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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

entry arrow7:51 AM | A Review of Feasts and Food

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard just forwarded me a review of her latest collection of short stories, A la Carte: Food and Fiction (which she edited with Marily Ysip Orosa, and just published by Anvil).

This review is written by Anna Barbara Lorenzo for Business World Weekender:

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 interview.

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 last.

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."

Well, I'll settle for "cute" any time.

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