I have been thinking a lot lately about the cost of things vis a vis their actual value. That’s what happens I suppose when you become a grown-up with a mortgage...suddenly all expenditures are brought into sharp focus, to be examined and audited conscientiously. Do we really need this? Can this wait? Will my soul suffer irreparable damage if I do not purchase this immediately?
This is especially relevant with the fast approaching holidays. I don’t know how it is where you are, but over here as soon as the –ber (SeptemBER…) months hit the carols start playing at the malls and every store has something bright and shiny to lure you away from your hard earned money. The gift giving here can get a bit over the top, with Christmas lists a kilometer long and gifts to be gotten for every single person you know and some you don’t...forcing many into purchases of mass "generic gifts".
In addition to this, little C’s 1st birthday is coming up (how time flies!), and although I am beyond excited to celebrate my cherry bomb’s first year on Earth, local tradition dictates a big-splash first birthday party. I’m talking party planners, mascots, caterers, shows. And, of course, a professionally designed birthday cake.
Now, I know it sounds like I’m turning all bah-humbug on you but hear me out. As far as Christmas goes, I sometimes feel like it’s turned into a merry-go-round of generic gifts and consumer gimmicks – where’s the meaning? It’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year and I’m stressed because of things that technically should not matter in the grander scheme of things – is that not more than a little ridiculous? I certainly don’t want to be cynical about Christmas (or cynical in general)…particularly when I have a little one with whom I want to share the magic.
And don’t even get me started on the 1st birthday celebrations. I have already decided to eschew tradition and have a small gathering. At one year old little C will not remember all the hoopla and, I am pretty sure, will enjoy a small gathering of doting family all bent on entertaining her, as much as, or even more than, a gaggle of mascots (which if she is anything like her mother will only serve to freak her out).
So, although it is not the New Years yet, I have decided to make a few resolutions. Simplify. Lessen the expense and increase the meaning. That is going to be my motto for 2011…heck, this is going to be my motto starting right now. A Christmas with less worry about parties and gifts, and more meaningful moments instead. A first birthday with just close family and homemade decorations and lots of love. Finally cleaning out our home of all the “stuff” that we’ve accumulated that is no longer useful. Oh, and two credit cards on the chopping block. And that’s just for starters ;)
Anyway, what does all this have to do with prawns in crab fat? Nothing really, except for the fact that the prawns were a gift from my father-in-law which I stretched over three meals, managing a little savings in our market shopping :)
Sugpo sa Aligue at Gata (Prawns in Crab Fat and Coconut Milk)
- 500-600 grams prawns or shrimp, whiskers trimmed but otherwise unpeeled
- A couple of glugs canola oil (or any vegetable oil)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass, white parts only (save the green parts for stuffing a roast chicken)
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 2-3 siling mahaba (green finger chilis), sliced
- 3/4 - 1 cup aligue (crab fat)
- 250 ml or 1 cup coconut milk
- 1-2 tablespoon fish sauce (to taste)
- The juice of half a lemon or 2-3 kalamansi
- Heat oil in a wok or skillet or pot that is big enough to accommodate all your prawns (in either 1 or 2 layers, no more than that). When the oil is hot add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and onion. Sautee until onion is soft and translucent.
- When onion is soft add the chilis and aligue. Cook, stirring often, until the aligue softens and oil separates.
- Add the coconut milk and continue to cook until it all melds together. Add fish sauce and lemon/kalamansi juice to taste.
- Lay the prawns in the pan; give it a shake to coat with sauce, cover, and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Check your prawns and remove from the heat as soon as they are all bright orange.
- Serves 3. Or 2 plus 1 serving for lunch the next day :)
You want a good balance of saltiness from the fish sauce, and just the right touch of acid from the kalamansi/lemon to cut through the richness of the crab fat and coconut milk, so make sure to taste and adjust. This is not the type of dish you want to eat every day as crab fat is not exactly the healthiest of food. It is fabulously rich and savory though and, in my book, absolutely fine for every once in a while :)
It may look like this dish is at odds with my new resolutions…and that may well be the case. But it’s also a reminder that despite my goals to simplify my life (saving money, reducing stress, and adding meaning in the process) there will still be times to indulge. I am not wagging a finger at big spenders – by all means, if you’ve earned it; you have certainly earned the right to spend it. These goals, and the reasons behind them, are solely mine and apply to my life and where I am at this point. I am not going the whole hog here either, forsaking all material things for an ultimately Spartan lifestyle. Only just pared down enough to be mindful of excess that could very well be avoided. But mindful as well of moments when a little well-thought-out indulgence is in order :)
My, my. I sure have tripped the light philosophical today. I won’t bore you with my ponderings for much longer. If you too would like to simplify this coming year (or have been doing it already) I would love to hear your suggestions!