By Louise P. Abesa
Under a canopy of trees on Santa Rosa Street, Barangay Kapitolyo ( the western frontier of Pasig City) weary souls, burdened by the challenge to protect themselves from an unseen foe, the novel coronavirus, find solace in what a modest fruits and vegetables stall offers to help boost the human immune system. The proprietress, a spirited lady from Isabela, used to just serve cooked meals in her canteen to provide nutrition to professionals and manual workers in the vicinity but with the March 2020 lockdown, she had to be flexible to keep her business afloat. She has decided to add fruits and vegetables stall in front of her canteen. With the CoVid-19 scare, people have learned to cook their own nutritious meals.
The lady from the north is always ready to give advice on how to cook the variety of vegetables available in her stall to her customer’s delight. Even with the transition from ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine) to GCQ (General Communists Quarantine), local residents as well as professionals and workers from other areas continue to patronize her goods. She, as of late, has added fish, chicken and pork to her stock.
Some of the most nutritious vegetables could pose a challenge to the palate without animal (land or sea) meat or fat. But my own personal experience tells me that with culinary creativity and some daring, one can transform these veggies into delightful dishes with the right spices and seasoning even without animal meat or fat. Well of course, for the millennials or those below forty who still enjoy good health without any symptom of any chronic illness like hypertension, the same vegetable concoction could very well be savored with animal meat or fat to grease the palate.
Considering one’s spiritual health, remember Daniel of the Old Testament? He was not inclined to be strictly vegetarian but he preferred to eat lentils (a kind of legumes) than gorge on meat served on the King’s table. His food preference kept him attuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and allowed him to easily discern God’s designs for himself and for other people especially for Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon.
A little self-denial and sacrifice at meals can go a long way in preserving one’s physical health and spiritual health as well. From Mandaluyong side, as one turns left from East Capitol Drive (the main road of Barangay Kapitolyo) going to the fruits and vegetables stall, one would see the little shrine of Santa Rosa de Lima at the corner of the street named after her. She reminds us, “Apart from the cross [the symbol of self-denial and sacrifice] there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” (paragraph 618 Catechism of the Catholic Church. cf. P.Hansen, Vita Mirabilis, Louvain, 1668).
It’s cool to eat healthy. It’s cool to take the stairway to heaven.
Let me share with you a “cool” recipe of ampalaya leaves with noodles for long life, cubed carrot to add color to that long life, garlic and ginger to add spice to it, salt and brown sugar for a healthy bittersweet twist.
Ingredients (good for one serving):
1 bundle of ampalaya leaves (about 2 cups when cut from the stalk)
100 g carrot (cubed)
30 g fine strips of ginger
6 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
1 table spoon cold pressed virgin coconut oil (this has anti-viral properties)
1 cup water
2 teaspoons of brown sugar
a dash of salt
Sauté ginger and garlic in one tablespoon cold pressed virgin coconut oil. Mix in carrot cubes, then add 1/4 cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil then add a dash of salt, stir the mixture then add two teaspoons of brown sugar and continue stirring. Add another 1/4 cup of water. Let the noodles sit on the mixture for two minutes. Let the softened noodles blend with the carrot cubes , ginger, and garlic with careful mixing using a fork then let the ampalaya leaves sit on the mixture and add 1/2 cup water. Let simmer for three minutes. Let the ampalaya leaves blend with the rest of the mixture with careful mixing with spoon and fork.
For the millenials or those below forty, shrimps, shredded fish or chicken, diced pork or strips of beef may be sautéed with the ginger and garlic (please refer to the first step of the cooking procedure).
Ampalaya leaves is good for blood circulation. It prevents thrombosis. Carrot is rich in vitamin A which keeps the eyes healthy.
You may substitute the ampalaya leaves with saluyot (nutritionists claim this veggie to have anti-viral properties) and the cubed carrot with cubed radish (which is rich in minerals).