'Within the Walls' of Elegance and Hospitality

by Melissa Josue

When I think of Filipino restaurants, I think of Sunday brunch after mass, the drive to the other side of Union City after what felt like a long hour on a church pew, and the joy I felt when my parents let my sister and I choose our favorite dishes from the steam table at our neighborhood Filipino restaurant.

I remember the fluorescent lights and tacky mirrored walls, the one-room family restaurant next to a liquor store and a crowded Asian supermarket with the special of the day hand-written on a piece of paper and taped to the wall. Behind the counter there was usually a woman speaking Tagalog who asked what I'd like to order. She got wide-eyed and incredulous after I explained to her in English that my parents spoke English at home and I only heard Tagalog when they fought. I felt a fleeting sense of shame before she handed me my turon (fried banana roll) wrapped in tin foil or kutsinta (brown rice cake) with a little tub of shredded coconut before I sat down on a vinyl covered chair and white veneer or Formica table.

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