Tuesday, April 17, 2007

2 Pastas and A Pizza Pan De Sal

Spicy Sardine Vegeroni

Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, for 555! I recently discovered 555’s Hot and Spicy Fried Sardines. It’s like Spanish style sardines but with tomato sauce in it. Because it’s fried, there’s none of the tinny aftertaste that you usually get with regular sardines in tomato sauce. Plus, good heavens, it’s profanely cheap (only 14 pesos for a small can)! So, because I like putting different things in my pasta (especially if they cost me virtually nil), I had to try this with my San Remo vegeroni. The result won’t win any gourmet awards, but it’s tasty enough for everyday meals.

1 small can 555 Hot and Spicy Fried Sardines (or any brand of fried sardines in oil)
3 medium tomatoes, 1 green, 2 ripe, diced
2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 pat of butter
Salt, pepper, basil to taste
200 grams pasta (I use San Remo vegeroni spirals)

1. Cook pasta according to instructions.
2. Melt butter in pan. Sautee garlic, onion, and tomatoes. Add a bit of oil from sardines. Season with salt, pepper, and basil.
3. Add the sardines. Simmer for a few minutes.
4. Place pasta in bowl. Add sardines. Toss.
5. Sprinkle with parmesan or Italian blend cheese.
6. Enjoy.

Tuna Longganisa Macaroni

I cooked this pasta dish a couple of years ago when all I had in my freezer was some Monterey Lucban Longganisa and in my cupboard, a tin of Century Hot and Spicy Tuna and about 300 grams of macaroni. Vigan longganisa works just as great as both sausages are garlicky and spicy. I’ve also tried using sweet sausages but I prefer spicy, local longganisa in my pasta. Italian sausage can also be an awesome substitute, but it’s rather pricey.

4 pieces spicy longganisa (Lucban or Vigan)
1 small can Hot and Spicy Tuna
2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 pat of butter
Salt, pepper to taste
Basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, optional
300 grams macaroni

1. Cook pasta according to instructions.
2. Remove sausages from casing. Break up the meat as it fries in the pan.
3. Remove meat from pan. Add butter to the lard left in pan. Sautee garlic and onion.
4. Return sausage. Add tuna. Season with salt, pepper, and favorite herbs.
5. Place pasta in a bowl. Add sausage and tuna mixture. Toss.
6. No need for cheese. Just enjoy. But, of course, if you still want to put cheese on it, be my guest. I’m an easy person to convince. Most times.

Tuna Pizza Pan De Sal

I created this from a can of Del Monte Spaghetti Meat Sauce and a can of Century Hot and Spicy Tuna (can you tell I love the stuff?).

1 small can hot and spicy tuna
1 small can (250 g) spaghetti meat sauce (Italian Style spaghetti sauce is a good substitute)
salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, and other herbs, to taste
quickmelt or cheddar cheese
pan de sal

1. Combine tuna, spaghetti sauce, and spices.
2. Spread mixture onto pan de sal halves. Top with grated cheese.
3. Toast for 4-5 mins, or until cheese has melted.
4. Serve and enjoy.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Coffee, Tea, and Me

I’m making my morning cup of coffee—it goes well with my peanut butter and guava jelly pan de sal (Filipino bread)—when it occurs to me that I’ve drank more caffeine this year than I ever have in my life. I’ve never been a coffee or tea person. My taste in breakfast beverages has always leaned towards the “she’s a growing girl” kind of drink, that is to say, milk, Milo (a local, less expensive, chocolate malt drink), and “imported”, pricier Swiss Miss for special occasions like… Wednesdays. Because weekdays are special occasions too. (That is a great slogan. Or a one-liner in a greeting card. Attention: Hallmark.).

I pause in stirring and feel a vague sense of apprehension, the kind that signals that I am on the verge of a realization, the significance of which may be far-reaching but, heretofore, unknown.

Yes, I think. I am, indeed, having a sort of epiphany as I have, quite clearly, turned temporarily British. Forgive me.

I begin to wonder when it was that I started ingesting unusually large amounts of caffeine on a regular basis. The tea drinking, I’m certain, started last year, around the time my liver went to war with my well-being. (In brief: I had been hospitalized and prescribed antibiotics that set off an allergic reaction in the form of gas. The gas in my stomach kept recurring for months until, 2 gastroenterologists and an ultra sound later, we discovered the culprit: I had a fatty liver).

To detonate the hot air bombs inside me, I had taken to drinking my mom’s Chinese medicinal tea—bitter, potent stuff that helped me feel and look less like a Buddha inviting everyone to rub her tummy for good luck.

And while I’ve occasionally enjoyed a cup of coffee, I’ve never done so on an almost daily basis. Until I discovered a simple formula for making chocolate taste even more like chocolate and that is to mix a bit of coffee in it. So, I’ve taken to drinking Swiss Miss and coffee, even writing a haiku or two about it.

It has reached the point where any given day would find me having a coffee (with or without chocolate) in the morning and tea at night, both in the service of my sensitive stomach and my profligate tongue.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I think. It may not even be, shall we say, a big deal. Except… it kind of is, for me. And I wonder again as I resume stirring.

I’m pretty sure what irks me about the incessant caffeine ingestion is the glowing sign on the marquee announcing the fact of my adulthood and grown-up-ness.

I suppose, at almost 29, I should have at least been ready for it. But I think I’ve always been a bit of a Peter Pan, wanting to remain forever young, wanting an excuse to keep throwing tantrums, talking in a ridiculously high-pitched voice, laughing at the most inane things, and avoiding terrible grown-up things to do like earn a regular salary, get out of school, pay taxes, and the like.

It pains me somewhat that I’m not a growing girl anymore. I am, in truth and fact, a grown woman, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at me. Or, at least, I hope you wouldn’t. I’m vain enough to hope that you think I can’t be more than 23, 25, tops.

People often watch out for signs of aging in their faces. Are my eyelids starting to droop? Am I forming crow’s feet? Are the laugh lines getting deeper? Is my skin turning splotchy?

I find the signs of my personal march towards death in the changes in my drinking habits. I’ve always associated, albeit unknowingly, coffee and tea with old folks. The image in my mind is of an old man, his back stooped so low he is half the height he once was, slouching at a table, cataract eyes staring uselessly, a cup of dark coffee in hand. He takes a drink, his grip shaky and firm, as if the coffee burning his tongue and the cup around which gnarled fingers are wrapped are the only things keeping his body somewhat erect, somewhat animate, barely alive, As if the minute he lets go of the coffee, his body would then slump to the ground in a way only the dead can do.

The image itself is not particularly terrifying to me. I’ve always been able to imagine being dead. What I can’t imagine is the middle, the vast grey unknown between the end and its beginning.

When I was a kid, a literal kid and not the over-grown one I sometimes am these days, I used to suffer from a great sense of deprivation because I was never allowed to drink as much Sustagen (a powdered energy drink for kids that comes in 2 variants: vanilla and chocolate) as I wanted. My parents were far from selfish. But Sustagen was a bit pricey and we didn’t have much when we were growing up. That meant that chocolate-flavored health drinks were reserved for my thin, ostensibly undernourished eldest sister. Since I was bigger, my parents concluded (probably rightly) that I did not really need help in the nutrition department.

So the stuff my sister didn’t relish taking, I wanted to guzzle. I envied her not only the Sustagen but also the Cetrin, a sweet, orange-flavored syrup, and the Scott’s Emulsion, a white, viscous fluid. God forgive me, I think I may even have resented her taking cod liver oil.

My perspective on such things has changed a lot. I don’t feel deprived anymore, mainly because I’ve lost the taste for awful-flavored vitamins (although, I must admit to maintaining a fondness for Sustagen). It also helps that I can now afford to buy my own chocolate-flavored drinks, although I still pilfer from my dad’s stash of Swiss Miss.

I take a sip of my coffee. It is now cold. I hate the taste of cold coffee, but I don’t heat it up. I drink it, thinking, wanting to believe, that I don’t need it to enervate me just yet.

I make a note to self: buy Swiss Miss. I realize the check from my last job isn’t ready. I amend note to self: buy Milo.

(Also published in IndieBloggers)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

About A Boy

I once met a boy named Louie, who stole my brownie, in that childhood hell we call pre-school. I was 5 years old and it was my first time to attend formal school. In those days, pre-school was merely an option; kids weren’t required to go through kinder or prep before entering the elementary level. Not like today, when kids have to labor and maneuver their way through First Step, Kinder 1, Kinder 2, and Prep just to prepare for Grade 1. It’s first grade, for chrissakes. What the hell is there to prepare for? Is there a pre-alphabet to the alphabet, or a make-believe set of real numbers to the actual, real set of real numbers? What do these kids do in kinder? In my day, early childhood education consisted of old Sampaguita and LVN movies in the afternoon courtesy of Channel 9.

But back to pre-school, and Louie, who stole my brownie. My parents had decided to enroll me in a small pre-school that styled itself a Montessori one. It was, I remember, a serious school. I don’t remember much playing. What sticks to my mind, instead, are the math lessons. At prep level, our teachers thought we were cognitively mature enough to handle the inverse applications of addition-subtraction and multiplication-division. I guess our teachers weren’t cognitively mature enough to fully understand Montessori’s concept of sensitive periods, but I don’t like to criticize.

I remember only 2 people I met in that place. One of them was Sunshine, who had curly hair and who always wore frilly, girlish, party dresses when everyone else wore shirts and shorts. She was the Paris Hilton of our set, and she befuddled my childhood mind. Once, I asked her why she always wore Sunday dresses. She said it was because it was her birthday that day, and every other day, in fact. According to her mom, everyday was Sunshine’s birthday. But that’s impossible, I said. If everyday was your birthday, you’d be 1000 years old by now.

Sunshine didn’t like me all that much.

And then there was Louie. While I have an image of Sunshine in my head, the same cannot be said for Louie. Louie is a named but faceless memory to me. It doesn’t matter what he looks like, see. Only that he stole my brownie. Or, more accurately, ate half of it.

I was a shy child, given to making observations without due regard for tact, yes, but shy nonetheless. Louie knew this. I think he was the devil appearing to me as an ugly, little bastard. Or it could just be residual anger talking. Anyway, Louie had taken to teasing me. I tried to ignore him. Until the day he touched my food.

It was recess, and I had just gone to the girl’s lavatory. I returned to my table to find half of my brownie gone. Just gone. I looked around in confusion; I didn’t remember eating my brownie. I had taken it out of the lunchbox but I hadn’t taken a bite out of it yet. Or had I? The kids at my table were laughing. Louie ate your brownie, they said. I was furious, enraged, livid. I was homicidal, suicidal, mad as Miriam Defensor Santiago. And, most of all, I was hurt. In my world, no one stole no one’s brownie. No one snacked on no one else’s snack.

Louie didn’t even bother denying it. I guess he couldn’t talk because his mouth was full of brownie. He just looked at me, smug, daring me to do something about it. I marched up to my teacher and told her, Louie ate my brownie. Thereafter, Teacher told Louie not to eat my brownie anymore. Which is, really, the stupidest thing anyone can say in this situation. He’s already eaten it! Of course, he’s not going to eat it anymore. To be fair, she did say afterwards that it’s not good to eat other people’s food without asking if you can have some. But they remained empty words to me. My brownie was already half-gone, and we all know half-gone is as good as gone.

You know that first bite, when your teeth first sink into a piece? It could be a cut of meat, or a chunk of bread, or a melting sliver of chocolate confection. You remember that anticipation that thickens your saliva, curls your tongue, flares your nostrils, and makes your taste buds stand erect? Louie took that away from me. He didn’t just eat half of my brownie. He stole a first bite from me.

Some things cannot, must not, be forgiven.