Friday, July 22, 2011

Excelling in the Little Things...

I'm reminded that the most significant things sometimes do not come in broad sweeps and grand gestures.  In my line of work, I meet a varied group of people with different complaints.  I sometimes get surprised to get feedback on what people valued most.  Not for the what seems to me as the most significant - the dramatic saves, the successful resuscitation.

No, not those...

It's in the little things that I thought were trivial.  Those were apparently what matters to people.  They tell me that they appreciate it if someone takes time to listen to them.  It comforts and reassures them.  Occasionally, they say that one's presence is enough to make them feel better.

And I feel guilty since during those moments, from head up, I look pleasant, agreeable, smiling.  Underneath the table, my hands are clenched and I am tying my writing pad into knots.

Little things, not grand gestures.

Like Madame Valentina Lisitsa.  This is her fourth encore.  After playing Rachmaninoff powerhouse pieces, she settles down and starts playing the first bars of Fur Elise.  The audience is amused, and a wave of soft laughter spreads.  This, after all, is a piece played by five-year-olds at piano recitals.  She continues playing, her fingers lightly caressing the keys while the audience sits in rapt silence.  After her performance, appreciative applause rings out.

It takes an artist to make something simple sound profound and meaningful - and this is exactly what she did.

Brava, Ms. Lisitsa!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Invertebrate Anatomy

We used to have courses like that back in pre-med.  It involves studying snails, slugs, and other lower life forms - not the most fascinating topic in the world.

However, I encounter it with much more interest nowadays.  

One of my more worthwhile impulse buys was an order for ornamental aquarium shrimps.  Yup, that's right, you can buy pretty much anything you want on the net nowadays.

And these babies are quite...  industrious.  They've multiplied to hundreds in my ponds, fishbowls, and basins.  At 40 pesos per shrimp, they probably are the world's most expensive bagoong (fermented shrimp paste).

A side note:  Bagoong is a Filipino condiment with cousins in China, Thailand, Burma, and Indonesia.  It's a heady, pungent, briny, umami-filled (I should add "stinky") ingredient that is much beloved in this part of Asia.

Well, these shrimps are fastidious cleaners.  I dump my algae-encrusted plants in there, and viola, just like the Jacques, the cleaner shrimp in "Finding Nemo," by the next day, the plants are spotless and pristine.

They're fun critters - one of my best investments ever!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


The seeds of Bixa orellana is commonly used as a food coloring in Asian cuisine.  It's more popularly known as Achuete (Atsuete) or Annato seeds.

Marketmanila, my favorite food blog, has entries on Atchuete in the following links:

... As an ingredient in Pancit Luglug

... and in Kare-kare (Oxtail Stew in Peanut Sauce) as well.

However, people were surprised to see it in some of the flower arrangements my mom brings to the shop.  And why not - the seedpods are a vibrant color of red. It adds an interesting texture and a splash of color.

It goes well with orchid blooms and variegated foliage.

... and as an added benefit, long after the orchids have dried up, you can still put the dried seeds of the Achuete to good use, in Annato Oil.  Apparently it's commonly used in Carribean cuisine.  Recipe here:

"Achiote Oil"

And where to use it?

Deeny blogs about an interesting recipe for Chicken and Yellow Rice.  The picture on her page is positively mouthwatering.