Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fusion Version of Filipino "Tortang Talong" or Eggplant Omelette and The Small C Part II - Strength in Vulnerability

The Small C Part II- Strength in Vulnerability

What I found most challenging when I had cancer was how to mentally  deal with it.  How strong and tough do I want to be or should I even be so.

This may seem an odd dilemma. I remember one friend saying to me, "Be tough Lulu. I know you can overcome whatever is called for. I know you very well".  I was grateful she believed in me but I was apprehensive not because I did not believe her that I was tough.  My fear was that I might get too tough.  Say what?

Memories of one particular incident in my life might explain this. I faced some difficult times many years ago. I lost a job where I did my very best.  I did cry but I also pushed myself not to cry. Perhaps a little too much of the latter since I got really depressed. 

I remember picking up a book in a garage sale or was it the Goodwill Store and in one of its chapters I saw this quote from Kahlil Gibran that gave me some clarity of what I was going through.

"Keep me from the wisdom that does not weep, and the philosophy that does not laugh, and the pride that does not bow its head before a child".
                                                                        - Kahlil Gibran

I did not want this to happen again, namely to push myself too hard to be strong and tough that I have no time to "weep" during my radiation therapy. But I did it again. 

I put my game face on during the 33 treatments I underwent daily except weekends for seven weeks at 7 am. I remember never missing or even being late for my 9:30 am class at IUP on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This was quite a challenge since Shadyside Hospital where I had my treatments was one and half hour drive to Indiana county where I taught. I actually made a game out of the travel I had to make. I always wanted to find out how early I could get to IUP each time I drove.

The state of the art radiation facility at UPMC Shadyside Hospital where I went through my treatments.
People who knew about my cancer were complimenting how good I looked. I think it was more a matter of expectations. I am suspecting they were thinking I had chemo also which can really be devastating to one's looks at times. But I graciously took the compliments anyway.

It seems others could not really tell what was happening to me and neither did I.  I was on denial that I was tired in fact too tired to prepare for one particular class which I seldom teach which I will talk more later in this post. Luckily, I was on autopilot for my other classes since I had taught them every year.

I kept a tight upper lip all throughout this episode in my life. I actually can remember crying only a few times during this period. Once occurred before the treatments started. I got the news that the PET scan showed it was localized and had not spread. The news came after a whole day of waiting for the oncologist to call me back. I remember the torture of waiting anxiously and picturing all sorts of worst case scenarios. The sobbing was one of relief.

The other time was on the Sunday before the last three treatments. I remember crying in church during Mass. It dawned on me then, as I was looking forward to the end of the radiation therapy, that I had undergone quite a lot. I was so preoccupied with being strong and tough that time passed so quickly to stop and reflect.

One other time that I broke down stood out among the rest since it happened in June, months way past the treatment period which occurred in January and ended in the second week of February. This was the day I read the student evaluations for the class I have taught only occasionally. 

All the time I was under treatment, I kept on telling everyone I was not tired unlike everyone else I knew in similar situation. I did not know I was on denial. The treatment did affect me physically and even mentally. I had the worst evaluation for that class. I gradually recalled how I could barely grade the complex lab reports. Memories of my struggle to prepare the prelab came back. I had dismissed these unusual work performance then to procastination or I was just not motivated or just plain lazy.  

I cried because I finally realized I was naively pushing myself too hard to be blind to the fact that I was actually weakened by the treatments when I was undergoing them.  For me then that would have meant losing my fighting spirit and the battle with the Big C or small c in my case.  I did not want to lose.  I wanted to win all the time.
There are many reasons I decided to continue writing my blog from where I left off two years ago. Several of my friends have cancer right now. Some are keeping a tight upper lip so to speak. I wanted to tell them at times that it was okay to be weak and vulnerable, to want to cry and to just cry. But I never could tell them for I was not sure if it was appropriate nor was it the right time to say so. 

I hope they read this or some others like them do. It is okay to fight with all your might but it is equally wise to weep and to accept you are indeed sometimes losing the battle.

Fusion recipe for a Filipino dish - "Tortang Talong" or Eggplant Omelette

The same Romano batter I used in preparing Eggplant Mornay in a previous post was recycled in this fusion version of a Filipino dish we call "Tortang Talong" or Eggplant Omelette in English.  I termed this as a fusion version since we do not use Romano nor Parmesan cheese in the traditional version of this delicious dish we serve for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

The version I prepared using the fusion recipe actually was the closest to the one I always craved for and which I had many, many years ago at the cafeteria at the University of the Philippines where I was taking graduate courses. 

The ingredients are the same as that of Eggplant Mornay except for the addition of cumin.  The procedure also has an added step since you are dredging in flour and cooking a whole eggplant not just slices unlike in the case of Eggplant Mornay.  One needs to be sure that the flesh is soft and cooked before it is fried whole with the batter.  We usually serve this with catsup or the Filipino version called banana catsup which is a bit spicier as well as sweeter because of the banana in the ingredients.  Mafran brand comes to mind.  You can also just add schriacha or even hot sauce to catsup to mimic the taste of the banana catsup.

Filipino Eggplant Omelette ("Tortang Talong")


  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese (I actually used Kraft Parmesan cheese)
  • 1 tbsp chopped dry parsley
  • pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 4 slender Asian eggplant
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • canola oil
  • catsup or banana catsup like the Mafran brand

  • Procedure:

    To prepare the Romano (or Parmesan) batter: 

    Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, grated Romano (or Parmesan), parsley, pepper, and cumin.  Whisk together and set aside.

     To prepare the eggplant: 

    Mix the flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder and set the mixture  aside.

    Take the whole Asian eggplant, carefully cut it in half so that the stem is still intact and then spread or fan it out.  Place a paper towel on top of a plate and then put the flattened eggplant on top of the paper towel. Place another paper towel to cover the eggplant and microwave it for five minutes.  (See note below for an alternative way to soften the flesh of the eggplant). 

    Dredge the whole eggplant in the flour mixture and then carefully place it in the Romano batter. 

    Pour canola oil into a skillet that was heated on medium high heat. Place the whole eggplant  in the oil and pan fry till one side turns golden brown. Flip and pan fry the other side. Place on paper towels to soak up excess oil. Pour more oil for each batch of eggplant.

    Serve with catsup or banana catsup.


    1)   Another way of softening the flesh of the eggplant was how I saw Lola May, our cook in the Philippines, used to do it. Broil the whole uncut eggplant first on top of the flame in a gas stove then cut it in half leaving the stem on and then flatten it out.

    2)  Feel free to add other spices this is after all a fusion version of this delectable Filipino dish.

    3)  In the picture above the post, one will notice I did miss keeping the stem on.   But you can do better. 


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