a time to eat your vegetables

It was 6pm and my stomach was growling from hunger. I could smell a familiar scent coming from the kitchen downstairs. It was that beautiful combination of garlic, onion and oil – three staples in every filipino home. I was so excited to see what my dad was cooking. What could it be? Adobo? Corned beef? …other filipino dishes that I don’t really know the names for but tastes really good.. lol.

After patiently waiting for half an hour, I hear my dad loudly tap the edge of the pan twice *bangbang, which was a universal signal (or maybe just for filipino households) that dinner was ready and you better get your behind to the kitchen asap otherwise… well, I never really found out because as far as I can remember, I always came to dinner.

I race downstairs from my room, and to my utter disappointment, dinner was – alampaya (with some minced pork) which is Tagalog for, bitter melon. Which tastes exactly that. Except not melon. So, just bitter. Yeah… Gross. This is probably second on my list of food that I hate the most. The first being coriander, or cilantro, depending which part of the world you’re reading this from. #ihatecoriander

Anyway, you’re probably thinking this is an over reaction. And it totally is. But here’s why. There’s a subconscious reason as to why I hate finding alampaya for lunch/dinner. You see, every time this is dished up by my mum or dad, they never fail to remind me that I should be forever grateful for this vegetable because it saved my life.

Yes, my life. When I was really young, I almost died due to a “complication” (we’ll call it that coz I’m not exactly sure what it was) that I was born with (I think). And apparently eating this vegetable saved me. Being naive and proud when I heard this story countless times, I never really asked my parents for any details. All I did was roll my eyes, sucked it up and ate the damn vegetable to shut them up.

But this time around, I was an adult, and I could finally say no to this vegetable without feeling guilty. So when I saw what was for dinner, I, the 30 year old, said, “Ew. Yuck. Gross! I don’t wanna eat that!” Hahahah. Queue dad’s – “Hey, you should be thankful for this vegetable. It saved your life!” – line. And seriously, word for word, that’s what he said. To which I responded with a quick laugh and responded with a “Yeah yeah..” *rolls eyes. However, he continued…

Apparently, when I had this “complication”, I was really sick and lacked a certain type of blood cell. It was pretty critical. The doctor’s first opinion was for me to go into surgery. If the surgery was successful, there was still a high chance of me becoming paralysed for the rest of my life. My parent’s didn’t like the odds of that and got a second opinion, which was to get a blood transfusion and eat a whole heap of this life saving vegetable.

Can you imagine, had my parents gone with the first option? Had I survived, I probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy the many things I love and simple things I take advantage of in my life. Like, playing with my nieces, playing basketball #ballislyf, walking up to 10 kms a day during travels, having long random conversations with good friends while driving, and, dancing. Oh man, dancing. #dancingisalsolyf

I couldn’t help but contemplate on all the things in life we don’t want to do, but need to do. If only we could fully comprehend how much it’ll benefit us (and others) in the long run. Like, going to that meeting, driving your sibling to work, staying up another hour to apply for jobs, staying home, running errands, having that dreaded but needed conversation, doing that last set of reps, eating our vegetables and taking up our cross.

So for dinner that night, I happily ate my dinner, without picking out any of the alampaya off my plate, like I used to do.

What are you picking off your plate?

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,* take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-26

Eating my vegetables (except for coriander), – M.