Friday, April 28, 2017

A Boy Named Butter

A Boy Named Butter
for B
by Justine Camacho - Tajonera

His parents loved to cook as much as they loved to eat. Hence, they named him, their firstborn, Butter, after that golden ingredient that made everything smell and taste better. They loved the name and never thought it would cause him so much grief later on in life, unlike their prettily named second child, Vanilla. Butter was miserable in school, mercilessly teased by his classmates from kindergarten to grade school. He never once told his parents about how he was treated in school. He was a shy, secretive child and his parents took him at face value when he said school “was fine.” 

Butter retreated into the kitchen, the most magical place in their home. His best friend was their cook, Rosa. He loved the heat of the stove and the oven. He frequently poked his nose into the refrigerator and could smell all the ingredients that went into food. For example, he knew the subtle differences among onions, chives, and leeks. He knew how oil could sing and at what note it was best to lower the meat into the frying pan. He loved the feel of rock salt, flour, and muscovado sugar. He liked how their textures and colors were different and how they transformed into something delicious after they were cooked. In fact, he felt that the ingredients spoke to him. “Enough, enough,” the ground pepper whispered to his fingers and nose when he lightly dusted a dish of pasta. He wasn’t satisfied with just cooked rice. He liked adding pandan leaves into the pot, making the rice fragrant. He liked the slowness of caldereta, a beef stew that took six to seven hours to cook, as well as the quickness of danggit, a thin and crispy salted fish.

Butter was devoted to the kitchen. He insisted that he help Rosa clean up, standing on a wooden stool over the sink, diligently washing all the dishes. Rosa checked on his washing skills, sliding a finger over plates and utensils, making sure there wasn’t a spot of grease left on them. Later, he lured Vanilla into the kitchen with promises of candy and cupcakes. He made her his cooking partner, assigning her to ingredients preparation. When she was older, he tasked her with the cutting of vegetables, the peeling of potatoes, or the grating of cheese.

Rosa was so impressed with Butter’s progress in the kitchen that she entered him in a cooking contest featured on TV, with the permission of Butter’s parents, of course. Everyone was surprised when one of the finalists was a boy of eleven who had to stand on a stool to participate. They were even more intrigued when they learned that his name was Butter. Of course, Butter won the contest with his simple but ingenious butter and calamansi scallops paired with delicately sautéed snow peas and sigarilyas, or winged beans. The judges were enchanted. Butter became an instant celebrity. His classmates who had once shunned him were now vying to be his friends. Butter never changed. He only made a few friends despite his fame. And, of course, his best friends were still Rosa and Vanilla. Butter was never bitter with his parents over their unorthodox choice for his name. Now, he understood his unique destiny as a chef.

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