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Of Mangoes, Mechado, Compotes and Wines
A Prose Collage

At a family gathering in Manila, one of my uncles toasted my then-fiance (now husband) applauding his choice of a Filipina wife. I didn't know what he meant by it then, because I was afraid he might be referring to that whole "submissive" stereotype but now I understand. As I find my inner-Filipina wife's voice, I find that she is: mapagbigay, maunawain, masipag, matalino, matapang, malambing and maasikaso. The first adjectives can easily be translated: generous, understanding, industrious, intelligent, and gutsy but the last two words, malambing and maasikaso, go beyond their English translations. To say sweet and caring would be too limiting because the last two traits are what makes a Filipino wife different I think—it's being more than lovable and more than thoughtful. I think these are the qualities that make husbands happy to come home to their wives.
—from Old Wives' Tales © L. Marcelline Santos-Taylor

Mayumi © Shai Coggins

I have told my future husband that in addition to forsaking all others, I intend to bring to our dinner table all my grandmother's recipes. I also promised to always possess a fruity floral scent (with top notes of citrus, quince, blackcurrant, pineapple, and honeydew; middle notes of rose, jasmine, muguet, lotus blossom, and waterlily; and base notes of orris, vetiver, sandalwood, peach, mulberry, and amber) even as I leave the kitchen. In exchange, I expect him to bring me orange juice every morning. 16 ounces, freshly squeezed, without the pulp.

My grandmother's mechado* recipe:

*Mechado or beef pot roast is an Iberian-influenced tomato-based dish.

3 pounds chuck stew beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 cups water
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 large tomatoes, halved
2 eight-ounce cans of tomato sauce
1 large laurel leaf
1/4 cup soy sauce
6 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
fish sauce or salt to taste
optional: 1/2 cup red wine (I use Dourthe No 1 Bordeaux Rouge 2001. Its roundness, balance and integrated barrel ageing characters are excellent dish-enhancers.)

Marinate the beef in soy sauce overnight. To cook, brown meat in olive oil. In a four-quart pot, combine meat, water, and laurel leaf. Cover and bring to a boil. Adjust heat and allow to simmer until meat is tender. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, potatoes, pepper and fish sauce/salt. Cover and simmer. Add wine and reduce sauce. Serve with rice.
—from My Love Affair With My Grandmother's Mechado © C. Sophia Ibardaloza

Pangarap © Shai Coggins

Life and drive in a foreign country must have changed all of us, either for the better or for the worse, whichever direction one decides to take. A change for the better entails a lot of tolerance, positive thinking, goodwill and giving, less on taking. There are also a lot to learn if one has an open mind to it, especially in the household because here, one is on her own, without help from a maid, mother or sister which one is used to at home. Seasonal changes also bring varied tasks, with food preparation, activities and manner of dressing. I have acquired skill in stockpiling food (as if there´s a shortage tomorrow, or a threatening war is at the doorstep) during the months when fruits and vegetables are abundantly fresh, so that I have a continuous supply year round, preserving food in the form of jams, juice, compote and freezing fruits and vegetables in season. Baking cakes, pastries and bread and cooking Austrian specialties are also part of education to make life pleasant. But these are possible only if one has congenial relations with one's in-laws and if they are like mine who are very accommodating to my needs and shortcomings. Relations with in-laws can sometimes be a thorny issue but it is far simpler here than most women think. It's enough to be helpful and to remember certain occasions like Mother's day, birthdays, namesdays, Christmas and Easter, then everybody is happy and content.
—from Bi-cultural Marriage: A Filipina's Standpoint © Angelina R. Banke

The Princess © Shai Coggins

It is another religious holiday in the land of freestyle thinkers and spiritual individualists. Sometimes, I have this feeling that the total number of Germany’s religious holidays has a direct proportion to the volume of church tax deducted from our monthly salaries. But I will not complain. I will not complain about another lost trading day in the Frankfurt Stock Exchange or what another day of rest would do to the GNP of my adopted land. Instead, I decided to run. Hans, my husband, opted to bike by my side. Nine years ago, when we decided to downsize our household and streamline our lives to a condo unit, we decided to settle down where the grapes happily grow. “You can’t go wrong,” Hans said. “Grapes like it warm, sunny, and shielded from icy winds.” What he meant however was: “You can take the girl out of the tropics, but you can’t take the tropics out of the girl.” She likes it cold but not too cold ... I ran past the rows of spätlese and said: Hi. Past the gewürztraminer to which I said: Hello. Past the blauer portugieser to which I said: I like you. Past the dornfelders to which I said: I normally order you when they have run out of merlot. Past the rieslings to which I apologized: I prefer red wine, why aren’t you one? White, red, or rose, most of these grapes will end up in bottles. And if by chance you are in some pub or restaurant in Manila, Mannheim, or Manhattan, ask your bartender, waiter or sommelier for the origin of the wine you are about to drink. If the label says Bad Dürkheim, I would be elated to know that even if we did not meet, the grapes did.
—from Sweat It Through the Grapevine © Edna Weisser

OLD WIVES' TALES first appeared in The Filipino Express [http://www.filipinoexpress.com/], and subsequently, in Ms. Santos-Taylor's book, Missing Mangoes: For Filipinos & Those Who Love Us, published by Xlibris in 2004. Reprinted with author's permission.

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH MY GRANDMOTHER'S MECHADO first appeared in the author's weblog [http://bradstreetgirl.blogspot.com]. Reprinted with permission.

BI-CULTURAL MARRIAGE: A FILIPINA'S STANDPOINT first appeared in the Institut für Ethnologie-University of Vienna's Austrian-Philippine site [http://www.univie.ac.at/Voelkerkunde/apsis/apsis.htm]. Reprinted with author's permission.

SWEAT IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE first appeared in maarte & friends [http://www.maarte.de/]. Reprinted with author's permission.

MAYUMI, PANGARAP and THE PRINCESS Mixed Media Images first appeared in the Shai Coggins Online Art Galleries [http://www.shaicoggins.com]. Reprinted with artist's permission.

The editors are grateful to the artist and writers involved for contributing in this prose-collage.

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