In between writing and living, there’s loving. So recently another was added to my great loves—which are books and writing, life itself and the world—and he is Bob Jerezo, 22-year-old seaman-to-be and a good singer and yeah hottie! Great angst comes with great love, particularly with this one, but that’s another story. So anyway, this entry may be very different from the usual entries in my blog. Very, very personal. Mushy maybe. But it is as vital and major as the other subjects.
Anyway, he slept in my room on May 9, 2010, and sometimes I cooked a special dish for him for lunch the following day. While he slept, after playing addictively to Plants Vs. Zombies, I went to the Pasig Mega Market to buy ingredients for pinaputok na plapla sa gata (Grilled tilapia in coconut milk), which I renamed Pinaputok na Plapla sa Gata at Pagmahahal (Para Kay Babe) (Grilled Tilapia in Coconut Milk and Love [For Babe]). Yeah, I know.
So I bought four fat tilapias, freshly squeezed coconut milk and mustard leaves, the main ingredients. Though I love exploring the wet markets, I seldom buy or namamalengke. At home, my mother and my sister did that. I had the fishmonger clean the tilapia, taking out the gills and the intestines. When I got home, I found out that they need to be cleaned of their scales. So scrubbed their scales off. I was almost sunrise. The scales flew everywhere, some onto my shirt. I was a tired after that and a little irked. I stored the tilapia, rubbed with salt and pepper, and the rest of the ingredients in the fridge. When I went into the room, Babe was sleeping soundly, an angel. My vexation slowly faded away. I climbed into bed and slept beside him. I hoped the pinaputok na plapla will be great.
I woke up past ten in the morning and jumped out of bed to prepare the dish. We did not have any charcoal left. So under the searing heat, I scoured the neighbourhood for charcoal. Babe was already awake when I got back and started playing Plants Vs. Zombies again. I grilled the tilapia.
After grilling them, I wrapped them in mustard leaves, which was a tricky thing to do. I readied the wok. I heated vegetable oil and sautéed chopped garlic, slivers of ginger, onion and sliced chillies. I poured in the coconut milk, constantly stirring, and waited for it to simmer. The fire was always low. I threw in a dash of salt and pepper.
I carefully put the grilled tilapia wrapped in mustard leaves into the simmering coconut milk, and covered the whole thing.
After several minutes the dish was ready. I sprinkled some chopped cilantro and put it into a plate.
I served the pinaputok na plapla sa gata, together with steaming rice and a dip of patis with chopped chillies, on bed. We ate together. Babe loves tilapia. He loved my pinaputok na plapla, he said. “Parang luto ng chef,” he said. Yeah, right. He finished the whole serving. In the early evening, he had another. The mustard leaves can be bitter, which wonderfully contrasted with the rich taste of the coconut milk. When cooked enough, the bitterness can be lessened. It is not totally gone though. There is always a hint of bitterness, just like life and love, but it can be inundated by the richness of the coconut milk, slowly being stirred and simmered with love.