Wednesday, October 31, 2007




Today I am cooking tongue. I should say "Lengua" to make it sound more dignified, but it's tongue nonetheless - a huge cow's tongue around a foot long, still with the grizzly covering that needs to be peeled off. It's in boiling salted water right now, and later on I'll peel that outer skin off. That's the ugly looking part, with little pimply bumps, the sight of which can make a person reject eating tongue for life. But since I grew up eating Lengua Estofada and Lengua Escarlata and Lengua Con Setas, and no longer have the cook Menggay around, I have to do the dirty work. The sight of the ugly uncooked tongue doesn't bother me because when I look at it, I can imagine the cooked tongue on a platter, with velvety red-brown sauce covering it, some mushrooms, plantains, and onions, maybe carrots and sweet potatoes surrounding it. Very elegant. Mouthwatering.

I've learned to appreciate the ritualistic feeling of preparing the comfort foods of my youth. It feels healing, like I'm connecting to some part of myself that sometimes I forget is still there! The part that eats tongue!

I had a difficult time finding today's tongue. My Filipino market, Seafood City on Vermont, didn't have tongue; neither did Von's; and fortunately Albertson's in Santa Monica had tongue. The wonder of it is that it was inexpensive; it was only ten dollars for one cow's tongue. Think of it, one big cow gave up it's life so I can cook that tongue. I wouldn't give up my tongue for just ten dollars! But maybe it's cheap because many Americans do not eat tongue. I think only Deli's serve tongue, in sandwiches, and we have some friends who have distant memories of tongue being served in their homes, but they no longer serve them in their homes.

My American family does not eat tongue. That is an understatement. My American family abhors tongue. They are terrified of tongue. When they see the huge cow's tongue coiled in my huge cooking pot and they see strange foamy scum floating on top, they turn away in total disgust. "It's Ok," I say, "I'm throwing away that water. It's just to remove the outer skin."

I'll admit that when the children were young I used to tease them by holding the uncooked tongue in front of my mouth, so maybe that little joke has permanently damaged their relationship with beef tongue forever. I'd tried to convince them that it tastes just like beef, but just by looking at the slices of tongue, they could tell that the texture was different. I assured them it's tender, and tasty, and melts in their mouth. They were unconvinced. Once I cooked tongue along with some beef stewing meat; that is the two kinds of meat cooked in the same liquid/marinade - and they swore they could detect the taste of tongue on the beef and refused to eat the beef stew. So really, I stopped cooking beef tongue for the family. And there's no point going through all that work just so I can have my Lengua. But this weekend, I'll be seeing a couple of Maryknoll college classmates, Maria Ciocon and Med Villanueva, and like me, they were raised to appreciate such fine food as Lengua - so I'm cooking tongue for them - for us.

After I peel the rough outer skin, I will brown the tongue in my big enamel pot, then I will sautee onions and carrots, then I will pour in burgundy, soy sauce, beef stock, garlic, bay leaf, pepper (I have to check my recipe book - and then I improvise as I go along) - and stick all of that in the oven for a good 2 hours or longer. Then, I'll adjust the taste, and I will let it sit in the fridge for a couple of days to let the meat soak in all that wonderful juice. Then it will be ready for serving, with some full-bodied red wine, and rice, because we eat rice with most everything, and rice will sop up all that delicious sauce.

That's the plan.

Read also:
Cooking with Cecilia Brainard - Quiche
Cooking with Cecilia Brainard - Linguine with Clams
Cooking Lengua Estofada
Food Essay - Fried Chicken Caribbean-style
How I Learned to Make Leche Flan (or How I Met my Husband)
Cooking with Cecilia - Leche Flan (Vietnamese Style) 
Easy Filipino Recipes from Maryknollers
Cooking with Cecilia - Beef Bouruignon
Cooking with Cecilia - Chicken Soup for my Bad Cold

(Photo shows Cecilia with her famous Beef Bourguignon
Bottom Photo shows Cecilia, Med Villanueva, and Maria Ciocon)

tags: Food, wine, cooking

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I thought "Darjeeling Limited" would be an Indian film, in the tradition of "Water" by the Canadian Indian filmmaker, Deepa Mehta. It wasn't. It was set mostly in India, and had some Indian minor characters, but the main characters were three brothers, presumedly wealthy Americans. They are in India on some kind of spiritual quest and also in quest of their mother who has a history of abandoning them. The movie actually starts with a short clip of one of the brothers and his girlfriend in an hotel in Paris. This is called Part I, and Part II is the main part with the 3 brothers hopping on and off the Darjeeling Limited train, and other means of transportation as they travel through India visiting spiritual sites, and finally visiting their mother who lives with nuns at the foot of the Himalayas.

The film is a bit slow, but there was enough there to hold my attention. The interaction among the brothers is interesting - it's amusing, with some tension. Their interaction with others: the assistant of the oldest brother, the train stewardess, the local people also adds to the tapestry of the movie. This isn't a plot-driven movie, and so the closeups, the raised eyebrows, the sighs, the dialogue are all important. We find out that these brothers had lost their father, and the mother had not shown up at his funeral. The brothers find themselves in a funeral of a boy in India. It was interesting to watch the rituals involved, and while there was no big emotional impact, on a subtle level the viewer was supposed to relate this to the father's funeral that these brothers had witnessed.

So the movie flows in a subtle way, small things happening to them, their journey through India, and the viewer gets to know the brothers a bit more - not a lot - and they are charming and funny, and the Indian scenery is different and colorful and captivating. So, nothing big here, no important message, but it was a pleasant enough way to spend almost two hours.

The other movie, "Dan In Real Life", is described as a romantic comedy. It is about a widower who attends a family gathering with his three daughters. There, he meets and falls in love with his brother's girlfriend. She also falls for him - and this is where I start to have problems because I'm not comfortable of the flirtation between Dan and his brother's girlfriend, right in front of the brother and entire family. The girlfriend breaks off with the brother, two hours later she's necking with Dan in a bowling alley, but then that seems to be OK because the brother quickly picks up another hottie, and so Dan and his daughters go off to find the love interest.

This movie reminded me of "Sideways", another romantic comedy; that one was about a man about to get married who takes off with his friend to the California Central Coast wineries where he picks up some woman as a last fling. Again, it was a technically well done film, and yes, I'll admit there were funny parts, but if I really thought of it, it was appalling that a man would be so unfaithful to his bride-to-be.

Maybe it's beause I've been raised by nuns all my life. That must explain why my values are different and why I see through these technically well-done films, and see the characters for what they are - shallow with (what I call) questionable morals. Sister Cecilia here, raised by Belgian and American nuns from Kindergarten all the way to College; avid fan of Thomas Merton, C.S. Lewis, Gandhi, Jesus and Mary too.

Do I sound cranky? Let me end this in a lighter note, I heard from a writer friend in France, Michael Genelin (murder mystery author, Sirens of the Water)who met another writer friend in a Halloween party on the Seine, Bonnie Melvin (author, A Normal Life).

What a small world we find ourselves in!

Friday, October 26, 2007


I didn't have internet access for a while, thus the silence. We boarded the Grand Princess in New York and headed north, to Boston, Bar Harbour, St. John, Halifax, Sydney, Cornerbrook (Newfoundland), on to Quebec where the cruise-part of the trip ended. From there we took the car to Montreal.

After that unusual heat wave in New York, the weather continued to be erratic - at times chilly, rainy, and then warm once again, even in Montreal, just a few days ago. During the early part of our trip, the leaves hadn't turned. A cold snap is needed for the leaves to change color, and it wasn't until Bar Harbour when we finally saw leaves that had turned color in the Acadia National Forest.

There's much to talk about - the sights we saw, the history of the places, and all the fun we had in the cruise ship as well - I don't know where to begin really.

The place that enchanted me most was Quebec. Quebec, the only walled city in North America, sits perched on a hill, with ramparts around it. We stayed in the Marriott in Place D'Youville and right in front was an ice skating rink where people skated - the children were the best to watch, some with their training poles (like walkers). Quebec has numerous stone buildings from the 1800s and earlier, and it feels very European. The people speak French and are fiercely proud of their Quebecois culture. I laughed when I saw a newspaper article about Quebec wanting their own citizenship requirements. My French daughter-in-law says the French spoken in Quebec is different from that spoken in France; and it would be, of course. But some food dishes seemed authentically French - French onion soup with a thick layer of cheese; escargot in garlic-butter; croissants of course, other dishes. They did have Quebecois food - I had reindeer stew, and there was an interesting dish called Raclette, which consists of an assortment of vegetables, cheese, meats that's slowly cooked and eaten with a potato pancakes.

When I went antiquing in Quebec, a dealer made some comment about not having a lot of sterling silver items, just silverplate, because the people in Quebec were poor. I also saw a folkloric performance, dancing and music which sounded a lot like Louisiana Zydego. The costume looked like farm clothes; and instruments were variations of kitchen utensils.

But I suspect that these settlers of this cold place were tough and tenacious, having had to fight the British, and to resist being Anglosized.

The one thing that made me sad was the situation of the Catholic churches there. There are numerous beautiful churches, but few people go to church, and so some of these churches are being turned into condominiums (the facade is preserved); and others operate more like museums. They are beautiful but lack life; and they feel sad. But there are churches that are still used and you can feel the difference when you walk into the church - the Shrine of Sainte Anne de Beaupre for instance is a living, vibrant church. In fact this is a major pilgrim site for devotees to St. Anne, mother of Mary, grandmother of Jesus. Many miracles have taken place here, and there are walls showing crutches and canes, proof of miraculous cures.

All for now, more next time.

P.S. Oct. 31 - John Allen writes to say, "I've been enjoying reading your blog since you and Lauren went to Philly. I have one historical correction. Despite what you heard in Quebec there are three walled cities (charming as they are it's a good, pleasant thing there are so few) in North America: St Augustine (founded 1565), Quebec, (1608) and Charleston, S. C. (1680). All three are fun places to visit."

I did more research and the following statement is correct: Quebec City is home to the only preserved and maintained walled city in North America.
Other walled cities in North America are in St. Augustine, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina.

READ ALSO a 2013 article re Quebec

Sunday, October 7, 2007


The last time I visited New York City was a few months after 911. My friend Susan Montepio and I went to Connecticut for a conference at the University of Connecticut, and afterwards, we went to New York. We stayed with her niece in uptown New York. New York then was very somber; there were few tourists around; people were surprisingly helpful and kind to us. We visited Ground Zero and still saw the fluttering notes on the wire fence surrounding the gaping land where the Twin Towers had stood.

This visit, New York, is quite different. It is crowded; it is teeming with life, and energy. There's been an unsual heat wave here and people have been in a kind of summer mode, eating al fresco, promenading about, many windows are open, and occupants actually wave their hands at us as we cruised by in the double decker circle line tour bus. And New Yorkers are once again gruff and rude! It's actually refreshing and funny, and really it's just their way of talking. The tour guides scream at the occupants: SIT DOWN! DIDN'T I TELL YOU TO SIT DOWN? And while my sister in law was haggling with a street vendor over a faux Coach purse, she said, "Oh, it's only $25 over there," the guy says, "You're a liar." It was so rude, we had to laugh.

Ah - but let me give you a brief rundown:

Day 1, we took an uptown and downtown tour with a stop in Battery park, walked to Ground zero, etc. The tour was great because I've visited New York before but never really saw the whole thing - I'd seen parts of it in snatches, but the bus tour goes all around Manhattan, giving you a very good idea of what the place and people are all about.

(We are staying in 414 Inn, on 46th near 8th, walking distance from Broadway and Times Square.)

Day 2: we took the ferry to the Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty is, and we also went to Ellis Island. The statue of Liberty is still gorgeous - the sight of her is breathtaking - just beautiful, well-balance, her green patina a wonderful contrast against the blue sky. I've been to Ellis Island but it was the first visit for Lauren and his sisters, so it was fun to experience the place with them and their mom.

In the afternoon, we saw the musical Wicked, which was great! Glinda was very funny; we had a stand-in but she did an excellent job portraying the self-centered but charming Good Witch. I'd read the book and it was nice to see the musical version of the book.

Had dinner, and outside the restaurant, all up and down Broadway were street vendors. Sundays, the ticket-people are off, and so all the illegal street vendors come out. We started buying faux Louis Viutton and coaches purses, so cheap - $20, $25, and we picked up other purses for $5 dollars! And pashminas for $5 each - (even if fake, nice). etc. etc. We topped the evening with ice cream.

Oh, here's a bit of trivia about New York: it has 30,000 restaurants and only 5 gas stations.
(Photo above with Statue of Liberty shows: Merwyn Bergquist, Paula Alix, Lauren Brainard, me, Kim Del Tiempo

Middle Photo shows: Paula Alix, Kim del Tiempo, Lauren Brainard, Merwyn Bergquist
Bottom Photo shows: Kim Del Tiempo, Lauren Brainard and Paula Alix)

Thursday, October 4, 2007


We visited the Eisenhower National Site, which was the home and farm of Dwight D. and Mamie Eisenhower. They bought the farm in 1950, after Eisenhower's 30 year military career. The farm/ranch is huge, and while the cattle is no longer there, apparently there had been 100 heads of cattle there, some of them prizewinning. The house of Eisenhower is spacious enough and unpretentious. It's a two-story house with a living room, a sun room, a dining room, a den, and office, and servants' quarters, kitchen; upstairs there are several bedrooms. It's decorated in the 1950s style, and the living room has gifts from foreign dignitaries, such as an antique rug from the Shah of Iran, painting from Prague, table from South Korea, etc. After Ike, American presidents were no longer allowed to keep such gifts.

Today's highlight was the tour of the battlefields of Gettysburg. This battle took place in various sections in this town over a period of three days. Some of the fighting took place in town, some of it on fields nearby. The area is huge, and now there are markers from various States to honor those who died or fought there. The figures are staggering: in a 3-day period some 52,000 were killed, maimed, or missing. General Robert E. Lee had gone north and attacked in Pennsylvania; he lost this battle. The South continued fighting for 2 more years, but had to surrender.

It's interesting history and names such as Jeb Stuart, Gen.George Meade, Gen. George Custer, Pickett, Ewell, Jenny Wade, etc. featured in this famous battle.

We saw a light diorama show before we took the actual driving tour, and it was a big help because the area covered is large (battle theater). The diorama gives you the idea of where north, south, east, west are, and where the skirmishes and fighting took place.

Apparently, it took some 50 years, before locals allowed Southeners to build memorials on the battle ground.

I am still considering if such waste of life is worth it all. Lauren says it is, because the South wanted to secede and continue slavery. I am not sure it is quite as simple as that, and I keep thinking of the Declaration of Independence staged in Philadelphia where a group of people broke off from England to have their own way of life.

More dire news about Burma: the military junta continues to terrorize the people there, and I have no idea what the world can do. While the UN and the world dither about what to do, monks, people who have simple staged a peaceful protest are being hurt and killed.

I know that this military junta will not get away with it, but I do not know - and I am curious - how and when they will reap what they have sown.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Valley Forge, Amish, Buddhist Monks in Burma

From Philadelphia, Lauren and I drove to Valley Forge where we visited the Center and drove around the National Park. The site is where George Washington's army camped from the Winter of 1777-1778. Some 2,000 cabins were built, and Washington had his headquarters there. The early part of their stay there was desperate and around 50% of the men abandoned camp (from 12,000 to 6,000). Then there were several things that happened. The Prussian Von Steuben joined Washington's army; Von Steuben trained 100 men military tactics and these men in turned trained others. The other important thing that happened was that France sided with America, which turned the tide of the war. The British had also done a couple of things that weakened their side: they decided to focus on saving their Caribbean colonies; and they withdrew from Philadelphia.

The Valley itself is beautiful, green, lush, although in 1777, the trees had been cut and the forest denuded.

What I understood, which was a new idea to me, was that the Americans were at this point quite organized. I always had the idea that they were a ragtag guerrilla group, but they were more sophisticated than that.

On the way to Gettysburg, we drove through the Lancaster area where we saw quite a lot of Amish people in their horse and buggy, or biking or working in their fields. The farm restaurant where we had lunch had a magnificent view of some farms where a couple of Amish farmers were working. There was something reassuring watching them with their teams of 4 horses as they cleared their land; perhaps it's their simplicity, their closeness to the earth that gives me that feeling. The Amish, Quakers, Buddhist monks - they seem to me to be people of God (I am generalizing of course).

The farms the Amish have are huge and they have silos and barns, giving the impression that they are well-off financially, although they are very low-key and keep to themselves. The Mennonites are the ones who have more contact with the tourists; they run shops, stores, and use machines, unlike the Amish.

Now here's an interesting sight: Amish barn-raising with the use of the crane - yes, we saw this. But there was a chance this was a Mennonite barn-raising, and Mennonites use machinery.

AND NOW another update about the Buddhist monks in Burma, this news from the BBC and USA Today. Can such tyranny continue?

"• The BBC reports that about 4,000 Burmese monks detained during pro-democracy demonstrations will be shipped from Rangoon to prisons in the north. For now they are being held at a race course and a technical college, according to sources from a government-sponsored militia. They spoke with BBC radio's Burmese service.

The monks have been disrobed and shackled, the sources said, and the monks reportedly are refusing to eat.

• There is recent news that Buddhist monks are trying to leave Rangoon, and have been seen in railway and bus stations. Bus drivers have reportedly been refusing to take them for fear they will be refused petrol.
. Curfews and night time raids continue in Rangoon, and there is a climate of fear as well as anger there. The Monks are still refusing to accept alms from the military; many are on a hunger strike; the detained monks are refusing to change out of their traditional robes. Meanwhile, there are reports of people taking turns to guard monasteries against night time raids."


Terrible news about Burma continues. The Buddhist monks in prisons are staging protests by refusing to eat. More reports are popping up about the numerous monks killed. Here's a petition that came from a Philippine source:

From: "Ricken Patel -"
Date: October 1, 2007 9:49:40 AM GMT+08:00
To: ""
Subject: Burma: A Global Roar

Dear friends,

Burma's generals have brought their brutal iron hand down on peaceful monks and protesters -- but in response, a massive global outcry is gathering pace. The roar of global public opinion is being heard in hundreds of protests outside Chinese and Burmese embassies, people round the world wearing the monks' color red, and on the internet-- where our petition has exploded to over 200,000 signers in just 72 hours.

People power can win this. Burma's powerful sponsor China can halt the crackdown, if it believes that its international reputation and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing depend on it. To convince the Chinese government and other key countries, Avaaz is launching a major global and Asian ad campaign on Wednesday, including full page ads in the Financial Times and other newspapers, that will deliver our message and the number of signers. We need 1 million voices to be the global roar that will get China's attention. If every one of us forwards this email to just 20 friends, we'll reach our target in the next 72 hours. Please sign the petition at the link below -if you haven't already- and forward this email to everyone you care about:

The pressure is working - already, there are signs of splits in the Burmese Army, as some soldiers refuse to attack their own people. The brutal top General, Than Shwe, has reportedly moved his family out of the country – he must fear his rule may crumble.

The Burmese people are showing incredible courage in the face of horror. We're broadcasting updates on our effort over the radio into Burma itself – telling the people that growing numbers of us stand with them. Let's do everything we can to help them – we have hours, not days, to do it. Please sign the petition and forward this email to at least 20 friends right now. Scroll down our petition page for details of times and events to join in the massive wave of demonstrations happening around the world at Burmese and Chinese embassies.

With hope and determination,

Ricken, Paul, Pascal, Graziela, Galit, Ben, Milena and the whole Avaaz Team


Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Very, very disturbing news from Australia's Herald Sun about Burma or Myanmar - here quoted:

"October 02, 2007 12:00am
A SENIOR Burmese intelligence official claims thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle.

After defecting from the military junta and fleeing to the Thai border, Hla Win told a reporter from London's Daily Mail: "Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand."

The horrific details emerged as Burma's top general continued to snub the UN's peace envoy, who is in Rangoon on a mission to convey the world's outrage to the junta.

With protests quashed and many monasteries empty, fears are growing for those who have disappeared into Burma's grim jails.

Observers say many detainees have been taken to the city's notorious Insein prison, the Government Technological Institute, the police battalion number seven compound, the Kyaikkasan racetrack and possibly elsewhere.

Mr Win said he fled when he was ordered to help massacre holy men.

Other exiles along the frontier confirmed that hundreds of monks had simply "disappeared".

Pro-democracy campaigners inside Burma yesterday released a graphic video showing the semi-naked body of a badly bruised monk, floating face down in a Rangoon river.

Mr Win, 42, a former chief of military intelligence in Rangoon's northern region, said: "I decided to desert when I was ordered to raid two monasteries and force several hundred monks on to trucks.

"They were to be killed and their bodies dumped deep inside the jungle. I refused to participate in this," he said.

Dissidents hiding along the Burma border said thousands of monks had been locked up and were being beaten inside blood stained temples."

Above Photo of Dead Monk, courtesy of Democratic Voice of Burma and BBC

Philadelphia and Map of Old Cebu

Lauren and I arrived Philadelphia yesterday and toured today: Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and American Constitution were signed, Constitution Hall, Christ Church where Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Betsy Ross, John Adams, Francis Hopkinson and others worshipped; cemetery of Christ Church where Benjamin Franklin and other signers of the Declaration are buried; Betsy Ross house, Benjamin Franklin's house, etc. The history is fascinating of course, but what hit me most of all is the fact that the Constitution is not a done-deal; it is a living document. It took a while before African Americans actually got their freedom, it took a while before women could vote; there is a need for constant vigilance about freedom.

This is my first visit to Phillie and didn't know what to expect. I thought maybe it would look like Boston, but it's different. The old section is gentrifying, and many of the old brick buildings are still intact. We also drove around the downtown section, saw the high rises, and the museums. Phillie is not without charm, at least the old section. It is clearly gentrifying, and even with the restored colonial buildings and the art galleries, restaurants, and hotels, there are still some seedy sections. But it feels safe to walk around even at night, and it feels as if it will develop even more.
On another topic, here is a map of Old Cebu, known as Escondrilla's map, dated 1873, courtesy of Melva Java and Louie Nacorda. Another Cebu trivia: Sangcianko street used to be Vasco de Gama, info courtesy of Resil Mojares and Louie Nacorda.