Sunday, December 6, 2020

Betty Ann Quirino Writes about Cecilia Brainard's Books and Shrimp Wonton Soup


Betty Ann Quirino reviews Cecilia Brainard short story collections, Woman with Horns and Other Stories & Acapulco at Sunset and Other Stories:

The recipe for Shrimp Wonton Soup needed clear soup broth, which was to simmer for “three to four hours till fragrant”. I could cook this stove-top or I can make the broth in the Instant Pot, I said to myself. I chose the former so that I had a reason to sit quietly, tune out, and devour the books by Filipino American author Cecilia Manguerra Brainard.

Sometimes, our souls and our palates need a change. I made a batch of shrimp wontons from the new cookbook This Is A Book About Dumplings by Brendan Pang. Instead of the usual pork filling, I used chopped fresh shrimps, flavored with ginger, scallions, rice wine and seasonings. I set the wontons aside in the refrigerator while the savory pork broth simmered on the stove, the steam creeping out from the stockpot’s cover. The soup’s aroma reminded me of my mother’s cooking during my childhood in the Philippines.

I was so engrossed reading these books by Ms. Brainard, that I almost failed to hear the kitchen timer beep, announcing the bubbling broth was ready. I took out the shrimp wontons from the ref. The steamy vapors from the clear soup hit my cheeks. I dropped the shrimp wontons into the deep stockpot. It only took minutes to cook. The soup meal was ready when the leafy vegetables softened. I had enough time to go back to reading the short stories again. Consider these books by Cecilia Brainard as holiday gifts. And this soup is superb, as well. The soup and the books make good gifts and soothe the soul.

Book review: Now, let me tell you about these two books from Filipino-American author Cecilia Brainard. The first one was Acapulco at Sunset and Other Short Stories Published. This is a collection of 17 short stories, inspired by the author’s experiences. The stories were grouped into four categories, descriptive of the settings: Long Ago Tales, Stories from the ‘60s and ‘70s, Stories from the ‘90s, and American Tales.  These stories reminded me of a beautiful bouquet, thoughtfully put together about the Filipino spirit which is strong, resilient and hopeful. They are about family values we cherish, love and romance, bittersweet life experiences, and valuable lessons. My personal favorite was Butterscotch Marble Ice Cream which had me craving for both the ice cream and more stories from Cecilia.

That led me to Ms. Brainard’s second anthology Woman With Horns and Other Stories. The fascinating tales deal with the themes of Philippine culture clashing with foreign influences during historical times from centuries ago. The author’s mythical place “Ubec” (inspired by the province of Cebu, spelled backwards), is the setting for most. Each story is a gorgeous gem from the past. Strung together, the twelve literary pieces glow and remind you of a beautiful world gone by, in provinces where time was ethereal. My favorites were Woman with Horns and The Balete Tree. These made me long for days of the past.

About the Author: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is a Filipino American multi-awarded prolific author of literary anthologies and novels. She founded and runs PALH (Philippine American Literary House) and is an active member of the Phil-Am literary community. Her books are sold on Read more about her on

Tags: Soul Food, Shrimp Wonton Soup, Philippines book, Philippines fiction, Philippines short stories

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