Eavesdropping: Poeta en San Francisco

Barb has food on her mind lately. Which is so gratifying to self, as self has food on her mind pretty much all the time (as witness previous post, on Halloween candy, which of course self posts two weeks too late).

Dear mentor Doreen Fernandez passed away five years ago: incredible. Self knows it is because of this teacher that she had the tenacity to stick it out as a writer. Because if someone like Doreen believed in self, then self couldn’t be all that bad.

Another thing that is making self feel validated is the fact that she has just read ex-classmate Jeffrey E’s bio on the book flap of Middlesex, and it says he published his first story in 1988. And it is very gratifying to know that self had her first story published, in Story Quarterly, in 1985. So it turns out she beat Jeffrey by three years (But who cares, because now Jeffrey has been featured in People Magazine, and self is still wallowing here in obscurity in Redwood City. But there are some advantages to obscurity. Such as: no one comments on how thin your hair is getting, or how much weight one is gaining)

The Story Quarterly where self’s first published story appears also happened to feature others who have gone on to greatness, such as Lee K. Abbott. Self treasures it not only because it was the first to publish self (It even beat out self’s first published story in the Philippines, which honor goes to Philippine Studies, at the time edited by Dear Departed Alfredo Navarra Salanga), but because another Stanford classmate, Penny Brandt, is in it. And we — Jeffrey, Penny, and I — were all at Stanford at the same time. Again, self is moved to say: incredible. Incredible to imagine Jeffrey back then, with a full head of curly black hair, and that dog that he used to keep shut up in his car all day.

And now, because of Barb, self is also thinking about Doreen, and about the many books Doreen wrote, one of which self is holding at this instant: LASA, A Guide to Dining in the Provinces. Doreen was not only an indefatigable teacher and writer, she apparently crossed the length and breadth of the Philippines, finding culinary gems in Laoag, Narvacan, Baguio, San Fernando, Dagupan, Angeles, Guagua, Calumpit, Malolos, Malabon, Taytay, Angono, Bacoor, Calamba, Los Baños, San Pablo, Lipa etc etc etc

In Lipa, Doreen discovered a place billed “as both restaurant and motorworks.” A sign touted: “Car fixed while you dine” (Self thinks this is an absolutely brilliant idea). It was “right on the main highway” and faced the Floral Garden Memorial Park (though self would not like to be reminded of her eventual demise while she is eating — !) There, Doreen feasted on sinigang na maliputo, for 20 pesos (Incredible! At today’s exchange rate, would that be something like 50 US cents???). The bagoong was home-made (self salivating as she writes) and served in little saucers with a squeeze of calamansi. Doreen complained that the menu was short on vegetables, as there were only two choices: ampalaya and chopsuey (!!) When Doreen tried to order pu-el, which she describes as “a pulutan of pig’s tail,” the kitchen informed her that it had run out. The restaurant was screened but not air-conditioned, and the tables were covered with red-checked tablecloths. The name of the restaurant, which self sincerely hopes is still there (though it’s 17 years later): Batangueño Restaurant.

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