Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Mom's Cookbook

Have you noticed that people rarely feel neutral about their mom's cooking? Your mom is/was either the best cook ever OR she was sweetly and hilariously awful. I'm sure it comes as little surprise to anyone out there that I place my own mom squarely in the first category; I've written as much before. Her pesky and evil multiple sclerosis prevents her from cooking now, but of course I still go to her for advice and whatnot. PLUS I filched her copy of Recipes of the Philippines, compiled and edited by Enriqueta David-Perez and published in 1970 (the 16th printing).

How groovy is this cover? Take note of the bakelite faux wood handles on the carving set! The creepy twisty candle! Those random dried flowers! And let's not forget the pineapple wedges stuck to the ham via a toothpicked, pimento-stuffed olive. But don't be fooled by the cover, for many jewels are hidden in these pages, including my mom's handwritten notes, yellowed recipes clipped from newspapers, and what I think is a recipe for cucinta written on the back of a page from her 1974 check register (on October 19th of that year, if you must know, she spent $2.00 on books).

The book proper is equally entertaining. There are little charcoal folk drawings—people in traditional dress, a pair of tsinelas, cooking vessels, and of course a rider atop a caribou; color photographs; black and white photographs; and some fun text. In the intro, David-Perez warns that the book is not a complete collection of Philippine dishes, but one with general appeal "that give a good glimpse of the Filipino heart."

Here are a few more quotes that amuse or baffle me:

"After adding vinegar to a cooking dish, do not stir until mixture has boiled." - But what happens if you mix it before it boils? Tell me! Tell me!

"A Filipino thinks nothing of starving himself or getting into debt to be a perfect host." - This gave me pause, but then I realized: she's right.

"Bread and butter has taken the pace of the kakanin in many modern homes. But in many a heart lingers the nostalgia for something at one with the long ago." - Um, I would like to be at one with the long ago. The long ago of my 30th birthday, let's say.

Here's to nostalgia. *raises glass of Crystal Light*

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Birds, Bees, and Wisdom From the Count of Connotation

The twins have turned eleven years old. Over the past year, I've been wondering how to broach the subject of what I believe schools refer to as "family life." Certainly, the various topics within the larger context have popped up during the course of everyday conversation, and so going into this, their eleventh year, they did have some general knowledge. While holiday shopping, I found what seemed to be an excellent book that covered just about everything. It's titled, It's So Amazing: A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families.

I wrapped it up with some of other books and put it under the tree. It was unwrapped along with their other gifts, but just as I imagined would happen, it went mostly unnoticed during end-of-the-year mania and back-to-school preparation. But yesterday, during a quiet moment, I saw Vida pick it up and begin reading. I headed back to Nesting Ground Central, still within earshot of the complete silence. Ten minutes in, Risa entered the same room and said, "What're you doing?" And Vida said, "This book is...kind of...odd." More silence, in which I could tell they were reading together. I gave them another ten minutes and nonchalantly walked into the room.

"Mom!" said Vida. She looked up from the book, concern all over her face. "What the HECK?!"

And I said, "Look, you guys are eleven years old now, and I got you this book because I thought it might help with any questions or concerns you might have AND because I felt you were mature enough to deal with it in a...mature way because you're so...mature. If you have any questions, just let me know."

"I didn't know the man sticks..." Vida began.

Risa immediately put her hands over her ears (this, too, I knew would happen) and said, "Can't. Can't do it. Can't do it."

"Okay, okay, Risa, GEEEZ," Vida said. "Mom, can I speak to you in your room?"

So, yesterday, I spent much of the late afternoon fielding questions such as these from Vida:

What is the difference between sex and making love?

How do gay couples have children?

Is there any way BESIDES sex to make a baby?

I guess you really have to be in love with someone, then, to make a baby with them?

What's masturbation? I don't get it.

THAT'S masturbation? Oh. You can't hurt yourself, can you?

Etc. etc. I'm sure I will be barraged with still more questions, but I'm feeling pretty good about all this. And I highly recommend the book (it's for ages 7 and up, and there is another for ages 4 and up, plus another for when puberty arrives). The whole thing was neither as difficult, nor as easy, as I thought it would be. At the very least, I feel even more prepared to discuss the subject(s) with Risa whenever she decides to uncover her ears.


It doesn't seem right (or maybe it does?) to blithely blog without mentioning the political assassinations—both attempted and successful—that took place in Arizona, that current hotbed of unrest, this past weekend. Over-the-top, unimaginative (hi, can you think of any metaphors that don't revolve around violence?), hateful rhetoric may not have had anything to do with the shootings. And yet the shootings have directed the spotlight towards the senseless jabbering. The right blames the left for directing said spotlight, but I don't think the left had to do very much: it's simple to make the connection.

Is there crazy talk on both sides? Of course there is. But the left does not have leaders who use inflammatory language in the style of the former Governor of Alaska, Rush Limbaugh (some will say he doesn't lead the movement, but I would argue that oh yes he does), and their ilk. This columnist at Politics Daily correctly points out that only the right has "institutionalized their side's craziness."

I was reading The Phantom Tollbooth last night with Lea, and I think that the Count of Connotation (loyal servant to the King of Dictionopolis) should have the last say: "'You see,' cautioned the count, "you must pick your words very carefully and be sure to say just what you intend to say.'"