At the start of the year, I take stock of the books in my collection. Not that I want to, but because during Christmas and New Year, the books have to be moved to another place since they occupy the buffet table and the billiard table which we use for the holiday celebrations.
My other books are in the four bookcases in the library upstairs and the two bookcases in the bedroom.
New books are always on the desk where I work so I can peruse them. One of these is “Summer Palace: Reinventing a Timeless Classic” (RPD Publications, 2019), about the Chinese restaurant of Edsa Shangri-La. Like all coffee-table books, the photos of the interiors and the dishes are a delight. There are also recipes for those daring enough to do them.
But what is interesting to a food researcher are the dishes’ ingredients. For instance, fish lips are actually the skin of a big fish, like the skin on the tail of a shark. Fish maw is not from the jaws or throat, but is the dried bladder of the fish.
White pepper is the fully ripe berries of the pepper plant soaked in water to ferment, the skin removed to produce white berries. Black pepper is made from unripe berries that are dried.
To whet the reader’s curiosity, the book names the inventors of the sweet and sour sauce and the XO sauce. It also explains how charcoal powder is made.
Summer Palace director of Chinese operations Nancy Farm and Chinese chefs Tony Sum and Andy Lieu are in the book as well.
The book is available at Summer Palace itself and at Edsa Shangri-La’s Lobby Shop.
Another new book I have is “Muslim Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago: A Current of Narratives” (ArtPost Asia, 2019). I was involved in its writing and the research took me to Marawi, Cotabato and Davao.
Waterways are important in Mindanao and Sulu history and culture, the reason “current” is in the book’s title. Many of the photos include winding rivers, marshes, seas and lakes.
We were fortunate to take pictures of the people, landscape and seascape through drone photography. There are also images of artifacts in the museums of Cagayan de Oro and Marawi, artworks and crafts, dances and music and, of course, the food.
I wrote the chapter on Mindanao food. Although I had been exposed to the cuisine of the South since the 1990s, I found out in the course of my research that my knowledge is limited.
I was fortunate to have worked with authoritative sources such as Julkipil Wadi, Ligaya Fernando Amilbangsa, Mansoor Limba, Nagasura Madale and Datu Shariff Pendatun III. Photographer was Jacob Maentz.
The popular edition will be coming out this year, according to the publisher.
Noticeable from the images were the colorful native wear, the women’s malong, the mats and headdresses.
There is a mosque painted shocking pink, the color supposedly symbolizing peace and unity.
But the malong of old, sad to say, is in danger of being replaced by the all-black hijab of Middle East Muslim countries. Apparently, the women who have been to Saudi Arabia find it a way of showing off that they’ve been to Mecca.
Moving the books revealed old treasures I hadn’t seen in a long time. There were monographs by the International Wine and Food Society such as “Chianti Classico,” “Barolo,” “Chablis,” “Icewine,” “The Science of Taste” and “Truffles.”
The Manila Ladies Branch, of which I was a member, brought out two monographs, “Philippine Culinary Sentiments” and “Comforting Cuisine.”
“Travelers’ Tales: Food: A Taste of the Road,” collected and edited by Richard Sterling (Travelers’ Tales Inc., 1996), made me smile. It’s a collection of essays by writers from all over the world, so many that I was able to read only a fourth of the book.
But I remember buying it in Thailand, giving one copy to a friend who facilitated my cooking lessons and stay at the Oriental. This friend told me that she lent her copy to a writer who admired my taste in books. Wow, what a compliment.