Friday, January 25, 2008

No Chef, She!

I burned the chicken again today. The other day I charred the brussels sprouts. Good thing I don’t have any one else counting on me to get fed. I marinated the chicken thighs last night in soy sauce, orange juice, sesame oil, sesame seeds, green onions, lots of garlic, and black pepper. Mmmm… yum! Try it sometime. It’s really delicious eaten with rice and Thai-style cucumber, carrot and sweet onion salad.

Then, just before lunch, I put the chicken in the broiler and started tooling around on the internet. It was an extremely busy day today with tons of emails, lots of moderating, writing, reading and research to do.

Before I knew it, the fire alarm was beeping, Arnold was barking in my face, and the cats have scampered on top of the bookcases, knocking down books and bric-a-brac. I couldn’t salvage the chicken. It was hard as rock with a measly sliver of meat clinging to the bone. Lunch turned out to be a bowl of cold cereal.

I’m not too good around the house. I’m great at the aesthetics of living, like what curtain treatment would fit which room, what style lamp goes with what, or what plant will do well in certain light conditions. I’ve got a queer eye that way. But I’m a disaster in the kitchen. In the twenty-two years I lived with my mom I never saw her cooking or baking, or doing anything domestic. When I was very young, my mom was an editor for a Philippine women’s magazine, and luckily, she took me along with her to work, wherever that happened to be. Mom was taking her daughter to work even before it became the fashionable thing to do!

I also remember tagging along with my mom to lunches with her friends – artists, writers, reporters, fashion designers, politicians, university professors, business men and women, ambassadors, foreign dignitaries, and all kinds of VIP’s. Of course I didn’t know it then. I mean, I guess I knew they were important but to me, they were just mom’s friends. Mom always wore a string of Mikimoto pearls, her birthstone. Papa gave her lots of pearls. After she died, I got one of her necklaces, and the one and only time I wore it, I broke it. I’ll re-string it one of these days.

Papa doted on my mom, and mom indulged her interests. I never saw her lift a finger unless it was to wield a sumi-e brush in a Japanese painting class, or a pruning shear to cut chrysanthemum stems for an ikebana arrangement. Of course mom’s tool of choice was her mini Corona typewriter.

I never actually saw her typing or slaving away over her Corona. The Corona always had a single-ply onion skin paper fed into the roller, though, ready to receive her thoughts. Mom had her typewriter on a small desk next to her side of the bed but whenever I entered her room I always found her in the reclining position, eating bonbons and leafing through American magazines – Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, and yes, even Cosmopolitan. (I remember seeing the issue with Burt Reynolds as the centerfold, butt naked. I thought it was gross and creepy, like looking at a human with a gorilla body.)

Mom was always in a good mood and would greet me with the broadest, loving-est, naughtiest smile every time I entered her “inner sanctum” and found her in that relaxed state. She’d announce without an ounce of guilt, “Isn’t it fun to be a writer? That’s why you should be one!”

In spite of the appearance of leisurely living, Mom was a prolific, accomplished and highly acclaimed writer. She wrote the literature textbooks we used in high school (English class was really easy for me). She churned out anthologies, translations of Filipino classics from Spanish to English, edited books, wrote columns, did book reviews. In college, most of my advanced literature professors were her contemporaries, and more often than not, my journalism professors started their careers at my father’s newspaper, the Manila Post, the first English-language newspaper in the Philippines.

I spent most of my career running like a rat in the corporate wheel, slaving away to reach goals not of my own making. I always had enough money to order in, eat out, everyday, every night, year in, year out.

Now I feel the undeniable, unmistakable genetic pull to write, so I must relax, recline on the chaise, and be still for the inspiration to come. I have to live on limited means now to follow my bliss, and eat burned brussels sprouts or cold cereal to sustain me. I’m filled with awe, wonderment and overwhelming gratitude for my mom – all that she was, all that she did, all that she taught me.

If only she could cook!



babe said...

what about your cabbage salad and your stuffed deboned chicken? You slice cabbage as good as a mandolin slicer and debone and stuff chicken with precision and art so as like a sculpturer! The salad never burnt and chicken never burst! Your writing was always with you. Go Maya!!!!

apat said...

i can't believed nanay told you that "it's fun to be a writer"...cos when i told her i wanna be a journalist..she told me "walang pera sa pagsusulat"...weird! =) btw, i can cook...hehehehehehehe....

miss you auntie maya!