Author Archives: Marivi Soliven

April Fools Surprise

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Photo credit: Dawne Ellison

On April Fools’ Day I was surprised not by a prank, but by an article by Alicia de Leon Torres, published in our local newspaper. In it, Alicia profiled my writing, the day job as a Filipino phone interpreter, and my years long involvement with arts projects in San Diego. It was an honor and delight to be acknowledged in this way. Read the article by clicking on this link: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/someone-san-diego-should-know/story/2021-03-31/someone-san-diego-should-know-marivi-soliven-blanco

Covid Confidential

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Flash Fiction inspired by Covid

Amid a worldwide pandemic, the San Diego Central Library continued to promote literacy and support local writers, going above and beyond curbside book pickups. The San Diego Decameron Project is a collection of 100 flash fiction stories centered on this modern-day plague. My story was accepted for inclusion this anthology and was among the top ten that were performed at the virtual book launch last February. Listen to it by clicking on the link below. Hardbound copies will be available within the year.

Filipino Food Means Love in The Mango Bride

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I employed food as a metaphor for love and home in my novel. On this episode of The Talk with Rose Tibayan, I moderated a discussion on Filipino food and how it is recreated, and reimagined by fellow Pinoy expatriates Professor Martin Manalansan, Culinarista Michael Gil Magnaye, Cookbook author Betty Ann Quirino and Covid survivor Emot Verzola Farley who continued cooking despite her temporary loss of smell and taste. Click on this link to listen to our conversation.

Recreating Home with Food

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Filipino food appears in my novel as a metaphor for love in The Mango Bride. For millions of expatriate Filipinos like me, traditional dishes also help us recreate the sounds, scents and delicious flavors of home. I’ve invited a marvelous panel of home cooks to discuss our culinary obsessions and adventures.

After contracting Covid 19, Emot Verzola continued to cook despite losing her sense of taste and smell. Learn how she adjusted her recipes to accommodate that temporary but significant disability. In the Before Times, Michael Gil Magnaye traveled the world attending conferences for his day job as a development director. He is assembling a collection of essays on obscure but wildly popular Filipino restaurants in Europe. Professor Martin Manalansan outlines the political context behind mainstream American culture pinning Filipino food down to stereotypical dishes like adobo, lumpia and pansit. Finally, cookbook author Betty Ann Quirino zeroes in on a food-centric scene from my novel that resonated with her own efforts to recreate home by cooking Filipino dishes.

The talk is free and promises to be delicious. To register for this conversation, please click on this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/revisiting-mango-bride-with-marivi-soliven-tickets-137214447105

Generation Women Show

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I look forward to sharing the virtual stage next with these phenomenal women next Wednesday, January 27, 7 p.m. ET/4 pm PT. Each of us represent a decade from the 20s through the 70s and will tell a story based on the theme of resilience and perseverance. Mine is about Stress Baking and Covid. Tickets are available at the link below. Ticket holders who can’t catch the live performance will have access to the recording on a private Youtube channel.

The Talk with Rose Tibayan

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A tragic offshoot of the Corona Virus Pandemic has been an a sharp uptick in the incidence of domestic violence world wide, as those suffering from physical, emotional and/or financial abuse are forced to shelter in place with their abusers. Click on the link above to listen in on a thought provoking conversation about The Mango Bride, immigrants and domestic violence, hosted by Rose Tibayan. Anne Bautista, Esq. enriched the discussion with insights drawn from her work as an advocate and lawyer for survivors of domestic violence.

Postcards from the Pandemic – Holy Week Edition

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Banana Bread with Spiced Oatmeal Crumble

I retired from organized religion years ago, but remember all too well the dreariness of Lent, when good Catholics were expected to abstain from chocolate or wine or some other delectable indulgence. Ironically, for Lent this year, the Covid 19 pandemic compelled me to revert to being that “good Catholic” once more, for I had to abstain from a favorite indulgence: cooking dinner for friends.

Consequently, I have become obsessed with cooking dinner for family. Not just a meal, but dessert. Here is ourHoly Week of meals.

Miso Mushroom Pasta from Food52

https://food52.com/recipes/77676-miso-mushroom-pasta

Gochujang Chicken with Roasted Root Vegetables and Radish Pickles – from the NY Times

Red Curry Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach from the NYTimes

Apart from cooking, another source of solace in this time of social distancing is the view from my kitchen window. Some weeks ago, a pair of mourning doves decided to nest in the hanging planter of fuschias.

The floral facade conceals the birds in back
The cat watched those doves as eagerly as we did
On Wednesday the bird beat the Easter Bunny to the Punch

There will be no photos of Easter Sunday dinner, because even obsessive cooks need to take a day off.

Postcards from the Pandemic

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Tits up, mask on!

After hearing horror stories about long lines of people storming Walmart to buy fabric for face masks, I decided to go shopping in my closet instead.

No sewing machine necessary, but you will have to thread a needle

I donated my Victoria Secret bras after the company was disgraced by its association with Jeffrey Epstein and the #Metoo movement, but for some reason forgot to reattach their straps before giving them away! Serendipity must be the stepmother of invention, because I realized I could upcycle the straps as the base for face masks Dr. Fauci has advised everyone to wear.

If you have a strap with two panels like the one above, pull the two hooks together as though you wanted the strap to be as short as possible. Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut the seam between the two panels until they can open wide enough for the top panel to slip over your nose, and the bottom one, under you chin.

Ujayi breath, optional

Any soft cloth will work for the mask itself – a handkerchief or a piece cut out of an old T-shirt. Since the neighborhood yoga studio is closed for the foreseeable future, I upcycled one of my Manduka headbands.

Fold the headband obliquely on itself so that it looks like a pair of parentheses lying down. Sew the outer edge of the top parenthesis to the bra strap’s top panel and the outer edge of the bottom parenthesis to the bottom panel. Stitch overlapping centers of the headband together.

If you’re using a handkerchief or T-shirt, ignore the parentheses bit and just stitch on enough fabric to cover your face. Extra points for ruching on either side of the mask.

If the mask is too tight, cut into the seams and pull the panels apart a little bit at a time until it fits comfortably over your ears without pulling on those eyebags.

Only a fool would refuse to use a face mask in this pandemic and I do not suffer fools gladly.

In other news, I did an interview last Friday on Chat And Spin Radio, a British talk show. You can listen to a recording of the full show at this link, or skip to minute 41 to catch my interview.

Postcards from the Pandemic – a Friend in Knead is a Friend Indeed

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Newborn Focaccia

For the love of Bread, stay home! And we did, with the kindness of a virtual stranger. Yeast is as hard to find as hand sanitizers these days, but N. found several packets in an East Coast grocery and offered to send them out to her kneady friends. N. and I know each other through a private cooking FB group and I live on the other side of the country, but she refused to accept payment for the packets and postage. So I offered her a book instead.

Book for Bread Barter

The yeast arrived yesterday, and my daughter and I used one precious packet for our first attempt at Focaccia. I used Melissa Clark’s NYTimes recipe for Focaccia dough (sadly not allowed to share the link with non-subscribers).

Taught my daughter to knead today!

A little over an hour later, the dough had risen impressively. Yay for N’s yeast!

Rose in the oven with the light on, beside a steaming quart of just boiled water

Oddly, Clark’s focaccia dough recipe didn’t offer baking instructions. After much searching, I found them at Kevin Lee Jacobs ‘ site at this link: https://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2015/01/a-better-focaccia/

You can use his dough recipe or do as I did and skip to the part where he spreads the dough on the rimmed baking sheet.

Sprinkled with fresh rosemary, parmesan and porchetta spice

In other news, Californians have been advised to wear a face mask whenever we venture outside. If you don’t have a sewing machine at home, here’s how to make one without sewing:

http://blog.japanesecreations.com/no-sew-face-mask-with-handkerchief-and-hair-tie?fbclid=IwAR0CSbw6xDqZbt00BoC6ujNvmH5BCBDlGCFzA9SDP54NqGDFsnhLZ8Tg8cs

I’m a Catholic school survivor. Though we spent a year in 12th grade Home Ec class learning how to sew with dress patterns and sewing machines, I still can’t machine sew to save my life. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

For this no-sew PPE, I borrowed my husband’s silk pocket square and snipped up a widowed sock for the ear loops. Wore it to the post office to mail off N’s book and felt like only half a dork.

Postcards from the Pandemic

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Mujadara with its toppings: parsley, spiced yogurt, lemon, caramelized onions & Aleppo pepper

When I need comfort food, Mujadara is my Mac & Cheese. This Middle Eastern lentil and rice dish is fragrant with cumin, allspice and cayenne, topped with caramelized onions and parsley.

Because I have more time to be finicky these days, I ended up drawing from three recipes. These two from Melissa Clark for the cooking:

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1014804-one-pot-mujadara-with-leeks-and-greens

And this one from Food52 for the spiced yogurt topping https://food52.com/recipes/8565-mujaddara-with-spiced-yogurt

It was so good, everyone had seconds

Following our Dinner and a Movie routine, my daughter suggested The Shining. The premise seemed particularly apt for these quarantine times – – a family is isolated in a hotel by a snowstorm, just as we and thousands of other families are isolated in our home by a virus.

We could relate.

We warned her it would be scary but she insisted, and we made it through the first half. But when Jack Nicholson began to unravel and his son Danny showed up with strangle marks on his neck, Sofia switched over to The Great British Bake Off.

There’s only so much crazy we can deal with right now, and to be honest, I’d rather eat cake.