July 25, 2024


Than a Food Fitter

Woman shares her Filipino culture, food to help others

3 min read

BERRYVILLE, Va. (AP) — Shortly after 6 p.m. several nights a week a line of cars appears in front of what must be the most popular house on Mosby Boulevard.

One by one the cars pull up to the driveway. A box is handed over. Money exchanges hands. The car drives away and another pulls up to pick up their box.

But it’s not illicit substances in those boxes. It’s egg rolls. Or sometimes it’s chicken fried rice sprinkled with crunchy bacon. Or maybe barbecued chicken skewers.

Since the beginning of February, Violah Lee has been cooking and sharing the food she learned to make as a girl in the Philippines. She takes orders through the Facebook group she created, “Filipino Food for Clarke County, Va.”

“The people are crazy about it,” said Lee of her food. “I love it. It just makes my heart happy.”

Lee doesn’t charge a specific dollar amount but accepts donations that she re-gifts to community groups. Within the first four days of her cooking project, she had collected $400 in donations. She recently wrote a $500 check to the Jack H. Enders Fire Company and last week she was getting ready to make a donation to the Berryville Police Department.

“I know there have been so many challenges over the last year that if I could combine my culture, love for cooking and this town it would make me feel I was doing my part,” said Lee in a recent Facebook post.

She keeps back enough money to pay for the ingredients, but “Filipino food is not really expensive,” she said.

To prepare her food, Lee must work around the demands of her home-based business — the LionsDen Daycare. A former preschool administrator in Loudoun County, she opened her own center when she moved to Berryville in 2004.

Lee likes to incorporate food and cooking into her lessons at LionsDen. Each summer the kids take an imaginary trip around the globe. A visit to London includes a tea party, a stop in Japan is a chance to try sushi. And, of course, Lee’s recipes are included in the stop to the Philippines.

Filipino food she said is a blend of the cuisines of several cultures and relies on soy sauce much like Vietnamese and Korean cooking do. She often shares her food with her church family at Winchester Church of God or with local first responders.

One night last week she prepared for local firefighters a meal of rice, adobo (chicken thighs stewed in soy sauce and vinegar) and pancit, melt-in-your-mouth rice noodles.

“We just love doing it,” said Crisvic Garrett, Lee’s business partner who is also from the Philippines. Garrett helps out with the childcare business and with the Filipino cooking project.

The night before the egg roll pickup, Lee and Garrett hand-rolled 150 Filipino egg rolls, called lumpia. Light and flaky, lumpia are similar to a spring roll. They are often filled with pork and vegetables, but Lee sometimes mixes it up and creates pizza-flavored lumpia that she fills with ham, cheese, tomato sauce and sweet peppers.

Lee fries the lumpia while the children take their nap, so the food will be ready when the cars begin to line up. Each order includes six egg rolls and a sweet dipping sauce.

Kara Rodriguez, a member of the Berryville Town Council, said she saw the Facebook group Lee created and was intrigued.

“We have ordered her dishes several times now and every time they are so delicious,” Rodriguez wrote in an email. “I was particularly fond of the “lumpia pizza” egg rolls. Unbelievable flavors! I admire Violah’s devotion to her community and how she is using her culinary talents to benefit others.”

Lee said she’s pleased people are enjoying her food. One customer told her that he had grown up on Filipino food, but hadn’t tasted it in 20 years and was so glad to find it again.

“This is not for me,” Lee said. “I give to the community.”

Lee takes orders for her Filipino food through her Facebook group “Filipino Food for Clarke County, Va.”

shinjusushibrooklyn.com | Newsphere by AF themes.