The past workweek was tremendously busy and furious. The kitchen constantly served catering events and group reservations, and at nearly the same labour hours and with more workload at hand, each and everyone in the brigade was pushed and stretched beyond their physical demands. However, this does not occur as often as usual. It’s Christmas again and with all the get-togethers, reunions and parties spotted in the city, it is by far normal to be frenetic, frantic and to what they call here “stupidly crazy” in the hospitality and food service businesses.
It’s indeed that time of the year again when get-togethers amongst close friends; family, compatriots and even ex-lovers tend to happen. The air just changes instantly and for whatever reason, the troubled society and the warring nations somewhat pause to a standstill, becoming warmer and comforting to strangers and a bit generous to street urchins and beggars. This must be the magic of Christmas, the magic brought forth by coming of the ‘One.’ In a couple weeks, this magical mystery tour in what my ‘brother’ coined as a hostile environment will end. Everyone does not want this moment to disappear, I suppose. It’s such a joyful occasion. Who doesn’t want infinite bliss?
Living in a busy and desolate concrete jungle makes me somewhat emotional and sentimental sometimes. It’s only this season that my emotions flare and by far mine is already torched. This is one of the quietest seasons I have celebrated (what celebration?) and for whatever reason; any social gathering or connection to anyone is precious and dear. Almost everyone I have met or bumped into has had plans to be away from the city, away from societal misdemeanours. It’s such time, again, just brilliantly fantastic! And I’m here stuck battling an apartheid of mixed emotional tundra.
In one of those solemn and quiet moments after work, I did feel some real Christmas spirit in the air. On the 14rth of December, Maripi and I planned and hosted a dinner for friends to celebrate this once a year forthcoming. Knowing that almost everyone would be away for the holidays or maybe would be on somebody else’s lap and arms, this gathering would have been the last one for the year, a last hurrah of sorts. Just as what Christmas may have exemplified over and over here and around the globe, it was a joyful hosting of food, wine and good and meaningful conversation.
Maripi had prepared the aperitivo and insalata while I took care of the entree. The aperitivo Maripi concocted was a canape of crackers, dulong and capers. It matched the Sherry and white wines brought by guests. The dulong, which was bottled and preserved in a brine of olive oil and seasonings, made a spiritual and traditional homecoming of a Filipino fish, making the start even more nostalgic. Unfortunately, I had to skip the insalata. It was topped with surimi, making my palate up and arms, and my tummy flipping in despair if I had taken it.
I have never in my life cooked for a group and this became some sort of a challenge. I’ve cooked for two a year before that just to test what I have learned in CulinarySchool, but never for five and I only had two hours to finish everything. I knocked my system out and began the challenge. I prepared the following: Stuffed Chicken Legs in Sherry Reduction, Boneless Chicken Breast in Mushroom Sauce, Roasted Zucchini, and Rice with Tomatoes and Beans. From the way the dinner went, the Stuffed Chicken Legs took a perfect score of ten. The group loved it! And I of course was in LALA land. This goes to prove that being patient in prep work does wonders to food. It took me about an hour to de-bone and stuff 4 Chicken Quarter Legs and another half hour to cook the sauce. I have learned a lesson in this undertaking that I will carry with me for a lifetime. Based on this dish, I have concluded that being patient on something or to someone could be rewarding, I reckon this conclusion goes well too in winning a woman’s heart. I have some more miles to go.