At Large

A passion for food and words

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If “you are what you eat,” then food writing is as much biography as it is confession. This is true of “Dessert Comes First,” the new book by food blogger Lori Baltazar who collects in this gorgeous tome selected pieces and photographs from her blog of the same name, one of the earliest to appear in the now-crowded field of local food blogs and restaurant reviews. Thrown in are features on her circle of friendly home bakers and chefs and new essays tracing her journey through the world of food and writing.

Of course, “Dessert Comes First” also contains recipes, both from Lori and her baker/chef friends. In fact, Lori writes that she “hopes” the recipe pages will soon be speckled by cocoa, flour, grease and drops of chocolate as the reader tries out the recipes.

Blame Lori and her ilk for the annoying habit of diners delaying a meal just to take shots of the dishes, which soon make an appearance on Facebook and other photo-sharing sites. While primarily a writer (in her youth, she says, she wished to emulate her late paternal “lolo,” Felix Bautista, a journalist and much-beloved mentor), she fused her love for food with her penchant for writing, and then added photography into the mix. The result through years of learning from experience is what may be described as “food porn,” with photographs that are so luscious and glossy, one can almost taste (or wish to taste) the dollops of chocolate on the yummy cookies, the layer of ganache on cheesecakes, apples glistening on top of a pie.

There is even a homage to Lori’s mixers—her old reliable Kitchen Aid inherited from her mother, and a newer model of the brand’s “Custom Metallic Series.” That she can make us care for the “feelings” of an inanimate, though beloved, appliance is a tribute to the passion she brings to her twin obsessions.

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But consider the passion she shares when writing about her loved ones—“my Bin,” her husband, whose cooking skills predated her own and an accomplished, adventurous chef; her daughter Boo, whose voice she assumes in an amusing essay on Lori’s madness for butternut squash; her parents Winda and Pet, who taught her how to cook and enjoy food; and her Lolo Felix whom she fondly remembers for the food adventures he took her on as a child and the first apo.

“Who would have thought that I’d be able to fuse my love for writing and my love for food into something that I do every day?” asks Lori in “How I Write: The Life of a Food Writer.” “Certainly not me. But the longer I do it, the more I see that I was meant to do this, a dream coming true that I never even knew I had. It’s my soul mapping out the geography of my destiny and all those lofty maxims. So yes, I did end up being a journalist of sorts. It was my enchantment with the typewriter that gave me away. That, and my love for words.”

Even if the reader has neither time nor inclination to try out the recipes, reading Lori’s essays and feasting on the photos are filling enough. (“Dessert Comes First” is available at Fully Booked branches.)

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Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr., one of this year’s awardees for “Outstanding Philippine Soldiers,” recalled one rainy night spent in the mountains, his armalite at the ready in case of an ambush. Soaked to the skin, recalls Brawner, he thought of how comfortable his country folk were, sleeping on their warm beds, safe from the elements, ignorant of the hardships he and his fellow soldiers underwent every day.

“Do our people even care?” he asked himself. And the answer, he says, is yes, they do, because here he was, together with his fellow awardees—soldiers, police officers and teachers—being hailed as “heroes” in the awarding ceremonies of “Outstanding Filipinos” sponsored by Metrobank Foundation and, in the search for outstanding police and soldiers, the Rotary Clubs of Makati Metro and New Manila.

Also marking the occasion, which coincided with the 51st anniversary of Metrobank, was the launch of National Teachers’ Month, graced by Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Commission on Higher Education Chair Patricia Licuanan.

Most moving was the performance of three deaf students of Ramon Magsaysay High School of the song “It’s a Wonderful World,” serving as a musical backdrop to a video tribute to teachers.

* * *

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III was the keynote speaker, having chaired the board of judges for the Search for Outstanding Teachers.

Hailing the awardees as today’s “heroes” of Philippine society, Pimentel harked back to his “struggle” to gain his Senate seat in the face of the “dagdag bawas” scheme employed against him. Well-meaning friends, he said, had advised him to drop his suit, telling him that his cause was hopeless and that “losers,” even if with a legitimate claim, rarely won their cases. But, the senator said, he persisted despite the cynicism, and proved once and for all not just the rightness of his claim but also that it is possible for justice to prevail even against the odds.

In addition to their trophies and cash awards, the recognized “heroes” come away with the knowledge that their hard work and sacrifice—rarely acknowledged and even more rarely rewarded—are deeply appreciated by the people they serve.
Indeed, they serve as inspirations not just to banks and civic organizations but more so to ordinary Filipinos who can learn much from their example, and set new, loftier goals for themselves and their future.

Congratulations to all the winners, and to the sponsors, especially the Metrobank Foundation, for shedding light on the accomplishments and extraordinary lives of otherwise “ordinary” Filipinos.

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