This article came out in the March 2009 issue of Food & Home Entertaining, a really good South African magazine helmed, until recently by uber-editor (and fellow expat and great friend) Naomi Larkin. Naomi is now with another excellent SA magazine, Home & Leisure. Naashon Zalk, an amazing photographer and a dear friend, took the photos.
Though extremely flattering, I can't say it's a 100 per cent accurate, but as a journalist, I can understand it if, in the interests of economy, certain facts end up being bundled together. I mean, I did live in London for a brief time in my early 20s, but I worked neither in PR or Fine Jewellery then. It was more like a lowly receptionist job with a Chinese rice trader in Waterloo right across from a fish and chips shop! After a couple of months I decided I was better off back in Paris, where I had a stint as an audio-typist in UNESCO. The restaurant fare in that neighborhood was unquestionably more elegant and delectable.
And I didn't spend the first half of my life in Asia and the next Europe... what I tried to say was that the first 20 years of my life were spent exploring my Asian side, while the next 20 were spent exploring what was European in me. And now, in my 40s, I love the person that I have become, at ease within different cultures and comfortable with all the parts that make me whole.
However, what seems to me to be a glaring omission is the fact that my being Filipino or mestiza or Eurasian or whatever you'd like to call it, was never once mentioned. Which is baffling, because that, I feel, is so central to my identity, and by extension, to the way I entertain. Ay naku, maybe I should have taken down one of the paintings from the wall and hung a giant wooden spoon and fork instead!
Anyway... The thing about these lifestyle magazine features is that they often make one's life sound more glamorous than it really is. Like you can't really tell my flat is a one-bedroom apartment, can you? A rather chic one-bedroom apartment, true, but a one-bedroom apartment nonetheless.
But, as the article points out, it has been the setting for some very memorable lunches and dinners... among them a diner-a-deux over a year ago or so. I felt both very nervous and very grown up all of a sudden, doing the whole single mom in her own flat, "entertaining" a man thing... don't think I'd ever done that before! Plus it was a sultry summer evening and the atmosphere highly charged. Rest assured, dinner that night did not quite lead to breakfast, but it was a wonderful evening that eventually blended into many more wonderful evenings... and mornings... and afternoons!
In his No Reservations feature last week on the Philippines, Anthony Bourdain wondered aloud why our cuisine, which he seems to have devoured with unconcealed gusto - "Best Pig Ever!" - has not yet become the next big thing. Food blogger and now TV star Marketman has his own theories as to why, many of which I share. But I know for a fact that every time I serve Filipino food, my guests are always astounded at how delightful our cuisine is, how unexpectedly the flavors blend and how come they've never tried our food before.
And of course I bring out the patis and bagoong in the event that someone will have enough of a sense of culinary adventure to swirl a spoonful into his sugpo sa gata or eggplant salad. And while they grimace at the blast of pungent fermented shrimp, here I am oceans away, dreaming of the crisp caramel skin of a lechon, or the gooey richness of bulalo, or the slurpy goodness of pansit luglug... and yes, even the cloying but oh so irresistible powdery, peanut-y and chocolate-y temptation that is Choc-Nut!