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okay, so  i admit the title of my post is not quite original.  i don’t think aleksandr solzhenitsyn would mind though.  in fact, he might feel flattered that someone from the 21st century has endeavored on ‘borrowing’ a product his creative juices after some forty years…

unlike solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece, however, my story is not set in a forced-labor camp in siberia.  and while there is labor, it is thankfully not one that is brought about by coercion.

i have recently started working as an associate lawyer at a firm in ortigas center at pasig city.  perhaps it is because i am new to working in a law firm that i sometimes feel unsure and lost.  then again, perhaps it is because i’m new to being a lawyer and i really haven’t fathomed what it entails.

despite the apprehension i feel, i do like being in my one meter by one-half meter orange and silver pre-fabricated cubicle.  i have a black flat-screen computer monitor on the left side of my desk and a ‘was-once-white’ phone on the right.  underneath my desk are a cpu and a steel cabinet with three drawers.  all my supplies — pens, paper clips, post-its — are neatly arranged on the top drawer.  the second and third drawers hold the folders of the files i’ve been assigned to work on.  they’re not that many but they’re enough to keep me occupied.

the thing i like most about my work area is the chair.  it is bigger than most swivel chairs i’ve used.  in fact, it’s too big for me so i can safely say it’s not the comfiest one i’ve been on.  for some reason, the chair keeps rotating to the right which doesn’t help much because my monitor is on the left.  pffft… what fascinates me about it though is that its seat cover matches (both in color and texture) the orange wrapping of my cubicle divider.  i must say, the chair does make the set-up look complete.  as my chair pivots slightly to the right, i tell myself i can easily sacrifice comfort  for style. 😉

my favorite time of the day is lunch time.  i don’t usually eat breakfast (read: i don’t have time to prepare breakfast) so i’m already hungry by the time the clock strikes twelve.  i don’t have to wait that long though.  the other associates normally prance around the hallway inviting the rest to eat before noon.  when they do, i happily oblige as i drag myself to the lounge.

there are three tables in the lounge — a square table near the door for the partners, a similar table for the non-legal staff right next to it across two square tables put together for the associates.  the lounge also doubles as the happy-hour area after six o’clock. Ü

pinoy food composed of rice, one meat dish and one vegetable viand plus dessert is the normal fare for lunch.  a neatly set white corelle-like plate with matching utensils and a cold glass of water await the person who sits on the table.  iced tea, coffee or warm tea is served after the meal.  what makes lunch something to look forward to is not the free food nor the fact that mang nilo is always there to help out (those perks are super, by the way!).   the best thing about lunch is that it is the time when everyone is gathered around, sharing not just food but also a little of themselves.

after lunch, i go back again to my hole in the wall, thankful for a hearty meal and new friends.  i try to get some work done while i daydream about ivan denisovich and the gulag archipelago.

i have come to realize that not all labor is like that of the the work done by inmates in siberia.  not all stories are like those told by solzhenitsyn.  there are stories like mine which are still slowly unfolding. there are stories like mine where orange swivel chairs abound.  there are stories like mine where food and friends make the labor all worthwhile…

i’m having a major dilemma over something really stupid. should i purchase a pair of havaianas (you know, the rubber slippers!) here or should i just wait ’til i get to brazil and buy them there? after all, they are made in são paulo where i will be a couple of weeks or so from today.

i don’t own a pair and i never thought i’d be compelled to buy one. i told myself that they were too “mainstream”. everybody owns a bloody pair so i made a pact with myself not to join the bandwagon.

when the havaianas trend started in the philippines, i bought a pair of blue nike slippers instead. its price was twice that of a better-than-basic pair of havaianas. that’s extremely expensive for a mere pair of rubber flip-flops. they only lasted for a little over six months. then the straps started disintegrating. ok, fine. they didn’t disintegrate but they did snap. and gone were my pricey blue nike slippers.

enter my favorite über-ordinary ‘spartan’ slippers which i purchased for 30 pesos from a local sari-sari in siargao two years ago. but they too have given up on me.

so when i went to mindoro in november of 2007, i asked my friend misael to buy me another pair of slippers. she did. she got me a pair of ‘hawaianas’ for 42 pesos. i could very well just choose to bring this pair with me to brazil. i don’t mind, actually. but the customs officers might. i’ve heard enough horror stories about people being held captive in foreign customs offices for toting fake LVs. creepy.

so perhaps it’s time to start caving in, flaking out and succumbing to the trend — something i promised myself i’d never do.

—//—

a week and a half ago, lottie and i ran some errands and so i had to drive all over town. we passed through cogon market and we were surprised to see people lining up towards a certain store. they were there for nfa rice, i was sure. the queue was definitely more than 200 meters long. with an average of 3 persons to a meter, that’s 600 persons easy!

after all our chores were done, we headed to la cabana to reward ourselves with a nice massage. as luck would have it, traffic was so heavy that i had to go around agora just to get to la cabana. we passed through the market and the same long line struck us as we circled the block. old people with kids along their side, young fair skinned girls talking to each other, dark muscled men sporting their paunches, 12-year olds toting their plastic bags… all of them lining up for that precious commodity. rice.

i personally don’t have a problem with rice. i’m not a big rice fan. but i can eat rice when i want to. it’s on the table during breakfast. it’s there again at lunch. we have it for dinner as well. that is, when we’re not eating spaghetti, bruschetta or some other italian dish. no, i do not have a problem with rice.

my dilemma arises because i think my beverly might have a problem with this rice ‘non-problem’.

let me digress a little. i say ‘non-problem’ because while we’re in a huge food crisis now and there’s a looming rice shortage, the government chooses not to admit having one. the prices have skyrocketed to unbelievable heights. and still, the secretary of the department of agriculture would have us think it’s business-as-usual. it is a ‘non-problem’, riiiiight?

moving on, i suppose this so-called ‘non-problem’ might actually be a problem to beverly and her relatives, especially to baby viva who has just recently started eating rice. you see, they love rice. the entire clan can finish two kilos a day. grace, our trusty househelp, is tasked to ensure there is enough supply of nfa rice for them. so grace lines up almost everyday at carmen market to meet the two-kilos-a-day quota for bev, viv and the rest.

now, if bev has a problem, i have a problem. i love my beverly. it makes me think though… does my love for bev come before the need of the rest of my fellowmen-and-women? does bev take precedence over the hordes of people lining up in cogon, carmen and agora markets?

tough choice. but in a perfect country with a perfect president who pursues perfect policies, i wouldn’t even have to choose between bev and the rest of the people. after all, food is such a basic commodity that it should not even be a choice. it’s a way to survive.

bruschetta

category:     appetizers and snacks
style:     italian
special consideration:     quick and easy
servings:     12 servings

description:
(pronounced as broo-SKEH-tah)

bruschetta is the italian-style garlic bread served as hors d’oeuvres.. there are so many different variations depending on your choice of topping. this particular variation is my favorite… =)

ingredients:

bruschettas:
1 thick baguette, end trimmed, loaf angle cut into 12 slices
1/3 cup olive oil
2 to 3 peeled garlic cloves, for rubbing

tomato, caper and olive topping:
3 large ripe tomatoes, trimmed, seeded and diced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons drained small capers (or as much as you like)
3 tablespoons drained black or green olives (or as much as you like)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced lemon zest
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed through a press or minced
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

directions:

for the bruschettas, preheat a grill or grill pan. rub the bread on one side with raw garlic then drizzle with a little olive oil. lay the bread on the rack or pan, cover, and grill, rearranging the position of the slices on the rack to create attractive markings and turning them once, until they are crisp and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes total. remove from the heat and cool. the bread slices can be grilled several hours in advance.

for the tomato, caper and olive topping, in a medium bowl, stir together the tomatoes, basil, capers, olives, oil, lemon zest, garlic, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a generous grinding of pepper. cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

here’s to hoping you enjoy my favorite. as world-famous chef wolfgang puck says…  live, love, eat! =)

p.s. for the sake of comparison and to satisfy your curiosity, click on the link for wolfgang puck’s bruschetta trio recipe.

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