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Don't touch my dinengdeng!3/3/2012 8:10:56 PM
Life is not what it seems3/2/2012 9:03:14 PM

 Don't touch my dinengdeng!
3/3/2012 8:10:56 PM

If there is one thing I am very passionate about, it is my love of dinengdeng. Yes, dinengdeng. That exotic ilokano bagoong-based dish only a pure ilokano can give justice to, to its flavor, taste and aroma.

My love of dinengdeng started when I was young. We eat dinengdeng everyday: at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and in between. I thought, at that time, ito lang ang ulam na pedeng kainin ng pamilya namin. My grandfather was a farmer so we have ample supply of fresh vegetables everyday and my dear nanang was happy enough to concoct them into dinengdeng.

When my father came home to retire from years of working in Agana, Guam, as an OFW, I thought, at that time, this dinengdeng will be a thing of the past. Boy, was I wrong! Instead, my beloved dinengdeng improve to a certain degree: mayrun ng sahog na inihaw na dalag, bangus o tilapia every single time my nanang cook dinengdeng.

I can smell a true and pure ilokano dinengdeng 10 houses down. I know dinengdeng. My family 's happiness revolves around dinengdeng....fifty years later, I still eat my dinengdeng, using the same recipe my nanang entrusted me. It never fails. My kids will tell you that too.

I am telling you this because of what happen a few days ago.

A tagalog friend of mine invited me for dinner and serve me this dish she proudly calls dinengdeng. Bless her heart. She had the nerve to tell me she has the best dinengdeng dito sa Maryland. I hold my judgement. She even told me na kapag natikman ko ang dinengdeng niya ay baka makalimutan ko na ang dinengdeng ko. That's when those little bad boys in my head started to scream. Nay, nay.

Sabi nila: do not judge an ulam by its look. I can judge dinengdeng by the aroma of bagoong, when mixed with the burned skin of inihaw na dalag o bangus.

So we eat. Then I lectured her on Dinengdeng 101. Pure ilokano dinengdeng has only 5 or 6 ingredients, namely, 2 cups of string beans, 1 cup of chinese eggplant, 1 cup of sliced ampalaya, quarter cup of pure bagoong and 1 cup of sliced tomatoes. At wag mong kalimutan yung inihaw na dalag, hito o tilapia para sa sahog. 1 cup of water is all you need. No more, no less. For if you add another cup of water that dinengdeng will become vegetable soup.

I always laugh when friends, who pretend to know dinengdeng, compare my dinengdeng to their dinengdeng. First of all, a pure ilokano dinengdeng does not contain any trace of oil, so kung sahugan mo ng fried fish o karne o lechon kawali kaya sira na ang lasa ng dinengdeng. Pinakbet na ang tawag dun!

At hindi po ginigisa ang dinengdeng. Never ever! Walang luya, walang sibuyas ang pure dinengdeng and, get this, hindi po umaapaw ang sabaw ng dinengdeng.

So, kung walang luya, walang onion, at hindi rin ginigisa, ano ang lasa? It tastes like...... heaven with the flavor and aroma of la union bagoong! Pure ilokano dinengdeng!

Ok, call it whatever you want: diningding, dingding, whatever. Just don't make fun of this exotic ilokano dish because once you tried my dinengdeng you'd be begging me for the rest of your life. (mangproc aka Brad).

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 Life is not what it seems
3/2/2012 9:03:14 PM

I was in Hydes, Maryland, that June 2009. There were people drinking & tasting wine at Boordy Winery, in their summer's best. I was sitting under an oak tree, that afternoon, alone. Do you know what it is to feel like being alone? It is worst than being drunk; at least, being drunk, is a relief from loneliness. I seem to enjoy my wine more than anything that day. A broken heart can do that to you, believe me.

I opened a bottle, a reisling, a crispy sweet summer wine, w/ brie cheese, hoping to drown my sorrow. Once in a while, a couple would come by to say hello.

2009 was the worst year ever recorded in my life's calendar. It looked like a tsunami just swept my life away. A friend who's very dear to my heart was diagnosed w/ cancer, and my singing career has not improved even when I bought the best karaoke machine my money could buy; while all my friends were enjoying their lives, singing at karaoke bar, every Friday night, w/ their loved ones, laughing, giggling, drinking all night long. Worst still, I was with them, in my little corner, quietly sipping my wine, constantly evaluating my life. My life just sucked.

For many years, she told me I was the one. I figured out later she was just practicing to be in a relationship, in other words, she was like “testing the waters,” checking out if it works or not.

So, on that depressive June 2009, I took on the offer of a friend and went to a nude beach resort in the virginia mountains, about 2 hours drive from my place. When I came back I was literally a new man, believing that, all my problems were washed away in that beautiful nude beach I fell in love with for a week. I was hoping to start a new life.

That's when a good-church-going-friend invited me to “come to Jesus meeting.” We went out for a stroll in Solomon's Island, in Eastern Shore, where the sun was still shining and life was like eating soft crabs on a saturday afternoon.

As we walked along the boardwalk, munching fried oysters & soft crabs, I actually begin to feel better. I realized I had a life before she tore my heart apart. Of course, I could have a life again. In fact, I feel that My Maker was in Solomon's Island, too, that humid afternoon. Maybe, He was eating fresh oysters in that same restaurant we just went to.

After all, I can still photograph flowers, they are still producing niagara icewine and lovers are still saying sweet nothings every single day, like the couple we passed by laughing and holding hands. In a few months, that could be me making out on the beach behind a big white rock.

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