Adobo Variations

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I.
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup coconut vinegar
  • 1 cup 7 up
A head of garlic smashed
was how my father would marinate
pork ribs, kebabs,
mixing with his hands
in a splatter,
licking his fingers, off into
a daydream, more soy sauce, again.
He’d thread the fleshy chunks on wooden sticks,
watch them crackle
into brown on the backyard barbeque.
Summer,
watermelon, a cold glass of Coke,
when we all lived in the same house.
For each one of our birthdays, my father plays Lotto,
darkens every bubble
for every month and day
we were born: me and my dead
mother, my half-sister
whom he speaks to every few months.
He pencils in
each of our digits
maybe they’ll bring him luck, unfathomable
fortune – this ticket is the only place left where we can all
be together.
II.
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup coconut vinegar
  • 1 cup 7 up
The only thing
my mother could eat
when the chemo killed
her taste,
the only thing
that didn’t taste stale
on her deadened taste buds.
The only thing
we didn’t have to
toss in the trash.
III.
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup coconut vinegar
  • un-nameable tablespoons of white sugar
My aunt (who had nowhere else to live)
stewed pork hocks in this marinade:
fat tasted better than meat.
She would peel the skin
from chicken, pat it dry,
fry into cracklings. My sister
and I would take turns,
doling out skin like doubloons.
Mama Ging would serve them to us
on a paper towel, still hot.
It was her only act of kindness,
after she had stolen my mother’s
clothes & jewelry &bags
& sent them back home,
bragging about how much money
she had. Dad nicknamed her
Lady Benevolent. My mother stopped
buying expensive things after that.
Mama Ging even sent home our Legos,
packed them while we slept.
IV.
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup coconut vinegar
  • 1 can coconut milk
I took my Michigan husband here on our first date, when I was still living
with a man-child from France and looking for a way out. David’s favorite food
was tuna sandwiches, salad. His fridge with only five things:
a head of lettuce, fake mayonnaise, one tomato, soy milk. No butter.
We’re at a restaurant in Queens, something’s missing in the sauce, it’s not brown
enough. They add coconut milk. It whitens – this is not right.
V.
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup coconut vinegar
  • 1 cup San Pellegrino Arancianta or orange juice
  • smashed garlic
  • slivers of fresh ginger
  • a whole onion, sliced
I put the chicken thighs in a Ziplock,
cover with the marinade,
shake and leave in the fridge for days.
Its color changes:the sauce
has seeped into the flesh.
Marinade braises the meat but
I leave the skin exposed
so it will crisp
under the broiler
like my own version
of kindness.
Two hours
at low heat.
It doesn’t fall
apart.
It pulls us home.
ADOBO VARIATIONS by Allison Albino

 

Photo used under CC

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About Author

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Allison Albino is a Filipina-American poet and French teacher who lives and writes in Harlem. Her work has either appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, The Lantern Review, Pigeon Pages, Poetry Northwest, The Common, The Alaska Quarterly Review and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, The Fine Arts Work Center and Tin House. Her chapbook, "My Mother’s Prufrock," was a finalist for YesYes Books’ 2019 Vinyl 25 Chapbook Contest. She studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and has an M. A. in French literature from NYU. She teaches at The Dalton School in New York City.

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