A Certain Age and a Jerk (Sauce)

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A routine medical exam turned up benign growths that a quick, compulsive search online pointed out as common among women “a certain age.” I thought it sounded like the genteel title of the romcom adaptation of a nineteenth-century English novel featuring, in the words of another website, “women in their late reproductive years.” OK, maybe romcom is a little too optimistic. I’m kidding. A friend says matter-of-factly, Isn’t everyone “a certain age,” and I agree, although I can’t help but feel, when it is used in a conversation to refer to someone younger, someone is pulling a Polanski. To someone older and it can imply an attendant defect. When it shouldn’t, or doesn’t. (Ditto, cross fingers, for the previous scenario.) I like being “a certain age,” warts—now more often than not literally—and all. To be honest, I am relieved that some things have in fact gotten easier, demand and deserve less drama—and this is saying a lot given my fondness for theatrics, or even just animated accounts with friends complete with Shakespearean asides and reenactments that will make the groundlings of Elizabethan theater proud. Because after being you for four decades you (like to think—or, hope and pray) know yourself enough to have a better sense of what really matters to you, where your wild is, the authentic one, and there are less instances, less chances (the motherfuckers do not entirely disappear) of finding yourself working your way back, bruised, battered, and bewildered from the fall, wondering whatever possessed you to choose the door marked Vale of Tears in the first place, guns blazing. And don’t tell me YOLO—it’s banal and overrated so get out of my face. (See what happened just there. I was “a certain age” right there.) There are mistakes we can tell a mile away and do not need to make to know the lesson, I realize now.

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Jerk Sauce

Ingredients: 4 to 6 Scotch bonnet pepper (which I suddenly found in abundance at the supermarket, but you can use our native siling labuyo), 2 T all-spice powder, ½ cup brown sugar, 6 garlic cloves, 1 T ground thyme, a handful of scallions, 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp grated nutmeg, 2 T liquid aminos (or soy sauce), salt and pepper

Process: Blitz in a food processor, transfer to sterilized jar, and if refrigerated will last past a certain age.

Guinataang Kamias

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You know it’s summer in the Philippines when the kamias tree found in the backyard of every Filipino home is heavy with fruit. Too often, we are at a complete loss when it comes to managing the enthusiasm of this plant, and it’s become typical to just let the fruits fall and rot in the soil. It’s highly acidic and can turn off most people unless neutralized by too much sugar. In the past I’d make what I called Angry Pasta, which would be really spicy and used kamias slivers to cut the heat. Maybe it should also be called Shock and Awe Pasta. My friends, suckers for punishment, couldn’t decide which assault they preferred, the sour or the spice. Cooking the pasta, at most I’d finish two fruits. Needless to say the dish hardly made a dent on the oversupply.

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Well. No more. Last Sunday I fearlessly asked my mother for a bag of around 50 pieces and decided to cook Guinataang Kamias and make use of each. And. Every. Sour. Piece. Because it uses kamias, a little serving goes a long way. Best served with fried or grilled tofu and brown rice.

Guinataang Kamias

Ingredients: 2 T of olive oil, 4 cloves of garlic minced, 1 to 2 T of vegetarian bagoong, 1 can of coconut milk, 4 to 5 cups of sliced or chopped kamias, 1 cup of dried cranberries, 4 to 6 kaffir lime leaves torn into pieces, salt, pepper, chili oil, muscovado or coco sugar (optional)

Preparation: Heat oil in nonstick pot. Add garlic and saute for a few minutes without burning it. Add vegetarian bagoong and saute until cooked. Set heat to low. Add coconut milk and stir constantly until fragant. Add kamias and continue to cook until soft, stirring throughout. Add cranberries and kaffir lime leaves. Season to taste. Cook for a few minutes. Add chili oil if you want some heat, and sugar to cut the acidity.

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