The Perfect Meal
Photo by Ronald Jufrey Milan
With his skin parched and wrinkly in the heat of the sun, a man continued to walk with fervor down the road. Beads of sweat trickled down his aged face and his breaths were deeply labored. The load on his shoulders did not help, but it did not stop him, either. Muscles defined his whole body – each a testament of the toils he had to endure throughout the years.
It was almost noon when he passed by the old marketplace – a sign that he was nearing his destination. The nearby carinderias were already filled with people who devoured their meals with gusto. The man could only watch them with envy. His nostrils were filled with the sweet scent of barbeque on the grill as his stomach grumbled. He was about to go inside before a quick pat on his pocket reminded him that he didn’t have enough money.
“Lunch shall wait until later, then,” he thought to himself and carried on with his journey.
He walked for a couple of minutes before he reached the street he was looking for. Finally, he could earn some money as the residents from this particular street patronized his product. He breathed in deeply and the word he had been shouting for decades escaped his lips.
At home, a girl was lying on the couch, her eyes glued to the solitary clock in the living room.
“They’ve watched that show for three hours straight now,” she muttered with annoyance, referring to her three siblings who were deeply entranced by the television. She was about to grab the remote control and change the channel when a whiff of her favorite food caught her off-guard. It was subtle but it was enough to put her in a trance. The thought of savoring it made her mouth water. Her siblings took notice of it too and heads turned in unison towards the kitchen.
“Chicken adobo!” one of her brothers exclaimed, breaking the girl away from her trance.
“Kids, lunch is ready,” their mother called out. All four of them then sprinted towards the dining table.
Once the food was laid out everyone fought for their favorite piece. It only took a few minutes before the entire dish was reduced to nothing. Their dad could only laugh in disbelief.
“You guys sure love your dad’s adobo,” their mother remarked.
“Of course!” one of the brothers said as he wiped his adobo sauce-covered mouth. “It’s the best food in the world!”
“The only thing we need now to make this a perfect meal is dessert,” the girl muttered.
As if on cue, they all heard the shout. It was faint at first but grew stronger and stronger with each passing second. Their ears were keen to listen and once they confirmed that it was indeed the shout they were hoping for, they gave their mom the look. As a mother of course it was almost instinct. She grabbed her wallet and handed each of her children five peso coins.
The man was nearing the house now and he knew four children were expecting his arrival.
“Taho!” he let out another shout.
Then, there they were, running to the gate of the house headed towards him. The girl was the first to arrive and happily greeted him.
“Good afternoon, kuya! You have great timing as always.”
The man let out a chuckle as he laid down the load he was carrying on the pavement.
“Kuya, one big cup please with extract syrup and sago,” the girl requested.
The man did as he was told and opened the lid of one of his large aluminum buckets, scooping up a hefty amount of silky, white tofu and placing it in a big cup. He then opened the lid of the other can and scooped a ladle-full of syrup and poured it into the cup. Finally, he topped everything off with sago and handed the taho and a straw to the girl.
He did the same for the other three children and once he was done all of them were happily sipping on their favorite dessert.
The man was glad he could bring these children joy. Despite the toils he had to go through every day in order to earn a living, the smile on their faces was worth more than the money he was earning.
“See you again tomorrow Kuya!” the children said in chorus.
“Of course,” the man replied with a smile.
He then continued on with his journey. The shouts of “Taho!” died out as he walked further and further away. The children went back inside their house with hearts full of joy, their perfect lunch now topped off with the perfect dessert.
Little did they know though that that was the last time they were going to savor their favorite dessert from their favorite taho vendor, and no other meal was as perfect since.