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Reflections on being a scrambled egg: A personal essay

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SONOMA CARLOS | STAFF

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MARCH 05, 2022

The sizzling pan on the stove hisses to wake me from my daydreams. I’m a terrible cook, but I love making eggs. I didn’t always love eating them, though. My dad often made them for me at home, but I always declined in disgust. “Why would you eat them with ketchup? That’s so gross,” I would scoff. “It’s Filipino-style!” My dad would jokingly reply. It wasn’t until quarantine hit that I started to take him up on his offers, and soon I was enjoying his scorching hot over-medium masterpieces, sweet over-easy delights and even scrambled eggs if I was in the mood. But my expanded palate could only take so much at once: I never could bring myself to slather that pungent red condiment on my delicate eggs.

As I wait patiently for my cooking eggs to take shape in the heat, I can’t help but think about how I feel like a whisked yolk and egg white sometimes, a homogenized blob in a pan.

Scrambled eggs are my dad’s signature. There are infinite labels for them, but whether you call them pale yolks, or egg whites with some flavor, you can’t pick and choose the parts you want to eat. Usually, their scrambled-ness doesn’t cause discomfort or confusion: whether as an omelet or a crepe, they are all still things vegans couldn’t eat, still very much egg yolk and egg white in every capacity. As I wait patiently for my cooking eggs to take shape in the heat, I can’t help but think about how I feel like a whisked yolk and egg white sometimes, a homogenized blob in a pan. Constantly probed by people’s metallic inquiries, their deeply personal questions about my identity are like cold forks:

“Are you actually Filipino?”

“My dad is from Manila,” I answer by default. “I’m half Filipino, half white.”

It’s not a lie, but this is the part in the conversation that usually makes the other person suspicious. I get it — my bright freckles, brown, wavy hair and fair skin don’t scream Filipino. And as I found later, they may as well be blaring sirens that shriek, “Other!” I never learned to speak Tagalog, and I grew up in a city where Asians are scarce. With this in mind, I felt like the best way for me to rectify this physical barrier between myself and my identity in college would be to join Filipino clubs as proof of my heritage that didn’t include looking up my AncestryDNA results or old family photos from ages long past. 

But the more I circulated through the (surprisingly) plentiful Filipino community organizations on campus, I felt increasingly lost in the dizzying atmosphere of Asian culture-centered pre-health clubs, big-little families I had been assigned, and references to Filipino pop culture I couldn’t understand. I could sense the discomfort some people had in calling me one of their own. I often overheard white people jokes where the punchline trailed off in my presence, even though I never felt offended by them. But sometimes people let slip more hurtful thoughts that so often lingered silently in their heads, like when I overheard at a big-little gathering:

“Dude, you know this guy who’s like technically Asian, sort of, but not really — like he’s white but he’s ‘mixed’ or whatever, so he says he’s Filipino, but … you know?”

A passing glance around the group reminded them that another technically-Asian-sort-of-not-really impostor was also listening, hearing the sounds of people shifting awkwardly in their seats and the quiet hiccup in conversation that ensued; all deafening reminders that I wasn’t meant to be there, even though this was my Filipino “family.” I was an afterthought, the object of tardy acknowledgment and delayed acceptance. 

I have, however, found myself somewhat more secure with older generations of Filipinos — often immigrants — who I have met around campus. Rather than tip-toeing around my identity, they confront it without shame. Instead of wearily avoiding comments that erase my Asian-ness, they actively find ways to reinforce it, even if that means awkwardly inspecting all of my physical features to do it. The exchange is relatively the same, and looks something like: 

Me: “Are you Filipino, too?”
Them: “Yes, I am! Are you — mixed, huh?”
Me: “Yeah, I am.”
Them: “Oh — you know — Filipino noses — (pulls down mask) — you know? Here — let me see —”
Me: (pulls down mask)
Them: “Ahah — yes, you can’t tell by your hair and — (circles face with finger) …
What’s your full name? Oh you’re — you’re a mestiza. That’s what they call mixed girls like you,” or, “Oh, I think I see it in your eyes a little. Filipino eyes.”

Somehow, their scrutiny feels slightly less tiresome than that of my peers. I think it’s because their efforts are raw and innocent — they’re doing everything they can to prove (even if just to themselves) that I’m one of them, with no secrecy. There’s no timid tension that hangs overhead with a vengeance; I almost feel validated when they try to rationalize my identity, when it’s so clearly unobvious. But I have to confess, the guessing is always a gamble, and its only guarantee is me having to explain myself again and again. Just because eggs are scrambled doesn’t mean there’s no yolk in them. I wish I had a name tag that clarified my convoluted characteristics without having to say a word.  

As I now sit eating my warm, yellow mound of high-protein breakfast, my hand searches for something that used to feel foreign, and before long, I’m dousing my eggs in splatters of ketchup. It only took one bite for me to realize what I had been missing out on. As much as I hate to admit that my dad was right, this culinary pairing is nothing short of a delicacy. Sometimes, the strangest of combinations will surprise you, but you have to embrace them together to experience them as they are. As one might assume from the eclectic, experimental cuisine alone, being Filipino is all about bridging the traditional and not, the classic and new. Despite the skeptics, this half of me is wholly mine, and I hope that we, as a diverse Filipino community, can start to apply our open-mindedness around how we prepare our eggs to embrace our multiracial communities too.

Contact Sonoma Carlos at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

MARCH 05, 2022


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