Manila, Philippines

When I was five I lived in the Philippines, where I often observed my grandmother, whom I called Pawpaw, as she cracked shells, pinched off heads, twisted necks, and pulled off feathers in a kitchen separated by a cement wall and accessible only through a narrow doorway. While she stood over the stove or at the counter, I sat on a tall metal stool beside her. Since I didn’t have pets, Pawpaw sometimes let me play with the food. Once she produced a baby crab from her market bag and tied a string around it with a little loop, into which I slipped an index finger. While she prepared dinner, I walked the crab. Another time, after buying live shrimp, she placed them in a bowl of cold water so I could watch them swim. As they began popping from the water, she placed an extra-long pair of chopsticks across the bowl, like hurdles for them to jump—and indeed, they did!

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