Saturday, August 4, 2018

Book Review - A La Carte: Food & Fiction, Eds Brainard & Orosa

A Collection of Short Stories Collected and Edited by Cecilia Brainard & Marily Orosa

Review by Anna Barbara L. Lorenzo, Reporter, Business World Weekender, March 2-3,


As if choosing ingredients for a delicate dish, writer Cecilia Manguerra
Brainard and publisher Marily Ysip Orosa went through a meticulous selection
process for their short story collection.

They sent out press releases and invitations through the Internet, reaching
Filipino writers abroad.

"We first selected 12 stories. We were surprised because they were very
serious. I realized that food brings up memories about families and relations and
sometimes these relations can be very complex," Ms. Brainard said in an

When the first batch turned out to be serious stories coming mostly from
female writers, Ms. Brainard said she encouranged more male writers to send
their stories.

"I was really looking for stories with good, strong character development.
And of course, they had to fit the theme. I have no compuctions about
rejecting work that doesn’t fit. Name does not sway me. They know it’s not
personal," Ms. Brainard said.

The stories came in not just from Manila but also from Dumaguete, Cebu,
Davao, Chicago, Singapore, Hawaii and San Francisco.

Hence, the book, A La Carte: Food and Fiction, is a feast of Filipino tales
coming from different perspectives.

Like a full menu, A La Carte first offers breads, appetizers and salad,
followed by soup, rice and main dishes. Stories inspired by desserts come in

The stories kick off with an easy read, a short autobiographical account by
Edna Weisser who serves classic Pinoy snacks with the German flair in
"Merienda Alemania."

Like warm and rich soup served on a cold and rainy day, Susan Evangelista’s
"Pumpkin Soup" and Nadine Sarreal’s "No Salt" offer heart-warming tales
revolving on love, grief, comfort and understanding.

Carlos Cortes tells about his fondness for puso in his story "Hanging Rice"
and his first trip to Manila where the handy packet of rice wrapped in woven
coconut leaves does not exist.

The collection also includes a cute romantic tale of a man who falls in love
with the waitress who serves his chicken inasal in Ian Rosales Casocot’s
"Pedro and the Chickens."

With food and family being associated most of the time, A La Carte also has
stories that involve abuses within members of the family, as found in "Two
Drifters" by Veronica Montes, "The Fish" by Reine Arcache Melvin and "Kitchen
Secrets" by Shirlie Mae Mamaril Choe.

Getting inspiration from Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, A La
Carte has included recipes to go hand-in-hand with the stories in the collection.

This is a nice value-added touch for lovers of literature and culinary arts.
After all, one might just be inspired to make traditional Filipino favorites
like pork adobo after reading Dean Francis Alfar’s "Sabados Con Fray
Villalobos" or lumpia after Jose Dalisay, Jr.’s "Wok Man."


No comments: