.

One particular recipe was for pappardelle pasta in a porcini mushroom sauce. This savory dish consisted of freshly-made pappardelle tossed in a hearty sauce made with a fresh, large porcini found in the Italian woods. Sharon Boorstin and a friend started debating on how best to cook the gigantic mushroom: to cook it in butter or olive oil? Bacon or no bacon? Red wine or white? In the end, the finished dish surpassed all the rest of the things they offered at their Italian feast.

When I decided to cook this last Saturday, I planned to make it with farfalle (bow-tie / butterfly) pasta and bacon. Alas, it turned out that the farfalle at home had been used for a pasta soup for a church luncheon and my mother turned the last of Saturday breakfast's bacon into a Saturday afternoon sandwich. Plus, when I went to one of the local delis, the price of a single porcini mushroom was enough to make my hair white. Well, in a pinch (like this one), there's always spaghetti and shiitake mushies to use; oh, well...

This is one of those recipes that is so darned easy that it's almost ridiculous. In the event that you find yourself with some serious hunger pangs, you can whip this dish up in less than half an hour - and it takes even less time if you already have cooked pasta stored in your fridge.

This recipe for buttered pasta with mushrooms differs from most as it is made without cream or bacon. Indeed, the sauteed mushrooms get an additional savory fillip from a splash of red wine and a good dash of mixed herbs. A generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese finishes it just fine.

Pasta con Funghi
  • 1 medium pack spaghetti, prepared according to package instructions
  • 500 grams fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced (use both caps and stems)
  • 1 medium can button mushrooms; drained and liquid reserved for another recipe
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/3 cup salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley and basil or 1 tablespoon commercial Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the pack. Once cooked, save two tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the chopped onion and cook till soft. Add the garlic and cook till the garlic has browned slightly. Add the shiitake slices; don't panic if the mushrooms absorb the butter. When the shiitake slices are soft, add the button mushrooms, the wine, and the reserved pasta cooking liquid. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook until the liquid has reduced by about half, then add the herbs. Stir for about five seconds, then turn off the heat. Toss in the cooked pasta at once along with the grated Parmesan. Sprinkle on some ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

06 October 2009

Storm Food

It's been nearly a couple of weeks since Typhoon Ondoy laid waste to a significant part of the city and several provinces. Donations in various forms are still arriving non-stop. Organizations like the and Philippine National Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity are working tirelessly to bring relief to those who need it the most. And it is heartening to note that common citizens who usually don't take the time to hand even a small coin to a beggar-child have gone the extra mile by organizing prayer brigades and localized relief operations. It's really nice to know that people still care.

Despite the tempest, it should also be noted that Filipinos never seem to lose their sense of community or their sense of humor. This resilience is also evident in the fact that there are actually dishes specifically served whenever major-league storms crash into the islands.

Both savory and sweet rice porridge make an appearance on local dinner tables when the winds begin to howl. Topping the list is the quintessential arroz caldo which involves cooking malagkit [glutinous rice] in chicken broth with onions, garlic, ginger, a whole jointed chicken, and kasubha [native saffron] to give it a bit of color. In other parts of the country, goto (malagkit cooked in pork broth with slivers of beef tripe and chives) is the porridge of choice, made even more savory by additions of patis, kalamansi juice, and toasted garlic. Those fond of sweets usually enjoy champorrado, the local take on the Mexican bebida caliente - only this time it's made with rice, not corn, and there are no spices involved. Guinataang mais, a gloriously sticky porridge made with malagkit, white corn, and coconut milk is also a favorite.

For Filipinos in urban areas, however, opening cans of either meat or fish are the sure-fire way to keep bellies filled when the temperature drops along with torrential rain. Canned sardines in tomato sauce are sauteed with onions and garlic to make sardinas guisado which goes down a treat with cold rice. Corned beef is sauteed with onions, garlic, and potatoes till soupy; Vienna sausages are popped into the frying pan till the thin skins burst and become crunchy.

Then, thanks to care packages from relatives in the United States, there's Spam cooked in a variety of ways. Spam sliced thin and fried to a crisp is a treat in my family and it usually gets tucked into sandwiches with plain omelets and cucumber mayonnaise. That is, of course, unless my mother beats us to the table and has the lot with rice.

In the Meantime... If you want to help out those ravaged by the onslaught of both Ondoy and Pepeng, coordinate with your local government units, print out and post these Flex Sheets for those evacuees who are seeking employment. Remember: a little help goes a long way.

25 September 2009

A Thank You Note to My Foes

Artwork: Melancholy - Mike Robinson, 2003

to all my
my dearest
rivals and

thank you.

i swoon
at the
those petty
you've sent
my way.

you've sent
on forays
into the
very edge
of madness;
pushed me
to the
the very
of death.

thank you.

how i
i can
your lovely
in kind...

...and then

24 September 2009

The Birthday Post: 33 - and Counting!

Squash blossoms from our home garden

(Cross-posted from my food blog, btw...)

Don't the flowers look nice? They're actually edible. I think all foodie-girls should get a bouquet of squash blossoms on their birthdays. :) It's a most appropriate gift: you can appreciate their beauty at once, then batter 'em up and deep-fry them. That way, you get to enjoy your flowers twice.

I have to admit that the past twelve months of my life have been the most unusual I've had so far. As far as my culinary inclinations are concerned, they have been quite exciting: I discovered the pleasures of single-origin chocolate and nama at Heavenly Chocolates. I spent a blissful morning at the Salcedo Market. I made my first-ever batch of chocolate truffles, started a small business selling cookies and cupcakes, tried new recipes out of cookbooks, created new recipes out of either curiosity or a panicked need to substitute ingredients at the last minute.

22 September 2009


Artwork: I Have Many Secrets - Chad Merritt, 2009

i gaze up
at the
and smile:

i see
the paths
that fate
sets up,
the paths
that lead
those wending
those weirding
where all
dares to,
needs to,
seeks to

i stand
on the
the very
of destiny:

the moon
waxes, wanes, withers...

where do i
what do i

i cannot
the path
but am
for the
who guide me.

another year
has passed,
another set
of scores
tears shed,
gifts given,
gifts received,
lives taken,
lives given

and a love
that burned
burns brighter

is this
the year,
is this
the time?

i stand
at the cusp,
the very origin
as the
begins to

its patter
your name
over and
over and

16 September 2009


Artwork: Coco and India (Cascade) - Ryan McGinley, 2008~2009

the moon
since we
first met...

i've dreamed
and every
is a

i've thought
and every
is a

it's true

i feel

15 September 2009

Whose Move is it Anyway?

Artwork: Eternal Game - Marina Korenfeld, 2001

i hate
the way
things are:

i hate
the fact
that i

to find
the way
the path
the solution


not knowing
where you
seeking but
not finding,
made dizzy

just when
i think
it's over
i should
give up

just when
i think

you smile.


here we
here i
here you

and here
i am

A Herald of Feasts to Come

(Note: Cross-posted to my food blog.)

At our house, the best dishes are the ones prepared for the Holidays. Starting in September, my mother and I start cooking up little teasers for the feasts to come: oatmeal cookies, orange or lemon chiffon cake with dark chocolate icing, and Russian salad.

But the dish that really serves as the harbinger of upcoming goodness in our home is streusel-topped apple pie. Most people find it unusual that a Filipino family would actually find itself baking apple pies for the last few months of the year because traditional kakanin or store-bought treats like food-for-the-gods and brownies are what usually grace local tables. Along with ube cake, apple pie ala mode was my maternal grandfather's favorite dessert. Later on, when I finally mastered the art of baking these cinnamon-infused goodies, my own father developed a taste for them and looks forward to the baking of a new batch. On a sadder note, however, apple pies are one of the reasons why my paternal grandmother and I do not get along. But that is a story for another day...

Our family's take on this classic dessert involves a flaky crust filled to the brim with apples lavishly coated with cinnamon sugar. A buttery crumb topping is generously sprinkled onto the whole confection before it goes into the oven. Sweet and simple, really.

It's a lovely dessert when served either hot or cold. Warm slices are garnished with a generous scoop of very good vanilla ice cream and, perhaps, a good splodge of caramel cream. (Use the caramel cream recipe I used in my banoffee torte; just skip the chilling and use straight from the stovetop.) Served cold straight out of the fridge, it also makes for a lovely breakfast when paired with a hot, milky mug of cardamom chai.

Apple Pie
For the Crust:
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup iced water
For the Filling:
  • 6 medium apples, cored, peeled, and sliced
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
For the Streusel:
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
Grease a nine-inch pie plate; set aside. Cut the shortening and salt into the flour with two knives or a pastry blender until the mixture has the appearance of fine breadcrumbs. Add the iced water by tablespoons, tossing the mixture with a fork until well combined. Form dough into a ball and set upon a floured surface. Roll out the dough to approximately 1/2 inch thickness and line the prepared pan. Set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees / Gas Mark 5.

Make the streusel by cutting together the flour, brown sugar, and butter till the mixture also resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Toss the sliced apples with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Leave to rest for about five minutes.

Dump the filling into the prepared crust, evenly spreading it over the surface. Spoon any juices left in the mixing bowl onto the fruit. Cover with the streusel.

Bake for 40 - 45 minutes. Makes 1 pie.

14 September 2009

A Weekend Indulgence

(Note: This entry is cross-posted to my food blog.)

I'll be honest: I spent the previous weekend making a complete and utter pig of myself.

Blame it on the chilly weather, blame it on being tied to my work desk for the better part of the past couple weeks. You can even blame it on the fact that I spent part of Saturday afternoon in The Cheese Room at Westgate's Wine Depot (more about that within the week); it was so darned cold that I started to crave something nice, warm, and - ultimately - fattening.

Lucky for me, a Brothers Burger branch was a short walk away: junk food fix, here I come!

So, what does a hungry girl pick from the menu? Not wishing to be too much of a glutton, I opted for the Baby Brothers Burger (P 58.00) and had sauteed mushrooms (+ P 25.00) and blue cheese (+ P 50.00) thrown in. Being pretty darned sick of fried potatoes thanks to a three-week glut of potato chips at the office, I went for the onion rings (P 60.00). To round off my little weekend binge, I eschewed my usual soda and lemonade and went the whole hog (so to speak!) with a chocolate milkshake (P 100.00). While I was slightly disappointed by my last Brothers experience, I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed at all this time.

The burger came to the table hot of the grill (hence the greasy appearance of the wrapper). While the mushrooms were obviously the canned sort, their innate meatiness and succulence was a match for the juicy, beautifully charred beef patty. The blue cheese dressing (referred to as bleu cheese in the menu) provided a pungent kick, its high, funky aroma mingling with the smokiness of the grilled beef. The salty tang was an excellent foil to the slight sweetness of the oatmeal bun and oozed so appealingly from the sandwich that I was swiping at the dribbles with the onion rings.

Speaking of the onion rings, the batter used to coat them was not the heavy, breadcrumb-y sort used by other premium burger joints. Rather, the batter was flour-based the whole way through and spiced in such a way that it provided peppy heat to the munchies without getting too fiery. Indeed, these onion rings were interesting both flavor-wise and texture-wise: crisp golden batter giving way to tender, translucent onion; savory spiciness balanced by a mild sweetness.

As for the milkshake, it was a little less thick than I expected but I did have a bit of a problem sucking it through the thin straw! Brothers Burger uses ice cream from The Big Scoop; not exactly super-premium but certainly a better brand to use for shakes instead of the common supermarket variety. Creamy, rich, chocolate-y to the last drop: not exactly perfect but certainly close to ambrosial.

Would I spoil myself this way again? Oh, I definitely will. In the meantime, however, I'm off to the gym. I think I gained a couple pounds, but let me tell you: it was worth it. ;)

08 September 2009

Lolo Papa: Memories of My Maternal Grandfather

Artwork: The Vertical Horizon - Tobi Zausner, year unknown

I remember waking up on the morning of September 9th, 1988 and asking my father how my maternal grandfather was doing. The previous evening, you see, my mother's sister and her husband came to our house to tell us that my grandfather - my Lolo Papa - had been rushed to a hospital in Daly City; my younger aunts in California said he had a heart attack. I remember how my elders whispered frantically among themselves; I remember hearing snippets of conversation where the words extreme unction were mentioned. I asked my younger brother who, even then at barely nine, had an encyclopedic knowledge of liturgical terms what an extreme unction was. It turned out to be the term for the Anointing of the Sick - but, in this case, was more appropriately referred to as the Last Rites.

I did not like the sound of that.

Nor did I like what my father said in reply, "He's dead, Ritzie; he's gone."

Gone. The grandfather who wrote my school speeches, the one who opened his extensive library to his bookish grandchildren, the man who opened my eyes to the world beyond Philippine shores was dead at the age of 64.

I don't remember much from that day, but I remember coming to school numb in both body and soul. I remember breaking down when a classmate crassly said that my grandfather probably died because he saw my [ugly] face. Other classmates tell me I nearly killed the boy who said those words, that I put my hands around his throat and tried to throttle him. They say my grief and the rage that came with it were terrible to see. Strangely, I have no memory of that particular event. All I remember is that my mother sent a note to my adviser, Mrs. Abot, telling her that I would be out of school for a while as we were in mourning and waiting for my grandfather's body to be flown home from California.

It was the first time that I actually experienced a death in the family; the death of my great-grandmother in 1985 didn't count as I was so young at the time. I could not make heads or tails of anything; while my grandfather was never really in the best of health - indeed, the Lenten fast usually had him bedridden - I could not imagine him dead. Not even, alas, when the coffin finally arrived with him in it: a frozen statue, a wax dummy of the man we knew.

I remember being a spoiled rotten little princess; the first grandchild on my mother's side of the family, one precocious enough to speak straight English from the cradle and read old Reader's Digests by the time she was two. My grandfather indulged me with a wealth of Barbie dolls, stuffed animals, and tons of chocolate from his many trips abroad. However, even an indulgent grandpa has his limits and I likewise remember the sarcasm that punctuated his occasional scoldings: sharp biting wit that would shut me up faster than any spanking ever did.

I remember him teaching me how to count in French as we rode the elevator in our Paris hotel, how to toss coins into the Fontana di Trevi in Rome. I remember him showing me the greatest works of art at the Louvre: paintings and sculptures that, until that point, I'd only seen in books. I remember him taking time out of his busy schedule in Singapore to join me and my parents at the zoo.

I remember how French and Italian kids would point to him and shout "Japonais / Giapponese" because of his distinctly Japanese features. I remember him sorting me through my first real French meal (yes, there were frogs' legs!) and him giving me my first taste of a Chinese fish-ball soup in Malaysia.

I remember how he was always impeccably dressed, seeing how he'd been a military man, a public servant, and a diplomat. If I close my eyes, I think I can still catch a whiff of the Old Spice cologne he wore. I remember his laughter, the sparkle in his eyes. I remember how dapper he looked even in his house clothes. I remember how he liked ube cakes and fresh atis in season; how he cooked a mean embotido that appeared on our Holiday table every year without fail.

I remember his graciousness, his integrity; how, as a government official, he took no bribes and kept his own counsel. They don't make public servants like him in this debauched day and age.

I remember disappointing him by losing the student council election just a few days before he died.

I remember curling up in my room and weeping inconsolably when I got home from school. I remember thinking how unfair the world was (it still is, come to think of it). I remember wondering to God why He took my Lolo away and left the big bullying kid in school alive when he deserved death more than anyone else did.

My Lolo has been gone for 21 years as of today.

Truth be told, however, I still grieve; I still mourn.


I was never able to say a proper goodbye.

03 September 2009


Artwork: A Want to Believe - Eric Fortune, 2009

i lie

by the
by fragrant
mist ~

for once:
valerian -
none of
the elixirs
serve to
my restless

the numbing
beckons me
to shut
my eyes ~

but i
haunted as
i am
by my
beguiled as
i am
by the

if i
- and i
can! -
put a
to my

it would
o fair
it would

02 September 2009

Weekend Breakfast: Marjoram and Cheese Loaf

Hardly anything ever comes close to the scent of freshly-baked bread wafting from one's kitchen to blanket the house with a sense of wholesome goodness. More than that, there is something about the flavor and texture of homemade bread that no commercially produced loaf can ever come close to.

These are just two of the reasons why I love baking bread so much. Whenever I do manage to have some time at home, I usually devote it to the process of mixing and kneading dough for the sake of the act's relaxing properties.

Over the long weekend, I managed to do a bit of baking and did a variation on my favorite foccacia recipe. Marjoram, an herb little used in local cuisine and one that isn't so familiar with many home cooks, flavored this loaf in the place of my usual basil/oregano blend. Freshly-grated Edam cheese (the ubiquitous queso de bola of the Holiday season) took the place of Parmesan as the topping.

Savory though these elements may be, the resulting loaf was subtly flavored and the salty-herb-y combination went beautifully with some unsalted butter, slathered on whilst the slices were still hot. At least, that's what the rest of my family opted for. I, however, chose to smother slices with chunky peanut butter for a killer-diller breakfast - made even more perfect, in my personal opinion, with a large mug of milky tea.

Marjoram and Cheese Loaf
  • 500 grams all-purpose flour
  • 300mL water
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 sachet (7 grams) fast-acting yeast
  • 1 teaspoon fine [iodized] salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons grated Edam cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, and marjoram. Heat the water along with the 3 tablespoons cooking oil in a microwave for about 30 seconds on HIGH. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Knead the dough for about twelve minutes. Cover with a clean dishcloth and place in a draft-free area. Allow to rise for an hour.

When the dough has doubled in bulk, uncover and punch it down in the middle. Transfer the dough into a greased loaf tin; cover with the dishcloth and leave to prove for ten minutes. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees / Gas Mark 7.

Mix together the cheese, olive oil, and pepper. Poke indentations over the proven loaf with your fingertips and evenly spread the cheese mixture over the surface.

Bake the loaf for about ten minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 degrees / Gas Mark 5 and bake an additional 20 minutes. Makes 1 loaf.

27 August 2009


Artwork: Out of Reach from Troglodyte Rose - Teetering Bulb, 2009

to soar
into the
wide blue

to fly
in the
face of

to face
the odds
as they

...to get
to you;

it is
worth it.

24 August 2009

Search and Find

Artwork: Queens of the Sky - Teetering Bulb, 2008

tell me
where you

i think
i have
lost you.

will i

should i
give up,
should i
give in
to darkest

tell me
where you

i cannot
give up,
i cannot
give in ~

not now,
not at
this late
hour ~

not when
i already

tell me
where you

i mean
no harm,
my heart
means it.

i only
want you
to know
i care
for you
deeply ~

you ~

i know
you will