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.