A La Carte Food & Fiction

Edited and Collected by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and Marily Orosa
Anvil, 2007, softcover, 208 pages

A La Carte is the winner of the prestigious Gourmand Award
2008 as the Best Food Literature Book from the

"A menu of stories to suit your every craving! That’s A la Carte: Food & Fiction. This book fills a hunger in Philippine literature for fantasy, hyper-reality, romance, mystery … but with a good measure of culinary flavoring mixed in." ~ Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, culinary heritage advocate and writer

"Here is a book guaranteed to satisfy even the most discriminating taste, but also to make readers hungry for more stories, characters, insights, and recipes. Fact, fiction, fantasy, and food mix in a feast for the mind, the heart, the palate, and the soul. There are many well-known writers in the anthology, but it is not so much who writes as what is written that makes this book a must-read, just as it is not so much the chef or the cook that makes a recipe to die for, but the dish itself. Enjoy the 25-course banquet." ~ Isagani R. Cruz, The Philippine Star

"Books on food are quite popular these days and we are glad that recent
publications have gone beyond mere recipes to evoke what Proust called a
‘remembrance of things past.’"~ Ambeth R. Ocampo, Chairman, National Commission for Culture and the Arts; Chairman, National Historical Institute

BY ANNA BARBARA L. LORENZO, Reporter, Business World Weekender, March 2-3, 2007


As if choosing ingredients for a delicate dish, writer Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and publisher Marily Ysip Orosa went through a meticulous selection process for their short story collection.

They sent out press releases and invitations through the Internet, reaching Filipino writers abroad.

"We first selected 12 stories. We were surprised because they were very serious. I realized that food brings up memories about families and relations and sometimes these relations can be very complex," Ms. Brainard said in an interview.

When the first batch turned out to be serious stories coming mostly from female writers, Ms. Brainard said she encouranged more male writers to send their stories.

"I was really looking for stories with good, strong character development. And of course, they had to fit the theme. I have no compuctions about rejecting work that doesn’t fit. Name does not sway me. They know it’s not personal," Ms. Brainard said.

The stories came in not just from Manila but also from Dumaguete, Cebu, Davao, Chicago, Singapore, Hawaii and San Francisco.

Hence, the book, A La Carte: Food and Fiction, is a feast of Filipino tales coming from different perspectives.

Like a full menu, A La Carte first offers breads, appetizers and salad, followed by soup, rice and main dishes. Stories inspired by desserts come in last.

The stories kick off with an easy read, a short autobiographical account by Edna Weisser who serves classic Pinoy snacks with the German flair in "Merienda Alemania."

Like warm and rich soup served on a cold and rainy day, Susan Evangelista’s "Pumpkin Soup" and Nadine Sarreal’s "No Salt" offer heart-warming tales revolving on love, grief, comfort and understanding.

Carlos Cortes tells about his fondness for puso in his story "Hanging Rice" and his first trip to Manila where the handy packet of rice wrapped in woven coconut leaves does not exist.

The collection also includes a cute romantic tale of a man who falls in love with the waitress who serves his chicken inasal in Ian Rosales Casocot’s "Pedro and the Chickens."

With food and family being associated most of the time, A La Carte also has stories that involve abuses within members of the family, as found in "Two Drifters" by Veronica Montes, "The Fish" by Reine Arcache Melvin and "Kitchen Secrets" by Shirlie Mae Mamaril Choe.

Getting inspiration from Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, A La Carte has included recipes to go hand-in-hand with the stories in the collection.

This is a nice value-added touch for lovers of literature and culinary arts. After all, one might just be inspired to make traditional Filipino favorites like pork adobo after reading Dean Francis Alfar’s "Sabados Con Fray Villalobos" or lumpia after Jose Dalisay, Jr.’s "Wok Man."