Archive of ‘food’ category

muffin day; or, growing up in the late ’70s part 1

UPDATE: This piece was published in slightly modified form on 8 July 2012 in the first issue of the Sunday Manila Standard-Today, revived after an eight-year hiatus.

There’s this old Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook that’s been in the family for years. It belonged to my mother, Malu Ledesma Lacson Alonso, who received it from her nanny, Phoebe Elustrisimo. Lola Phoebe migrated to the US when my mom was a teenager, but she did bring many warm memories of baking cookies and muffins, and brushing my mother’s long brown hair in the mornings.

My mother and I, 1968.

As a child I preferred to stay indoors and read, rather than go out and play. On my great-aunt Bennett’s sugar cane hacienda in Bacolod,  where I lived for a year, there were no other children my age and I was not allowed to play with the children “nga halin sa uma” (“from the farm”).

When I was brought back to Manila and our little apartment near Vito Cruz, the neighbor kids were mostly boys and played rough. Not that I minded the knockabout games. I was a little tomboy, and the best on the swing, going as high up as I could and jumping off at the very peak of the arc. “Dangerous” games proved your bravery; any kid who didn’t join in was a sissy. Girls were exempted from this, but a girl who was as tough as the boys got extra points in street cred. My rep was “small but terrible”.

To this day I’m amazed I didn’t crack a leg or some other useful body part. I wonder how nearly all of us went through our childhood practically unscathed. The only casualties I recall were Alan next door (his family owned the swing) who broke his arm, and Mars across the street who snapped something in his chest when rough-housing with his German Shepherd. The break never healed properly and he developed a “pigeon chest”, a sort of protusion that shocked us all into a wary respect for dogs.

It was boring and meaningless, keeping up the street rep among my playmates, and increasingly, I retreated into the other worlds of books. One of my favorites was this same 1956 edition Betty Crocker cookbook of my mom’s. I’d pore over it for hours, flipping through the slick pages, ogling the glossy color pictures of classic American dishes – apple pie, strawberry shortcake, Eggs ala Goldenrod.

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Written in the politically-incorrect ’50s, before organic foods and vegetarianism became fashionable, many recipes call for lard (an ingredient banned from today’s enlightened kitchens, where “lowfat” cooking is de riguer), meal suggestions are built around red meat and carbohydrates, and vegetable recipes occupy less than ten pages – most of them variations on deep-fried this or that. Phrases such as “low-calorie” and “artificial sweetener” are nowhere to be found; “cookie” is spelled with a “y”.  The illustrations are quaint and oh-so Fifties: women in flaring skirts and aprons lean over ovens, brandish ladles.

The chapters on baking were closest to my heart. The “Quick Breads” (pancakes, muffins, and waffles), “Cakes”, “Pies”, and “Cookies” pages became the most dog-eared and creased. An instructional manual, the book contains step-by-step pictures on how to sift flour, knead dough, roll out pastry. Sort of like a primitive “Baking for Dummies”, but with photos.This proved a godsend to me when I actually started cooking on my own after I got married in 1990. Though a beginner at cooking, it was like my hands already knew what to do, thanks to those instructions.

When my mom moved to the US in the early 80s and took that beloved cookbook with her, I was bereft, like I had lost a close friend.

There’s a happy ending to this, though. Maybe ten years later, I coaxed my mom to send that cookbook to me in a balikbayan box. She was reluctant to let it go; as for me, it had much sentimental value for her. I suggested that it was time for the next generation (my children Alex and Erika) to enjoy that heirloom. That argument proved to be persuasive. Once in my hands, I placed that half-a-century old book in a place of honor on the shelf.

Ik is the most interested in this old book. As I did, she studies the pictures and reads the recipes. Over the past several months this year, the inspiration built up to such a crescendo that yesterday, she convinced her ate Alex to help her bake muffins.

Here they are. Golden brown, fluffy, and perfect smothered with butter. Great with coffee? You bet. Congratulations, Ik and Alex!

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The 52-year-old heirloom cookbook; the “how to bake muffins” page; Alex, Ik and muffins

For me, this particular cycle has come full circle, in terms of my children’s participation in the mythos of family traditions and rituals that shape so much of who we are and what we influence our children to become. Yet time in the real world is linear, not circular. I stretch my mind to the future, where I see my grandchildren reading that Betty Crocker cookbook (now 70, 80 years old), baking buttery golden muffins for their lola, tita, and mom.

Thus the cookbook is not merely a book, a construct of paper and ink, but a vessel of familial rites, a repository of histories, and a catalyst for the creation of fresh, life-shaping memories.

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ice cream and pizza

It was a very hot day. The kids and I wanted a cool snack,  and Icebergs at Glorietta seemed a good choice. The restaurant offers halo-halo with everything on it and other traditional Pinoy goodies like mais con hielo;  sundaes, parfaits, and other ice cream concoctions; and regular food like sandwiches.

Ik had a chocolate chip sundae; Alex and I shared a peach-banana split, which was good. Whipped cream was squirted on with a lavish hand, the bananas were fresh and unblemished.

But instead of having scoops of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, the split had no chocolate, but some kind of yellow ice cream. It didn’t taste like mango nor cheese, and remains unidentified to this hour.

After the ice cream, I got the kids the “desires of their sole” – a pair each of Converse All-Star high-cuts (“Chucks”), and a pair of sandals (“non-Chucks”) each.

Then, supper. On our way to the taxi stand at Glorietta 4, Ik was stopped in her tracks by a Pizza Hut Bistro sign. Being constitutionally unable to resist pizza in any size, shape, or form, Ik went in, drawn by the siren’s song of the posters displaying huge, cheesy pizzas; Alex and I followed.

The Pizza Hut Bistro is an attempt to attract the upscale A-B market by offering most of the food available at regular Pizza Huts but in more elegant surroundings. Wine racks stand by the door, a wine bottle sits upon each table, the menu makes liberal use of edgy professional photography, and the plates and cutlery whisper “almost, but not quite, fine dining”.

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Alex told me to order the fettucine Alfredo. It was fine, but needed salt, which I sprinkled liberally from a handsome saltcellar. the pasta was al dente, cooked just right, not too firm, not too mushy.

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Alex (who’s 16) had the fish and chips, which she says is “very good, especially with the garlic dip.” Her extreme satisfaction with the dish basically rendered her speechless and incapable of giving a more detailed review except to give it two thumbs up and a large, goofy grin.

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With pizza being the house specialty, the arrival of Ik’s  Five-Cheese Pizza was eagerly awaited and, gladly, did not disappoint. Although unable to ascertain what exactly the five cheeses were, Ik (who is 9) pronounced a verdict of “really really good, like it said on the menu, ‘cheese lover’s dream’. Although you might get headaches if you try the Five-Cheese pizza with the cheese-stuffed crust. It’s a cheese overload.” Headaches notwithstanding, we finished the entire thing. It was that good.

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donau gourmet: genuine german cooking

A friend from Union Church of Manila, Ms. Jeannette Smit, recommended that I try out the German dishes at her daughter Marietta Sager’s recently-opened restaurant, Donau Gourmet. So last Friday (March 7), I took my friend Adelle along for lunch and to meet Marietta.

The restaurant opened last January 31. Located at Amorsolo Mansion, Amorsolo Street, in Makati, its facade is modest and unassuming. Larger signage is in the works. It’s right across Mile-Long Plaza.

The place is cozy and intimate. The dining area shares space with racks for German groceries.

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Marietta is tall and slim, and always smiling. A Dutch-Indonesian who grew up in the Philippines and married a German chef, she considers herself very much “Pinay”. She explains that after years of living in Hong Kong, Singapore, and other places where her husband was employed, she felt returning to the Philippines was “coming home”. Putting up Donau Gourmet was a natural offshoot of their deli business – Donau Deli – which manufactures authentic-tasting German sausages and cold cuts.

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The store also carries German and other European wines.

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Chalkboards on the wall announce the day’s specials and other featured dishes or products.

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The cooking is robust and hearty, and, Marietta emphasizes, authentically German in taste and preparation. The entrees mainly revolve around the deli offerings, but once in a while they prepare Asian dishes that hearken back to Marietta’s multicultural upbringing and experiences.

A meal starts off with a bowl of Hungarian goulash. It’s a flavorful and meaty soup, full of beef and vegetable chunks.

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A simple salad provides a cooling counterpoint to the savory soup.

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One of their most popular dishes is the Curry Sausage with Fries. Don’t be misled by the name – German curry is nothing at all like the green sauce on “chicken curry” that we are familiar with. This dish is terrific!

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The Spiral Sausage on a Bed of Sauerkraut and Pineapple is another must-try.

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Donau Gourmet is open Monday to Saturday, 730am to 6pm.

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strawberry nom

Us MARHO employees came into a little windfall today, and we blew some of it on food…a bilao of pansit malabon, chicken and pork liempo from Andok’s, a family-size bottle of Coke Zero, and the terribly sinful meal capper – Goldilocks’ Strawberry Fudge Cake.

It’s not too sweet (although me and my sweet tooth would prefer a leetle bit more sugar in the whipped cream topping), and the flavors of chocolate and strawberry jam blend to perfection.

It’s another sweet day.

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sunday is for worship and flowers.

Every Sunday the kids and I attend the second service (Traditional) at Union Church of Manila. After each service (there are three), juice, coffee, and cookies are served in the Fellowship Hall. Second Service usually has the most attendees.

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My ministry is with the “First Friends”. I serve as a host in the UCM Sala, where I meet and greet newcomers, offering food and drinks. The Sala’s window looks out onto a garden.

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This is the left side of the Sala, a cozy little corner with a waterfall out the window.

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The entire room is long and very inviting. It’s often used for Bible Study and Small Discipleship Group meetings. It is where our Friday Small Group meets. (Do join us on Fridays at 7pm.)

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After worship, the kids and I have lunch at a mall. Today it was Zaifu at Powerplant, our “home mall”. We had our usual ebi tempura, tamago maki, and dynamite roll.

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When the belly-growling had subsided, off we went to our “mother ship” to browse through the latest books and pens. My latest purchase from this store (just yesterday) was The Lost Ark of the Covenant by Prof. Tudor Parfitt.

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Next stop, the lobby - to gawk at the beautiful flower arrangements of a local ikebana society.

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Orchids, anthuriums, fronds, ferns, and foliage were all creatively displayed in earthen, ceramic, or wooden containers to best show off the beauty of nature.

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The more I look around, the more I see how wondrous are the things that God has made, and how much He loves us by heaping upon us blessing upon blessing.

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sunday at boni hi street

After attending services at Union Church of Manila in the morning, the kids and I decided to spend the afternoon at The Fort’s Bonifacio High Street, a trendy strip of upscale malls that houses Fully Booked’s flagship store – our mother ship. It reminds us a lot of the Borders we visited in the US last year.

One of the main attractions at Boni Hi Street is the Krispy Kreme. I first tasted it in Van Nuys, CA, way back in 2001, but I don’t remember it tasting as good then and there as it does now and here. Maybe because I now get to share it with my kids, Alex and Ik.

The store is most interesting whenever they are whipping up a batch of fresh donuts, untouched by human hands! Here, the uncooked rings of dough drop into the fryer and float on a pool of hot oil into a “flipper” that flips them to cook the other side to a golden-brown perfection.

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When both sides are cooked, the donuts pass under a glaze waterfall, to come out wonderfully iced.

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The glass cases are full of “assorted donuts” dressed up with different glazes, icings, and sprinkles.

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Boni Hi Street has several fountains and rocks, terrific for photo ops.

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The landscaping is gorgeous although the grass lawn is bald in some places.

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Boulders scattered strategically across the balding lawns provide perfect backdrops. This one’s for Ik and her new Starbucks bearista bear “Butter” the “bearterfly”.

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At home, the box of iced donuts looks very tempting, very tempting indeed.

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Butter joins his fellow bearistas on the corner chair – Bearcat, Mallow the bunny, Bearguin, and Pietro the birthday fruit bat.

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So much to be thankful for – kids, donuts, and teddy bears.

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caffeine and sugar cement a friendship

It happens that I might need to go to a strange mall or row of restaurants to meet someone, perhaps over pastries or dinner. In that case,  I always look for a Starbucks to have coffee at. Yesterday I was at Robinson’s Mall in Manila for the first time. They have a Starbucks at the lower level, fronting the street. It’s very near St. Paul’s College, so there were a lot of student- and professor-types hunched over laptops, their cups of coffee perched precariously on top of textbooks.

I was at the mall to meet my best friend Adelle and her youngest daughter, Sophie. Adelle’s an editor at a daily broadsheet newspaper.

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Adelle and I meet up for dinner every couple of months or so. After an expansive meal, we usually trace our way to the nearest Starbucks for coffee and conversation. Each cradling a warm cup, sharing a Sans Rival cake or an eclair, we share the latest in our lives, lend each other support, and build and maintain our friendship.

With caffeine and sugar, anything is possible.

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warm and inviting

Every Wednesday afternoon, I have to attend a meeting in the Legaspi Village area of Makati. It’s a place that is very familiar to me; I must’ve visited it hundreds of times. Just yesterday, I actually opened my eyes and saw my surroundings. What a blessing to live in the moment, be fully aware of sights, sounds, and sensations that we usually take for granted.

First I dropped by Union Church of Manila for the Wednesday noon communion service. It’s a quiet time of prayer that will bring you closer to God. Worship services on Sunday are at 830 am (Contemporary), 1030am (Traditional), and 1230pm (Blended).

Very close by on the corner is a Starbucks. After the service, I dropped by there for a Grande Raspberry Mocha, non-fat no-whip. The place is warm and inviting.

A new batch of merchandise has come in; all the Valentine stuff has been taken away. Now it’s the “Spring” theme. I look forward to what the “bearista” bears will be wearing. Right now they are dressed up as sweetie butterflies with padded wings. The blue one’s wings are stripily cute! Both have pretty embroidered motifs on their chests.

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The glass cases are full of baked goodies, sandwiches, juices, and bottled water.

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I like the way trees line the streets in Legaspi Village. This is along Rufino Street, rather quiet at lunchtime.

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Church and coffee, teddy bears and trees – we are so very blessed.

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horses and hopia at escolta

Tuesday, Feb. 12, was the big day of this week – the day that I picked up the vintage gold Parker 75 Milleraies from the talyer!

A friend received the pen as a gift in the ‘80s and passed it on to me. It was in very bad shape inside. So we took it to Luis Store along Escolta, hoping they could fix it.

Terrie Pua, daughter of store founder Luis Pua, assured me that yes, they could replace the entire inner assembly of the pen. She told us to return after ten days.

So we went back to Escolta last Tuesday. Before picking up the pen, we had lunch at Savory Restaurant on the corner. My friend remembers attending banquets there on an upper floor back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I didn’t see any access to an upper floor; all the diners were seated at round tables on the ground floor. The décor was seedy Chinese-resto, but had the aura of age and history giving it authenticity. The Savory Fried Chicken is delectable and tender.

Right next door to Savory was a lotto outlet, where we stopped to buy tickets. Beside that was an OTB (horse racing off-track betting station), still closed as weekday races don’t start until 6pm. Not too far away, several college students were squatting on the sidewalk; one was reading the Dividendazo. We looked over his shoulder when we spotted the familiar layout of the racing form.

After lunch we dropped by Polland Bakery next door. The façade is the usual concrete box with glass windows, but the doors boast a pleasant surprise – rough old wood with dragon-head brass knockers serve as handles.

Inside, chinoiserie scattered here and there lend the place a special charm. The shelves are filled with tikoy (for the Lunar New Year), hopia (ube, red mongo, pork, other flavors), lowa, peanut cakes, haw flakes, and other baked goods.

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Along Escolta Street, past and present exist side by side, with horse-drawn carriages rolling along beside Toyotas.

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Being taga-karera, anything to do with horses fascinates me. This one’s a nativo. Put this carriage driver beside a thoroughbred and he’d just come up to its withers.

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At Luis Store, Terrie, Rose, and their mother Mrs. Pua proudly presented me with my refurbished Parker. “Blue or black ink?” asked Terrie. “Blue, please,” I said, and watched as she dipped the pen nib-first into an ink bottle and squeezed three times. “Wait five seconds for the ink to rise into the sac,” she instructed. She also advised that any bottled ink I own be filtered through a fine cloth every six months to remove sediment.

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When the sac was full, Terrie wiped the nib on a tissue and handed me the pen. With a new 14-karat extra-fine gold nib, clip, top tassie, grip, and aerometric fill system, it writes like a dream. “Use it everyday,” she said. “That way the nib will conform to your writing style.” I promised to do so, and before we left, Mrs. Pua pressed candies upon us.

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It was a sweet day.

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