Sunday, November 30, 2008

The lechons are full of hot air

Tea on a Sunday morning

In August, I took off for a weekend to visit Butuan, one of the oldest pre-spanish settlements in the country, reknowned among Filipino historians and archeologists, where the Spanish landed and are said to have held the first Catholic mass. In the months prior to the trip, I had seen the reconstructed balanghais, a boat used by our ancestors who must have traversed the Butuan river and the straits heading towards other islands north. I was also lured by Eating Asia's post on the kilawin the authors had at the fish market. There's nothing like salivating at Robyn and Dave's pictures to get an idea of travelling to one of the provincial cities in Mindanao going.

One of the wonderful finds I took back from that trip was the biasyong, a kaffir or makrut lime that has an intensely fragrant, flower-like aroma. Cut into one and inhale for one's life, it will take the blues away. Of course, there are very few of these lovely green fruits in Manila, so I brought back a kilo and divided it among friends. I stuck them in my bottled water, I grated some of the zest, experimented with adding the juice to honey, and considered attempting the kilawin of the south. The latter didn't pan out due to my laziness of sourcing perfectly fresh tuna.

At the recent MM Eyeball in Cebu, MM used a lot of biasyongs for his kilawin, and it reminded me how lovely a fruit it is. A friend travelling to Cagayan de Oro asked if there was anything a few of us would like from the south, and two of us asked if she could try to find the biasyongs. She kindly obliged and brought back several of the limes for us; they are called suka in CDO, but I cut into one and was sure it is one and the same, for who could miss the perfume?

I have a few of the limes left, and thought how to use them best. I tried adding some of the juice when I cooked some bagoong last week, but found it the wrong combination. The astringency of the lime's juice wasn't as strong as calamansi, and the aroma was sort of offputting when paired with the fishiness of the bagoong, the clash was distinctly nauseating.

This morning, I put the kettle on, planning to steep a few teaspoons of a wonderful green tea. As the water roiled and I spooned the tea leaves into my trusty teapot (I've had this pot since 1995, it has kept me company through many a home), I thought why not add some of the lime wedges, see how it fared. A couple of minutes into the brew, I knew it was the perfect pairing. It may be a wee bit gloomy outside, and there may not be much to watch on the telly, but I sit with my teapot, a mug of tea, and think perfumed thoughts.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Eat more skin


Marketman promised us lechon, we got lechon. Three of his personal recipe spiced/rubbed/roasted on a spit lechons. Other bloggers have shown the photos of the party, the pigs, the kilawin (ceviche of mackarel), sisig, desserts galore. I know that Joey of 80breakfasts, Socky of Tennis and Conversations, and Lee have all posted their albums. Other than sharing the roasted pig above, the only two shots I'm sharing from my collection are:

1. A crisp white parol floating against the background of the city. White was the background of the party. Crisp, clean, festive.

2. I spied this lovely wooden mortar and pestle in the back of MM's office kitchen. I can imagine he and his crew pounded all the garlic, ginger, spices on it, but what I love is the shape and sturdy look.

Thank you MM/Mrs.MM/The Teen/The Crew!

(PS: I'm tinkering with posting a video from the eyeball and may figure it out before the end of the day. Check this space for one other addition from the event.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fomalhaut B

The first planet seen outside our own solar system, Fomalhaut B. Fomalhaut means "mouth of the (big) fish", translated from Arabic (fum al'hot). Since my mythological education was greco-roman centric, it's good to learn a new myth from a different religion/culture. Here's a snippet from related stories about the big fish, the star, and the mermaids:

"In Greek mythology, Fomalhaut was associated with the monster Typhon, who is said to lie buried beneath Mt. Etna in Sicily. In Syrian and Canaanite lands it was honored as the symbol of the fish-god Dagon, whose temple at Gaza was destroyed by the Biblical strongman Samson. This temple is believed to have been oriented to the rising of Fomalhaut.

All accounts of this constellation's mythology are disappointingly sketchy. Like Pisces, its mythology has a Middle Eastern setting indicative of Babylonian origin. An ancient constellation, Piscis Austrinus represents the Babylonian fish-god Oannes, who came to Earth to teach humans how to become civilized. According to the brief account of Eratosthenes, the Syrian fertility goddess Derceto (the Greek name for Atargatis) is supposed to have fallen into a lake at Bambyce near the Euphrates river in Syria, and was saved by a large fish. Hyginus says, in repetition of his note on Pisces, that as a result of this the Syrians do not eat fish but rather they worship the images of fish as gods.

Bambyce later became known to the Greeks as Hieropolis (meaning Sacred City), now called Membij. Other classical sources tell us that temples of Atargatis contained fish ponds. The goddess was said to punish those who ate fish by making them ill, but her priests ate fish in a daily ritual.

According to the Greek writer Diodorus Siculus, Derceto deliberately threw herself into a lake at Ascalon in Palestine as a suicide bid in shame for a love affair with a young Syrian, Caystrus, by whom she bore a daughter, Semiramis. Derceto killer her lover and abandoned her child, who was brought up by doves and later became queen of Babylon. In the lake, Derceto was turned into a mermaid, half woman, half fish. So merpeople may also be associated with the constellation Piscis Austrinus."
- Mythology of Star Tales, Ian Ridpath. Universe Books, New York.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pair of thoughts

Old unfinished buildings are finally getting their due: the empty shell of a building along EDSA corner Pasong Tamo extension is going to be turned into apartments, and likewise the same abandoned apartment building next to the Nestle factory along Aurora Blvd has a sign by the wall stating it will be turned into a "landmark" residential building. Instead of building from scratch the developers have to rehabilitate the structures, slap on some paint, and start selling the bejeezus out of them. Will people buy these apartments? What about the former investors whose funds were stuck while the buildings languished into weed gardens? Do they get their money back, first dibs on penthouses, or a mere thanks for helping us pay for the cornerstone cement ten years ago? I'd feel pretty lousy if I knew someone was going to get that apartment I plunked down my life savings on. But I'm projecting.

Carbs! We had another day at Cottage Kitchen over the weekend, and I counted partaking 4 of the 6 kinds of carbs on offer: grits, cornbread, biscuits, dirty rice. I believe the fifth was a potato salad, and someone had hush puppies. No one had a spoonful of the rice that came with the gumbo. Who would? Today, I tried the triple berry fruit bread at Coffee bean and tea leaf; after horrible muffin and scones there some years back, I was not sure I'd order anything other than hot chocolate. But the triple berry was surprisingly moist. And with the addition of dried cranberries, sultanas and a blueberry preserve, the fruitbread was not without flavor. I think the next time I have this for breakfast, I'll pair it with a black tea to offset the sweetness.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunday lunch

After a busy Saturday, the best contrast is a very quiet Sunday. I have been planning to make a vegetarian curry using all the materials in my crisper (cauliflower, sweet potato, carrots, peas, okra) and a box of spicy Japanese curry paste. I also needed to add some of the eggs that were probably on its last legs, so those got boiled and added to the pot. A rice cooker full of cooked brown rice and I could have stuck to a high fiber healthy meal. But there's a part of me that needs an added twist, so I took my sole can of corned beef, fried the heck out of it till it was crispy, and mixed it into the brown rice. Eat with a sizeable dollop of the curried vegies Textures - nutty, crispy, creamy, and spicy. Not the prettiest of meals, it's a meal only a sunday luncher could love.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

'08 Election results

Most of my American friends and family members are euphoric over the results of the race for the Presidency yesterday. I received many a happy-happy-joy-joy text from that side of the Pacific.

Other than the big ticket race, there were several interesting propositions under consideration. I was happy to see that both Colorado and S. Dakota voters voted against restrictions to abortion rights, and Washington is now the second state to allow euthanasia. There were other smaller bills, like banning inhumane cages for chickens (tight fit chicken coops?), which I think got passed.

Since I am still enjoying (and posting) my memories of travelling by train, it was interesting to read that California has passed Proposition 1A - High Speed Train. It may seem a tad 20th century, what with bullet trains in Japan, France, and China has the Maglev. But the US has put train travel on the backburner for so long. Now, the first state to pass funding and support for a high speed train gets the go signal. It will be a SF to LA train, estimated to take 2.5 hours, instead of the meandering overnighter that it can sometimes take on Amtrak now. I hope I get to take that train when it's up and running!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Head North

Dawn on the first day of my train trip. Looking out from the Observation Deck, suspecting I'm somewhere in Arizona, and taking fuzzy photos of the arroyos and red rock cliffs.

Speaking of the observation deck, if you're ever on Amtrak and need extra space to just think, read, chat with strangers, read the paper, drink some water or eat chips, eavesdrop on what other people are saying, nap, wonder what to have for lunch/dinner in the dining car, nibble on carrots to stave off hunger, hog the two seater so you can stretch out... anyway, this is what you see outside.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies