When Life Gives You Cabbages, You Make Coleslaw. Duh.

This story is not necessarily told in sequential order whatsoever. But bear with me. This has a point, I promise.

Friday at work I had a meeting with HR. Not a “I’m in trouble” type meeting, but the “You’ve been here for five weeks and we would love to set aside an hour and chat about what you have observed while you are here, both at the office, as the Filipino culture as a whole, and just talk.” It was a light hearted conversation. My HR supervisor is the same lady who picked me up at the airport and who has been showing me around the Philippines while I’ve been here. My ‘host’ mom and apparently now adopted mother. We went adventuring on Saturday and she told her second youngest, “Be nice to your sister,” referring to me. It’s cute. I squee’d. I was honored. (This is where we start getting out of order).

But anyways, Friday after being home sick the previous day was a little wonky, I had a fine day at work, it was just slow going. I was trying not to over do it. My meeting overlapped with snack time in the management office and the Merienda (light meal) were burger type buns with canned tuna, smashed avocado, cucumber, lettuce and Laughing Cow Cheese slices. I was told to eat. And I did as we talked. It was mostly along the lines of “If we were to do this over again, knowing what you do now, what advice would you give yourself,” and the like. Coordinating my work opportunity that got me here, much like this story, happened out of order. So the sandwiches were good and I was happy to have fresh veggies. I knew then and there my next trip to the supermarket would yield the necessary things to replicate these little treasures. They were AMAZINGLY good.

Saturday my “host mom” and I started our adventure a little after 2pm, which by our standards, is fairly late, especially since we started at 3:30am only two weekends ago. We went to the butterfly sanctuary on the other side of town. The drive had us take the main road that goes by the decent sized mansions on the hill with a great view and in contrast with what I have seen this trip, I surprised to see such a strong cluster of wealth. The sanctuary was ‘meh’. I did get to go behind the “No entry” sign (thanks to our guide) to see the enclosure where they raise the butterflies until they’re big enough to fly out in the open. I always love being on the side of the sign the sign says you’re not supposed to be on. It was neat seeing the cats that roamed the property. Most of them had half a tail or less and they could leap to the top of an eight food fence in one jump no problem. I want to bring them all home with me.

After the butterflies, we went to Crocolandia. It original focused on the crocodiles but has since expanded into other animals of Cebu and is kind of a like a “zoo” but smaller. I made friends with a dozen brahminy kites, which are a type of sea-eagle (not making this up). For some reason or another I figured out how to replicate their call and spent fifteen minutes having a “conversation” with the birds very similar to how you “meow” back at your cat when it wants something. Croclandia had Filipino deer and an ostrich and a bunch of other critters. So there was no rhyme or reason to the animal selection. Still not convinced? They had a half dozen bearcats, or at the little girl who was with her parents called them, ‘cat bears’.

We had lunch at Cybergate Mall, which is on the roundabout near my building at a Mexican restaurant called Mooon (yes with three o’s). From there we went to Ayala Mall for dessert (which is worth the Google search because it is HUGE!). I joked that I should have been pushed around on a skateboard so I could focus on looking around instead of watching everything and walking. The mall just kept going and going and going like a maze. Dessert was a lovely selection of donuts with airy marshmallowy cream cheesy filling and they were to die for. After wandering around the mall, we ended up at a Korean café for second dessert and to see the sheer level of cute.

The upstairs level had two sublevels. The ground level and a lofted ‘upper level’ much like 10 foot square lifted forts with lots of cushions and pillows and a little table to enjoy your treats. The set up would have made an epic fort. All the while I had the whole day to think about the sandwiches from Friday.

Sunday was a quiet and lazy day. I slept in late, worked on my online class, and went to the supermarket for more water and things to make the sandwiches. And of course it didn’t go according to plan. The supermarket is always shuffling things around. Some genius put the iceberg lettuce and the cabbage heads next to each other. I didn’t know it at the time but I got a head of cabbage instead of lettuce from the lettuce pile. It’s like putting parsley and cilantro next to each other.

I got home and put groceries away and started washing my sundresses in the sink (the care tag says hand was only and it’s dry enough here it’s no too much work). By the time I got to lunch, it was 2pm in the afternoon and I was starving. I did my best to replicate the sandwiches, still not knowing at this point I had cabbage. It was as I was eating a sandwich I figured it out. I was frustrated. I was stuck with a cabbage and over the five weeks I’ve been here, I’ve tried really hard not to waste anything. If I have left overs from lunch, they go to the dogs before the proper trashcan. And here I was with a cabbage. What was I going to do with a cabbage?

The answer came to me today while at work. It’s summer and the common solution to cabbage is coleslaw. Coleslaw. COLESLAW! I had vinegar and black pepper on my pantry shelf already and I had picked up another container of sour cream (they were out of milk, again) with the intention of making French toast one of these nights. I cut up the cabbage, drenched it in vinegar with a healthy amount of sour cream and the hope the dairy would curdle a little bit to get more of a buttermilky flavor. I cut up an orange and drizzled the juice over the slaw and it’s currently in the fridge melding flavors overnight. I took one of the left over buns from my failed attempt at tuna and veggie sandwiches and set it in a pan on low heat to dry out and toast while I made the slaw. I used the remaining amount of tuna and a little cheese for an amazing tuna melt that went very well with the beginning flavor profile of the slaw.

The answer had been in front of me all this time and I got frustrated with being stuck with a cabbage when in reality, I love coleslaw. My mom has honed in an amazing recipe and if I was ambitious, I would have replicated it. But life gave me a cabbage and I made coleslaw. Everything in the Philippines really does find its way back to food.

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