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About Good Food and Origins

What is authentic really?

One evening I very nearly got in an argument with someone about “authentic” food. Some Italian chef was in some island and was serving the only authentic Italian food within miles. Throughout my years as a food writer, I’ve gotten into many discussions about the authenticity of food. And until now I find it such a baffling subject.

I write not as a food scholar or a chef or even a food editor which technically I’m not anymore but someone who who eats extensively. I won’t regale anyone with research and expert commentary. Just my own experience of how I enjoy the simple rewards of food.

What is authentic? I already know that anything I say after this sentence will will be trite and exhausted. I’m going to type the word “authentic” so many times until it loses all its meaning–because really, hasn’t it lost all its meaning?

A Mexican chef in Manila cooking Mexican food? A cook from Szechuan stationed in a five-star hotel on Roxas busting out spicy savories? A chef cooking something tasty? I read somewhere a long time ago that once you take a dish out of a country country it’s no longer authentic. A spaghetti bolognese in Japan isn’t and will never be the same experience as a spaghetti bolognese in Italy no matter where the person who cooked it came from. Let’s say you eat sushi from a Japanese place and loved it but then you find out that it’s cooked by a Filipino. Does that in any way diminish your enjoyment of said sushi? Shame on you if it does.

Was there something wrong with me when I didn’t like the food in Indonesia, preferring the Indonesian food I had here in Manila, altered for my preconditioned Filipino palate? Even Eric Kayser, the famous French baker admitted to altering his techniques to be able to bake his pastries fresh in the Philippines. Are we saying that the Eric Kayser here is fake? I know a chef who’s never stepped foot Thailand but, trained well, owns one of the most loved Thai restaurants here.

The problem is how much importance we put on the authenticity of a dish. Haven’t we realized that there are more important things? Intention. Origin. What about flavor? What about simply good food? What is authenticity anyway? Is Cebu lechon any more authentic than the roast pig I had in Pampanga? When I went to Germany, there were so many Middle Eastern restaurants that the cuisine has become part of their culture. A Manila-based German friend even made sure I tried one of their killer döners.

Filipinos failed to capitalize on Filipino food being the cuisine of the moment because they can’t bear to adjust to the global demand. They scorn at the modern tweaks made by places like LASA in LA and Maharlika in New York. I spent three months writing an article on how Filipino food will have difficulty thriving globally because Filipinos themselves look down on the Pinoy restaurants that are doing well overseas.

Boxing a dish based on authenticity already puts you in the losing corner. Origins are hard to trace and you’ll find that pizza didn’t even begin in Italy. This is why we can’t have good things, why we can’t appreciate so many good things. Because a lot of people limit themselves to what they think should taste good. Food isn’t a designer bag that has to be authentic. It just has to be good.

Kids and grief and plane crashes

As the whole world learns that Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 “ended in the Southern Indian Ocean” and “all lives are lost,” some little kid will be learning that he/she no longer has a mother. Or a father. Or a brother. Or an aunt.

No one can explain how or why. I definitely can’t. Until now, I can only say that the C130 my father was riding almost 21 years ago was blown away by the wind.  As proper authorities try to unweave this mystery, understand this: you will be okay. This is what I’m sure of. You’re going to be fine—if you choose to be.

It’s going to be sad. You’re going to cry. As go through time, you will have moments of wistfulness: proms, weddings, family affairs. Moments when you can’t help but wonder, “What if?”

The beauty—because there’s no other word for it—of losing someone at an age when any loss is like leaving behind a doll at a mall is that there is only one choice for you. To pick yourself up. Cry then continue living. Because you’re here and your life is not lost.

Life will sometimes feel like there’s a gaping hole that can’t be filled, but you’ll move on. Because you’ve moved on from something much more difficult. And with the love and support of the rest of your family and friends, nothing will ever be too insurmountable.

*This is just my two-cent sentiment. I grew up with a really supportive family and for me, I never lacked in the emotional aspect. Context here. I find it quite peculiar that, at 24, I know two people who died from a plane crash. One of them, of course, was my father. 

 

**Until the actual plane has been found, my fingers are crossed that my Langoliers theory is true. 😦  #thisiswhatstephenkingdoestomylife!

I’m back!

I lost a little bit of myself the past six months. I was a little too busy to figure myself out. I was a little too lazy to publish the entries I randomly wrote when I was waiting for events to start. I was a little too little in 2013. But now I’m back. Bigger–literally–and louder.

Hello! It’s me. Sasha.

 

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Boracay 2014. 

 

 

Bankruptcy Averted

It seems only too apt that for my birthday month, I was faced with a very adult situation: finance. I’m not good with money. In fact, I’m terrible with it. It’s during these monthly fiscal predicaments that I understand that perhaps one of the underlying reasons why I’m with the person I am today is because handling money is his forte (he makes it grow like one of those bean plants in gradeschool)–apart from his obvious good looks and irresistible charisma, that is.

My brother got me my first ever credit card last week. I’ve never had one before for the following reasons: I’m the stingiest person in the world and I’ve never felt the need for it. I don’t like the feeling of buying something I can’t pay for right away. It was only lately that I’ve begun to realize the efficiency of having one, first for emergencies, and second, because of my job. When I do food-tasting sessions for reviews or Top 10s, I pay for it with my own cash which seriously puts a dent in my monthly budget. Sure we get reimbursed, but it’s not a quick process, and I often find myself penniless during the waiting period in between. And third, most importantly (haha!), because I’ve been discovering the wonders of online shopping and how much money can be saved through discount websites.

When I got the card, I bought something online immediately the next day. Then the next. Then the next. Roughly, I’ve spent an amount over half my monthly salary. You can only guess where my this week’s paycheck is going. But add electricity bills to that. Add my cellphone postpaid bill. Add my driver’s license renewal bill.

Here’s a rundown of my expenses:
1. Gift for my godson
2. Boxing gear
3. Boxing vouchers

Here’s the thing, before I write anything else. I knew I was in a bind and I wasn’t planning on buying my godson’s gift yet since his baptism is in July. I looked at one of my shopping sites and saw the perfect gift for him, but it was out of stock. I registered for the waiting list, knowing that by the time they restocked, I’d be financially comfortable. I texted my friend who works for said website and asked how long it would take for them to restock the Chicco Air Trike, and she texted me with: Now! Buy now! Mabenta yun e. Sure enough, as soon as I refreshed the page, it read SALE. I bought it even before I received the email telling me it was back in stock.

It was a nightmare just imagining what I had to pay for and how I was going yo survive until my next paycheck on the 30th. But God, miraculously, always has a way of giving a helping hand to those who are desperate and stupid. It’s funny how I hate the concept of deus ex machina in literature, but I crave it in real life. Unfortunately, Jason isn’t here to help me allocate my earnings to pay for the piling bills, and truthfully, I want to do it by myself while he gets some much needed RnR and male bonding with his friend. I’ve been spending the past week just crunching numbers and burning the buttons of a calculator, rewriting and re-computing over and over again.

First the credit card bills: I had to sell something I owned just to make things a little lighter (and it was only lucky that someone bought it in time!). Thankfully, some of my reimbursements arrived promptly, alleviating the cost as well as my stress levels. In the end, I only have to deduct the P2,000 from my salary to fully cover everything.

Electricity bill: This is something I do monthly, my only small contribution to helping our I our household, so it’s staple deduction to my regular income.

How I dealt with my monthly phone bill I have to attribute to my aversion to change–as in the jiggle kind. My postpaid plan amounts to P1,800 a month, but I always pay P2,000. My bill has been negative the last two months, but I exceeded last month. Ultimately, I only have to pay P826.

Phew! I’ve also separated my bills + future expenses in different compartments in my wallet, just so I won’t accidentally spend anything. With everything accounted for, I have enough for my commuting fare to work and incidentals (I need a huge amount for this because I never know when I need to spend something for work), plus my license renewal fee, which I keep overlooking.

It’s a combination of naiveness and what we call in Bicolano, “pagkanali,” and an excess of upcoming celebrations and parties…plus my lack of control whenever there’s a good deal (hey boxing vouchers!). My first official encounter with financial woes is so far turning out to be a success–but mostly due to luck. Wish me more luck next month!

P.S.

I actually borrowed money from my brother (there’s a small credit cap on the card he gave me, he probably predicted my tendency to go nuts) to pay for my mom’s gift hahaha. I tried to use my card, but I was FORTUNATELY rejected! Her birthday is next month and I saw something online that I couldn’t pass up, especially since delivery would take about a month or so. Earlier today, I also saw another amazing deal for my little nephew who’s also celebrating his birthday in July. I’ve been looking for that toy for a few weeks and it was the last in stock! I paid in cash with my “incidentals.” 🙂

GOOD LUCK, Sasha in July!

The Naked and Famous

Not naked, not famous, not about the band–although this post is very remotely related. The Philippine Daily Inquirer chose my Young Blood essay, “Memories of A Father,” for their fourth anthology of Young Blood articles. Yipee! From hundreds of entries from 2005 to 2011, my rather overshare of some very stale sentiments was selected alongside those by Aika Robredo (daughter of the late and great Jesse Robredo), Rep. Raymond Palatino (who wrote two), as well as a pair of my friends. According to the editors, selection had been a long, strict, exhausting, and dramatic process. Me? I was just happy to be there!

Had it not been for my former Inquirer colleague, Irene (who was also published), I wouldn’t have known about my selection, that there would be such a book, and of the launch. Unfortunately I had to miss out on the latter due to a very important affair–I missed out on meeting my fellow Young Blooders (vampires!) as well as getting my two free copies! Grr. I was glad I didn’t have to sign any autographs though–something I later learned the others did.

I went to the PDI office a week after because they told me I could claim my complimentary copies there. Jason and I had already visited nearby National Bookstores and they didn’t carry the book at all. After over an hour of waiting, I went home with absolutely nothing because (1) there was miscommunication and (2) because they had no copies left and (3) only Corporate, who didn’t have work during weekends, had copies. Ang raming dahilan! The stars were most definitely not aligned for me! I was sad and disappointed. Jason, however, the perennially optimistic person that he is, promised me we were going to find one. Being in a book is Dream No. 3 (okay, I was already included in the SPOT.ph book in 2011, but the feeling doesn’t diminish the second time) and none of my family and friends seemed to care enough about getting one.

I was whining to Jason about not having a copy of my own and the sad fact that no one else appeared to be excited for my “achievement.” We took another useless trip to National Bookstore and by the time we got home, I was quite upset. So after a bit of pep talk and cheering, Jason went home and I was left to watch Gladiator (Javert made me happy too!) by myself. A few hours later, he texted me to say he had a surprise and to check a photo on his wall:

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Turns out while I was festering in low-self-esteem, he had asked all their salesladies to look for a copy in every bookstore within the vicinity. I started crying again because I was so touched with his gesture. I didn’t expect him to bring out the big guns especially because I know more than anyone apart from himself how busy he is.

So to spare the mushiness for the third straight entry, I end with saying: I’m so happy and thankful and lucky! For a boyfriend who has an unending supply of hope and who never hesitates to give some to those who are dangerously low in supply. For a boyfriend who believes in me even when it’s about a three-year-old piece that everyone has probably already read. Thank you for spoiling me with nothing but support and kindness and cheer!

*
Young Blood by The Naked and Famous is one of my favorites songs even if it’s a little hipster for my usual taste.

My first iPhone mini movie!

Two things: I love the look of film and vintage cameras and a couple of years back, I saw Marc Nicdao’s amazing video of Liz Uy’s 30th birthday party shot entirely on an iPhone. A third thing: I only have four usable videos in my phone–two of which are of Peyton doing the same thing (he directed his scenes, by the way).


I made it using three apps. One to trim and piece them together, one to oldify the footage, and another for the music. I had to trim the video first to what I want to oldify (because some of the clips were really long), oldify them, then upload them to the first app. Once you’ve trimmed a video and you want to use footage from that same video, you have to reupload it again. Hahaha. Best watched via phone. 😀

P.S.

I just watched it on a PC a few seconds ago and I found out you can edit videos through YouTube now! Such fun! I’ll do that for my next projects. It’s really taxing to keep changing apps.

Jason’s 26th

I am not going to win any best girlfriend awards this year. I had no plans at all. I prepared for his surprise 25th birthday two months in advance, pestering people to be on time (they did not) and bribing people to help me with the logistics. I figured, it’s the 26th. He has five more years to anticipate another major milestone–and I made this very clear just so he wouldn’t expect anything. We’re currently saving up for something big in addition to making up for several major expenditures in the past three months so, as much as I wanted to, I really didn’t have the resources for anything extravagant.

What more, Jason asked if he could open his birthday gift the day I bought it (December 26). He knew what it was, mind you, he’s been dropping hints like Peeves and dungbombs. By the time his actual birthday came, except for making reservations to our favorite restaurant for a dinner on the eve of his 26thdom, I had nothing.

But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t feel guilty about not making enough effort.

He picked me up, virtually empty-handed, to go to work to which I sang him a Happy Birthday with my squeaky, ratty voice. I sang repeatedly in English and Chinese for about five minutes before I set about my daily daydreaming while pretending to look out the window. No plans yet.

After work, I went straight to the mall and bought him a set of socks from Debenhams just so he has something to unwrap. I also purchased  a P90 brownie and an electronic candle that played the birthday song when you light it. When we got to my house, I lit it up, held it together with the brownie, started singing, much to thr irritation of my neighbors. Despite the aid of my musical pyrotechnical accompaniment, my voice still resembled a cat being squished under a truck. Jason recorded the entire performance leading up to his blowing of the candle. And because it’s us, the video was not saved. We had to repeat the entire spectacle all over again. Really, I don’t know how he can take my screeching. But there you go, another blow and another wish.
In a stroke of brilliance, I also asked my DJ friend (hello, Je Mendoza of Pop Stop 89.9) to greet him on air. She and Andi were only too kind to heed my request (I also asked them to say his full name. Heaven knows how many Jasons were born today.) We were all kind of giddy after that.
Happy birthday, bu! I hope you had a blast even if things were kept simple.

Of losing and finding love

I wrote about this a lot time ago. In a stupid, emotionally driven post on a deleted social network where my fingers worked faster than my brain. Looking back, I don’t really remember much of it except for the numerous typographical errors I made as I burned through the keyboard. This is a much happier, more optimistic version.

When I first fell I love, I made plans. By 24, we’d get married; by 26, we’d move out of his parents’ house; by 28, we’d consider having children. Everything was penciled in and we were fully booked until 2057–that’s when I stopped and realized that by then, we’d probably be cloned and my copy would be doing the scheduling.

But like most harebrained schemes, the plans fell through barely a year into them. The ink on my notes began to fade; clear one second and blurry the next. Save for hiding under the sheets for days at a time, nothing seemed to make sense.

It was a beautiful summer day, I learned later–much later. I slept through it. I slept through most of that summer actually; eyes too heavy to keep open and too tired to even try. Eventually the sheets had to be changed and I reluctantly had to leave the 2×4 comforts of my bed. Right foot, left foot. Turn knob, shampoo, rinse. Pick up spoon, open mouth, chew, swallow. Days were accomplished in motions, slowly and one at a time.

Maybe it was God finally taking pity on the pathetic little girl who was slowly withering away. Maybe I just maxed out on sleep. Maybe a ghost shook me out of my revelry. Who knows? Suddenly, the world seemed terribly different. And without thought nor question, I erased everything, bored holes in the paper, ripped through the pages, crossed out words. When I was done, I looked outside with my first real smile in weeks. The sky was a dusky shade of gray. Summer was, regretfully in hindsight, over.

More than the pain of heartbreak was the pain of realizing a future I had stopped considering. And a past that had, in a blink, become useless. I had to switch gears and re-consider. C’est La Vie. Nothing too serious, with decisions centered only inside myself, emotions behind a shell, and foresight that only lasts until the next few weeks. Life armored and in tiptoes.

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On to the next leg of our adventure! Happy anniversary, bossing! Thank you for keeping me head-above-water sane for three years and counting!

But then I met you. A person who’s innately programmed to look only at the bright side. A person who has long dismissed failure as an option. A person who makes me believe–in reality and in dreams and how they can be one and the same. A person who makes me stronger despite the cracks of my own frail system. A person who can recite a decade’s worth of economic fluctuations but can also do a mean Katy Perry impersonation. A person I can just foretell myself with. And when you wore those ugly plastic clogs, stayed with me to clean up sewage flooding in my house, and helped me wipe every tile dry with tissue, I knew. I took my pencil and started writing.

When you love someone, you take the risk of losing yourself for the other person. And when you truly love someone, you know that even if you do lose your whole self, you’re strong enough to gain back what you lost. Chos!

Written on December 26, 2012

Resolutions

1. Wear heels at least twice a week. It’s time to let Casual–Everyday go and move on to loftier ambitions and fashion.

2. Stop picking! In exchange for the lack of nail-biting, I have a relentless fixation with scabs, zits, cuticles, hair. No more!

3. Eat healthier. Obviously NOT when I’m on an assignment where I am professionally required to eat as much of everything, but I can control what I consume outside my job.

4. Be more independent; do things and dream for myself.

5. Enroll myself in something physical–and actually sweat.

6. Bake. Starting with a soufflé next Saturday. I might as well go for the hardest dessert.

7. Work (even) harder.

8. Make more time with friends. Just a little something in relation to No. 4. I have plenty of dates lined up for my college friends.

Meet Jojo

Good news! I was a little premature with my last post which was written about a week before publication. The grass plant that I planted last last Tuesday (December 11) grew after only six days! When I left my little piggy pot on Friday, it was still nothing but a handful of soil, but when I arrived on Monday, I was greeted with about 3.5 inches of grass! It grew about an inch more! It was supposed to grow only after seven days, but maybe I’m such an excellent gardener. I decided to name it Jojo (as in Joh-Joh and not Joe-joe) in homage to Jo who bought it for us from Hong Kong.

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The box comes with a little barrel of dried soil, a packet of seeds, and a piggy pot. The intructions required me to separate a quarter of the soil and I was pleasantly surprised because the “barrel” was actually four little tokens stuck together. Easy! I poured a few capfuls of water into the three pieces of soil and sort of mashed it until it reached the texture and appearance of–normal soil. I scattered the seeds around the teeny space, mashed the last segment of dried up soil on a separate container then used it to cover my little grass seeds. I was a bit anxious because my cubicle is nowhere near a window and I didn’t want to leave it on a random window sill. my desk lamp became makeshift sunlight.

When it suddenly grew, it was paler than normal but I wasn’t complaining. Mestizo ata yung halaman ko! The packet said we should wait for the grass to grow long enough for us to “style” it. There were even photos of stacks of grass with ribbons, a flat top, and more.

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After two days, I deemed Jojo’s hair was long enough for a nice trim. I first settled on a flat top, but decided on something much edgier.

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I’m like the friggin Frederic Fekkai of the plant world!

It was much harder because the scissors I borrowed were so blunt! It turned out much shorter than I wanted to because I had to keep trimming and re-trimming to make things even.

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Beautiful! It’s a whole new Jojo!

P.S. Happy Birthday to my lovely and forever friend, Jessica Mendoza! I hope you receive more and more blessings!