We read portions of our stories at the February 12 launching at the Podium. I was sandwiched* between two writers I highly respect, Butch Dalisay and Dean Alfar, whose Amnesty and Terminos are required reading in my literature pilot class.
This being a food and fiction book, Dean read of adobo, while Butch read about egg rolls.
I read about poop.
Because I have foot-in-mouth disease when I feel terribly inadequate—say, like reading about poop next to a table laden with food—I turned to Butch and said, "My poop can beat your egg rolls." To accommodate me, he laughed. He had also laughed when, in my first day of class under his tutelage, I mumbled something about his probably being ornery (I was nervous, see? And late for class). He was telling us to write to our highest standard, to write for those who are ornery, fussy and difficult to please. I blurted, "But that's almost the entire English department." And the dear man from the English Department (he was the dean, alas!) laughed as I swallowed my tongue, buried my head in the sand, and shot myself. Closopen was the first I wrote for his class, and the first that I submitted for an anthology.
Tonight I chanced upon the Passion for books article of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine, listing A la Carte as a must-read for summer and Closopen as a choice cut. Oh, the joy of being affirmed for what one does!
You'll need two vital ingredients before you start devouring this book: a full stomach and a comfortable seat some distance away from a working kitchen and a food court. Because definitely, a hungry reader will be torn between finishing the sumptuous stories and rushing off to try out the recipes offered as appetizer at the start of each chapter. The tasty morsels leave you convinced that food is more than just repast; it is also the stuff of national pride, childhood memory, romance, regret, rivalry, and even bloody murder. This book is one thick bubbling stew that satisfies one's hunger and imagination while whetting the appetite for more. Best cuts: "Wok Man" by Jose Dalisay, Jr.; "Closopen" by Janet Villa, "No Salt" by Nadine Sarreal, "Pedro and the Chickens" by Ian Rosales Casocot, "Kitchen Secrets" by Shirlie Mae Choe, and "Does It Matter What the Dead Think?" by Erwin Cabucos. (by Penny Azarcon-de la Cruz)
* Sandwiched, har har. Pun really not intended but, hey, still appreciated.