Monday, February 27, 2006

Memoirs of a wannabe (not) geisha

3 layers of robes, 6 belts, suffering-succotash my feet won't fit in those slippers, and 4 hours of trying not to take normal breaths. I haven't seen the movie with Zhang Ziyi (not Ziyi Zhang as those idiots in American entertainment tv call her), Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li et al; although the book was quite good and very entertaining. However, I can empathize, for Saturday afternoon, I had my brush with geisha-hood.

A group merienda at Kai was hosted by my food society in honor of the 50th anniversary of Japan-Philippines relations (a bit unassuming considering how much of an impact Japan has had on our history. And 50?! Who's bright idea was it to whitewash the real ties between our countries? But I digress.). A Japanese tea ceremony and a kaiseki menu was conjured up, and our generous Japanese contacts were kind enough to share tidbits of their culture with us (games, demonstrating the tea ceremony and telling us where to get little giveaways etc). One part of their generosity lay in lending us lovely kimonos, for the 5 committee members. A part of me wanted to ask the other committee members "When did the organizers ever have to dress up?" but I squelched my orneriness and went along with it.

To be frank, I was a bit worried. I'm not sylphlike. My bones are nothing like a china doll, and my feet are never going to be ready for a Cinderella glass slipper. My Chinese grandmother's peasant stock is in full bloom with me. But the other ladies on the committee said they'd already made arrangements with our clothes so nothing to be worried about. Ok.

I arrive early on Saturday, and am rushed into the dressing process by our kimono expert, who natters on with our primary Japanese host, in Japanese of course, about the kimono I should wear. I'm pretty sure they are bemoaning how I am to fit into any of the pieces, and during the course of my fitting, which takes longer than anyone else's, the running mental curse goes through me that I need to get back to my exercise regiment soon. The first robe I tried was a lovely purple piece but that proved to be a bit small. So I was given a dark blue with exotic orchids on them. After putting on the first layer of undergarments and then the robe, I was given my first taste of how hard it would be to breathe. The first belt was a thin rope to hold the skirt and top coat together - OUCH. I felt my stomach fat cells looking for new spaces to squeeze into. Then I tried on the kimono. It may look comfortable with it's gorgeous square sleeves and long flowing skirt, but believe me when I say that if you're not used to a corset and girdle, plus a backbrace all at the same time, then you won't find yourself too keen on the kimono. The belts, one on top of the other, pulling my gut, back and ribs together into one flat package. By the time the two teachers had me boxed up, I had a lovely golden green obi with these shimmery golden knots tied on the top and in the middle. I do love the box knot they use in the back, so elegant and puffy (and easy to destroy if you're not watching where you sit). It took me most of the 4 hours wearing it through the meal before I found a semi-comfortable breathing pattern (in my upper chest cavity rather than in my abdomen as my wont), plus I'd do a few plonks on the bullet-proof like obi when I got bored with proceedings. Maybe Japanese drummers should use the obi as a percussion instrument, it's got a nice thump to it.

I won't even go into the lows of trying to find a sandal that would fit. None of them did. So I ended up with my Happy Feet sandals instead. Heck it's got a wooden sole! And the flower pattern fit my robe. At least only one part of my body was feeling crushed.

Mindless of all my whining, I would highly encourage anyone who gets a chance to wear a kimono to do so. There's something about wearing a national costume of another culture that transforms you. I've worn chinese robes, American western wear, Thai and Vietnamese robes. Now I'll add the kimono to my list and look forward to another opportunity for international cultural advancement soon.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Me Movie Marathon

Last week I turned a year older, 36. And spent 5 days being lazy. Unlike years past, I didn't travel, didn't go to a museum or a play or an art show. Didn't buy new music or new shoes or new books (horrors). This year I saw movies, both on the big screen and in my jammies in front of the tv.
It began with Brokeback Mountain, birthday night premier. A flock of us went to Greenbelt for the show and didn't spend enough post-movie time chitchatting. I do find that I miss people who can spend a couple of hours talking about the movie after the film. My friends are nice and all, but they don't get involved in that scene, and I miss that kind of interaction. Even if they disliked the movie, I'd appreciate some comments afterwards rather than the yawns, discussion on who's riding home with whom, and plans for the next movie. Ah well.
Is there anything else to say about Brokeback? Reviews are out there ad nauseum, so go find it. Me? I liked it.
Thursday, I spent at home, close to 12 hours of cable watching. I truly felt braindead after, so kids, don't do this at home. What did I see: Day After Tomorrow, Harry Potter 4, caught part of Love Actually (they cut out all the good parts), and snippets of several really bad action films. And finally saw the first episode of the new season of CSI. Not bad but too many story lines. Had to watch it again on Sunday to catch some of the subplots. I knew Catherine had the hots for Warwick!!!
Friday - no movies, as we had the housewarming and belated birthday party. Going around getting things done, checking on the food, plants, equipment. Of course, last minute madness, what else is new. But the house is clean and smells of good things.
Saturday - late mornings, too lazy to go out and missed some appointments, nothing life threatening. I eventually rolled out in the late afternoon to meet up with friends for dinner and a movie. The original plan to watch Munich fell through due to timing, so we ended up in the hands of Pink Panther. My only reaction is I want my money back. Truly wretchingly bad. The few chuckle spots were not enough to counteract the flat story, B-class acting and insipid slapstick. Comedy is truly harder than drama.
Sunday - another late morning, but I have a new mattress to enjoy (finally! after months of suffering on that lumpy futon, my back is free to sleep comfortably), and headed out for another movie night with friends (same as above). This time, I had made prior arrangements and we got prime seats for Munich. A much stronger film than I expected to see, and violence galore. However, between Brokeback and Munich, I'm still rooting for the former at the Oscars. The story line was simpler, cleaner and less wobbly. Acting was equally strong among the predominantly male casts of both films. But given the political stance of Munich, it left me with a unsettled taste in my mouth; knowing what we know of the consequent actions in the Middle East, the movie could not allow for too many platitudes. But at one point I sincerely wanted some grievous action to take place against the protagonist. Just to end the movie!
Living in fantasy land is probably the last thing I want to do as I edge closer to middle age. But are the alternative options any better?

Monday, February 13, 2006

My First LP: Lasang Pinoy 7: Gising na! ALMUSAL!

My friend threw me this hypothetical and somewhat theoretical question: What would my first meal be in heaven (assuming of course certain religious affiliation and that I'd be awake and conscious and hungry when I got there. Plus do our souls need earthy food up there?)?

After much cogitating (or is it cogitation? More likely agitation of the brain.) I tossed out the lavish buffet, or the gourmet tasting menu. Instead, I chose comfort food, which to me means breakfast. Almusal, breakfast, is my comfort zone, where I see myself in pjs, tousled hair, a good book, and a looong morning ahead of me with no bothersome work or stress in sight. This would also take place in a white cottage, overlooking the ocean. After a few more zoned out drooling minutes, I chose the ff to be on my list for heavenly breakfast food:

1. Fried rice, heavy on the garlic, rock salt and that slightly burnt or perhaps better described as caramelized rice. You can't do fried rice without cooking it first, then letting it cool, overnight is best. So fried rice means patience or foresight, cooking enough quantities so that the next morning you can dump it into a hot wok filled with garlic, some butter and oil, but even better is the oil from pork adobo, which leads me to ....

2. Pork adobo. What did you expect, banana pancakes? I like mine of the oily but saucy variety, the kind where you know the cook had enough soy sauce and vinegar, bay leaves and peppercorns, plus a good cut of pork, stewed hours until the pork bits are nicely soft and melt in your mouth good. Again, adobo tastes better a day or two after it's been cooked, so this breakfast isn't going to happen without some heavy planning. Heaven should be the right place for it.

3. However, I realized that I'm more a fish person and what I sometimes crave for at breakfast and don't always get is a good sizeable serving of crispy dilis or dangit whichever is available. Where I go for my crispy dilis moments is Via Mare, where they have a breakfast plate of fried garlic rice, crispy dilis (and an small dish of spicy vinegar) and fried egg.

4. And who could forget the egg when it comes to breakfast. When eggs were created (probably in some heavenly or utopian environment) the egg maker must have looked at it and said "thou shalt be breakfast food" and so it was. It is the perfect food, lots of nutrition, and tasty when cooked right or with the proper accessories. Everyone has their way of eating a fried or soft-boiled or poached egg (my favorite ways of cooking an egg in order of preference). My way is a throwback to my childhood, two eggs, sunnyside up, with a runny yolk to cut into the rice, spreading its golden goodness into the garlicky, slightly salty and oily rice. That alone is worth the price of dying of clogged arteries. Add some tiny chillies for a zing on the tongue, with a splash of soysauce if the rice isn't salty enough.

To go with this medley, I'd choose two beverages: a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice, pulp please. Yes, it's not true blue pinoy, but OJ transcends national borders. And to make the meal complete, a large cup of grainy, dark, bold tsokolate ah/eh/i/o/u. Thick and viscous, leaves a trail down my palate, and enough remnants to make me hungry for more a few hours later.

That would be my heavenly meal. My almusal, and my earthly delight.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Fiber Friday

Losing weight is full of traps. Can't eat this, that, everything tastes like cardboard, costs money, count calories, steps, burn baby burn those fat cells. Honestly, the only people who lose 20 lbs in a month are those who can afford the cost of a two hour personal trainer per day, plus the time not to do anything else.

But as I'm not into losing weight just to drop the pounds but to get a grip on my health (diabetes lurking in the background), one aspect of the eating part of this process has been to increase my fiber intake. I try to have oatmeal three times a week, started adding flaxseed to my chocolate milk or in addition to my oatmeal, and now, took off with my dad's one month supply of psyllium to take before my meals. OR after! To push out whatever's stuck I hope.

I remember having a talk with a friend, she of the allergic to all and sundry eating temperaments and licensed nutritionist to boot. Her advise was to check the ratio of dietary fiber to carb notes on food nutritional tables. She said that the healthiest ratio was a 1:4 fiber-carb. So I look at my lunch today, a pack of chilli, with 9 fiber carbs to 30 total carbs. Pretty good ratio there. I should feel pretty full with just one serving. And hopefully it will taste ok.

Will add my review later. For now, off I go to the fiber feast.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies