In Which We Celebrate Eleven Years of Midge in the Kitchen

Exif_JPEG_420

Tea for one; don’t mind if I do

How time flies.  When I first began writing this blog in 2005, I’d recently joined the IT sector as a technical writer in a knowledge management group.  Eleven years hence, I’ve thrown in the towel with regard to both IT and advertising and currently work as a communications specialist for a corporate governance advocacy – something of a very far cry from shilling herbal supplements or updating techie training manuals.

Writing about food – preparing and cooking it, trying new things, eating with friends and family – is something that has come to have a curative sort of quality for me.  Considering all the stress I go through every working day, cooking and baking calm me better than more conventional ways of meditating or unwinding.  Kneading dough or pressing shortbread mixture into a baking tin serves to relax my nerves and strengthen my arms and hands better than most yoga routines.  Chopping vegetables for one dish or another is a great way to burn off any excess anger.  (Least of all because I fancy one enemy or another falling to my knife; oh dear…)  Waiting for a slow-cooked stew to cook or bread to rise continues to teach me patience.  Sampling new flavors and textures is, in and of itself, a bit of a vacation from the ordinary for me as it helps me get a sense of different nations and cultures through the food they eat.

Exif_JPEG_420

Chocolate Cherry, anyone?

Over the eleven years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve met new people, made new friends, had my heart broken more than once.

I’ve fed people, fought with people, mourned the loss of friends and relatives who went on ahead to the great Feast in the sky.  Most recently, I lost a very dear friend and her son to a fire that burned down their home; I am still coping but it’s very hard.  When I think of the smile on that little boy’s face when I gave him a large, just-baked peanut butter cookie from a batch baked for my brother and other priests of our acquaintance, it breaks my heart all over again and I wonder where is the fairness in this world, where is the justice.  It doesn’t seem right that a mother and her child who had such a great appetite for life were taken so early in their days.  But that is life and those of us left behind have to muddle right along.

I’ll be honest: along with another recent heartbreak, it’s going to take a lot more than food, fun, and anything in between to get back into sync – but I’m trying.

12592604_10153759767674177_3969885409065538428_n

So, I propose a toast…and a bite of something tasty…

It’s been an amazingly delicious journey and I know it can only get better from here on out.

To everyone who’s followed this blog for the food and the adventures: thank you very much and I hope you’ll stick around for even more culinary shenanigans both in and out of the kitchen.

Salut!

 

In Which the Blogger Comes Back…

Yema cake from Family Mart

Yema cake from Family Mart

There comes a time in anyone’s life when one has to pull a disappearing act just to get back into sync; to put everything into its proper perspective; to rest, recover, and rebuild after a long period of illness punctuated by enough trouble to base an award-winning film or a best-selling novel on.

In my case, I was dangerously ill for much of February – so much so, as a matter of fact, that it prompted me to end what would best be described as over 20 years in the advertising industry.  The last straw had finally broken the camel’s back.

I feel blessed that I got out when I did…and when I did get out, I found another job with a corporate governance advocacy.  It’s like I’m trying to correct the mistakes committed by several former employers throughout the two decades of my career: unfair treatment of employees, lack of compassion for employees and their dependents, corrupt practices including but not necessarily limited to paying off government agencies, and office politics in general.  It makes me feel alive again, this being part of something that acts like a guardian that believes in doing the right things and doing them well.

There have been some personal losses over the past several weeks and issues that came boiling to the surface.  There were days when I wondered if I would make it out alive, let alone sane; days when I would wonder if anything would be all right again.

I lost my appetite.  I hardly cooked.  I seldom baked.  I just lost heart with everything.

But those days are over.  The weeks have passed.  My appetite has returned and there are new recipes to try and feature on this blog.  For those new treats, keep visiting – and thanks for bearing with me.

In Which an Ensaymada was a Welcome Change…

Ensaimada con manzanas y una taze de chocolate espeso y sabroso

Ensaimada con manzanas caneladas  y una taza de chocolate espeso y sabroso

Happy New Year, lovelies!

I know that I was off the radar, so to speak, for virtually all of December.  It has been a busy time: work deadlines to meet before going off on vacation; lots of baking for family and friends; shopping for presents, for ingredients, for comfort.  It has been a busy time and I daresay I’ve been lucky to get some rest.  However, this Season has also given me time to think: while I am earning a more than decent wage in advertising, I have been wondering about options outside of a field I’ve been involved in since I was seventeen.

The landscape of the advertising and PR industries here in the Philippines and throughout the rest of the world has changed a great deal in over two decades and many of these changes have not been pleasant.  The field has become less open to proper creativity: many campaigns run more to how much interest can be drummed out of the public and, consequently, how much can certain products earn for Big Business as opposed to a creative legacy that can fire up the minds of another generation.  There is a great deal of ruthlessness, a horrible amount of backstabbing and in-fighting within and among agencies.  I was seventeen when my career in this field began; I’m 39 now – and I learned the hard way that there is more to life that the monetary bottom line or corporate one-upmanship.

In the past year, I’ve done things I didn’t expect to do at all.  I’ve released a book on my own and am now preparing another for publication this year.  I have been mentored and I have mentored others in return.  I’ve begun to contemplate going into business for myself…and taking it seriously, as a matter of fact.

But a final decision hangs in the balance for now.  In the meantime, I want to take a break from just about everything.  And so, I found myself trotting out of the house for an ensaymada and a mug of hot chocolate over at Cafe Mary Grace.

But such an ensaymada! Rather than the standard-issue butter-rich coiled bun smeared with more butter and snowed under with grated cheese, this one came to the table topped with a chunky, cinnamon-spiced apple compote on top of a bun grilled long enough to torch the cheesy, sugary topping into a bruleed crust that crackled as I cut into it.  The apples were a crisp contrast to the softness of the bun and the cinnamon added just enough oomph to keep things from getting too sweet and stodgy.  Plus points to the fact that it came to the table hot all the way through.

Oh, and the chocolate?  A classic cup of chocolate Mexicana spiked with cinnamon and ground chilies; a warming and invigorating thing to sip on a day that turned out chilly and rainy in southern suburbia.  Its spicy bitterness was the perfect counterpoint, playing against sweet and tart.

And as I sat there nibbling through my ensaymada and sipping the chocolate, I tried to gather my thoughts together into something more cohesive.  No one, of course, knows what the future brings; heck, even the best psychics and cartomancers can’t tell us what will happen next.  But I will go through this year with a plan in my head and a map in hand…and then we’ll see what happens next.

Released Today: A Jar of Starlight: A Compilation of Verses and Visions

A long-fretted-over debut...

A long-fretted-over debut…

Now out today, 07 October 2015: my debut ebook A Jar of Starlight: A Compilation of Verses and Visions. This is a folio made up of 70 poems written between 2009 and early 2015, as well as numerous photographs taken during provincial trips and urban jaunts. Cover artwork is by Weena Alba-Contreras who – thank God! – took me seriously when all other artists gave me the brush off.

For now, I am making this available to local readers in the Philippines for P 150.00 a copy; please send me a PM via my official Facebook page or send me an email via midge.manlapig@gmail.com for deposit details. Please note that ebook file (PDF) will be sent upon receipt of scanned deposit slips or screenshots of online fund transfers. I will be posting an advisory for international readers once the relevant download accounts are up on Scribd and Booktango.

Compiling the poems and pictures for this book was a cathartic experience for me, following a number of rejection notices; life-changing events; and lessons learned about both the local and international publishing industries, life, love, and everything in between. I was, likewise, able to connect, disconnect, or reconnect with a number of people who became instrumental in this book’s creation.

It is my hope that this little volume of poetry can touch you and others; perhaps it may also inspire you to go outside your comfort zone and do something that will mean more than any mere material accomplishment.

Bash on, lovelies!

In Which the Blogger Celebrates Her Birthday by Launching a Long-delayed Book…

And so it begins...

And so it begins…

“Just don’t forget to give more time to the things you love doing most,” the person whom I consider my best friend said on the day I started my advertising job in the BGC.  And by “the things you love doing the most”, he was specifically referring to my writing.

A lot of things have happened since that September morning.  Campaigns and advertorials were planned and implemented at the office; promotional and sales activations were done and dealt with.  The person who told me to give more time to the things I love most released his album and is currently on tour.  In between, there have been Monday night gigs in Makati; kitchen experiments that have run the gamut from homemade granola to choux pastry; and there have been scraps of stories drafted along with the poems that made their way into my first volume of published poetry.

Have coffee, will write.

Have coffee, will write.

A Jar of Starlight is something of an impulse project.  Following all the rejection notices I received for my novel The Rebirth of Meras: Exodus, I kind of lost my faith in myself as a storyteller.  While this cast something of a serious damper over all those story drafts I had in mind, it prompted me into doing something I’ve totally balked at for an extremely long time: poetry.  I found myself scribbling and posting verses; some accompanied by pictures, seeing how I’d gotten into the habit of snapping photos whenever something caught my fancy.  (Have camera, will write.)

One thing led to another: getting accounts for Booktango and Scribd; actually running off to the National Library to file for a copyright.  There was the process of writing and rewriting; editing and proofreading; selecting which photographs were best suited to the work.  Ask my family and they will tell you that I chose to spend Sunday afternoons at home wrestling with a manuscript instead of having fun.  Ask my friends and they will tell you about how I would spend the time prior to a Monday night gig scribbling into one notebook or another with a bottle of Cerveza Negra close at hand.  Otherwise, I would spend Saturdays alone – again with a notebook – and write between sips of a flat white, maybe a bite or two of a chocolate chip cookie.

I don’t quite remember what prompted me to compile my favourite poems into a book and I probably never will.  Indeed, I’m still hankering to publish a full novel or even a cookbook.  But I think there is always a reason behind the things that happen to us; we may not see those reasons at once, but they become clear with the passage of time – and fears are assuaged, confidence rises; one finds the strength within to keep moving forward.

I am thirty-nine today; a bit long in tooth and claw to be starting out, but it is, I hope, as good a beginning as any.  And I hope, dear readers, you’ll stick around for more adventures – culinary and literary – as the years go by.  As my best friend says, perhaps – yes – I am better off devoting more time to the things, to the work that I love.

And so: https://www.scribd.com/doc/282484856/A-Jar-of-Starlight-A-Glimpse-into-Visions-and-Verses

A Jar of Starlight: A Glimpse into Visions and Verses, the preview to the full 70-poem compilation, is now online via Scribd.  Note that this features ten poems from the collection and is currently free to download.  The full version – an ebook – goes on sale online beginning next Thursday, 01st October 2015.

That said, do take a peek, dear readers.  Bash on.  😉