As I mentioned in my last blog post, both of my grandparents ended up in the sticks because they were educators. I failed to mention that my grandpa was also a full time hustler. Besides running an elementary school he ran a copra business that my cousin continues to run to this day. He also has a mango plantation because …the Philippines…. but it’s actually not mango season so I pretty much missed out on any knowledge drop about that.
According to Wikipedia, Copra is the kernel of a coconut. It is dried and then pressed to make coconut oil. My family has been doing this for generations so when I tried to explain to my cousin that coconut oil was so in right now in the US he looked at me like I had ten heads.
Copra has a unique earthy, meaty, tropical scent that I can only associate with the Saluyong. As soon as I arrived and breathed in the air, I immediately traveled back to my childhood in the Philippines. It’s a delicious scent.
My family gets our coconuts from native mountain people and from what I hear they are an interesting bunch. They did not like dealing with my cousin because he looks young so he ended up growing a big gnome-like beard to fit in better. They are pretty demanding group in terms of copra pricing so if they don’t like the price you quote them they will start to stroke their bolo (Filipino machete) and look you down menacingly.
The rest is all business — we dry the copra event more at our family compound and then they watch the rise and fall of copra prices and then sell it to wholesalers at the city. It’s almost like the stock market but island style.
It’s definitely a heart-racing type of job so I am pretty happy that I work in front of a computer all day and so far my run-in count with machetes at the job is zero.
And that my friend is how you get coconut oil! The next time you’re slathering it on your eggs think about my family and the countless other islanders who risk their lives on a daily basis to make sure you get your fill of heart-healthy fats.