I finished reading Pigafetta’s Philippine Picnic–Culinary Encounters During the First Circumnavigation, 1519-1522 by Felice Prudente Sta. Maria a few days ago. It had a lot of interesting details in it about the first circumnavigation and Pigafetta’s account of their adventures/misadvantures, even the food. According to Sta. Maria, at the time all seafarers know that as glamorous as an adventure at sea sounds, the reality is decidedly unglamorous and dangerous. Magellan’s voyage was not just fraught with danger from elements and enemies, they faced starvation as well. The provisions of mostly biscocho or hard and dry sea biscuits as well as wine and salted meat really weren’t enough to last them until they got back to Spain. Most of the seafarers suffered from scurvy, where their gums rotted and their teeth fell out, among other symptoms. People that time were aware of the condition but not what caused it. The only people who escaped from this condition were those well off enough to take their own provisions with them, including their favorite quince jam which are packed with vitamin c.

I looked for some on Shopee because I wanted to taste it. There aren’t any growing in the Philippines, I don’t think I’ve seen them in markets either. The jam I ordered on Shopee had bits of shredded quince that had the same texture as pears; a bit crunchy and grainy, like fruity sand. The taste is somewhat like a cross between pears and green apples, but strangely foreign on my tongue. Like it’s almost familiar, but it’s not. I can’t say I enjoyed it a lot, but at least now I know what it tastes like.

Ink Swab: Dominant Industry Manschurian Violet

When Everything Calligraphy sent over a few samples of Dominant Industry inks for me to try, this color caught my attention right away. It’s a soothing, mellow pastel color and I mentally noted that I’d like a bottle of this for my collection. I don’t think I have a lot of violet or purple inks in my collection aside from Diamine Bilberry. It’s one of those colors that I like sometimes, but  not enough to buy. Then I would flip through my journal pages and see entries written in pretty purple ink and I wonder to myself “why didn’t I get a bottle of this color?” Well, I got a bottle of this color because it looks really pretty and soothing to the eyes. It’s a little hard to photograph because under some kinds of light, it looks more blue than violet. I thought at first that it looked similar to Periwinkle Blue but this ink is really more pastel violet than blue. While wet, it looks like standard violet, but it lightens as it dries. It’s actually pretty fun to watch the ink dry because the color changes noticeably as you watch. It becomes milky violet and the shading shows up really well after it’s dried.

Compared with the first few Dominant Industry inks that I tried, this ink doesn’t flow too wet. I would put the flow level at moderate. Of course your mileage may vary, depending on the paper and pen that you use. I used a Cross Century II with a medium nib and Tomoe River Paper for this writing sample. Also, it dries a bit longer at almost 25 seconds. The color is a bit too light when you add water so you won’t get any dramatic effect on it if you want to use it for painting. It’s saturated enough so that it’s not difficult to read, and the shading is really expressive. It’s really a fun-looking ink and I’m happy to add it to my collection. Here’s a few more photos of the writing sample:

Of Pinangat and Favorite Food Memories

Yesterday I was able to taste what I think is the best pinangat I’ve ever tasted in Manila. My father was from Bicol, but we only visited his childhood home as a family twice. We grew up pretty disconnected from my father’s Bicolano roots except by way of food. He was a pretty awesome home cook, and when we went to Bicol, our palates just reveled in all the familiar food that he cooked for us at home. My favorite was pinangat from this particular restaurant called Paayahayan. It was so memorably delicious. It made such an impression on me that from that time on, anytime I would see pinangat at any carinderia or restaurant, I absolutely must try it, but I have to admit that it’s been hard finding well-cooked pinangat in Manila. What a surprise it is to find one that is so close to the one I tasted 21 years ago at Paayahayan, and I found it on Facebook, of all places (here’s the page, if you’re curious, it’s called Jo’s Pinangat).

From what I can gather, pinangat is made with slices of pork or fish wrapped with gabi leaves and tied up in a neat bundle with tanglad. It’s simmered slowly on low heat with a generous amount of kakang gata flavored with garlic, ginger, alamang, siling labuyo and tanglad stalks. It’s simmered on low heat until the coconut cream curdles and become yellowish, and the leaves become so tender. The pinangat I had yesterday had leaves that were so soft, and pork bits that were so tender. The maillard reaction on the kakang gata has caramelized it and made it thick and sweet, it’s almost like latik. It’s incredibly delicious. I think that the pinangat that I tasted from other sellers don’t have enough kakang gata so the taro leaves taste…leafy, not creamy, and the texture is a tad dry instead of melt-in-your-mouth soft. Properly cooked pinangat is when the leaves are so soft that it’s mixed so well with the kakang gata infused with delicate flavors of aromatics and the saltiness of alamang. It takes time to make, but of course all good things take time.

Eating this wonderful serving of pinangat yesterday brought a flood of happy memories with my family, especially of my papa’s excellent cooking. It just made me so happy.

Ink Swab: Dominant Industry Periwinkle Blue

Dominant Industry’s Periwinkle Blue is a bit hard to capture on photo. Sometimes it looks baby blue, sometimes it’s milky blue with purple tones, sometimes it looks dark blue. I think this is one of those inks that you really need to see in person in order to appreciate. Like the first two Dominant Industry inks that I tried (thanks to Everything Calligraphy for sending those free samples, yay!), Periwinkle Blue flows wet, almost watery at first. Then the colors develop on the page and show off wonderful shading of different shades of blue and pink. It’s a whimsical ink color that looks really fun to use. It dries pretty quickly too, at a little over 15 seconds. I like this. I don’t have a similar-looking ink, so I will get a bottle of this for my personal collection.

Here’s a few photos of the writing sample:

The Life of Olaudah Equiano

Today’s art journal entry is about a book I’m currently reading, The Life of Olaudah Equiano. It’s my first time to read a slave narrative, all I know about those dark times were what I read in history books and books on African American social issues. Slave narratives connect with you in a very different way. I find Olaudah’s narrative overwhelmingly sad, and one can’t help but wonder about the incredible capacity of humans for cruelty. I’m halfway through the book, I have a few more slave narratives lined up. The illustration in the journal entry is about Olaudah’s description of an iron muzzle, a contraption put on a slave’s head to prevent them from talking or eating while working on the field or in the kitchen. Like I said, it’s an overwhelmingly sad read.

Ink Swab: Dominant Industry Earl Gray Tea

This is the first ink that caught my eye after I finished swatching the Dominant Industry inks sent by Everything Calligraphy. I was immediately drawn to it because it looked so nicely saturated and warm and really did remind me of earl grey tea.

The ink has a watery consistency, and at first it seemed like it would be too light on the paper but the color develops as it dries and the shading looks like a beautiful mixture of yellow, orange, red, and some brown. It dries relatively quickly at about 20 seconds (I used a wet medium nib and tomoe river paper for this), and the flow is on the wet side. I love the expressive shading on this ink, in varied shades of red orange, just so beautiful. It’s almost like the letters are aglow. More photos below:

I think these are launching with Everything Calligraphy sometime this coming week. <3

Dominant Industry Inks

Everything Calligraphy sent me some samples of the newest brand of inks that they will carry on their site. It’s a Korean brand called Dominant Industry. I had some time to swatch the standard inks last night and I must say, they’re quite pretty. I already have a few favorites picked out. I also have a few samples of their Pearl line of inks, but I haven’t had the time to swatch those yet. Needless to say, reviews coming soon!

Learning Something New

I recently bought a sketchbook that uses kraft paper from The Unplanned Life. I love that it can take fountain pen ink and light watercolor and water soluble graphite washes, but it really shines best with colored pencils. I bought this small set of Caran d’Ache Pablo color pencils sometime last year, I was hoping to learn how to use it, but I just didn’t have the time to sit down and figure it out. The first time I tried to use it, I had a hard time layering colors and making the values show through, so I just stopped and then I forgot to pick up again afterwards. I was trying out different mediums on this notebook so I remembered about these colored pencils and dug them out from under a pile of books on our bed’s side table. This time I kept at it until the drawing looked closer to how I wanted it to be. That was pretty satisfying, but it took much longer than I expected. I’m probably going to invest on a bigger set soon, I need more browns and yellows for my food drawings.

Beef Pares

Yesterday’s food journal entry is about beef pares. In the excitement, I forgot to take a photo of the actual dish. Beef pares is a popular street food in the Philippines, usually served with garlic rice and beef soup. The most popular iteration of beef pares is sweet. You can find some that are salty, but that’s not what usually comes to mind when we think of street pares. I think it’s really a testament to the Filipino sweet tooth. My husband likes his pares with thick and sweet sauce. The dish is just a simple braise but with the addition of brown sugar and star anise. It’s best to use beef brisket for this dish, but I used beef shanks because it’s what I currently had in the fridge.

Shopping during this pandemic is very challenging. Amid the spread of the deadlier, more transmissible Delta variant, we just have grocery delivered through apps. I miss going to the grocery store, markets, and meat shops to look at the meat and find cuts that have good marbling and good color. Having a stranger pick out meat for you is just not the same, but these are the times we live in right now.

Star anise also wasn’t available in the shopping app we use, but I realize that it’s available in Lazada. You can’t substitute anything for star anise. It’s what gives pares that characteristic taste and smell. Simple ingredients, simple cooking methods. What’s more important (aside from getting the seasoning right) is to take your time and slow-cook the meat to perfection so that the fats are rendered and the tendons are melt-in-your-mouth soft.

Just Draw.

I recently ordered a sketchbook that uses kraft paper from The Unplanned Life. I promised myself that I will draw more, I will practice loose , direct sketching regularly so that my hand will obey my mind better. When writing in my journal, the flow is just continuous and natural. I haven’t been able to do that with my art. I can never seem to get out of my own way and just relax and enjoy the process. I promised myself that I will try it again this time and that I will not be too precious about my sketches. Just draw. 🙂