Posted by: Jennelyn J.M. Natividad | April 26, 2009

I woke up hungry

I woke up really early this morning, around 0430 or so, and I was starving. I think this was because of the harried nature of my life during the last couple of days. As of Friday morning, my schedule was as follows:

*Around 0810 came home from working 12 + hours, immediately fell into a deep, dreamless sleep

*Woke up at 1500 (Friday afternoon), ate a late lunch, took a stroll around the neighborhood (a.k.a exercise, albeit a light one)

*Got ready for Philippine author’s night. The event lasted from 1700 ish to 2100. Afterward, immediately headed off to work.

*Worked until 0750.  Between working hours had about 3 cups of coffee, half a ham sandwich and a peach cup.

*Saturday, drank half a box of Almond milk and slept in-hospital for about 2+ hours

* Woke up 10 nish and drank the remaining Almond milk—my official breakfast

*walked from hospital to upper campus for the L.A. Times Festival of Books. I attended a couple of panels, book shopped, ate some Kettlecorn, won a Mary Poppins (official London cast recording) CD, had some books signed

* drove home at around 1700, and crash-slept until 0400 today.

Sorry about the tangent…anyway, when I woke up this morning (it’s now Sunday, right?) I was extremely hungry. I was determined to have something hot, healthy and tasty. I immediately thought arroz caldo! However, I did not have malagkit/sticky rice, so I used oatmeal instead. The oats, along with the cubes of chicken, mushrooms, onions, garlic and ginger, cooked quickly. The finished pot of comfort was satisfying, nourishing and tasted great (:D if I could say so myself).

Oats Caldo (a l'Arroz Caldo)

Oats Caldo (a l'Arroz Caldo)

An extremely early, April morning bowl of healthy

An extremely early, April morning bowl of healthy

Enjoy a healthy, healthful day everybody!

Posted by: Jennelyn J.M. Natividad | April 26, 2009

Philippine authors’ night

I recently attended the annual Philippine authors’ night. It was held in the Rizal Hall of the Philippine Consulate. It was such a thrill to listen to the guest authors read from their respective literary works.

Ms. Linda Nietes receives an award from the Philippine consul general

Ms. Linda Nietes of Philippine Expressions Bookshop receives an award from the Philippine Consul General

Estrella Besinga Sybinsky reading from her book of poetry, Portents and Promises: Echoes of Politics, People and Places

Penelope V. Flores, author of The Philippine Jeepney:A Filipino Family Metaphor

Mom with Claude Tayag (Philippine artist, writer, chef, restaurateur, food stylist)

Mom with Claude Tayag (Philippine artist, writer, chef, restaurateur, food stylist)

It was a truly inspiring literary event! Thanks for the invite Mom!

Posted by: Jennelyn J.M. Natividad | April 22, 2009

Adventures in salad-making: Jenn’s own potato salad

I was craving potato salad so I made a light, crunchy, summery version

I was craving potato salad so I made a light (it’s all relative,) crunchy, summery version. In case you’d like to try it for yourself, here’s what I did:

24 oz. (680 g) of Baby Dutch Yellow potatoes (I used the whole bag from TJs), boiled, peeled and quartered
2-3 Asian or Yali pears (also Asian, but paler & angular, not round) peeled, cored & diced
A handful or two of Sultanas or golden raisins (but regular raisins are alright too)
1/4 C light sour cream (I detest the fat-free kind, but suit yourself)
1 Tbsp. Mayo (just enough to give one the illusion that mayo was used with abandon*** ‘coz I like the taste*** Ignore this bit, health nuts!)
A sprinkling of garlic salt (or to taste)
A heavy dose of my favorite herb, Dill (but this is also per your individual taste,) *fresh dill is better, but dry dill does the job*
Mix evenly, and pop in the refrigerator to chill

Share, Eat & Enjoy!!!

Posted by: Jennelyn J.M. Natividad | April 21, 2009

Three vignettes on fear, anger and pleasure.

This is the piece that’s due tomorrow. I finally finished it after much procrastinating. I wrote three interrelated vignettes. The specific prompt for this writing exercise is as follows: “Write 3 short paragraphs, the first “fear,” the second “anger,” and the third “pleasure,” without using those words. Try to render these emotions by describing physical sensations or images. If you want, write mini-stories, dramatizing these emotions. Try to make your language precise and fresh.” I hope whoever reads this, reads it with a critical eye. Please feel free to critique it and/or give me feedback. Here goes:

Jim could not catch his breath. He feels a heavy weight on his chest. His left arm and lower limbs are similarly pinned to the ground. His right arm is the only thing he could move freely. He really needs to reach his phone, but he doesn’t have the strength to push against the massive force weighing him down. Jim feels his whole being grow simultaneously hot and cold. If only he could move, his whole body would be shaking, instead of just his chin. His lips feel cold and parched, and his mouth is bone dry. He could feel the surge of adrenaline rushing through his body causing his heart to beat faster than it has ever done before. He has never felt this frantic, not even for Shelly. His heart raced when he first saw her, but that was some time ago. He remembers that during their early dates, he would struggle to not sound breathless as he tried to converse with her. He strove to be at his most witty and interesting to impress her, but ended up just talking way too fast. Only three weeks have passed since his heart did a flip as he watched her daintily float down the aisle to meet him. It was quite a day. Presently, he wonders, will I see her again? I’ll always be hers, no matter what. He thinks this with conviction and fiercely holds on to the thought. Everything else feels transient and uncertain. He closes his eyes against the sun’s piercing brightness. He wishes he could also block out the harsh Santa Ana winds. The blustery, rushing sound of the strong winds is deafening, and he loses his concentration. He thought he might have shouted for help, but his voice sounded small and broken. He tries again, much louder this time, “somebody, get me out!”

The boss’ face is flaming red. His nostrils are flared. He yells at the top of his lungs, “whoever thought of that stupid, giant gorilla will be fired!” Nobody sitting around the break room dares to look him in the eye. He paces back and forth in front of a captive audience. “I, Rube Rubens, am a self-made success! I have built this dealership from nothing. You guys cannot even imagine how I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into this place.” Rube takes a deep breath, but the beating pulse on his right jaw does not go away. “Now, I’m going to lose all of it because some moron decided that a thirty-foot, green gorilla would be just the thing to attract customers! Why did I listen to you marketeers, marketers or whatever you musketeers call yourselves?” He marches over to the window and peers out to the lot. He sees the massive, inflatable gorilla distorted and half-collapsed among countless trucks for sale. Almost to himself and with a voice heavy with bitterness he says, “I should have dealt with my insurance bills on time, instead of paying all of you.” He abruptly turns around to face his employees. All are silent, with heads bowed low. Upon seeing their submissive postures, Rube rides his second wind with gusto. White, foamy spit gathers around the corners of Rubes’ mouth, “why did Jim have to stand out there in the parking lot next to that monkey balloon? I tell you, Jim Saunders is one of the best salesmen in my employ, but I will not let a lawsuit be the ruination of Rube Ruben!” Rube rakes his fingers through his coarse, sparse hair. He continues his tirade, “I mean, common sense should have told him not to stand too close to an extremely large object particularly if it’s windy outside, right? I mean, I didn’t go on to higher education, but I know better than that,” he scoffs. He looks around the room wild-eyed, “does anybody know what kind of injuries Jim sustained?” He appears disgusted by their lack of response. Rube’s eyes narrowed as he surveys those in front of him. The look he was throwing their direction was sharp, hot and condemning, “I am asking all of you. Didn’t anybody, a-ny-bo-dy ask the paramedics?”

The high-pitched sound was cut off as soon as Shelly was able to reach the kitchen timer. It’s time to see the result of all that careful measuring and exact adherence to instructions. She excitedly opened the oven door. The delicious, heady scent of bananas engulfs the galley kitchen. Shelly stares at the banana bread she made and can’t help but fall in love with its golden brown color. She notes that running through its center is a crack. Steam comes out of the irregular break from the otherwise perfect rectangular loaf. She inhales deeply, and continues to get a fruity, nutty whiff from her creation. She looks at the round, retro-inspired clock on her bright green wall and thinks to herself, Jim would be home any minute now. The banana bread sits on top of the white kitchen counter, cooling. Shelly decides that she’ll need to dress it up a little. She remembers how she used to tart up her dessert creations whenever she and Jim would have dinner at her old apartment. She reaches for the canister inside the refrigerator. She opens the lid and digs in with her bare hand. Her fingers sink in and touch the cold, pebble-like shapes. She digs deeper. It is an exciting yet familiar sensation. She pulls her hand out of the container and a multitude of dark chocolate chips fall through her fingers and into a bowl. When she has had enough, she gently lays the bowl over the shallow pan of simmering water on the stove. The tiny, brown pebbles start to melt and she carefully pours a steady stream of thick cream into the same bowl. She whisks the two ingredients until they meld into a shiny, glistening ganache. A similar, mysterious chemistry is taking place within her as well. She perceives the day’s tiredness melting away. Her neck feels less tense. She could feel her shoulder muscles relax, their knots unraveling. Shelly picks up a spatula and slathers the smooth concoction with abandon. The unctuous mixture enrobes the banana bread. This made her think of bathing in chocolate, and the absurd thought makes her giggle. The now dark, shiny loaf looks and smells heaven-sent. Jim better appreciate this, and her heart warms at this thought. She knows full well that he would. She checks the time again as she waits in her kitchen, quite content.

Posted by: Jennelyn J.M. Natividad | April 19, 2009

I should really be doing something else…

At this very moment, I should be writing a story (or at the very least, thinking about a piece) which is due for submission on Tuesday. Instead, I am in cookbook heaven. You see, I opened my e-mail for the first time in a week. There, in all its tempting glory was a Borders coupon for 30% off any item at my branch of choice. So what’s a book-crazy girl to do, but scurry to the nearest bookstore?! Thus, there I was strolling down the fiction aisle. I looked through the H. Murakami selection, but unfortunately they didn’t have “The Elephant Vanishes,” the author’s oldest collection of short stories. I went to the Eastern religion/thought section to find the newest Pico Iyer book about the Dalai Lama. Again, no such luck! I continued to wander along, and perhaps because I was hungry, somehow found myself in the culinary section. There, shelf after shelf of cookbooks were calling me. Needless to say, I succumbed to their come-hither attractions and spent a good two hours leafing through the extensive selection of gorgeous tomes. In the end, I couldn’t choose between two, Molly Wizenberg’s touching and dreamy “A Homemade Life,” and David Tanis’ substantive and exquisite, “A Platter of Figs.” I felt strongly compelled to bring both seductresses home with me. Long story short, my goal for this upcoming week is to at least do a dish from either one of these books. Of course, that’s provided I meet my submission deadline. Wish me some inspiration!

Posted by: Jennelyn J.M. Natividad | April 15, 2009

A Short Writing Exercise

As I walked by myself
And talked to myself,
Myself said unto me,
Look to thyself,
Take care of thyself,
For nobody cares for thee
-Old song
(Epigram from Alison Lurie’s “Foreign Affairs”)

Parisian Pretensions

As soon as the plane lands in De Gaulle she is no longer herself. She refuses to think and act as a tourist would. She has been here twice before, and each time feels like coming home. She likes to think she really lives here. A true Parisienne. She had a mountain of things she had to take care of back in Culverville. She pulled a double shift and finished all of them before she left. Now, she refuses to think the thoughts of an overworked manager, a bitter ex-wife, or the guilty daughter. This is time she painstakingly carved out only for herself. She intends to enjoy this to the hilt. She pretends to be a woman other than herself and perhaps in so doing, she will become her own self.

Of course she is wearing a black sheath dress, the hemline of which skims just above her knees. A scarf adorns her neck and she looks as she intends to look, cool and poised as she waits in the platform for the R-E-R train bound for the city. In fact, she looks so convincing as a resident sophisticate that a pair of travelers clutching a map thought to turn to her for help. In response to their halting query for directions, she gives them a brusque “Non! Je ne parle pas Anglais!” She quickly puts on her dark, oversized glasses. They are nonplussed. The woman wearing a blue-green Dr. Phil t-shirt says, “I guess Ben and Erma warned us about them, first day here and we get a rude one!” The other blond woman with tattooed dark brows looked disapprovingly at her and muttered, “don’t mind her Annie, I mean look at her, pinched and uptight!”

She turns away as she hears this. She secretly smiles to herself because all that really registers in her brain is the satisfying thought that she was mistaken for someone stereotypically French. The quick interaction only served to bolster the pretense in her mind. She has decided she is no longer the nice, self-sacrificing, ever-quiet Sarah. In this city she is not that woman. In fact, she is anonymous. No one expects anything from her. She has no obligations to fulfill. She is in the City of Light and determined to do as she pleases.

She gets off the train at bustling Les Halles and follows the sortie sign, takes the stairs, and emerges outside the Metro station. She hails a cab easily enough and asks in her careful French to take her to L’hotel de Parc Monceau. The neighborhood is in the 8th arrondisement and the park dominating it is lovely. She feels truly alive. The sense of independence and freedom that came over her earlier has blossomed even more.

In the hotel lobby, as she stands in line to check in, the woman immediately behind her clumsily bumps the back of her legs with a checkered duffel bag emblazoned with the word Barberry. In a voice that seems loud enough to carry to Timbuktu, the woman asks, “excuse me are you with the tour group?” Sarah shakes her head and starts to turn around, but the woman would not be deterred from trying to start a conversation. “There’s got to be a huge group of them staying here, didn’t you notice?” At Sarah’s blank look, the woman continued, “we’ve been on the same flight since Los Angeles.” At this point, the buffer wall that is Sarah’s confidence develops a hairline crack. She wonders what this woman really wants from her. She is threatened by this woman whose loud and bumbling presence assaults her senses, and somehow imposes on her personal space. Instinctively, she knows that the persona she inhabits is at risk. As her attention is called by the clerk at the registration desk, she grabs her chance. She quickly steps forward and does not look back.

The next morning, she happily immersed herself in art and culture. These were things she did not have much inclination for, nor time to pursue in the past. Afterwards, she walked along the covered arcade parallel to the Louvre on Rue Royale. She finds the old, venerable tea salon featured in her trusty Michelin guide, and orders a pot of chocolat chaude and pastel-colored macarons as soon as she is seated. She feels relaxed, satisfied and completely forgets about her aching feet. She surveys the small, yet rich feast on her table. Suddenly, a familiar voice pierces above the hushed conversations around her. There is some commotion at the entrance and this catches her full attention. Sarah’s eyes hone in on the source of the disturbance and she immediately regrets her curiosity. The very same woman from the hotel vigorously waves at her, all the while successfully sidestepping a displeased waitress as she moves forward. She reaches Sarah’s table and the woman unceremoniously plops herself on the seat in front of her. “Hello! So what’s good here?” Sarah simply looks at the woman wide-eyed, speech having abandoned her. The woman offers her a big, toothy smile and says, “don’t look so surprised dear! I saw you at the Loovrah but you were walking too fast. I’m just now catching my breath.” The woman’s wheezing continues for a bit. “Tell me, what are we doing after this?”

Posted by: Jennelyn J.M. Natividad | April 12, 2009

“THIS IS JUST TO SAY”…I think I heart you Kenneth Koch!

I was driving on freeway 5, listening while this poem was being read over the radio. I hope that whoever reads this will have at least the same reaction as I did hearing it on NPR today. I laughed so hard I thought I would need to pull over. I found Koch’s spoof of William Carlos Williams’ poem, “This is just to say,” hilarious, unsettling and laced with more than a touch of bitterness. Certainly, quite an antidote to the mundane and tepid-in-its-earnestness poems one might encounter elsewhere. Here you go:

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams
Kenneth Koch

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

This is a piece by the poet Phillip Lopate that I first read in a book by Anne Lamott, truly a writer after my own heart. I find this poem funny and irreverent. I will not go so far as to say that the message/s resonate/s with me, but some of these expressions of …uhm, for the lack of a better word—paranoia—have crossed my mind in a vague, split-second sort of way :). I hope you enjoy reading this, and if it rings true for you in some way, and only if you’re worried about it, let me know and I’ll gladly drive us both to a professional.

We who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting.
as a group,
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
discontent and
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift.
Your analyst is
in on it
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband;
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us.
In announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves.
But since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community
of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center,
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make unreasonable
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your disastrous personality
then for the good of the collective.

Posted by: Jennelyn J.M. Natividad | April 7, 2009

First thing in the morning and I fall victim to vanity

It is a beautiful morning and as I slowly wake up, I hear the birds chirping outside my window. I reluctantly open my eyes and stretch, my upper limbs reach upward and then they fall leisurely to my sides. I feel the muscles in my upper back, you know, that space between the shoulder blades tense up then release. The delicious moment is marred only by the sight of my reflection in the mirror. In my room, I have these floor-to-ceiling mirrors directly facing the right side of my bed. The mirrors are positioned just-so because both function as sliding doors for my closet which run parallel to my bed. You’ve seen them before. You know the kind. I struggle to sit up from under my comforter of the quilted, old-fashioned type. I blink away remnants of sleep and open my eyes even wider. I look for my eyeglasses, the only pair I own, on my night stand. My spectacles are not there. Aha! My left hand reaches for it right next to my pillow, and I perch them gingerly on my nose. Now I can view things much more clearly. To my disappointment, such previous actions don’t change what I see across from me. Oh, for a pair of rose-colored glasses.

I tell you, what I can see this morning is enough to turn my thoughts sour. I am not vain, or so I say. It’s not the unmistakable chubbiness of my overall form that I object to, nor the limp, unmanageable hair. I have long accepted that I am forever destined to be dependent on volumizers. The perennially sad state of my tresses is bearable. The appearance of bilateral bags under my eyes are expected after a punishing and sleepless weekend at work. I know them as a consequence to the demands of my job. None of these are cause for too much concern at the moment. However, what bothers me are the two, vertical, short yet deep grooves medially flanking both my eyebrows. No, seeing them first thing in the morning does not only bother me, they seriously offend me! I know I am getting older, but should I have expected this? I moisturize and apply sunblock daily and exert every effort to stay out of the sun. Also, I make it a point to hydrate often. I have worries, but who doesn’t? My mind craves for a more concrete, direct explanation. I think to myself, do I scrunch up my forehead when I sleep? I must be doing so for such deep grooves to appear conspicuously on my face.

This reminds me of the time that our family dentist asked me, not without concern, if I grind my teeth at night? I answered in the negative, but really, how would I know? She asked if I was undergoing great stress. At this query I answered in the affirmative, and all she said was “that must be it.” Nothing was done then, nor did I expect anything to be done further. It turns out it was just a simple inquiry, a passing curiosity on her part. I’m cool with that. I wish I could say the same for the two very concerned, if not angry, grooves on my forehead.

Posted by: Jennelyn J.M. Natividad | April 2, 2009

Just rambling: Super King, the transcultural & sensory center of Los Angeles?

Anybody who has been to Los Angeles knows that this is a city built for driving. Forget the old saying that “one won’t survive here without a car.” One can, but it’s difficult especially if one is in a rush as everybody often is nowadays. I have, in fact, seen changes that would counter that tired old generalization: small neighborhoods like Culver City are continuously being redesigned to be more bike-friendly and walkable; I’m told the Metro trains are kept quite clean, are fairly reliable timewise, and have more access points than ever before; and the L.A. bus transit increased its routes and frequency of returns since the recent gas crisis, due to commuters’ demand.

However, part of L.A.’s allure for me is in the way I can just drive from one cultural access point to the next. And when I say “cultural,” I usually am referring to food, people of the diaspora, exciting screenings, exotic wares, and fancy, often undecipherable (to me,) signage. Drive 20 minutes that way and one can find themselves in Little Tokyo. A few blocks down Alameda is Olvera Street, right next to Chinatown. From there, ten more minutes of driving westward and there’s Koreatown. If you drive a little further in the northeast direction, you’ll find Historic Filipinotown. The experience for me of going to these places is like being in a foreign country without having to spend for pricey airfare. If like me, one is in the habitual practice of ‘willing suspension of disbelief,” you’ll find it an economically-savy way to go on vacation, or at the very least (if your imagination is less elastic,) akin to taking a temporary cultural immersion class.

People have always described Los Angeles as a melting pot, a cultural crossroads of sorts. This is where Super King comes in. I think it’s the perfect microcosm of transcultural Los Angeles. It’s a grocery/market located in Eagle Rock, very near Glendale. Both neighborhoods have a high concentration of Armenian and Filipino residents, and most of them come to shop at Super King along with an impressive number of people of Middle Eastern, Latin American, Chinese, and Eastern European origin. The appeal of this particular food market is not because they cater specifically to Armenians, Europeans, nor Asians. It appeals to the residents of Los Angeles, regardless of their ethnicity/country of origin because Super King offers an abundance of things for everybody.

Apart from Trader Joe’s, this is the grocery/market after my own heart. They have the freshest and the most inexpensive produce in Los Angeles, a bar just for olives, a wide selection of nuts & dates, an extensive dairy section, a European-style bakery, a cheese and deli counter, and butchers that really know their cuts. Need I say more?..oh, but you know I will!

I tell you, a rich sensory experience awaits one in this place. It’s magic to the senses. All that color, quite a sight to see. The majority of scents smell sweet, mostly familiar, but there are also strong, enigmatic odors to be had :D. Super King must have more than thirty kinds of spices, and herbs both dried and fresh, exotic fruits and veggies like cherimoyas, dragonfruits, chayotes, smoky chilies, prickly green nopales, crisp Persian cucumbers, cute Foret pears, tiny apples of a kind I’ve never seen before. They sell different meats and, if you like, all their parts. One can appropriately describe it as everything from hooves, tail and balls, to snout (as I said, only if you like it that way). There’s goat, lamb, ostrich, quail, rabbit, and the familiar triad: beef, pork and chicken. They have bitter waters from Eastern Europe, olives from Greece and grains from Asia and Africa still in their sacks, loose tea in tins with Hindu and Arabic writing. Snacks from East and Southeast Asia, fig & cardamom cookies from the Middle East, etc…

Having described all this, the fact remains that one has to experience this place for one’s own to fully appreciate it. How else is one to see the little things that make moment to moment special? For example, while I was picking bright red tomatoes, a cluster still in the vine, I had direct view of a very tall young woman (approx 5’10,) choosing carefully from a pile of dark purple, rounded, Indian eggplants. A perky baby, all wide awake, was strapped on her back. I wondered, what must it be like to see the vibrant array of colors and shapes from that vantage point? The baby seemed entranced. Perhaps, that baby will grow up to be a genius in the kitchen, a creative chef, a sensualist…An older lady, a bespectacled nun in gray was looking at the shelf full of different bitter and herb waters. I thought, what if in those very bottles are incredible cures we simply don’t know about? Oh well, I should have asked her then. I’ll do so if she’s there when I go back next week for hazelnut spread. It’s the kind from Europe without the cocoa fat solids for only $3.99. Ha, I hope that got your attention fellow Nutella lovers!

Stay tuned…

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