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May 30, 2004

Dinner with Tom, Chris, and Barbara

House is full of flowers--peonies from Rima, lilies from Barbara, stasia from Jeremy and Danielle, flowering chive-like stalks from Jeffrey, mixed bouquet from Joan, and a rose-like flower from Renee and Melanie. And, wine, jam, and other love gifts of food from the IHP reunion and Friday and Saturday dinners. Dishes and pots and pans all washed and put away. New Zealand in less than a week. Lots of great leftovers for the week and cherries--mutant doubles, little Siamese twins--from Chinatown, a huge papaya, mangoes, and persimmons.
Last night, we were regaled with Chris's army stories and Tom's start writing art criticism in Houston, Barbara on gin rummy and Max and Chris on playing poker and the importance of cards in their families.
Beautiful day, breezy with warm cones of sun, as I headed out with the little red shopping cart to Chinatown to fill in a few gaps for dinner.
This time:
* With drinks, edamame in the shell with coarse salt and edamame "guacamole" with baked tortilla chips
* Black rice and coconut milk
* Chinese greens with oyster sauce
* Plantains (not successful, too starchy), with papaya, lime. cilantro
salsa (should have added chopped fresh green chili pepper)
* Tamarind eggplant with Thai holy basil
* Salad--watercress, amaranth, yellow carrot planes, daikon disks, lotus root
* Sprouted mung bean salad
* Long bean adobo, with soy sauce, Filipino black vinegar, whacked ginger, garlic, bay leaf, and long beans cut into 3 inch lengths
* Cauliflower, from Julie Sahni, steamed whole, stuffed and smeared with a paste of sauteed onion, garlic, coriander, fennel, chili, almonds, flour and water, and roasted in the over till surface is crisp and brown. Serve with tomato and cilantro sauce.
* Dessert was sticky rice in banana leaves, steamed, fresh mango and persimmons. Max insisted on breaking out the dark chocolate and candied orange peel I brought back from Marseilles, what little there was left, and the almond stuffed figs that Nelia brought from Lisbon to Marseilles as a gift. I surprised them with the cookies that Grace baked and left on my desk as thanks in connection with her wok project.
Cooked till time ran out, as is my way. So, never got to prepare the salsify, turnip and rutabagas, and lotus as dish in itself. Will do that this week.

Posted by BKG at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2004

Friday night dinner

What a festive evening! In deference to Jonathan, I lit Sabbath candles, but consistent with our work all year in the Working Group on Jews, Media, and Religion, I used the tiny ones that Habad hands out in Washington Square Park in their effort to convert Jews to Judaism. Max made the most heartfelt and beautiful toast to Jonathan on the occasion of his new distinguished chair. Jonah, a brilliant 18-year old came, which pleased us no end, as did Elissa. Tamar came from the furthest away, so it was a rare treat to have her in New York. Jeremy and Danielle, whom we so enjoyed having here this year, are about to leave. Jeffrey, my partner in crime, regaled us with his stories.
It was pouring sheets of rain when I went out to shop for dinner, so I donned the rubber raincoat I bought in the market in Tepoztlan last August, a head-to-toe black pancho, and braved the downpour looking like the grim reaper. Took my little red shopping cart and headed for Chinatown. Wearing my pedometer, I logged 4 miles yesterday.
Here's what I finally served:
* Edamame "guacamole": Plunge frozen edamame into boiling water, drain, puree in the food processor (with lots of fresh lime juice and salt to taste) until smooth and creamy. Add fresh green chile and cilantro. Pulse a few times just to integrate. Serve with baked tortilla chips. Nice with drinks.
* Edamame in the pod: Plunge into boiling water just to heat through, as they have been boiled before they were frozen. Drain well. Serve in a Chinese steamer basket with coarse salt. Nice with drinks.
* Chinese broccoli: Blanch, drain well, and slice into 3 inch lengths. Fry lots of garlic in a little oil till golden. Add the greens and toss quickly till hot. Do not overcook. The broccoli should be bright emerald green and crunchy. Dress with little sesame oil and light soy. Delicious!
* Lotus root: I could only find washed, not muddy, lotus root, which means it was pinkish, instead of creamy white, inside. Peel, thinly slice, plunge into acidulated boiling water, remove while still crisp, but cooked through, and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking and remove the starch. I had meant to dress the lotus root with fresh lemon grass and tarragon rice vinegar, but ran out of time, so I tossed a few slices into the second batch of salad.
* Water cress and fresh amaranth salad: Add long thin planings of yellow carrot (I ran the whole carrot, in the length, through the mandoline). The colors were glorious. Dress with dark green Greek olive oil and organic apple cider vinegar and sprinkle with fresh dill.
* Thai black glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk. Made earlier and reheated in the rice cooker.
* Long beans, thinly sliced, with besan nuggets (from Julie Sahni's vegetarian Indian cookbook): In my variation, add lots of chopped fresh dill to the besan batter.
* Cauliflower with dried fenugreek leaves (from Juli Sahni's Indian cookbook): This is one of my favorite recipes, with urad dal, black mustard seeds, and turmeric, and lots of thinly sliced scallions (three bunches for a medium cauliflower).
* Sprouted mung bean salad: A cup of mung beans, barely sprouted (they developed their tiny tail in less than 24 hours and continue to grow slowly in the refrigerator), a cup of quartered grape tomatoes, 1/2 cup finely diced celery, chopped flowering chives, chopped fresh mint, a handful of shredded coconut, and lots of fresh lemon juice. Diced English cucumber is very nice too.
* Eggplant with tamarind and jaggery: Long Japanese egglants, quartered in the length, and cut on the diagonal into finger lengths, simmered in a sauteed puree of onion, garlic, turmeric, and paprika, together with tamarind and jaggery, and served with chopped fresh holy basil.
* Dessert was Filipino sticky rice in banana leaves, which I defrosted and steamed in my pressure cooker and served with fresh sliced mango, dressed with fresh peppermint that Elissa brought from her window sill garden. I also served sliced persimmons and a bowl of cherries that Tamar brought. Everyone brought wine and flowers and little food gifts. Spring has arrived.

Posted by BKG at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2004

Food restrictions

Friday night we celebrate Jeremy and Danielle, who leave New York for Toronto after Jeremy's year as a research fellow in our Working Group on Jews, Religion, and Media at NYU's Center for Religion and Media. We toast Jonathan Boyarin, who is about to accept a distinguished chair in Jewish Studies. And, we are joined by our friends and colleagues Jeff, with whom I have had the pleasure of collaborating all year, Stuart, whom we adore, and Tamar, a dear colleague who is visiting from Israel.
I love cooking for guests with food restrictions and Friday night presents a nice challenge: gout, allergies (dairy and wheat), vegetarians, and kashruth. I'm following new guidelines regarding foods to avoid if you have gout. No problem eliminating such high purine foods as hearts, herring, mussels, yeast, smelt, sardines, sweetbreads, brains, anchovies, grouse, pheasant, partridge, liver, and bacon. Mostly the lists say what not to eat and those lists are very long. Among the good foods are black cherries and celery, not exactly foods to build a menu around. And, foods high in vitamin C, which takes us straight into my favorite territory, vegetables and fruits. Surprisingly, refined grains are better for gout than whole grains.
So, here are my preliminary thoughts (much will change once I see what is available at the Union Square Greenmarket and in Chinatown):
* Dessert is set as I brought 60 packets of Filipino sweet sticky rice in banana leaves from Toronto and will serve them, steamed, with fresh ripe mango.
* Chinese broccoli, blanched and sauteed with garlic and ginger
* Steamed black rice in coconut milk
* Edamame hummus with baked tortilla chips, adapted from this recipe
* Grilled semi-ripe plantains with a papaya-lime-cilantro salsa
* Fresh fava beans in the shell, sliced shell and all, and sauteed with herbes de Provence, Algerian style, as I learned from Joelle
* Lotus root, thinly sliced, quickly poached, and served with fresh lemon grass and lime
* Sprouted mung bean salad, Indian style
* Fresh corn salad, poached in white wine, with whole peppercorns, scallions, and lots of lemon juice
* Fresh flat-leaf parsley and slivered almond salad
* Long eggplant, steamed and dressed with a little dark sesame oil and black Chinese vinegar
* Inabraw, with Indian bitter melon
* Moroccan carrots
I'm cooking again for Saturday night--two guests specified an antipathy to eggplant, one to octopus, and another to rich food--so will draw from this list for them too.

Posted by BKG at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

Deadly medicine, Bengal tigers, and spies

Spent Wednesday in Washington at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, which will be hosting six or seven fellows in connection with their Theorizing Heritage Program. Dinner with one of my favorite dining companions, Frank Proschan (we ate many a fine meal in Hanoi), at what he described as Washington's oldest ethnic restaurant, a Lebanese establishment. The foul madames was outstanding. Had the pleasure at the end of the next day of a few hours with Anna Cohn over drinks and skewered tidbits in the lobby of the hotel at L'Enfant Plaza. Most helpful on thinking about how to place an exhibition of Mayer's paintings.

deadly_medicine.jpg Spent Thursday at three museums. Started with my main mission, Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race, an outstanding show created for the 10th anniversary of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Threading through the Holocaust in a myriad of significant ways is the forte of this museum and this exhibition shows the USHMM at its best. A clear, but not reductive argument, wealth of original documents and artifacts, trace how a utopian visions inspired by evolutionary theories and genetics were translated into social engineering, wedded to a nationalist project that was driven by a program of racial purity and economic calculation--with genocidal results. Throngs of visitors, especially school groups, roamed the museum, many of them visiting the temporary exhibitions while waiting for their turn to enter the permanent one. Nervous laughter on the part of young teens.

tiger_small.jpg From the USHMM to the National Museum of American History to see the new Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals. This hall is consistent with a theatrical trend in reinstallations of old taxonomic collections and animal dioramas, the Mus�e National d�Histoire Naturelle in Paris being the prime example. Throngs of visitors again. Clearly the city has rebounded since 9/11a and visitor numbers are back. No photographs were allowed anywhere in the USHMM, not in the public spaces and not in any of the exhibitions, but at the NMAH the Hall of Mammals and the dinosaur gallery were prime photo ops, particularly given the dramatic opening vistas, which prompted visitors to pose for their pictures, against the backdrop of the animals, adding themselves to the collection of mammals. The caption to the tiger image on the museum's website reads: "The leaping Bengal tiger greets visitors as they enter the new Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals in the National Museum of Natural History."

DSCN5605_small.jpg Having just come from Deadly Medicine, I was struck by the resolute evolution theme here: "Featuring 274 exciting taxidermied mounts and a dozen mammal fossils in a variety of environments�from polar to desert regions and from dry to humid environments�the exhibit tells the story of mammal evolution through adaptation to changing habitats. This message is reinforced throughout - 'You are a mammal; meet your relatives, past and present; all mammals evolved from a common ancestor and share common characteristics; as the world changed, mammals became more diverse; come find out how.'� Evolution offered a way to take advantage of a rich taxonomic collection without presenting it as such (except in a few vintage displays of shells).

DSCN5628_small.jpg Clearly oriented to children, the message is clear and simple (all mammals share three features (hair, ear bone, and breast feeding), though the subject is complex. Welcome to the mammal "Family Reunion" and "Come meet your relatives" are a cute premise for the multimedia show about the evolution of mammals. This show underscores an idea that both anthropomorphizes the animals, drawing on circus traditions of trained monkeys, and allegories the story of biological diversity, which is explained primarily in terms of adaptation to various environments. Those environments are treated cinematically in the exhibition, as backdrops to a small number of spectacular taxidermic specimens--animals shown in a striking pose--rather than in tableaux and dioramas.

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Here the the story of evolution is a celebration of diversity without hierarchy (one big happy family of mammals), which is never reconciled with the narrative of survival of the fittest, whose worst case scenario can be witnessed in Deadly Medicine.

spy_logo.gif Last stop was the for-profit International Spy Museum. I wanted to see the museum, which I could do any time, but had to seize the opportunity now to see the special exhibition, The Enemy within: Terror in America, 1776 to Today, which concludes with 9/11. Quite a place to end on a day that started with Deadly Medicine. Price of admission: $17 for a combined ticket (entrance to the museum as well as the special exhibition), with a $1 discount for AAM members. The museum was created by The Malrite Company (Beachwood, Ohio), which was founded by Milton Maltz, a successful Cleveland business man. Maltz founded the Malrite Communications Group in 1956 and was its CEO until he sold it in 1998. In contrast with the MCG, which focuses on the entertainment industry and especially radio and television, The Malrite Company creates for-profit museums. Maltz was instrumental in the development of Cleveland's popular Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. With his Maltz Family Foundation, he just created the Milton and Tamar Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (Cleveland), which focuses on the Jewish experience in Northeast Ohio. Anna explained his winning for-profit museum formula: a popular theme, museum on the lower floors, condos on the upper floors, a highly successful gift shop, cafe, and destination restaurant.

exhibits_enemy_banner_vertical.jpg I started with The Enemy Within. The audioguide (included in the price of admission) asked me to pretend that radio existed in the 18th century so that history from then to the present might be narrated as a series of eye-witness reports from the scene. In a series of rooms with low ceilings, the exhibition combined serious content with a somewhat tacky, if endearing, installation style. What struck me was the way the topic of terrorism was tackled, given that we are in the midst of an unending war of terrorism precipitated by the defining events of 9/11. First, the subject is configured as the "enemy within," which is ambiguous enough to include not only "enemies" (of the state) hidden in our midst throughout American history, but also how responses to that danger threaten our civil liberties--note the shattered Statue of Liberty as the exhibition's icon. This gave the exhibition a surprisingly edgy quality, a subtly but perceptibly progressive message, though somewhat less so in the handling of 9/11, where Daniel Pipes was a prominent talking head.
The permanent exhibition on spying was geared to all ages, with ducts through which children could tunnel and spy on visitors in the galleries. As in a theme park, visitors waited in line for an elevator to take them to the opening gallery of the exhibition and watched videos while waiting. Each person was asked to assume an identity and was provided with various covers from which to choose. Our task was to remember the details--name, birthplace, occupation, destination, purpose of travel. Here, as in the USHMM and elsewhere, the exhibition establishes a subject position for the visitor and scripts an experience in which the visitor has a defined role, in this case a spy or undercover agent. Then, an introductory film, after which double doors open into the exhibition proper.
The exhibition was quite rich, organized thematically around the nitty gritty of espionage, before treating the subject historically and culturally--the spy in literature and film, for example. The museum takes its subject seriously, but treats it with a light touch. This museum, I am told, is very popular. There are timed tickets to control visitor flow through the modestly scaled spaces.

Posted by BKG at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

Control Room and S21

s21image.jpgWe saw Control Room last night at the Film Forum and S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine Friday night--since Control Room was completely sold out, we saw S21 instead. S21 was slow, deep, and bone aching. Clearly taking a page from Lanzmann's Shoah, but oh so different. Shawna and I visited the site where the film was shot--S21 was the code name for Tuol Sleng prison--which is now a museum. The film was shot in several of the empty rooms, There were glimpses of rooms arranged as part of the museum, but the film did not really deal with the status of the site as a museum today. This complicated the relationship of the film to the site in ways worth thinking about. No tourists, no visitors. Rather, an unremitting focus on the measured confrontation of the filmmaker, two survivors (out of 17,000) of the prison, and several former prison guards. They remembered and reenacted the brutal routines in the stark setting of empty rooms filled with unbearable pain.

Posted by BKG at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2004

The phone call

A call came in for Mayer yesterday. From the UJA (United Jewish Appeal). I took the message. Then I asked, "May I ask what it is about?" The answer was "He applied for a grant." It took me a second to connect the dots. "Oh," I said, "you might like to talk to me," and I introduced myself. "He was awarded the grant," she said. "The jury considers his project very important," adding, "The proposal was very well written." I smiled but didn't say anything. There will be an award ceremony on June 3 and they will send a filmmaker before then to make a little film about Mayer and his work. I mentioned the toy theatre DVD and she was interested in the possibility of including part of it. I will try to come in for the ceremony, but it will be difficult as we leave for New Zealand on June 6. Very gratifying that Mayer's work is being recognized in this way and in Toronto. The Jewish Culture Grant is really a big honor: "In its first round of awards, the council will award five grants of $5,000 each the largest amount of financial support the council has ever presented to visual artists. Eligible artists must either be Jewish or their art must have a Jewish theme." I was thrilled!

Posted by BKG at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)


The family has been terrific. Everyone has phoned, come by, taken us out in the car, and been so attentive and loving, no matter how busy with school, work, and their own lives. This has made all the difference in the world. It is stimulating for Dora. She loves to be surrounded by family. And, it is fun. We enjoy each other very much. Lisa Lou has called and come by, sat with Dora and engaged her in conversation. Shawna has taken us to her concerts. Marv has brought us vast amounts of club soda, wine for our big dinners, and ensured that something interesting would happen each day. Danny and the boys have come by and shared meals with us, whether at their house or ours. Rosie and Candy have called and come to visit. Max has called every day. Pinki has been fantastic, both in lining up the team in a kind of family relay/triage effort and in keeping things on track in France. All in all, a great team!

Posted by BKG at 09:12 AM | Comments (0)


Caring for Dora physically is easy. The challenge is keeping her stimulated, engaged, and occupied, given her limited sight, memory, energy, and mobility. It is too much for one person to sustain. A rich perceptual and sensory environment is so important. She needs companionship, hates to be alone, whether awake or in bed. She can follow a single-stranded conversation, if it is clear and straightforward and of interest to her.
Two breakthroughs. First, she is responsive to Yiddish songs and even got all the jokes on a Menashe Skulnik routine. Reyna checked out the CDs, read the liner notes, and plans on playing the music for Dora to occupy her when Mayer is downstairs painting. I dug around the den looking for CDs and found Mayer's stash of cassette tapes, including Theodor Bikel!

mariam.jpeg And, best of all, one of Mariam Nirenberg singing at a YIVO concert that I organized many years ago to celebrate the release of the record we made of her songs. Here are song samples. Mariam's son Les was there and so was Dora. Mariam, a voice from Dora's childhood in Poland. A voice from the other side. Mariam passed away a few years ago. On this tape, her vibrant voice resonates through the room. And, so does Dora's. There she is on the tape, in her prime, speaking from her intact self. Here she is now, listening to herself then. Many of the songs are about the passage of time, about lost childhood, about growing old, about love.
Second, we succeeded in getting her to go out with Rayna in the wheelchair on their own. They had a heart to heart chat, and Dora gave Rayna good advice about life. She was even affectionate toward Rayna. So, we are making progress.

Posted by BKG at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

Toronto, Day 9

Mayer and Pinki come home today. Marv will take Dora and me to the airport at 1:30 and hopefully we will overlap so that I get to see them before getting on the plane for New York. It's just after 7:00 am, overcast, trees in the back yard gently swaying, and I'm here with my cup of coffee and the The National Post.

hezbollah.jpeg Just read the article on the Hezbollah ad "The Passion of the Iraquis," which appeared on their satellite station, Al-Manar. It shows the terrifying photograph of the hooded Iraqui prisoner to the music from Mel Gibson's The Passion, with the flashing words "no mercy" and "no compassion." It is of interest to Canadians because the composer, Jack Lenz, is a Canadian and he is appalled not only by the ad, but also by the film--had he to do it over again, he wouldn't. Must send the article to my religion and media colleagues at NYU. I grabbed the image from the BBC site.
Dora is still upstairs, actually awake, but not ready to start the day. Last night Danny and the boys took us to dinner at Mayer's favorite Chinese restaurant--all you can eat for $7.99--in a shopping mall on Shepherd, perfect for the boys, who piled their plates and dipped into the freezer for ice cream. Doron contemplated his stash, noting everything on his plate, in layers, and tucked in. I only regret that I did not take my camera so I could properly blog our festive meal. We talked about Tikkun, as Danny and Tsafi attended a meeting last week. Noam graduates high school and is getting ready for the prom--he would rather invite his best friend, a guy, than a girlfriend. It is an important time for him--end of high school, end of NFTY, and the start of university. Doron is driving! And, next year he will run for regional song leader of NFTY. He has expressed interest in guitar lessons. He has already taught himself a lot and is playing beautifully.

Posted by BKG at 08:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2004

Toronto, Day 8

Dora got up today at 8:30, but lay down to rest again at around 11:00. Nice sunny day, cool, squirrels scampering along the telephone wires and rooftops, robins, cardinals, crows, and sparrows feeding on the lawn. Reyna is here today.


Winston arrived a few minutes later with a big cardboard box filled with 100 suman, delicious sticky rice, cooked with coconut milk and brown (or palm) sugar, wrapped in banana or palm leaves (buy frozen, oil the leaves so rice does not stick), and steamed. I am taking 60 home with me to New York. We froze a few dozen and saved the rest to eat today. I will serve them to guests this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Just defrost and steam them and they are as delicious as ever. There are so many ways Filipinos prepare sticky rice.

Posted by BKG at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2004

Tuning memory

Blogged late into the night. Dora is still in bed. This morning for the first time I've got the radio on. Canada's favorite country music station and a few Yiddish CDs lined up for Dora. She seemed to enjoy the concert last night so I thought I would see if she might like to listen to Adrienne Cooper or Mandy Patinkin. Her all time favorite is Theodor Bikel so I will buy a few of his CDs and try that too.
Today I'm trying another approach. I've got Mandy Patinkin singing Mayn shteytele Belz and Doris is singing along a little bit and seems to be enjoying the music. Now she is singing along with Der Rebe Elimeylekh. And, now Rozhinkes mit mandlen and Papirosn. I think we are on to something.

Posted by BKG at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

Memory erased

Last night as I put Dora to bed--she kept saying "I'm so tired. I'm so tired"--she used a Polish proverb: "Old age is no picnic," adding, of course, that it is better than the alternative. Two days ago when we were talking Yiddish and I tried telling stories, I told her about the stories she used to tell me, the parables her mother told her and the proverbs. Did she remember them? I prompted her. She remembered the odd proverb. And, with help, the one about the man who lived with his wife in a little room with their ten children. His wife complained about the crowding so the man went to the rebe for advice. "Bring in the chickens," the rebe advised. Baffled, the man followed his advice. Returning the next day, he complained that the chickens made things worse. "Bring in the goats," the rebe instructed. The man went home and did as he was told. This continued until the cows, ducks, geese, and every other animal was in the house. Exasperated, the man returned to the rebe, who now told him to take all the animals out. The man did as he was told. He and his wife sighed a sigh of relief. How spacious their home now seemed!
But, the most poignant moment, the moment that made me deeply sad, that conveyed the depth of what Dora's memory loss means--at the very least to me--is that she did not remember the parable about the man who did not wash his hands before eating. I explained to her that this was the story I wrote about that got me my first tenure-track job in 1970. I presented "A Parable in Context" at the American Folklore Society Meetings and was literally offered the position at the University of Texas on the spot. I later published the article and it has become a classic in the field. I tried to explain to her how much her stories and proverbs meant to me and how much I knew they had meant to her.
She did not remember the story. She did not remember the context in which she had told it. I was crushed. Like a tape that has been erased. Blank. The archive empty. Where once there were resonant memories of her mother, her wisdom, her parables, a white slate, clear water, pure light....

A man went to rabbi to ask forgiveness for not washing his hands.
"Why," the rabbi asked, "did you not wash your hands?"
"Because I did not say the blessing on the food," the man replied.
The rabbi asked, "And why did you not say the blessing?"
The man responded, "Because I was not eating kosher food."
"Why were you not eating kosher food?", the rabbi queried.
"Because it was Yom Kippur and no Jewish restaurants were open," the man explained.

It is up to us to remember.

Posted by BKG at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

Toronto, Day 7

Blogged late into the night. Dora is still in bed. This morning for the first time I've got the radio on. Canada's favorite country music station and a few Yiddish CDs lined up for Dora. She seemed to enjoy the concert last night so I thought I would see if she might like to listen to Adrienne Cooper or Mandy Patinkin. Her all time favorite is Theodor Bikel so I will buy a few of his CDs and try that too.


Another chilly spring morning, watery yellow light, but clear. No plans for today. Lisa Lou called. She is truly a sweetie and will come by for a visit. She is busy with school and now with moving into her new house. Perfect cacoon. It has "family" written all over it. A place to be happy together. Lisa Lou will come by for a visit. Max called.

This afternoon Shawna picked us up and drove us to her concert, this time with an orchestra. Sweet Pea on the drums!!!! The concert was nice, with a terrific violinst playing a Mendelssohn symphony and a Tchaikovsky symphony during the second half, with, as Hal says, an obligatory Canadian composition. Doris enjoyed the concert, but got tired and impatient during the second half.

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Meanwhile, Shawna ran into a tree when rushing from the car to the building and wounded herself, which we have immortalized here. All the way there and back we sang Yiddish songs--Hal was with us on the way back and he knows the words!--and Doris sang along.

We came home and the family joined us for an early dinner. Doron and Noam were in Ohio at a NFTY gathering, were up all night, and arrived back exhausted, emotionally drained, and enriched. We were nine at the big table, with Marv, Lisa, and Shawna, Danny, Doron and Noam, Hal, Doris and me. I made a calculation: we cooked enough for Friday night's dinner for ten that night, nine tonight, three last night, and three for lunch yesterday--and I still have lots left over. So that's 25 and we are still counting.
Doris had difficulty following the conversation, with everyone talking at once. After everyone left, Lisa stayed behind to visit. Tired and frustrated, Doris lay down on the couch in the den and Lisa and I sat hear her and chatted about children, raising them Jewish, marriage, life. About a half hour into the conversation, Doris pipes up, "I've been listening to the whole thing." So, we solicited her advice about marriage, raising children, and her own experience. To our astonishment, she was like her old self--lucid, coherent, memory more or less in tact, wise, irreverent. When she is bored or tired, she gets frustrated and anxious. After a sleep or a nap and engaged, she is at her sharpest.

Posted by BKG at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)


DSCN5569-small.jpg Day 6 was a big day. After visiting with Danny and talking with Mayer and Pinki by web cam, going to see Lisa and Corey's new house and Shawna's new loft, we came home to rest and have a light supper before going to Shawna's Spring Concert. She plays percussion with the Northdale Concert Band, which was formed in 1967 by students at Willowdale Junior High School in two high school who went on to Northview Height, my highschool, and other students. They rehearse and generally perform at St. Jude's Anglican Church.


I was impressed with the program and with the quality of the performance, as well as with the conductor and his comments on the pieces they played. Bruch's Kol Nidre, Aaron Copland, Wagner, Baring-Gould, Shostakovtch, Bach, Sousa, Fiddler on the Roof, Superman, original compositions, and more. It was lovely to hear the range of music that is composed for a brass and wind ensemble, the spectrum of sound and timbre, and to think about not only adapations of works for such bands, but also about the history of such bands and music created specially for them--the military, parades, ceremonial occasions, pooular music, as well as bona fide classical music. Shawna, as usual, was her petite self beating a mighty sound from enormous tympani.

Posted by BKG at 04:38 AM | Comments (0)

Shawna's loft

DSCN5565-small.jpg Shawna's loft has been under construction for about a year and is now ready for her to move in. I saw it in its raw state, a beautiful open space on four levels, in a church that has been converted into thirty-two living units, each one unique. She has a very clear idea about what she wants, first and foremost, minimalist, clean, open, simple, and functional. She has made perfect choices, right down to the sleek faucets, Viking professional restaurant range, energy efficient refrigerator, hardwood floors, and tiled bathroom.



There is beautiful light, dramatic spaces, and intimate ones too. A deck and a front garden, with a brilliant red maple. Entertaining is on the horizon, with the kitchen the hub. She is located in the Greek and Chinese/Vietnamese neighborhoods, with excellent shopping within walking distance, and movies, theaters, and a few small galleries nearby.

Posted by BKG at 04:13 AM | Comments (0)

Lisa and Corey's house

DSCN5534-small.jpgAfter the web cam conversation, we headed down to Avenue Road the see the house that Lisa and Corey just bought. Corey's mother, Joyce, was there and delighted with the house. Perfect for them. Ideal location, close to the schools where they teach. The house was built in the thirties and the street is lined with grand old trees and lovely gardens. The house reminds me of the very first house Mayer and Dora owned on Harrison Street, which is the house where I spent my first five years. It is in mint condition, with beautiful hardwood floors and wood trim, a window seat in the front room, deck in the back, and lots of closets. I am very happy for them.


Posted by BKG at 04:07 AM | Comments (0)

Web Cam Conversation

DSCN5523-small.jpgJacques Silly arranged for Elaine and Mayer to talk with us by web cam at 11:00 am Saturday. Shawna, Dora, and I headed over to Danny, as he has a high speed connection and Doron has the camera and microphone. We crowded around Doron's computer and sure enough, Mayer and Pinki appeared on the screen and so did we. The Belgian relatives made it to the performance, which went very well. Two more to go and then a day in Paris, with a visit to the Picasso Museum.



We brought bagels, lox, and cream cheese, as well as leftovers from our Philippine banquet the night before. Danny set a beautiful table with cheese, fresh vegetables, juice, and coffee. Our cream cheese and lox came from a box that the boys were selling to raise money and Danny, who helped them, got a t-shirt. Knowing my passion for all things bagel, he literally gave me the shirt off his back.


Posted by BKG at 04:00 AM | Comments (0)


Note how Reyna crushes unpeeled ginger with the flat of a knife. I was throwing away the styrofoam trays in which the vegetables were packed until I saw Rayna use them to hold chopped vegetables. Fewer dishes to wash. That said, she much prefers to shop on Spadina, where fruits and vegetables are not packaged and you can pick and choose. There is greater variety and the produce tends to be fresher.


Posted by BKG at 02:47 AM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2004

The Banquet

DSCN5461-small.jpgLast night's banquet was a hit. Winston, Reyna's fianc�, drove us to T&T at Promenade Mall in Thornhill, way up where Pinki lives. We forgot the shopping list, but miraculously remembered everything on it. As we moved through the produce section, Reyna noted that there is a nice dish to be made with oyster mushrooms and ridged gourd or luffah squash, so we decided to add this to our menu. Doris waited in the van with Winston.
We arrived home in good order and set about cooking. I had hoped to do more of the cooking but Dora required my attention and Pinki's much anticipated phone call from France came with the detailed blow-by-blow, so Rayna cooked away, stashing pots of food, as they were completed, into the oven to make room on the stove for what remained to be cooked.
We turned the dining room table around to accomodate our ten guests: Marv, Shawna, Lisa and Corey, Margaret and Caryn, who recently married, Danny, Rayna, Dora, and myself.



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All but two of the dishes were completely vegetarian, which made Shawna and Margaret very happy. And, everyone agreed the food was wonderful, even if they had never heard of many of the ingredients.

Posted by BKG at 10:05 AM | Comments (0)


Dora gets her hair done every Friday morning. Lydia has been doing her hair for decades. Indeed, Lydia has customers going back to the day she started in 1961 and many of her customers have been with her as long as thirty years. The salon is a loving place. Lots of old ladies, very very old ladies, many with their personal care assistants, getting their hair done. Lots of curls, teasing to make thin hair fuller, and the most loving attention.

DSCN5455-small.jpg I got Dora up this morning, bathed and dressed her, and served her cornflakes and milk. Getting a taxi to take us to the salon was difficult. They would not come at a specified time. I had to call again 5-10 minutes before I wanted to leave, which I did. We waited outside for them, but after 20 minutes, with no taxi in sight I called on the cellphone to discover they had been calling the house to say they had no cars! I had to start all over again with another company. I called Lydia to say we would be 45 minutes late. "No problem," she said. "I will fit Dora in." Reyna and her fianc� met us at the hairdresser to take us shopping for Friday night's dinner.

Posted by BKG at 09:50 AM | Comments (0)

Toronto, Day 5

A quiet Saturday morning, just the hum of the refrigerator. The weather has suddenly turned cool. The morning light is silver. A crisp breeze comes in through the kitchen window. Dora is still sleeping. I will get her up in a few minutes, bathe her, get her dressed, and serve her cornflakes and milk for breakfast.
Today will be a full day. I'll take her in the wheelchair to Danny's for the webcast of Mayer's performance, then we'll go see Lisa's new house, back here for the afternoon, and Shawna's concert this evening.
My breakfast this morning was last night's dinner--the oxtail, oyster mushrooms and ridged gourd, the leftover egg and potato fritatta from a few lunches ago, and rice, heated up in the microwave, and the green mango. Delicious!

Posted by BKG at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

News from France

Elaine and Mayer called from France and then again in the evening with Elaine's inimitably detailed blow-by-blow account of their adventures. I am thrilled that she has become part of the theatre ensemble. She is doing the sound, helping with the stage mechanics, chauffeuring the group, ordering pizza for Isaac, a thirteen-year-old, and watching over Mayer like a hawk--and speaking French! She says the production is outstanding and that everyone is very taken with Mayer and his work. He has had two media interviews and their Friday opening night performance--a world premier of a work created especially for this festival--was well-received. As Pinki says, the audience laughed at the right places. She says Jennie is amazing, so creative, working day and night, and very resourceful, adapting to the circumstances, cueing Mayer, so he can face the audience (otherwise he would turn to the stage to take his cue from the images). Today Mark and Guy, the Belgian relatives, arrive, so that will be very nice.
This morning, Saturday, we'll all go over to Danny's and instant message with Pinki in order to see a webcast via a webcam, which I do not understand, but will figure out when are there. We are eager to see the performance!

Posted by BKG at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2004

Talking Yiddish

Dora is 89, with limited sight and mobility and failing memory. She is alert enough to be bored, but cannot entertain herself, as she cannot read, no longer enjoys television, which is hard for her to understand, and finds it difficult to follow quick conversations. This makes her totally dependent on others for stimulation. Above all, she is preoccupied with Mayer not being here and repeats the same questions: Where is he? When is he coming back? What is he doing? It is difficult for her to generate conversation unless we can strike the right topic and she is in a good frame of mind and even then it is hard to sustain. She is somewhat responsive to hearing someone read.
The great discovery today was her reaction to a conversation in Yiddish. In an effort to find a way to pass the time together--her days are very long and when she is bored her solution is to sleep--I cast about for topics of conversation, without success. Then, I thought, here is a chance to speak Yiddish, something I would relish. To my delight, she did not resist, not in the least. So, we watched the evening news on t.v. and I explained in Yiddish what was happening in Iraq. There is no Yiddish dictionary in the house so I asked her for the words that I could not remember or did not know--words for torture, prisoners, beheading. Sure enough she either came up with the word right off the bat or scoured her memory for it. I had not seen her so intellectually engaged in a very long time. I know that anything emotionally compelling has a better chance of capturing her interest and holding her attention, so the news, however disturbing, had the advantage of a strong, clear, vivid story. From here on in, it's Yiddish!
We went tonight to the Buddhist vegetarian restaurant with Marv, Shawna, Joe and Anne Jacob. I think Dora enjoyed the outing and so did I.

Posted by BKG at 12:03 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2004


Select very firm mango, not ripe but not completely green. The mango should be crisp, slightly tart, and flavorful. Peel the mango. Rayna offered a few different ways to cut the mango, showing me how her father used to do it, basically, shaving flat chips off the way you might sharpen a pencil. Peel and cut firm mango into chunks. Add tomato, bagoong or salt. Scallions optional.
We decided to leave the mango absolutely plain, but to offer shrimp paste, both the mild and the hot, on the side.

Plunge malunggey (horseradish) leaves, bitter melon leaves, yam leaves, bok choy, or other leafy greens into boiling water, drain, squeeze out extra water. Add bagoong or patis, sliced or cubed tomato, and chopped ginger. Scallions optional.

Bitter Melon (ampalaya) or Long Beans
If using Chinese variety or large bitter melons, slide in half lengthwise and remove seeds. If using small Indian bitter melons, slice in half lengthwise, but do not remove the seeds. Slice into rings, about 1/2 inch thick. Blanch and squeeze out extra water. Add tomato, ginger, and patis or bagoog. Scallions optional. For a nice variation, add cooked shrimp and sliced onion and dress with vinegar or lemon juice and salt.

Posted by BKG at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)


Mung Beans or Black Eyed Peas and Greens
1 1/2 cups beans or black eyed peas, cleaned and washed. Soaking is optional, as these beans cook quickly. We are using the black eyed peas. Bring to a boil, simmer gently till just tender. Do not overcook. Add greens as indicated below. Add bagoong or patis, unless cooking for vegetarians.

DSCN5508-small.jpg Optional: Wash, drain, and then add dried shrimp and greens, such as bitter melon leaves, malunggey (horseradish) leaves, kamote (sweet potato) leaves, or kang-kong (variously known as water convulvus, water spinach, or hollow stem spinach). Or, bitter melon itself (if the Chinese variety or large, remove hard seeds), slice in half across and in the length, then in long slices, about 1/2" thick, or eggplant sliced on the diagonal, eddoe (taro), green limas or fresh or frozen fava beans or long beans or some combination thereof.
Optional: Add saut�ed small cubes of pork with garlic till golden (drain extra fat) to the beans, together with any of the above vegetables.
We made a lovely inabraw with kabocha squash (peeled, seeded, and cut into 1" chunks), into boiling water with patis and simmered till just tender, then add bitter melon (it should remain crisp), water spinach, and long beans. The combination of sweet squash and bitter melon was divine.

Posted by BKG at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)


A lovely tart soup, which can be made with shrimp, mussels, fish, pork or beef on the bone, or with none of the above for vegetarians.

DSCN5484-small.jpg 1 tomato / 1 thumb ginger / 1 scallion / 2 eggplant / 10 long beans / 10 okra
1-2 long green chile pepper / 4 inch section of daikon (optional) / 4 kamias (tart vegetable, looks like tiny cucumbers, frozen) / 2 clusters pet chay or 1 bunch yam leaves (optional, but very good for fish) / 1 carambola (star fruit) / Other options: daikon, carrot, green beans (since many Philippine vegetables not available here, our local vegetables are sometimes included) / 1 package Knorr tamarind soup base (Pangsinigang sa sampalok), which contains shrimp powder, or, for vegetarians, Mama Sita�s guava soup base (Pang Sinigang sa Bayabas) or tamarind paste.

DSCN5506-small.jpg Boil 2 cups rice washing water, add ginger, onion, tomato (optional), salt to taste. When it boils, add sinigang mix (or tamarind or vinegar). If you are using meat, add it first and cook meat on the bone for an hour. Add vegetables, in the order they cook, starting with daikon, long beans, chile, and then eggplant. Close to the end, add okra and then fish or shrimp. Salt to taste. Serve with chopped scallions scattered on top. If using meat, add pork or beef on the bone to the boiling water, cook about an hour, and add vegetables, eddoe and pet chay or other greens and sinigang mix.

Posted by BKG at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

Friday night dinner, Philippine style

Reyna and I are now planning our menu for tomorrow night. We expect about 10 people. Here is what we will make:

Sinigang (tart soup, vegetarian style)
Eggplant Adobo
Inabraw (blackeyed peas and yam leaves)
Kare-Kare (oxtail with banana blossom)
Mango salad
Mung bean salad (my Indian version)
Pancit (vegetarian)
Chicken Adobo

Posted by BKG at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

News of The White Pajamas

The festival website is up and running so we just got to see a nice little clip of part of Mayer's show, which is billed as the world premier!

Reyna has arrived and gotten Dora ready for the day. Dora is sitting on the front porch and Reyna is reading her the news. It is too hot to walk just now, midday, but there is a lovely cool breeze in the shade. We'll take a walk later on as I need to print out and mail Mayer's submission to the Worship exhibition.

Posted by BKG at 01:04 PM | Comments (0)


Today I submit Mayer's materials to the Ontario Society of Artists 130th Annual Open Juried Exhibition at the John B. Aird Gallery. The theme is Worship, which "can be approached from a variety of different perspectives....Worship refers to the act of concerning oneself with ultimate things, or it can point to the object or content of that concern. For instance, the focus of our worship may have religious dimensions, or it may be decidedly non-religious: embracing environmental or rational or cultural concerns, even lusts and fetishes. The focus of our worship can be concrete and specific or it can be intangible and ethereal. Furthermore, worship can suggest inequality between human beings, power-over and distorted relationships as well as expressing incomparable joy, centeredness and harmony between people. Worship can portray peace and bondage, ecstasy and abuse."

I don't know about the lusts, festishes, bondage, and abuse, but Mayer definitely has some paintings that would fit the theme of worship and we will give it a shot.

Posted by BKG at 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

Eggplant Adobo

Always looking for vegetarian recipes for Shawna and this one looks like it just might do the trick. I've adapted it from RecipeSource
5 cups Japanese eggplant, cut into 3" lengths, then quartered in the length, but not all the way, so the piece holds together (or make this recipe with long beans)
1 onion sliced
6 cloves of garlic crushed
1 thumb of ginger with skin, crushed (Reyna does not use ginger in vegetable adobo, but I like the fragrance)
1/3 c soy sauce
1/4 c red wine vinegar or black Philippine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper or to taste
Saute onions and garlic in a little oil. Add eggplant and saute for a few minutes. Then add the other ingredients. Eggplant should remain firm.
Or, to eliminate frying, simmer soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, bay leaf, and pepper for 5 minutes and then add vegetables, cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until tender, but not mushy. Serve hot.

Posted by BKG at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

Toronto Day 4

A lovely morning, cool breeze coming from the kitchen window, birds chirping in the green yard. They are not the only ones. The security alarm for the house is chirping too as I do not know how to operate it. Marv will be here later and show me. Dora is sleeping and I started the day with The National Post, a cup of coffee (Folgers, classic roast, ground, from a five pound can), and email, via telnet.

Mayer said all his old buddies in the steam room at the Y read the news online in the morning, including the Israeli newspapers, and quite liked the idea of doing the same, so Danny gave Mayer a computer and set him up. But to no avail. Mayer has his hands full caring for Dora and painting, so it was just too much to deal with the computer too, so he cancelled the DSL because he wasn't using it. This means that I when I am on the computer, the line is tied up. Marv was smart enough to set me up with Mayer's cell phone so I can receive calls while online and sure enough Pinki and Mayer called from France this morning! They gave us a quick report. Dora asks about Mayer all the time and all of us are eager to get news. Everything is going well there in Mourmelon, where they are performing in the Rencontre Internationale de Thtres de Papier, 14-16 May. Local residents are hosting the artists. We're hoping the organizers will be posting video clips online today as we are very eager to see what they are doing.

Tonight we go to the Buddhist vegetarian restaurant with Ann Jacobs and her husband, Marv, and maybe Shawna, if she gets back from Rochester in time. That will be a nice change for Dora, a little outing.

Posted by BKG at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2004


Today, we went through our normal routine. Reyna bathed and dressed Dora, prepared her breakfast, and we went for a walk, with the wheelchair, to the little Philippine grocer on Shepherd and Wilmington. Another hot May day, but overcast. The shopkeeper is a Thai woman. We found frozen kamias (Tagalog) or pias (Ilokano), which we will add to our sinigang. And, we found our patis, a fish sauce with calamansi lime, as well as orange winter squash, with a green skin.

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Reyna thought it a good idea to get started cooking for our Friday dinner, so she began with the kare kare, as oxtails take a long time to cook.
Here is the recipe. banana_blossom_tree-small.jpg
1 medium banana blossom (cut into eighths, lengthwise), fresh or canned
3 small Japanese eggplants (cut into three inch lengths, each of which is cut into quarters lengthwise, but not all the way to the top)
15 long beans (snapped into finger lengths)
1 lb pet chay (separate leaves)
1 oxtail, in 1 inch slices
4 tbsp chunky peanut butter
Achiote, powdered or whole, soaked in water to extract the color (optional)
10 cloves garlic crushed
2 thumbs ginger, washed, unpeeled and crushed
1 onion sliced
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp fried mild bagoong, or to taste
spice fried bagoon to be served on the side
ground black pepper

Have butcher slice oxtail into 1 inch thick slices. Blanch oxtail in water, drain, and place oxtail in pot. Saut� oxtail with ginger, onion, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, some whole and some crushed, for 5 minutes. Cover with rice washing water, if available, or with clear water and let simmer till tender, about 2.5 hours. Or, cook in pressure cooker. Then, add chunky peanut butter. Add vegetables in the order of which cook fastest: banana blossom, long beans, eggplant, bok choy (steamed in advance and added at the very end). Season with 2 tbsp mild shrimp bakoong, while cooking, and serve the hot shrimp bakoong on the side.

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Banana blossoms are tricky and the one that we got must have been too big and too old because it was bitter, even though she carefully prepared them, removing the outer petals and the stiff black pistol from each inner capsule, slicing the petals, and salting them.



Indeed, Rayna uses canned banana blossoms here, as they are more reliable. The small young blossom heart is cut in the length into quarters or eighths, if larger. I am intrigued by banana blossoms but have never had success cooking them here. Reyna's friend says there are two kinds of banana blossom and that one of them is bitter. Others say that very mature blossoms are bitter. Her friend recommends slicing the blossom, rub salt into it for 2-3 minutes, squeeze out the bitterness, rinse, and squeeze again. Others suggest blanching the sliced banana blossom in acidulated water (use lots of lime). In other parts of the Philippines, they are prepared with coconut milk. I did have a wonderful banana blossom salad in Hanoi. The banana blossom was cut across into thin strips. Blanch the strips in acidulated water (treat with salt first, if bitter). Banana blossom is never eaten raw. It can also be made with duck.

The blossom image is from www.dixitfamily.com/ AdP91.jpg.

Posted by BKG at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)


Pancit is another fulfilling dish, varied in texture and rich in flavor. We stocked up on the essentials for this salamagundi.

500 gram package of sotanghon, also called vermicelli or green bean thread or bao pai--we used Longkou, a Chinese brand.
1 pound package of pancit kanton (yellow, thicker, flat noodle made of flour)
2 carrots, cut into thin matchsticks
Baguio beans (green beans) or snow peas, sliced on the diagonal into 2 inch slices
10 dried mushrooms, soaked and sliced into strips
1/2 medium cabbage (Chinese or regular), very thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 thinly sliced onion or equivalent amount of sliced shallot
1 lb chicken, pork, or seafood (or tofu, though tofu is not used in the Philippines)--we used tiger shrimp
4 tbsp patis (fish sauce) or substitute oyster or mushroom sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster or mushroom sauce
Oil (olive oil for health reasons, otherwise vegetable oil)
Garnish with 2 scallions and a sliced lemon or lime
Accompaniments: Vinegar from pickled chili in a little dish


In a large wok (we used Mayer's electric wok), saute the vegetables (except the scallions) in a little oil, starting with the onion and garlic, followed by carrots, cabbage, celery, mushrooms, and snow peas. When tender, but still crunchy, remove vegetables from wok.
While vegetables are cooking, crunch the pansit kanton in the bag two or three times to break up the noodles a little and rinse in water to remove any dust. Soak the vermicelli in warm water for about two minutes and when it starts to soften cut up with a scissors so the noodles are not unmanageably long. Drain well.
Add a little oil to the empty wok and then the pansit kanton and 1 cup stock or water, stirring well. After 1 minute, add the vermicelli and toss to mix with the pancit kanton. Then, add 4 tbsp patis and 2 tbsp oyster sauce (or vegetarian mushroom sauce). Add more to taste. If you leave out the patis, use about 1/2 cup oyster or mushroom sauce total. Add 4 tbsp of soy sauce or to taste, and ground black pepper. Stir carefully but well to season all the noodles, Cook about 7-10 minutes or until the noodles are tender, but not overcooked.
Add the cooked vegetables and stir to incorporate them.

DSCN5507-small.jpg Serve in a huge bowl (this recipe could easily serve 12 people), with half lemon slices in a ring around the edges and sliced scallions scattered on top. Serve vinegar from pickled chili in a little bowl for those who like hot food.

Posted by BKG at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)


Reyna's pinakbet is my personal favorite, with its utterly distinctive taste and aroma. When Reyna asked if the fragrance was O.K.--she was worried we would not like the shrimp paste--Lisa said the house smelled like a restaurant and we loved it.
Cut 2 Japanese eggplants (the smallest are the best) into 3-inch lengths and then in four, lengthwise, almost to the top of the section, but not all the through.
Cut 3 bitter melons (we used Indian bitter melon, lovely small bright green warty bitter melon, with skin like an alligator) the same way as the eggplant or all the way through to form 3-inch quarters. In Tagalog, bitter melon is called ampalaya.
Cut 20 long beans to the length of a finger. We used the light green ones.
Trim 15 okra, but do not expose the interior or the okra will be very slippery.
Chop two fresh ripe tomatoes into 1 inch chunks.
Layer the vegetables in the pot, with tomatoes, garlic (10 cloves crushed), and ginger (unpeeled, thumb size, crushed) between the layers, as follows: bitter melon (salt first to remove bitter taste, if desired--this was not necessary with small Indian ones), long beans, fava beans, okra, and frozen or fresh fava beans. Add either patis (about 1/4) or half a jar (about 100 grams) of sauteed shrimp paste (bagoong guisado) in spoonfuls on the very top. We used the spicy shrimp paste (Zamboanga brand).

shrimp paste.jpg indianbittermelon.jpg

Add eggplant later as the top layer, because it cooks more quickly. Simmer, covered, for about 15-20 minutes. Before adding eggplant, uncover and shake the pan. Add the eggplant and when it is tender, the dish is ready to serve. Pinakbet can be prepared in advance, partially cooked, and completed just before ready to serve.
If fresh or canned tomatoes not available, substitute tomato paste or ketchup.
In the Tagalog region, they add yellow winter squash.

It turns out that Ilokano pinakbet is famous! "Pinakbet according to Gilda Cordero-Fernando in Philippine Food and Life is a vegetable dish known all over the Philippines, but which no one cooks as deliciously as the Ilokanos. The Ilokanos say they can tell if a pinakbet was prepared by an Ilokano or not. Pampangos and Tagalogs cut ampalaya (bitter gourd), the main ingredient of pinakbet, into quarters and this, Ilokanos feel, allows too much water and salt in, which shrinks and toughens the vegetable. Ilokanos cut the ampalaya of their pinakbet lengthwise, and only on one side, leaving the opposite side uncut, like a hotdog bun, so that it opens like a hinge. In addition, Ilokanos include a bit of the stem in the last slice of the eggplant which is cut in four halfway through so it opens like a flower."

Posted by BKG at 12:01 PM | Comments (0)

Chicken Adobo

Chicken Adobo turns out to be very easy to make and wonderfully savory. Here is Reyna's recipe.

Cut up a whole chicken and include the giblets (liver, heart, gizzard). Rub the chicken with salt to clean it, place in a pot, cover with boiling water, stir, and drain thoroughly.

Saute the chicken (reserve liver and heart to be added later as they cook more quickly) in a dry pan with patis (2 tbsp), washed unpeeled crushed ginger (about a thumb in size), and three or more cloves crushed garlic. Saute for 5 minutes till golden. Add bay leaf and about 5 tbsp soy sauce. Kung-Fu soy sauce is good. Marca Pina is a good Philippine brand, which is what we bought. Add a little water. Let simmer covered over medium heat until tender and water reduces, either leaving a little sauce or until dry, as to your preference. Five minutes before serving add heart and liver and 2 tbsp white vinegar. Imported Philippine vinegar is too expensive. Datu Puti would be a good brand to buy here, which we did.

Serve with rice.

About vinegar, Reyna explained that in the Philippines, her aunt made her own vinegar from sugar cane. She would take the liquid extracted from the cane, bring to a boil, let it cool, and place in a large clay container, add some leaves, and leave for months until ready. This vinegar was a dark brown-black.

Posted by BKG at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

Tuong Phat Supermarket

Lisa arrived after school, we put the wheelchair into the trunk, and headed for Tuong Phat Supermarket at Finch and Bathurst with our shopping list. We invited the Berlins for dinner and decided to make pancit, pinakbet, and chicken adobo. Shopping list in hand, we stocked up on Philippine soy sauce, vinegars (black and white), hot fried shrimp paste, oyster sauce plus a vegetarian version made with mushrooms, and a soy calamansi sauce.
Reyna explained that the bagoong available here, bagoong Alamang, is Tagolog style. It is made with shrimp and has a little sugar in it. Bagoong Iloko, which is from her region, is made with small but not tiny fish and has sugar in it, which makes dishes made with it more savory. Bagoong Iloko is not available here but people bring it from the Philippines when coming to Canada.


Somehow we managed to forget to get patis and the mild bagoong, but we will rectify that today when we take a walk down to one of the little local Philippine grocers. We also bought a big banana blossom, which we will prepare with oxtail, for kare-kare, sweet potato leaves for a black-eye pea dish, and various vegetables for the pinakbet (Indian bitter melon, Japanese eggplant, okra, tomato), and two kinds of noodles for the pancit (vermicelli or "green bean thread" and pansit kanton, a yellow flour noodle).

Posted by BKG at 11:07 AM | Comments (0)

Cooking with Reyna

Reynalyn, who came to Toronto from the Philippines a few years ago when she was seventeen, is helping me care for Dora. She is from Ilocos Norte, where the local language is Ilokano, and is a fine cook. Needless to say yesterday, the first day she was with me, we talked food all day. I typed up all the recipes she could remember for what will be her own personal cookbook, a nice wedding gift for her friends and relatives, and we started planning what to cook. This Friday night we'll make a Philippine meal for about ten people. We'll try out a few dishes all week long and choose the best ones and, most important, those that can be prepared for vegetarians for Friday.

We are without a car as I let my license expire in 1974 when we sold our car. No need for a car in New York. So, Reyna and I put Dora in the wheelchair and walked to the plaza to pick up a prescription, came home, and while Reyna prepared lunch for Dora, I went to the Dominian supermarket at the other plaza to shop for fresh vegetables. There are two small Philippine groceries nearby but Reyna prefers a large Vietnamese supermarket at Finch and Bathurst, which is too far to walk, so we will wait until the evening when someone can drive us.

There are a lot of Philippine recipes online.

Posted by BKG at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

Toronto diary

Day 3 in Toronto and my first chance to blog. A grand collaboration between Shawna, Doron, and Danny got the internet working for me and I am now fully connected. Mayer and Pinki left for France Monday night and I am here caring for Dora. They will be in a town near Troyes to perform Mayer�s papierth��tre, The White Pajamas, at the invitation of Alain Lecucq. Mayer collaborated with the inimitable Jennifer Romaine of Great Small Works fame. On Sunday, Mother's Day, we went to Jennie's studio in Dumbo to see the toy theatre before she packed everything up to take to France.

DSCN5403_jennie.jpg DSCN5402_title_small.jpg

Mayer was totally psyched and Elaine fully equipped with Shawna�s digital camera and Jennie�s video camera, so we should have a full record and hopefully even a live webcast for a special showing for the French minister of culture. The performance is based on Mayer�s painting and story.

pajamas_small.jpg pajamas-toy_small.jpg

He made an earlier toy theater on this subject, but we were never able to perform it. This time Jennie has transformed Mayer's paintings into a totally magical theatrical experience.


Pictures from France to come shortly.

Posted by BKG at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)