Well, today was supposed to be my first day back in the Philippines for the Golden Week holidays. But of course, my flights have been cancelled and I’m not really allowed to leave the country, too. Well, I understand that everyone’s in the same situation, so at this point, I’m really just thankful that because it was the airline that cancelled my flights, I don’t have to say goodbye to the money I spent for my tickets.
Anyway, since all the schools are closed and we now have a lot more free time than we used to (Note: We do still have some work to do, but the work load isn’t as much.), I have finally learned how to cook. Only a few things. I’m hoping to expand my, um, repertoire (Can you use this term for cooking?) in the future, though. And well, perhaps, this isn’t really a big deal to you, but to me, who has become infamous for not knowing what to do in a kitchen, I think, it’s a groundbreaking accomplishment!
I read on a couple of places that a lot of people have been using this time to become master chefs in their homes, and I’m happy for them! But that’s not really my goal. I’m still just learning the basics. So, yes, I’ve definitely made a lot of mistakes (and I had to eat them, too!) but here are a few things I’m quite proud of (just for myself):
Fried Chicken – This is something I really enjoy eating, so I have been quite frustrated lately as it seems that in Japan, fried chicken like this isn’t really a thing (KFC is the closest thing they have.) I mean, there is karaage everywhere, but that kind of chicken is breaded and boneless. It’s not like this one, which are called, I guess, pan-fried wings? Anyway, I like chicken better this way than karaage, so I’m really happy that I can now prepare this dish myself!
Bangers andMash – I’m not really sure why we never ate potatoes at home when I still lived in the Philippines. But we always had them whenever I visited my sister in New Zealand. Anyway, I’ve become quite a fan of this British dish in recent years, and mashed potatoes is so easy to make (and fun, too, when you have a proper masher), so here it is! Full disclosure: I bought the ready-to-eat sausage from the convenient store and just heated it up in the microwave. But I definitely peeled, sliced, boiled and mashed the potatoes myself!
Spamsilog – Ah, the typical Filipino breakfast. I’d rather have tapa or bangus, of course, but those ingredients aren’t exactly available here, and this is just much easier to prepare. I mean, you just have to get the meat out of a can. But I did make the garlic rice myself, and fried the egg. It was all so yummy and with my sweet instant coffee, it really made feel like I was eating breakfast back home.
Well, there you have it. Three of the meals I’ve cooked for myself during this quarantine time. I’m really happy because before all this, I used to have to go to the convenient store to buy every single one of my meals each day. I’m serious! I would only ever go to the supermarket to buy laundry soap. But because I now have to limit the number of times I go out of the house, it’s just not feasible to go to the convenient store every day anymore.
Anyway, they say that when you come out of this pandemic, you ought to have learned a new skill, and I’m not planning on becoming a master chef or anything, but I’m glad that at least I can feed myself a little better now.
Oh, and before any of you mention the lack of vegetables in the dishes I’ve prepared, I just want to say that I had frozen vegetables, too. But because all I did to them was put them in the microwave, I didn’t bother to take a picture anymore.
The purpose of the question was to get ideas for appetizers that K could cook in the future. But in order to answer it, we had to recall each and every time we got together to eat (which is, of course, each and every time we got together.) What then followed was a trip down memory lane that no one could have predicted would launch a roller coaster of emotions and essentially serve as a summary of four years of friendship.
It’s because we started with paella. Not a dish one would ordinarily make for a Saturday afternoon with friends, I don’t think. And the activity itself, in my experience, is not a usual Saturday-afternoon-with-friends kind of activity. I mean, shouldn’t we have gone to the mall or to the pub or to a bowling alley? We could’ve gone anywhere and done anything, but instead we chose to hang around in one of our kitchens with one of us attempting to cook a dish he’d never cooked before, and the rest of us playing food critics.
I’d invited many of my friends over to my house before that day, but it was the first time any of them ever stepped foot in our kitchen, let alone actually cook there, or… hang out. I think it set a strange precedent for all our future get-togethers. It didn’t help that the paella was such a success that afterwards, nothing but the dishes K cooked for us was ever good enough.
More or less.
I mean, of course we ate at restaurants and bought food from different establishments occasionally, but for the most part, all our events revolved around the food we were going to eat. We chose resorts we went to in the summer based on the kitchens they had and how close they were to the market. We met up at grocery stores and sent text messages about the number of eggs we had in our refrigerators. We scheduled dinners really late to allot at least 2 hours for food preparation. And we hung out in the different parts of my house, practically according to a food-related schedule–we’d start in the kitchen where K would be cooking, then we’d transfer to the dining room where we’d be eating, then the living room where we’d be consuming the rest of the alcohol, and then from time to time, we’d be at the porch, where most everyone would step out to smoke.
By the time our review finally reached January 2016, we had reminisced about four years of dishes, drinks, and events that made us feel happy, satisfied, full, and occasionally wanting. We were all somewhat incredulous that it had been several years since that day when we magically convinced K to cook us paella, a difficult dish he’d never cooked before, and then somehow, even more magically, convinced him to cook us, basically the rest of our meals afterwards.
“What are we going to eat now?” I asked. Because by the way, the reason we were even talking about these things was because in a week, K would be moving back to his hometown, essentially leaving myself alone in the company we all used to work in.
“You’ll figure something out,” K answered, although none of us were completely convinced.
I am quite sure that we will figure something out. But things will never be the same. Not that it’s only K’s departure that changes things. But considering how much most of the things we did revolved around the dishes he would cook, his disappearance from our everyday lives will certainly make a huge impact on our next activities, if there even are going to be next activities. With only myself left in the place where we all met and used to work and all the boys living in cities you have to take a plane to get to from Manila, I’m sure finding a time and a place where we can all meet again will be everything but easy.
Perhaps the universe thought we’d had it too comfortable too long and this is its way of forcing us to exit our comfort zones and make something more of ourselves. Am I supposed to read recipes and spend time on my own in our kitchen now?
(left to right; top to bottom)
Paella valenciana and butter cake with fruit toppings for M’s despedida
Creamy garlic potatoes, steak with mushrooms and asparagus, New Zealand cheese and crackers for my Welcome Home from NZ dinner
Bacon and cheese macaroni salad, liempo, stuffed chicken and creamy garlic potatoes (Take 2!) for K’s despedida
Salad with some kind of meat, poached eggs, vinaigrette dresssing and pepper for a Saturday evening
Fish and chips, roast chicken and rice for my birthday
Couscous with lamb, zucchini, carrots, apricots and pork for R’s birthday
Today I met up with my friend J for lunch and yummyummy dessert at BF Parañaque because a) I love the South; and b) We needed to meet so she could give me my bridesmaid dress for when our best friend gets married next month.
We had lunch at Blé, a Greek restaurant, and desserts at Bucky’s Counter. In between meals, we went to nail spas around the area to inquire about their sparty packages as we’re also planning our friend’s bridal shower. We also gave each other updates on our lives, as so many things have happened to us since last we saw each other. I’d been to New Zealand, she’d finally collected her last check from the place where she previously worked.
I guess we just talked about everyday things, but I was really happy to see her again. I’m always happy to meet up with friends and eat at places I’ve never been. 🙂
I suppose I should be writing about my experiences in New Zealand and what it’s like to be an aunt. But for some reason, I’d like to save those stories for when I’m talking to people personally. So instead of posting pictures of my sister’s cute twin boys, I’ll just post a picture of me, my friend J, and our non-brownie desserts a la mode. (Mine came with an espresso shot because #affogato.)
Happy Mid-November and last month and a half of 2015!
On September 17 this year, I was in New Zealand! I still am in New Zealand right now actually and I’ll be here a while because my sister is about to give birth in a few weeks! To twins! 😀 Everyone in the family is super excited, my dad’s already been here since August, my mom’s coming next week and my brother will come to visit in October. I arrived a few days ago and was really planning on just celebrating my birthday here, but of course my friends had other plans, er, requests.
They knew I was going to leave Manila for a while and before my birthday, too, so they asked if I could celebrate my birthday before I left. And though I normally don’t celebrate my birthday before the day itself, I figured this was a special circumstance and I could give in to their demands. 😛
So plans were made, invitations sent, outfits picked out and viola! These are the things that happened:
A Coffee Afternoon
This is the year of specialty coffee! Or, perhaps it isn’t really, but to me it is as this is the year that I started to learn more about it and now of course, I’d like to share it with my friends. So I invited everyone for coffee and merienda at EDSA Beverage Design Group in Greenhills.
I know, I know, it’s a ways from us Southern girls, but I think it’s a cool place what with their handcrafted beverages and nice space. I have to admit that as much as I love the South, there are places elsewhere that are worth going to. And I’m extra touched that despite the distance, my friends made it! M even brought a cake from the South!
I think it was a nice change of scenery for us and I’m really grateful to X for sponsoring our cab ride to get here from ATC, and to M2 for driving us back to the South in the heavy rain.
Since we were all girls, we had a story-telling game of sorts. I wrote some questions that we each had to answer and I gave notebooks to the ones whom I thought had the most interesting answers. M2 and K won for their honesty and because they had the most benta stories. Hehe. I hope they like the notebooks I gave them.
Of course, we also enjoyed the coffee, cakes and other pastries and beverages that we ordered. What I like about EDSA-BDG is that they have drinks other than coffee so even non-coffee drinkers can have a good time, and I think we all discovered something new about how we like our drinks. You find out something more about a person when you find out how he/she takes his/her coffee, I think. And I’m really happy when I get to know more about my friends. 🙂
A Fancy Dinner Party
We left Edsa-BDG at 5:30 p.m. exactly as right after our coffee afternoon, I had to get ready for dinner! It was only my girl friends who were invited to coffee as my guy friends aren’t at all interested in that kind of thing and would much rather just be drinking alcohol. So I had a different celebration planned for them, and it really stared out as being not much different from our semi-usual Saturday night inuman at my house. Originally, I was just planning on ordering a case of San Mig Light from a tindahan in the village and getting food from the Mr. Liempo at the village entrance, but then I realized that if I just did that, then it would just be just like our semi-usual Saturday night and that it happened to fall a few days before my birthday wouldn’t have made a difference. So I thought that I should do something special to distinguish it from our other get-togethers and I thought of serving drinks other than San Mig Light.
I searched on the Internet for easy-to-make cocktails, preferably ones that had beer as the main ingredient so it wouldn’t be too expensive. But the Internet being the Internet, suddenly I found myself looking at sites that told you which wine to pair with your food and which glasses you should use for a particular kind of cocktail. I told my mom about it and she said that I could use our nice glasses that she received as a gift but never ever used since we never had dinner parties anyway, and then she got all excited about setting the table and using the nice plates and…
I have actually always wanted to have a fancy dinner party like this, but never thought I could pull it off. I thought my friends wouldn’t be up for it, or that maybe it would be too expensive, and I guess it was a bit more expensive than I’d hoped, but surprisingly, I didn’t have difficulty convincing my friends to come to my house in semi-formal attire. And with help from the right people and the right menu, I didn’t have too much difficulty setting up everything else either. 🙂 Thanks to my ate and my mom and Ate E and Ate M who were all ever-so-supportive of my crazy ideas (and also gave me some of their own).
Because we started so late, we ended up eating most of the bruschetta after dinner, but I think we made a nice setup for a makeshift appetizer bar. Special thanks to K2 for slicing the cheeses and placing these ingredients on the plates. I was supposed to do it, but at the time I thought putting on make-up was more important. 😉 And K2 likes doing these things anyway.
We took this photo just before dinner and unfortunately weren’t able to take more we started so late we were so hungry. But the experience was more important than the pictures anyway, and I think we were also able to take some nice ones during and after the dinner itself.
After dinner, we had cake for dessert. And because it was my birthday, the cake came with a candle and a song. 🙂 I was only supposed to have the one cake, the Frozen Brazo de Mercedes I ordered, but I received one that afternoon from M, K and K3, and another one that evening from J and K4. So I had 3 cakes in all. Hooray!
Mama also wore a semi-formal dress for the occasion, which is good, so she didn’t look out-of-place in the pictures. Although she was just wearing her fuzzy slippers with the dress. I guess I shouldn’t have told you that. 😛
Anyway, we had a Cranium-like game of sorts after dessert and it was so much fun my friends are crazy competitive. The winner’s prize was a chocolate bar from Japan. Well, it was a Japanese brand, but really I bought it in SM. Hehe.
Afterwards, we continued to stuff ourselves with food from the antipasto bar, drank the German beers I bought from S&R (on sale!), the wines that M and K2 brought, as well as the Black Velvet cocktail whose recipe I found on the Internet. We sang some songs as J played the guitar and the first people who left didn’t leave until 6 a.m. the next day, which I think is the sure indication of a great party. Yes?
And here’s another picture of us girls just because. 🙂
A Pasta Feast and a Show
The next day (but really, it was a few hours after the dinner party), my mom woke me up so we could go to Solaire and watch Singin’ in the Rain on stage! We got orchestra tickets at 50% off and it was my first time at Solaire and Singin’ in the Rain is, I think, my 2nd favorite musical (Fiddler on the Roof is first.) so I had a really nice time all the way until we met up with my brother and sis-in-law for dinner at Va Bene Pasta Deli at Bonifacio High Street.
We had black ink pasta, two kinds of ravioli, some soup and some gnocchi. They were all really good and I wouldn’t mind going there again in the future.
The next day, it was time for me to go to New Zealand! I didn’t sleep anymore as I still hadn’t packed my stuff at this point and I needed to leave the house at 6:30 a.m. to make it to my flight. Luckily M and her sister T came to the house at midnight to help me pack my things. Anyway, after making sure all the stuff I had didn’t go beyond my 20kg limit, we had breakfast and said goodbye and my mom and Ate E brought me to the airport!
A Lot of Ribs and a Free Dessert
I arrived at Wellington a little over 24 hours later and a little over 24 hours after that, it was my actual birthday and because my sister is the best sister in the world, she and her husband treated me (and Papa!) to a yummy restaurant dinner! Ribs!
We ate at Lone Star Restaurant in Petone and they have really big servings. We had so much leftover to take away! But it was all well and good because as it was my birthday, I got a free dessert! It was a kind of meringue cake with cream and passion fruit syrup. Yummy!
Now it’s September 18 and my 2015 birthday is officially over. I think it’s the best one yet because aside from celebrating it twice with my friends, I was able to celebrate it twice with my family! I should always go to New Zealand around this time so I can always celebrate my birthday with both my family in the Philippines and Ate and her husband. Haha. If only!