The God of small things

There is a God. Not that I ever even doubted it, but He really is, well, there — actively involved even in matters you would not even dream of bothering Him with. The God of big things is also the same God of small things. Earlier this week I opened a present from Tita Loli, and from the size of the box it could have been anything but what it gloriously turned out to be!

For maybe over two years now, I have been wishing for a panini press. It is a regular entry on my wish list. I think of it whenever I am in the company of a great sandwich at Galileo Deli, when my husband and I are in Santi’s; when I watch the wonderful cooking shows on the Lifestyle Channel; whenever I sink into the cushy white sofa in our living room to watch Discovery Travel and Living. Last Christmas I even told Richard that it was the only gift I wanted from him.

I would often see ads featuring it in the magazines I subscribe to monthly and I would clip them and post them on my desk — some I would even photocopy and tack to the back of the notepad I always have on my bedside table. They were gentle daily reminders that should I come across it, I must buy it. But for one reason or another, Richard and I never really got around to purchasing one. It was just always a thought that entered our minds from time to time, something we knew we would get someday.

Well, that someday finally came that day. I opened the heavy box wrapped carefully in pink-red-swirled paper to find the panini press of my dreams. It was the exact brand I had wanted — Oster — its gleaming silver black-trimmed surface looking right at home in my hands, in our kitchen, in our home. It was almost like déjà vu, if only because I had already seen it countless times in my dreams.

I was so happy I wanted to kiss the non-living thing in my hands. I was so happy I wish Tita Loli was in front of me so I could give her a great big hug. I was so happy that God really does love me so much He gets involved in even little details like this. Yes, I believe He made it happen. How could Tita Loli have known? It wasn’t even my birthday or Christmas yet. I don’t believe in coincidences, I just know He delights in giving all of us what our heart desires.

Woohoo! I love the God of small things. Thank you, God! This year alone, He has done many great, big things for me but they are far too personal to share. Sometime, someday, I hope to also tell you all about it. But not just yet. Let it be all mine to have for now.

Anyway, back to the panini press. We are enjoying it so because our garden is almost finished and eating out in the balcony adjacent to it has become more and more the norm for dinner. I say almost because the lights have yet to be installed and I have asked Vicky, the landscaper, to add some kamachili plants along the length of one wall, directly under the bamboo and right behind the lush border where the malvarosa shrubs that grow in wild abandon end and the carpet of green Bermuda grass begins.

There are still a few things to be done here and there but the garden already looks legit, with its sounds and scents, and has made for a pleasant backdrop to the many impromptu, informal gatherings we often have at home.

I sit out there a lot, enjoying the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind, the scent of kamuning flowers gently coating the fragrance coming from the Alice Blue soy candles in scents like bamboo and white tea and ginger.

The night after we got the press, for dinner we just opened a huge can of soup, clam chowder I think it was. Richard and his friends, Mike and Boyong, went to Santi’s to get some cheese and cold cuts, a bottle of olives stuffed with almonds, liverwurst, gherkins, tomatoes and some greens for the Caesar dressing that Richard does so well.

Richard has also mastered roasting garlic. He slips into the hot oven a plate filled with big heads of garlic that are arranged in neat rows like little soldiers, bathed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. By the time they are done, the air is seductively fragrant the way only garlic can do.

In the past it would always be a side dish to the steaks we love to grill. We would scoop out the buds delicately from the skin clustered together like a crispy, white paper flower, and then mash it on the steak. Now, for the paninis we happily enjoy, we scoop out the fleshy slivers to spread on the face of either the chewy ciabatta or sourdough bread that we would get from Italianni’s, drizzle it with olive oil, pile on cheese, meat, arugula leaves and tomatoes. Sometimes we assemble between the chunks of bread something as basic as butter and cheese, or just fat tomato slices sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Boyong, who has dietary constraints, sticks to a healthier but just as delicious sardines version. Almost like a ceremonious final touch, like icing on the cake or cream in coffee, we slip the sandwich in between the heavy slabs of the press.

We get to enjoy hot, perfectly pressed sandwiches in the comfort of our own home, with family and friends, with music that’s a throwback to the ‘60s and ‘70s blaring from the iPod. We might as well be in some cozy café, except this one never closes and the night stretches as far and wide as the stories of our lives do.

While we do love eating out (we especially love sampling the many new restaurants that have mushroomed in Serendra) there is good enough reason to just stay in. As I sit in the balcony that leads out into the garden that is still a work in progress, my heart is painted in the beautiful colors of anticipation for the many cool nights we will be spending there in the days to come, especially with the holidays coming up: with family, friends and, of course, the panini press that for now and for a long, long time to come, will be the unassuming star of the show.

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