Tag Archives: lasagna

Love in Lasagna

15 Nov

lasagna-copyThe very first dish I ever learned to make was a lasagna. Not adobo, which took me 15 years to learn; not sinigang, which I could not stand to eat till I was in my forties. Apart from grilled cheese and liver pâté sandwiches my father taught me to make for our midnight snack dates, lasagna was the only thing I knew how to make for years. I learned from necessity, because I wanted to eat it.

In the beginning, I cooked only for myself. I would make one 9 x 13 pan and devour it in one sitting. No leftovers, I’m not kidding! Well, most of the time, really, heehee. Today, I’m sorry I did not share with my brothers and sisters more, maybe then, I’d  have shared part of my heft too.

When I had made the dish enough times, I found the confidence to share it with others. And so, I made it for my friends in med school. They seemed to like it, judging by the empty pans I would lug home. Well, it was that, or they were just being kind to me.

I also made lasagna to impress my then-boyfriend and years later, when we got married, the dish became his special request for occasions like his birthday or our anniversaries. Of course, as much as we would have wanted to have it everyday, it was a bit over our measly budget as newlyweds and, later on, too labor intensive for new parents.

One memory that comes to mind when I think about lasagna happened when we were very young. On his 25th birthday, amid a series of family disputes (long story), I burnt the lasagna meant for his birthday dinner. In the drama of the day, I totally forgot about it and by the time I remembered, thick, black smoke was coming out of the oven. I remember holding the burnt pan over the sink, crying over it and our woes. I was about to throw the whole thing in the trash when A♥ silently took it from my hands. He set it on the table, helped himself to a huge serving, and ate it without complaint.

“Thank you for a wonderful birthday, hon,” he whispered in my ear.

“It’s burnt,” I bawled loudly.

“I could eat everything in one sitting. I love it because you made it. And I got to spend my birthday with you again,” he said gently.

I cried even harder after that. I also never burned a single pan after that day.

Last weekend, upon request, I made lasagna for the family and an extra pan for Alex’s friends. I worked late Friday night to get them ready and then woke up extra early to bake them. Making them was not easy for my numb, clumsy hands anymore, I discovered, but I worked with only the best ingredients and poured my best efforts into making sure they tasted the same as they always have.

Alex has already asked me to teach him how to make it. On occasions when he is inspired to make something more than a lazy cup of instant ramen, this son of mine dabbles in the kitchen. One day, he will be making the lasagna in the family. Hopefully, he will share it with friends, with loved ones, and with the family he will make. I find this thought comforting.

When he makes his own lasagna, he will be sharing more than just food that has become a special part of our family. He will be passing on years of our memories, of a family history that included one special dish, and all the joys and sorrows that came with it. He will also be passing on love and snippets of our lives.

Which, I hope, much like the lasagna I served for lunch last Saturday, will be enjoyed to the fullest and to the last bite.


Garfield’s (Kitty)Mama

27 May

The Blog Rounds(This originally came out in the e-zine Outpost. With minor changes, I am posting this as my entry to the 11th TBR hosted by Doc J.A. of  Ripples From The River Of My Thoughts.)

I came upon my own recipe for lasagna the year I started medical school. My social life was drastically curtailed as I was forced more and more to catch up on reading assignments. I had broken up with my boyfriend the year before and my emotional health was at an all-time low. While I had lost a considerable amount of weight during the years he and I were together, the summer before med school saw me adding more than 15 pounds to my girth, perhaps in trepidation over the dreaded years ahead.

So there I was, unhappy and fat, confined to my room to face a mountain of textbooks, desperately trying to get out of doing homework. To escape the dreary monotony of schoolwork, I puttered to the kitchen for the nth time that day, scrounging for leftovers, sandwiches, and packets of previously opened junk food. Having scraped the refrigerator almost clean, I started opening pantry drawers in search for more munchies. The pantry was almost empty by then, save for a few boxes of popcorn, a jar of peanut butter, a tetra-brick of tomato paste, and a box of lasagna noodles.

Then, a flash of inspiration hit me! I rushed to the study room and looked up old cookbooks. I saw an entry for lasagna and scanned the recipe for details. The cookbook was almost a decade old so the recipe seemed a little staid. Now armed with the basic know-how, I turned the kitchen upside-down searching for possible entries to my revised recipe. There was no Parmesan cheese so I settled for quickmelt cheese. There was ground meat in the freezer and there were tomatoes fresh from mom’s garden that day. I saw a fifth of a bottle of white wine in the chiller and I decided to appropriate that for my white sauce. There were some also leftover boiled crabs from dinner the night before so I decided to use that too.

I hurriedly took some money from my wallet and walked the block down to the grocery store over at Times Street, all thoughts of anatomy forgotten. I filled in the rest of my shopping list and ran all the way back, breathless and wheezing from excitement.

In two hours, I had prepared my first lasagna. I ate about half before the rest of my siblings were drawn to the scent and devoured the rest of the dish.

In the following years, I must have made more than a thousand lasagnas for my friends and myself. Most often, the urge to eat lasagna comes when I am at the nadir of my life. Case in point: the day I flubbed the big neuroscience practical examination.

Two weeks before the semester’s end, the college’s most eminent neurologists tested us individually, medical school freshmen, to see how much we had learned from a term’s work load. There would be two exams of that nature for the year, one at the end of each semester. Failure in both exams would doom the student to an entire summer of ward work and lectures while the rest of the class enjoyed the summer break. Failing one meant doing extra research and more course work, courtesy of one’s preceptor.

We held study groups to prepare ourselves for the big day. Older students shared their savvy and expertise. Their most relevant tip? Don’t make a fool of yourself.

We did the rounds of older students’ groups, siphoning them of information which teacher was kindest or who was the strictest, and which chapters to concentrate on. Rumors flew around us and we spent many an hour milling around the lecture lobby, waiting for some salvation from our dreaded state. Some said the techniques on physical and neurological examinations were supposed to count so we used each other as dummy patients. In the end, however, we were told that the entire graderested on the diagnosis.

It was supposed to be a simple case; all one needed to do to pass was to decide whether it was a lower or upper motor neuron disorder. On the day of the examination, we drew lots to see who will test us and just my luck! I drew the stub with the name of this professor notorious for giving out the most difficult questions in any exam. All my false bravado flew out the window, replaced by fear, anxiety, desperation and terror.

The minute I saw Dr. Neurologist, my legs turned to jelly. I had to calm my nerves quietly before I could even step inside the room. I kept chanting under my breath, “Don’t make a fool of yourself. Relax. Smile.” I forced a smile but it came out as an expression of sourness. The doctor stared at me, returning a look of exasperation in his otherwise stoic demeanor.

I examined the patient in haste and started running through the differential diagnoses in my clouded mind. “Lower motor neuron disorder secondary to what-was-that, the thing with the whats-its and whos-its, ahhh, dang it!” I had memorized a whole chapter on the topic yet my mind was drawing a complete blank!

The seconds ticked on slowly, and in the corner of my eye, I saw the doctor stifle a yawn, impatience flashing through his features. He asked a series of pointed questions, all the while motioning for me to hurry up and be done with it.

In my panic, I blabbered like an idiot, trying to swallow the bolus of fear that had lodged deep in my throat. When his patience finally ran thin, he whispered, “Decide now, doktora,” in a low, serious tone. It was make or break time. I decided to end my agony by blurting out the first diagnosis I thought of.

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