West Coast Asians: you are SO spoiled. Do you have any idea what a treat ube ice cream is? I bet you don't. I grew up up in a small coastal North Carolina town. When I say small, I mean ghetto. When I say coastal NC, I mean KKK country. Ethnic food? Oh hell to the no. “UBAY DO WHUUUUT?” says the Southern girl in my head.
The south was not known for the availability of popular Filipino anything about 20 years ago. Odd country girl accent aside, the fact that I am as Filipina as I am now is really nothing short of a miracle. I just said the word “Mabuhaaaaaay” and did my Southern girl wave.
My parents owned a small Asian grocery store and ube ice cream was one of those things my mom ordered every once in awhile. We never sold very much of it when it came in wholesale…it was kind of expenive. Mostly my sisters and I hid under the cabinets and ate it all. Ice cream treats came in the form of exotic flavors we enjoyed only (and especially) in the summers: ube, mango, creamy halo halo, avocado. Besides ordering it from a distributor, the only other place we could get it was a 4-5 hour drive to Norfolk, VA. Please imagine riding in a minivan with no air condition for 4 hours listening to NPR just for some ice cream. Now imagine being 12 years old. Now imagine the ride back. Van packed full of vegetables, pandesal, balut, etc. and hardly any space for three little kids greedily eating our native snacks.
Thats just a glimpse into my childhood. Mmmm hmmmm. You're welcome.
One of my favorite things about relocating to the west coast is the constant availability of these and other special treats. Everytime I get a taste of some empanada, puto, pastillas, pandesal, halo-halo, lecheplan, even alamang and mangoes, I'm a kid again: sneaking food in my mama's store or covered in dewy sweat from a four hour car ride. I had no idea a place existed (besides the Philippines) where these things could be everyday foods.
My sister lives about 20 minutes from a Goldilocks's sit down restaurant in San Diego. It's almost as good as being at my mama's house for dinner, complete with Tagalog chatter all around us. The language washes over me and I know it's as good as home. MabuHAY. *waves*