How buying kamote turned into an existential crisis

I don’t think I’ve ever talked about how much I love sweet potatoes, or kamote in Tagalog.

I mean, regular potatoes are awesome, but sweet potatoes, as horribly underrated as they are, belong in a category all their own.

Theu are delicious mashed, and if you’re Hokkien, they’re delicious in congee. My favorite way to eat them is boiled, peeled, and flavored with a bit of butter and salt. Actually, the boiled kamote is an excuse to eat a lot of butter, but never mind.

The kamote has gotten a bad rap. My paternal grandmother, who loved them, said that when she was growing up in China, only poor people ate kamote.

Here, another way of saying you’re dumb is ‘nangangamote ka.’

And there’s that urban legend of National Artist Nick Joaquin getting so upset about the quality of a piece in a writer’s workshop he told the writer to ‘go home and plant kamote.’

I don’t know why a delicious and nutritious root crop can inspire so much hate. All I know is that such thinking is erroneous. At the very least, it belittles farming and farmers, and of course, the crop itself.

Boiled sweet potaoes were a fairly regular snack in our household. I love them because eating one feels like cheating: you get the fun of eating a potato, but it’s also sweet!

I bought a few pieces recently to confort myself, and this was when I realized something embarassing: I don’t knkw how to pick sweet potatoes.

This is the first time I’ve had to buy my own kamote, and I didn’t know how to make sure that all the ones I buy are sweet.

I feel sad to have just taken for granted having kamote all the time and always assuming they’s be sweet. At the same time, I’m lucky to have experienced such priviledge.

It does make my having to buy my own kamote and learn to pick the sweet ones a slightly painful experience though, as if my childhood had finally slipped away and I am left to accept the uncertainty of adulthood.

So not only did I not find sweet kamote, I also ended up with a small existential crisis.

The only way through this is to accept things, hopefully learn from them, and act accordingly.

I don’t know what to do about my existential crisis, but I can at least learn how to pick good kamote.


Yvette Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and a lifestyle writer for major local and international titles.