20 April 2012


Writing Diary, Entry #29

Not What I'd Usually Read . . . Which is Half the Fun!

Getting to review books for MOD Magazine makes me feel like I'm part of a book club. A book club with thousands of members who love hearing (or in this case, reading) what I have to say, but who never tell me what they think in turn. (Then again, maybe they do and my editor just never tells me about my fan mail . . . or hate mail . . . or whatever.)

This month's book club selections are Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts by Mark Kurlanski and In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan. Both are titles I'd never pick up on my own, and I'm totally looking forward to them. 

3 "Foodie" Articles
I Wrote for MOD Magazine

From November 2011: Virgin Coconut Oil: The Surprising Saturated Fat

This wasn't my favourite article to write. It was for the Health section of the magazine rather than the Food section--and although it is reasonable to expect the two to overlap, the fads of the former often suck all the fun (and flavour!) out of the latter.

Indeed, the only reason I'm mentioning this one and not the more inspiring research paper article about vinegar (Oh, let me tell you about vinegar . . .) is that I got started on In Defense of Food this afternoon and its Introduction includes the line: "Today in America the culture of food is changing more than once a generation, which is historically unprecedented--and dizzying."

Indeed! As I wrote to a friend while working on this old one: "The research I had to do to get my facts straight convinced me that all I was doing was getting my fads straight."

In other words, my findings only confirmed all my prejudices--and I actually wasn't very happy about that. It's so much more fun when all my preconceptions can get blown to smithereens, but that rarely happens. I'm just relieved my editor wanted only 300 words on this.

From March 2012: Chill Factor

Now this was an adventure! Any assignment that involves sampling desserts from different restaurants is winsauce on any menu. (Is that too horrible a metaphor?)

Halo-halo is one of those traditional dishes that everyone makes differently. The name literally means "mixed up" and it can have up to a dozen other ingredients held together by crushed/shaved ice and evaporated milk: ice cream (usually ube/purple yam), leche flan (custard), macapuno (a kind of coconut), nata de coco (fermented coconut water), kaong (sweet palm), langka (jackfruit), pinipig (a kind of puffed/toasted rice), saging (banana), sago (tapioca), garbanzos (chickpeas), gelatin in two colours, sweet corn, sweet preserved beans . . . and pretty much anything else you imagine would make the mix greater than the sum of its parts.

Yet more is not always more--at least not when I am reviewing the desserts. My two favourite halo-halo were a "minimalist" version with only four ingredients besides the milk and ice and a "Chinoy" version which included Chinese sweets that were all the sweeter for being impossible to identify.

From April 2012: A Modern Lady with an Old Soul

Interviews are either the best assignments ever . . . or the absolute worst. I'd say that they depend so much on the interviewee, but then I remember (in all fairness) that for them, the interview experience depends so much on the interviewer. =P

This time, the overlap was with Food and Career: I had to interview the general manager of a very upscale (one might say, "poncy") restaurant. I was really excited about talking to her when I realised I already had my One Word angle (See Entry #22) for her interview: TRADITION. Her chosen career in her family's business was such a perfect parallel to the "living history" of that business that I had to point it out in the introduction to her Q&A interview . . .

Tradition and heritage are doubly meaningful to Bea Pangilinan, general manager of the celebrated Ilustrado restaurant. Not only is she stepping into her rightful place in the family business, but she is also a torchbearer for national history and culture—and this rich sense of the past permeates every aspect of what may appear, to casual observers, to be a very modern working woman’s life.

Note that there's still time to grab a copy of the April 2012 issue of MOD Magazine and read the rest of it! This is an especially good deal because I have a whole spread on towels as well as a book review in it, too. =D

Image Source: Natural coconut oil


honey my heart said...

halo halo rules!!

Enbrethiliel said...


Especially on days like this one!


amy said...

About the coconut oil, did you taste it, or just read about it? Fad or no fad, it tastes delicious and adds wonderful flavor to Asian foods. I've been known to sneak spoonful's...

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, I already loved coconut oil when I was assigned this article! =) A family friend gave us several large bottles and I learned to use it instead of vegetable oil in my banana muffins and red velvet cake.

I wouldn't have minded writing an article all about baking with coconut oil (and cooking with coconut milk!), but the Health angle really rubbed me the wrong way. A few years ago, we "hated" saturated fats; today, we "love" them; tomorrow, who knows? I felt so faddish. =P

Thanks for stopping by, Amy. =)

momto8 said...

what a fun assignment!!

Fairday Morrow said...

I have never used coconut oil- but I guess I will give it a try. It sounds fascinating to write the food articles- something different! It is always fun to interview someone who is interesting. :) Until now- I had never heard of halo halo.


Enbrethiliel said...


Momto8 -- With the exception of the coconut oil article, they were all fun! =) (And Michael Pollan's book turned out to be a great read as well!)

Jess -- If your town has a sizeable Filipino community, perhaps you will be able to try some halo-halo this summer. =) But since everyone really does make it differently, I can't predict what you're going to get!

Thanks again for dropping by!

Michael said...

Hey, surprised to see you writing "foodie" articles. I guess miracles never cease. :P

I like Michael Pollan, but he does get some things wrong, yet still is a good read.

Coconut oil is a great food, as are all the products of the coconut (water, milk, meat, and oil). In fact I wrote a long blog post (website currently being revamped) praising the merits of the "tree of life" (as it is known in some parts of the world because of its health and healing benefits), as it enables me to survive and thrive during the Orthodox Lenten fast, where no animal products are allowed for 47 days.

Unfortunately my body doesn't do very well without consuming some saturated fat, and since coconut is the most saturated fat on the planet (and a plant food no less!!), it is a match made in heaven.

Having said that, I think it is somewhat of a misnomer to call the "saturated fat is healthy" idea a fad. There has been a strong and tenacious minority that has defended that premise for a very long time. Also, a quick perusal of the mainstream nutrition literature and you will see that saturated fat is still considered plenty evil by most.

What is a fad, among those who understand the healthy nature of saturated fats in general and the products of the coconut in particular, is the emphasis on extra virgin unheated coconut oil. I prefer the traditional form of the oil which is fermented, not cold-processed.

The mainstream fad is actually the emphasis on vegetable oils (omega 3's etc) which is historically unprecedented, and began when Ancel Keys deceptively labeled saturated fat as bad for you, when the scientific evidence he was examining clearly showed otherwise (and still does to this day).

Every field researcher (and not some ivory tower academic) who goes out and studies healthy people groups, nearly always comes to the conclusion that saturated fat is not only benign, but down right healthful. Much of what is touted today in the mainstream as healthy is such not because of science, but because of marketing and vested interests.

This is why soy, flax, vegetable oils, and other foods are so popular. The scientific literature has always suggested that saturated fat is very beneficial, even in large amounts.

A Filipina friend the other day told me that she was thinking of going vegetarian. I told her she would be better off returning to her traditional culinary tradition and simply removing the industrial and post industrial foods that have infiltrated that cuisine.

It is the displacing foods of modern commerce, not the traditional foods eaten around the world (of which saturated fat figures in greatly), that is unhealthy.

Enbrethiliel said...


Wow, Michael! What a great comment! =D The next time I have to write about the health claims of specific food, I'm totally going to ask you first!

That is, if you don't mind. =) You'll get full credit in the article, of course. I may even convince my editor to let me do a full interview! =P But jusd\t look at me promising chickens before they're hatched . . . LOL!

Michael said...

Ha! Well I'm glad you enjoyed it E. And I won't count my chickens before they hatch, in fact I won't expect anything. That way, if something happens, I will be pleasantly surprised. :P

//are some of my comments getting caught up in your spam box?

Enbrethiliel said...


I just checked the Spam folder, Michael. It has only Spam and none of your healthful fare, I'm afraid. =( Which posts have you been commenting on?

Michael said...

I commented on your Eddie and The Cruisers post, and a couple of others in the past. Maybe going unnoticed in your moderation queue (not sure how Blogger works since I use Wordpress)?

Enbrethiliel said...


Michael, I've checked all the possible places your comments could have gone, and they're nowhere to be seen. I'm afraid they may be the latest casualties of the Blogger-Wordpress wars. =(

And I would have loved to read your comments for Eddie and the Cruisers, too . . .

Michael said...

And I would have loved to read your comments for Eddie and the Cruisers, too . .

One of my favorite movies. Have you watched the sequel yet?

Enbrethiliel said...


You mean Sal's extended dream sequence? ;-) I'm afraid I really have no plans for that in the near future.

PS -- Blogger has really been messing up lately. More than usual. =(

Michael said...

You mean Sal's extended dream sequence? ;-) I'm afraid I really have no plans for that in the near future.

You lost me here. I must be forgetting something from the first movie.

PS -- Blogger has really been messing up lately. More than usual. =(

Well, as per your moderation comments:

Blogger seems to be eating a lot of comments lately! I haven't had much success finding anything that was lost, but I'd like to know when people are having problems with my blog so that I can find a way to make it up to them. Thanks!

You can watch the second movie and tell me what you think about it. ;P

Michael said...

Oh wait, now I get it. What a blockhead! Forgive me, I'm a little slow today.