My Mother's Sinigang

Written By Rosie Reyes

As my mother stirs

the simmering pot

of Sinigang,

she yells,

Kain na!

 

But the fragrant vapor escapes

the pot and fills the house

inviting the whole family

faster than her words.

 

Ate, Atong, Tita, Tito

Lolo, Lola,

Grandaddy, Grandmommy

and my father

gather together

at the dinner table

for the dish

my mother

has perfected.

 

One spoonful, tells a story:

The sour bite of tamarind,

cut by the saltiness of patis,

accompanied with the reduction

of tomatoes and okra,

dressed in mustard leaves,

soft bangus and gabi saturated in the soup,

finished with the lingering heat of siling,

over rice.

One spoonful, also

tells my mother’s story:

The sour bite of her attitude,

cut by the discipline of my grandaddy,

accompanied with the

self-reduction of self-medication,

dressed in reefer and haze,

her soul saturated in liquor.

The night finished with

the lingering regret of decisions,

over rice.

 

My mother

still returned home

every late night,

to the food of our country,

over rice.

My mother,

soon exhausted

of burnt haze,

dreaded hangovers,

and lonely dinners,

she realized

how much

she has drifted away

from her family.

 

So she

learned to harness

the art of

Philippine cuisine:

something both

My mother

and Grandaddy

agreed on.

 

My mother turned

lonesome late night

 

purple haze

to noisy dinner tables

topped with

homemade dishes.


She started with

navigating busy

Asian supermarkets

to find the ingredients:

Gabi, patis,

tamarind, bangus.

Speaking in spices,

my mom spent hours

in the kitchen

to finally master the art of

Sinigang.

 

As she stirs the pot

of hot soup for the last time

before being served

She yells, Kain na!

 

Everyone gathers

around the dinner table.

The white plastic flat spoon

breaks the surface of

the steaming pot of rice,

creating mounds

to be plopped onto

everyone’s plates.

The hot and sour soup is poured over,

coloring the plate in okra green,

tomato pink, sabaw brown,

and ivory bangus.

 

My mother smiles as we all eat

talking about our days,

laughing over inside jokes,

over Sinigang:

her growth,

her work, her love

her overcoming,

over rice.