I’m half Filipino
half Caucasian (to be politically correct)
When you see me,
you think I’m Mexican.
I suppose that’s what the mix produced in my case.
Which means when I walk into a Filipino grocery store,
they look at me and wonder what I’m doing there.
I usually get the quick glance as I walk in,
that simply says,
Does she know which kind of market she just wandered into?
When I have a planned recipe in my head,
I know exactly what to go for.
However yesterday, I was on a mission for one thing.
One thing only.
A bitter melon.
I walk into the store,
They look at me and look confused.
I look at them, smile,
look at the vegetables,
then look back at them confused.
What in the world does a bitter melon look like? I wonder.
I ask politely, Do you have bitter melon?
Yes, it’s in there.
He points to a fridge full of vegetables,
Long green beans,
And a few other green items.
I look again, trying to figure it out by a process of elimination.
I know what this is,
I know what that is.
And I try to think back about when I’ve made the mistake of biting into a bitter melon.
I just can’t figure it out.
Ummmm…which one is it? My obvious not Filipino enough self asks with shame.
He points to something that looks like a shriveled up, unripe, green, hardened squash.
Oh yeah, ok. Got it.
Now the smell of fried fish is dancing in the air.
If you’ve grown up with that smell…
It makes you happy inside.
It makes you hungry inside.
It makes you crave a giant plate of fish and rice.
It's comfort food.
I try to redeem myself by acting like I know what I’m doing now,
I decide I’ll make the one dish that I know uses bitter melon.
I turn around and there’s the seasoning packet for Sinigang.
It’s a fish soup.
Now my tastebuds are at full attention.
I walk back to the butcher and ask him to clean and cut up some fish for sinigang.
And while you’re at it, fry me up a Tilapia.
(clearly I know what I’m doing)
I’ve got my bitter melon in one hand.
Sinigang packet in the other
My fish is on order.
Hmmm…where’s that guy again?
Um, excuse me…I’m making sinigang.
What other vegetables do I use beside bitter melon.
He looks at me as if he’s gonna laugh in my face.
Then he does!
This little man looks like my grandpa.
And he’s laughing at me.
You don’t use bittermelon in singang, he says with a little chuckle.
Hmph, My Grandma does, I quickly reply.
No, she doesn’t, he comes back.
Ok, so maybe you’re right then.
So what soup do I put bitter melon in?
Oh geez, I’ve heard of it.
He takes my sinigang packet out of my hand.
Then he hands me a Tamarind packet.
We bicker some more about which soup I’m supposed to be making.
I pick up a few more vegetables that he suggested.
I take a look at the new seasoning packet, it’s got shrimp on the picture.
But I just had him cut me up fish?
It’s ok, he says as he laughs in my face again.
I’m thinking…you know what Grandpa, I’m beginning not to like you!
The Boy and I load up our cart full of goodies.
And head home.
My house is now full fish, vegetables, and seasoning packets.
I’ve looked up recipes for both soups.
But guess what, I don’t have all the ingredients for either…
That’s it, I’m calling my Mom!