Finding something U ish to write about has been a little bit of a challenge. Most of the U foods or culinary words I could think about were from the Asian diaspora, except for underseasoning. Ultimately, I came to be enthralled with a potato consumed predominantly in the Phillipones, called Ube. It is not to be confused with other purple potatoes. Rarely is it used as a starch. Ube challenges our notions of what a how a potato should be used.
Jun Belan, a food blogger, who writes about foods and food memories from the Filipino kitchen wrote this about this yam. “Ube [ooh-beh] is purple yam, which should not be confused with purple potatoes or with purple sweet potatoes. Purple yam is not uniquely found in the Philippines but Filipinos by far use it more than anyone else to flavor and color their sweet treats and breads.
Throughout his blog on ube, he writes about how mom would buy fresh ube at the market and making jam. She also made cakes, ice cream, and a wide diversity of purple sweets for his family to enjoy. When I think of making anything sweet, the last thing that would come to my mind is a yam; that is unless I am making sweet potato pie or sweet potato bread. However, I have never considered making sweet potato ice cream or sweet potato cookies, although the color might go well at thanksgiving.
The color purple seems to be important in Filipino culture. It is not only the color of the ube, but the color of their one hundred peso bill and for them the color of prosperity. It is also important to make something purple for “media noche” (New Year’s Eve) as it brings even more good luck. One of the things I have come to understand about ube is that the depth of the purple in the ube deepens as you cook it, taking on almost a velvety purple color.
Learning about ube has been interesting because it has reminded to never judge a book by its cover. Simply looking at this yam, it looks like your normal sweet potato. It is not until you cook it and cut it open that is secret reveals itself and you get to know all that is buried within it. The ube also serves to remind us that not everything is what we have stereotyped it to be. Just because the ube comes from the sweet potato family, does not mean it should be prepared as a starch. How often do we make overgeneralizations about people or groups without really knowing the fullness of who they are or what they do. They may appear one way on the outside, but have a beautiful vibrancy within them.
The color of the ube also reminds me of the color of the crown chakra. The color of people seeking spiritual fulfillment. This chakra is associated with oneness with God, peace, and wisdom. It is about the development of a personal relationship with the Infinite. May this humble fruit serve as a reminder to each of us to enjoy the sweetness of the surprises God brings into our lives.