Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Avocado - Vegetable or Fruit?

Growing up in the warm, balmy surroundings under the almost always blistering Philippine sun, it never occurred to me to ask this question. Avocado is a fruit, no doubt about it. And so I grew up seeing it eaten as a fruit – a dessert, a sweet snack, a sweet, cool drink. It was, still is, a favorite ice cream Flavor of the Month by the 2 competing largest ice cream factories in the Philippines.

Here is how I usually ate my avocado, the way I saw my mother eat it too. After I carefully cut the avocado in half, all around, lengthwise, and scooped out the pit in the center, I would take one of the halves of the avocado, pour milk, preferably evaporated milk, in the hollow in the center left by the pit, take a generous spoonful of sugar and sprinkle all over the top, and just eat with a spoon right from the skin. If I wanted it cold, I would scoop out the flesh randomly into a bowl, add the milk and sugar, and some crushed ice cubes, and enjoy!

When my children were growing up, we planted two avocado seedlings I bought from a nursery. I was told it was the evergreen variety. The fruit was bigger and remained green, even when ripe. The seedlings grew into sturdy trees. Soon the branches were heavy with the beautiful green fruits, about 5” long, and maybe 31/2” at its widest point at the bottom, tapering to the point where it connected to the branch. The skin was green and smooth.

Harvest time meant milk shakes and ice cream we made from this fruit. The flesh of this avocado was soft and creamy, and not fibrous at all. For my little girls, of course I would make milkshake in the blender, using the same ingredients, adding more milk and sugar for a creamier, sweeter taste. And if I had some in the freezer, a couple large scoops of vanilla ice cream. Or I would pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and pop it in the freezer. The girls always loved this! They would be opening the freezer and sticking their little finger into the tray, every few minutes, to check if it was ready.

When they grew older, they would make the same recipe, minus the ice cubes, and pour just enough of the mixture into long, small, narrow plastic bags and tie the open ends securely. They put these in the freezer. This was locally called “ice candy.”

Fast forward now to my grandma years, in this other part of the world where my girls are now raising my grandchildren. Here are some reactions from our talks about how we ate avocado in the Philippines,
“That's gross!”
“You don't eat avocado that way!”
“That's a weird way to eat avocados.”
In fairness to my grandchildren, and to be honest, that's exactly how I felt, the first time I saw my son-in-law, eating avocado from the skin, but putting, to my horror, instead of my milk and sugar, a little olive oil and vinaigrette, and salt and pepper, in the hollow in the center! I think I blurted out.
“How can you eat avocado that way?!”

Well, to tell you the truth, I am now a convert – to guacamole, avocado dips, sandwiches and salads and soups, even sushi, with avocado, and the list goes on...It doesn't mean I have given up on avocado milk shakes and ice cream! It simply means, I have opened my eyes and arms to the infinite possibilities of this amazingly versatile food! Sweet, savory, spicy, cold, hot – the avocado can mix it up, and tame, satiate, calm, and satisfy the strongest craving of your palate. There's a whole world out there!

Milkshake or guacamole, anyone?

Avocado Milkshake

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 2 to 3 Servings

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 (14 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 cups ice cubes
  1. With a knife, halve avocados and remove pit. Using a spoon, scoop flesh and cut into cubes.
  2. In a blender, combine avocados, milk, sugar, lemon juice and ice. Process until smooth and blended.

Photo and Recipe from Kawaling Pinoy

Friday, March 7, 2014

Loving My Self

“Mehmeh, are you pretty?”
The question came from my 10 year old granddaughter, Gianina. That caught me by surprise, as we were preparing the table for dinner. I was even more surprised that I couldn't answer it.
I, instead, answered with a question, “What?'
“Are you pretty?” Gianina asked again.
The question is pretty straightforward. It could be answered with a yes, or a no. But I couldn't answer it. Not so much because it came out of the blue, but because I found it complicated.
All I could manage was a lame, “I don't think so.”
The simple question brought back all those growing pains of searching and trying so hard to believe in myself. Am I pretty? Am I worthy? Am I good enough?
The answers to these questions feed off from others' perceptions. It begins in the cradle. Relatives come to visit the new addition to the family. They gather around the crib, look at the baby, a lot of oohs and aahs all around. Then comments can range from,
“Oh, look at the nose,” “what a pretty baby – so fair, mestisa .” Immediately, there is the standard by which this little girl will be judged, by others, and then, by herself. It starts with how you look, currently mainly dictated by fashion and media. One could say, however, culture and history also plays a part. In this case, it goes far back to 300 years of Spanish colonization. Hence the term, mestisa.
Where I grew up, pretty is fair skin, long, sleek, straight hair, aquiline nose, tiny waist, belly flat as a board. I could check only the last two, mainly because I was too skinny. I was the dusky one, with curly hair. And because I was what is called, morena, I was discouraged from wearing bright colors.
“Stick to pastels,” I was always told. Red, orange, fuchsia, electric blue, emerald green do not go with my dark complexion. Gushing over these colors from afar, I settled into the safety of light yellows, olive, very light pinks and blues.
My hair was always cropped, to tame the curls into place. How I envied the girls with long hair. I would imagine having braids, and would flick my head to one side pretending to take away my braid from my face. I had to get used to the joke, “mahangin ba sa labas?” (Is it windy outside?) every time I entered a room with my tousled, curly hair. To this day, I still have the nickname, “Colot” (Curly), thankfully now affectionately shortened to Lot.
It wasn't until I entered college, that I gained some confidence to make some changes and decisions about how I want to look. I grew my hair long. I was so happy to discover that the curls dropped to the tips! I learned to wear my hair, parted in the middle, and sleeked down and tied into a low pony tail, or twisted with a ribbon threaded through it. Fortunately those were en trend in the 60s.
Meanwhile, the race to look like that perfect, beautiful woman goes on. The TV ads are flooded with products and services to stretch and straighten the hair, powders and creams to whiten the skin, teas to melt away the fats, sauna belts to sweat away the inches from the belly and the waist.
Store shelves were, and still are, crammed with Lyna and other brands of pearl cream guaranteed to whiten your skin like a Kabuki face. There was even White Princess, the powder you mix into a paste, spread all over your body, and leave it on for something like 3 or more hours, until it dries, rinse it off, and voila (!) - fair complexion! It doesn't end there. Now there is Glutathion! It is a capsule you take, and it turns your complexion from dusky to fair!
And when all else fails, there is always now, photoshop, so you can lull yourself into believing, as you gaze into your image, “Yes, you are beautiful.”
Thank goodness, school, and the business of growing up, although fraught with fears and yes, pains, had kept me too busy to worry about my complexion and my hair and my shape. Surprisingly, I began to discover vast spaces and places where true beauty lies, not only outside of me but even within me. When I look at the face, I do not see the complexion, I see the eyes, where the smile begins. When I look at a person, I do not see the hair, or the shape, I see the heart from where love flows. When I hear someone speak, I do not see the lips from where the sound is coming, I listen, to the voice from which bits of wisdom and feelings fall. I found that as this capacity to discern and see beyond what just meets the eye, developed, albeit slowly, so did my self-confidence, my self-esteem, my self-worth. It feels wonderful to be able to say to myself – Yes, I am worthy. I am good enough.
I can even look at my image in the mirror today, and I see wrinkles and call them laugh lines. I see grey hair and I say silver. Maybe I can even say to Gianina,
“Yes, I am pretty.”
                                                                                Women's Month
                                                                                March 8, 2014
                                                                                Round Rock, Texas

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Blessings Jar

Hours before the countdown to the NewYear, my three girls
and I were hurriedly checking our list – thirteen round fruits, check! Bubbly, check! Ham, check! Who is bringing the fish? Grapes? Check! And fireworks? Check! Looking good.
The table, laden with goodies that made it to the list, not only
because of taste, but more important, because of the good luck it's supposed to bring into the New Year, was ready and looking good. Bring it on, 2013!
Preparedness is key. And it's all about lists – menu list, gift
list, fireworks list, and of course, the New Year's Resolutions list. The latter though, did not make it to our list this year.
I noticed, as the years went by, that my New Year's resolutions kept getting shorter and shorter. This is not to mean that I continued to achieve my resolutions of the year before. Rather, it only means that my list of achievable goals realistically got less and less. Or put simply, I just did not have the motivation to keep on making a list which kept getting broken year after year. This did not do a lot for my self-esteem either.
       It just occurred to me, that making a New Year's resolutions
list is counting what you don't have. I decided I would rather count what I have. It's all about having a more positive attitude to goal setting.
       So this New Year, I added something new to our tradition. On our Media Noche table, mixed in with the arrangement of 13 fruits, there were 3 jars, simple glass jars, festooned with holiday ribbons, one for each of my daughters' family. I labeled each “Family Blessing Jar.” Inside, to make it simple, I put the instructions on what to do with it.

          Here is a sample of the note I placed inside each jar:
                   FAMILY BLESSINGS JAR

Please feel free to embellish this jar any way you want to make it truly YOUR FAMILY's very own.

How To:
  1. Every time you receive a blessing or a wish or a prayer comes true – write it down, put the date, and drop it in the jar! It doesn't even have to be a note – it can be anything: a note, a symbol, or something that will make you remember.
  2. At the end of the year, the next New Year, you get everything out – and your family COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS! And then, if you feel like it, say a prayer of THANKS.
  3. And start the New Year again with the EMPTY JAR, and a prayer for more blessings to fill the jar, and your lives, for the whole year!



       My oldest grandson, Xavi, asked me to explain. He is a linebacker in his Football team. So I asked him, “What is your greatest wish when you go into a game?” And he answered, “To win!” So I told him, and when you do, that is a blessing. And you can mark each and every win, put a date on it, and drop these in the jar. Blessings are not labeled big or small. They are not judged important or not. Because they are personal and subjective, each one is big; each one is important. They are obstacles overcome, finish lines crossed, stars reached, and dreams coming true.
       I was happy to see my family on board with the idea. Who wants to make a list of resolutions, which at the end of the year, you have to pull out and see how many, if any, you even started. Will that make for a happy new year?
       Wouldn't you rather, open that jar, and see the blessings spilling out and filling you with joy and gratitude?
    So at the end of 2013, as the family once again gather to welcome the coming New Year, we will open our jars, and count our blessings, and offer a prayer of thanksgiving, and start the new year with our empty jars!

                                                                     Sylvia Hubilla
                                                                     New Year  2013

Post Script
New Year 2014

       Gathering again for our Media Noche, at midnight of December 31, 2013, our families brought our Blessings Jars to the table. I was happy to see that they were all filled with pieces of folded paper inside.
       “I dropped a lot of thank you notes inside our jar, Mehmeh,” my 10 year old granddaughter, Gianina, whispered to me. I was overjoyed to learn that even the children were counting their blessings too throughout the year.
       We decided though, that what we wrote and dropped in the jar, might be private, so we just included our thanksgiving for blessings we have received throughout the year in our prayers asking to bless the bountiful feast laid out on the table.

       It was one happy, noisy gaggle of children and slightly buzzed adults, wearing polka dots in some form or another, gulping down 13 grapes each, toasting the bubbly, and sparkling apple cider for the kids, and loudly counting down the seconds while watching the ball drop in New York City on the TV, ending in one collective crescendo of “Happy New Year!” After some sparklers and safe kinds of fireworks, the cold outside, started to move this party indoors, and to the serious business of eating.
       The children didn't want the evening to end, but some of the adults had to work the next day, so goodbyes had to be said, and just one more hug and greeting. We promised each other, we would open our blessings jar when we got home, and pray and say “Thanks” for the blessings received.
       Before I went to sleep that night, I sat on my bed, opened my Blessings Jar, and watched the folded pieces of paper spilling out. The feeling of joy that came over me was undeniable. And as I read each date, each blessing written on each paper, the feeling of gratitude was overwhelming, so real! The date was a time line of what was happening in my life on that date, and the blessing I needed and prayed for. I could not but say a fervent prayer of heartfelt gratitude for each and every blessing in that jar. It truly is a great thing to do, this Blessing Jar. For how easy it is to forget and take for granted the good things that happen in our lives.
       It was a joy to receive messages from my daughters before falling asleep that cold New Year dawn, to say they felt exactly the same way I did.
                 Here is my Facebook post that 1st day of 2014:

       Opened my Blessings Jar last night! Literally counting and reading my 2013 Blessings - overwhelming warm feeling of gratitude washes over me. Thank you dear God, for prayers answered, wishes granted, and sprinkles of little miracles along the way! My jar is empty now, waiting to be filled with 2014 Blessings...

                                                                   Sylvia Hubilla
                                                                                New Year 2014