Wednesday, 3 September 2014

On Brick Walls and My Path to Happiness

So today I going to take an exam  that might change my life´s path.  *fingers crossed!*

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”  Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Day Three: Melancholy

I was sad for most of the day.  Perhaps one reason is that my right foot has balooned into  a sort of elephant paw due to a sprained ankle.  Three perfect purple  hematomas are stamped on my elephant paw foot at the moment, marking me injured and unwell.

At work, I felt uneasy, like really irritated.  The job I was doing isn´t hard and it´s even a bit of a challenge,  but there is just this sense of blah-ness.  Like hell, I don´t want to do this any longer!

And then I go home and find out that Robin Williams is dead.  Apparently due to suicide.  Robin Williams was the teacher (Dead Poets´),  the Doctor (Awakenings), the forever young (Hook), and the romantic (Mrs. Doubtfire/What Dreams May Come) and the idiot adventurer (Jumanji) of my generation.  He was the Tom Hanks/Ben Stiller/Brendan Fraser of my generation, combined in just one neat package.   And so, now,  all I want is to find ways to be achild again.  I want to watch movies of Robin Williams until I am happy.  No, I lied.  I want to know why he did it.  How sad was he? How I can almost understand what it must have felt.  Alone in a noisy world.  Alone despite the crowds.

But I was not meant to be sad today, because just as I was preparing to go to bed,  little Syd sent a message on FB. Now Little Syd is my college bestfriend´s younger brother who is based in the US.  When I meant younger,  young as in, when we were in college,  I used to stay a lot at my bestfriend´s home in Clark.  It´s a great place, safe, full of greenery and that feel of American suburban life.  So anyway, back then, our little Syd was not even ten.  He is like a little brother, as he is even younger than my brother.  Well, fast forward now,  our little Syd is now all grown up, with a family in the States and he has the cutest, most adorable baby boy ever.    And so I told him how proud and  amazed we are that he has a super cute kid while  I and her sister (my bestfriend) are still childless, but at least S, her sister, is married. Ha!  True,  it  does make me feel old to watch the small kids of my teenage years  settle down and build a family.  But at the same time,  it also is a bit touching,  Syd, Sha and their siblings were like my second family all throughout college.  I was always at their house in Pampanga, and we had such fun then.  Sha and I, well, we are bestfriends for life. But it is nice to know that the bond extends to her ate and to little Syd.  As a gift from above,  Syd made a video of his cutie boy  saying hi to me.  Ah! The sunshine this  little kids can bring just by being themselves!

So I shall sleep now, not sad at all.  Reflective yes, but not sad, just thankful.

Monday, 11 August 2014

About The Book: The Hundred-Foot Journey

I came across The Hundred-Foot Journey through the trailer of the film based on the book.   But of course,  it will take months for the movie to reach my continent,  so I went scouring for the book instead.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a tale of displacement, family, tragedy and lasting friendships put together in a rich, satisfying  background of  food, glorious food.   It is the life story of Hassan Haji,  a Michelin-starred chef-owner of  a Parisian restaurant.  It  chronicles  his childhood in India, his family´s restaurant in Bombay and a terrible tragedy that led to his family´s departure from India. There is also his father´s tacky Indian  restaurant  somewhere in the  French countryside,  and Hassan´s eventual ascent  as a Michelin-starred  chef,  each page flavoured with vivid  culinary descriptions.

There are those to whom food may be nothing but a means to get sustenance. But for those of us who look at food as a gift,  a fleeting and delicate art form,  or even a symbol of love.   For those who has at one time revelled in the the joy of cooking,  who found joy in slaving for hours in the kitchen, working with their hands, mouth, and nose.   Those  who, like me,  once carried the secret hope of cooking for a living. Or those who know so well the  hope and magic carried by the interstitial minutes, as one waits for the cake to rise, or for the soupy mishmash in the pot to break down and turn into that lovely, rich stew.  This book is for you.  We, closet gourmets/cooking enthusiasts/lovers of all that is delicous are doomed to love this book despite its flaws, just because it feels as if someone out there has written  what we have always known,  how food can be so transformational, how wonderful it is to witness the alchemy of cooking.

 I feel that The Hundred-Journey  has a similar flavor to  Jhumpa Lahiri´s The Lowland and Khaled  Hosseini´s And The Mountains Echoed.  The fluid, quiet yet lyrical writing of Lahiri and Hosseini are  also found in The Hundred-Foot Journey.  In truth,  this novel is like a novel in three parts.  The first part is set in India, depicting childhood and innocence and origins, and then at the end of the first part, the pivot: a tragedy that sets into motion the second act.  The second part finds Hassan´s family in Europe, emigrants,  hoping to find life anew in another continent.  They settle in Lumiere, a small town in the french countryside,  where his father opens an Indian restaurant, complete with tacky indian decorations and Bollywood music.  Across the road is Le Saule Pleurer, a two Michelin star restaurant  owned by Madame Mallory.    And it the interactions between the Hassans and Madame Mallory that sets Haji on his culinary path. This is where Hassan goes through his hundred-foot journey, crossing over from being a "chef" in his father´s Indian restaurant to becoming the student and protege of Madame Mallory.  The third part is of Hassan going into the world, in Paris, working as a chef, and eventually opening his restaurant.  If you ask me,  I liked the third part of the book best, not because it is at this point that Hassan gets his Michelin stars, but because as in all tales of  outsiders and emigres, like in the works of Lahiri and Hosseini -- the first part is always about a life they left behind,  the second part is always about their struggles in fitting in, and it is the third and final installment that the and the story goes full circle, connecting the dots, fitting the past with the present.

This is a novel that you read to savour, one you can linger with, not something you read for the suspense or whodunit story arch.  Stripped away of the beautiful prose and the glorious food descriptions,  the story is simple yet somewhat it speaks something, some truth:  it´s an immigrant´s story,  one that reverberates with anyone who has ever left that which is comfortable in search of something---a new life, a better job, an adventure.  And I suppose that is why I  really enjoyed reading this book.

Here is the link to the movie trailer.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Day Two

I baptise you my writing frock.  You of  green, garter yellow and gaudy provenance, may your tattered years be oh so helpful in my quest for clarity.  May you comfort me as I stare and stare, grasping for things that are over my head --- letters, then words, and if we´re lucky a complete thought.

I will soil you, dirty you, and perhaps do the unforgivable, but keep me please, my writing frock, keep me company for now.

Day One

At thirty five I quit engineering to write and cook, feed
my life with smaller measures of  success.  I wanted to find the
Genuine, the Happy.  I want only to live my days knowing
I was doing something that will make my life count.

So I quit,  without nothing but dreams.  No connections,  no marketable skills,
nothing.  Just the nervous prickles on my skin, that instinct to transform.  In my hand, a  smooth stone,  this new found bravery,  the audacity to finally reveal myself to me.