Tonight, I am Summer.

It’s been a while since I last spoke about Sir Boy.  It is not easy to talk about him still.  I can mention him in passing or in jest, but for him to be the topic, I can’t do it still.

As the years pass, I think everyone who has lost someone would agree with me:  it doesn’t get any easier, you only get used to it.

So, thank you, Summer, for speaking exactly what I wanted to say.  Tonight, I am you.  Thank you for being every bit of brave at 10.  I wish I can write a letter the way you do.

Summer's Letter to Daddy

(Source)

I love you.

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RECIPE: “Roast” Beef

One of my missions when I went to New Jersey for a visit was to be able to recreate the dishes my parents were famous in my family for. It may seem so simple, but really it’s not. Our NJ family has had this recipe for years! They were just too um, busy to execute them. So naturally, with my visit, they requested that I teach them how to make those dishes. One of those was “roast” beef.

This recipe was originally from Tita Pinky, whose love for cuisine only grows through the years.  With ovens that are stuffed with Tupperware and microwaveable containers and a deep-seated desire for boldly flavored meat, you can easily spot where the need for this recipe came about.

There are air quotes on “roast” because we don’t really roast it; it takes far longer to do that. It’s a stove-top dish that is sure to hit the right spot for all carnivores in the family. Oh and it comes with really good mushroom gravy too.

To be honest, I am quite hesitant to share this recipe.  A part of me remains selfish and would like to keep things that relate to my father.  But then, I don’t think he would have liked that.

I would like to apologize in advance the lack of while cooking and actual photos of ingredients for this recipe.  When I made this, everything was happening all at the same time — laundry, baby sitting, basement movie dates — that I didn’t have the time to take pictures in between.  No worries, I’ll do my best to describe each step as precisely as possible.

Here’s what you’ll need:

– Around 2lb. US Beef Chuck Roast.  We got ours at A&P for $5.99/lb.

– A whole onion and a whole head of garlic

– Worcestershire sauce.  I am very partial to the Lea & Perrins brand.

– Soy sauce.  I used Less Sodium Kikkoman Soy Sauce for this recipe.

– Half a stick of butter

– 1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup

– Mushrooms, sliced and washed

– About 3 tbsp of your choice of brandy (though this is always optional)

 

The first thing you need to do is prep the beef, the onion and the garlic.  Wash the beef and pat dry.  And grab a bowl to soak the beef in; you’ll have to marinate it for some time.  Half of the garlic, you pound and rub on the beef; throw it in the bowl.  The other half, you mince and set aside.  Then mince the onion too, rub it on the beef and throw it in the bowl as well.  Grab some sea salt and rub it on the beef.

Next, grab the two sauces.  Here’s the thing:  there is no exact measurement for the sauces.  It really does depend on your liking, or as long as the beef gets coated with the sauce.  What we usually do is to add equal parts of Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.

Get dirty; you’ll have to mix all of the contents in the bowl with your hands to make sure the beef is well coated.  Cover with cling wrap and let it marinate for about 2 hours.  (If you’re adding brandy, mix it in as well.  The brandy adds to the boldness of the flavor.  For those concerned about serving the dish to kids, no worries because the brandy usually gets cooked off in the process, but you may also choose to not add this in as well.)

Next, grab a frying pan and heat it up, as in slightly smoking hot.  Take the beef out and sear all sides, as if sealing the marinate in the middle.  Be careful to not cook it too much though, but do not ever skip this step.  Searing the beef makes your dish cut-able for presentation purposes.

After searing, grab a pot big enough to fit your beef in.  Then, toss in the pot the mixture the beef marinated in.  If the remaining amount is too small, just add equal parts of Worcestershire and soy sauces.  In my experience, an additional 2 tbsps would do.  Then add water, just enough to cover 2/3 of the beef.  Bring up the heat to medium and boil for 45-60 minutes or until tender.

In the middle of boiling, flip the beef.  I did this at the 20 minute mark.  It would also give you a chance to pinch the meat and season some more, if you wish.  You will notice that the beef is close to being cooked when you can visibly see that fat separating from the marinate mixture.  When cooked to your desired doneness, turn off the heat and take the beef out.  DO NOT THROW AWAY THE MARINATE.

Now, let’s make the mushroom gravy.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir fry the garlic until slightly brown.  Mix in the mushrooms until brown.  Then, mix in about 3/4 cup of the marinate.  Stir slowly as it simmers.  When it does, mix in the cream of mushroom soup.  Stir until well blended.  Serve over the beef or on the side.  Or both.

The thing with the mushroom gravy though is, because of the cream of mushroom, it tends to expire easily.  Sometimes, we would skip the cream of mushroom and just add 1 tbsp of cornstarch mixed in water instead to get the same consistency.  Without the cream of mushroom, it would definitely last longer.

Don’t worry about making so much of the gravy.  I swear it’s really good.  My niece used it over her rice.  Hahaha.  It also goes well with meatballs and pork chop.

You can serve the “roast” beef with garlic potatoes or steamed rice.  Because we’re severely Filipino, we went with rice.

There you have it!  The recipe of ages, at least in my opinion.  Hopefully when we make it next time, I can post and show pictures.

Let me know how this goes for you.

To my mother

Cliches of all cliches, of course I just had to make a mothers’ day post.  Hahaha.

A lot of people repeatedly say that I look like my mother.  But that’s probably the only thing we have in common.  She’s a math person, I am not.  She’s neat and tidy, I am not.  She does not trust cabs, I can practically run a franchise.  We have almost absolutely nothing in common.

I take a lot after my dad, from the positives to the negatives.  I think that’s why my mother and I are pretty close.  It was because of my dad.  Much like a thief hating the existence of another thief, she makes sure that my father and I understand each other, at the risk of me misunderstanding her.  Which is often the case.  It’s not ideal, but I think she knew that being the only daughter, my relationship with my father has to be built on rock solid foundation.

And that is her.  I don’t think I would have appreciated my father if it weren’t for her constant reminder that it was the both of them that constantly brag about me and my achievements, from the most minute to the biggest.  If it weren’t for her, I would have rebelled so much in my youth (but this is not a complete admission that I am fucking old) to the point of self-destruction.  I got that from my father; we both have the ability to self-detonate.

But my mother held us together.  That one is for sure.

She still hates that I swear.  And that my skirts are too short.  And my dresses are too frilly.  My pants too tight.  That I color my hair in the most outrageous shades by her standards (red, copper, blonde).  That I shop too much.  That I eat out too much.

But if I want a night of pure talking — both gossip and fact — about the future, about the news, basically about anything under the sun, without judgment or prejudice or bias, over a good meal and maybe a movie — definitely over dessert after whatever we do — my default companion will always be my mother.

Nanay

Happy Mothers’ Day.

Baggage check

We all have complicated histories. When was the last time your past experiences informed a major decision you’ve made?

The Moment

This moment also happens to be the saddest moment of my life.  My father died on 21 January 2013, 12 days after my birthday.  We buried him 6 days later.  It wasn’t until his body was buried six feet under did I take a close look at all my relationships:  the one I’m with, my friends, my family.  It was a rude awakening.

It wasn’t that he wasn’t good to me.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t kind.  It was the lost wonder, the humility that comes with feeling a sense of disbelief that this person is with you.  The how-did-I-get-so-lucky feeling.  The I-cannot-believe-she-chose-me feeling.  That one went out the window quite a long time ago, and it took three wheelbarrows of dirt and a hole in the ground to make myself finally admit that.

I have lost touch with the oldest of friends so much that if they did not insist on being present in my life, I won’t insist on their presence too.  That was one of the worst decisions I’ve made, because at my lowest low, my friends were the first one to rally with me.  I am blessed.

My brothers were hesitant to depend on me, but when our father passed, they knew they can count on me for anything.  Some may say this kind of dependence should not be present anymore when you get older, but I do not mind.  I want my brothers to need me as much as I need them.

I realized too that the strongest person in the room — actually in most rooms — is either my mother or my grandmother.  I can only hope to grow up as strong willed as them.

So… I packed my bags for a quick staycation with my best friend and sister Marga, a quick trip to Cebu with another friend, went back to school, worked my butt off, and reclaimed the love that was never lost in the first place.

It is sad that my father cannot see that I am at my happiest, even though work sucks most days and school is hard.  Still, my heart has never been happier, more content, and more at home with it belonging to one man and to all the people I have pulled back in my life.

Oh how glorious it is to be loved by the man who wishes to carry your baggage with you. <3

 

My slice of Pi

It is no secret that 2013 was the most emotional year of our lives.  Having lost my father at a time when I was questioning my existing relationships kicked off the year. And it was mostly downhill from there.

The week before my father died, I watched a movie on my own for the first time after a very long time.  I remember feeling hurt, confused, and more than ever, clueless.  This Ang Lee film was showing then, and I heard nothing but praises for its cinematography and perfect adaptation.

I walked out enlightened and braver, as if I needed it because in five days, I will lose the man who loved me the best.

Life of Pi

These words more than lifted my spirit.  And I believe my faith strengthened as each trial came.

Because this point in my life is exactly where I have always hoped for and prayed to be.

Have a great weekend.