Lumpiang Gulay

An old woman offered her compliment by saying she could barely manage standing up: she said the ginataang tilapia, whole tilapia and mustard leaves simmered in coconut milk, was just too much for her. She approached to hand her payment, then gave an unsolicited remark aimed – it turns out – at me: “You know, I’ve been telling her” – in Filipino – “to get a loan from a bank and start her own food business.” Her skill in cooking, the old woman said, is put to waste!

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There was once a time when I found a bottle of an unfamiliar condiment at the office pantry. Check the label and everything is in Chinese, save for the word LAOGANMA next to an authenticity seal similar to the seals on paper bills. A poker-faced grandmother stares at you, a stare that imparts the wisdom of that Chinese cooking show anyone would have watched on RPN 9 back in the 90’s. From the looks of it, the bottle looked unscathed; no one dared touch it. I learned that it’s from a former colleague who apparently stocks up on this from trips to Beijing, and who thought it best to donate it to our pantry before he left for another job.

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