NEW YORK – It may be a cultural thing, but when you’re up against a congregation of nuns and your neighbors in an apartment building in Manhattan, a lawsuit would make an interesting anthropological study in ethnic tension.
The Missionary Sisters of Sacred Heart (MSSH) in Manhattan has filed a complaint against a Filipino-American couple, Michael and Gloria Lim, over a Filipino delicacy called tuyo (dried fish), and its funky cousin, the tinapa (smoked fish).
The case is now with the Manhattan Supreme Court.
Reports say Gloria was smoking fish outside her apartment window when the smell – noxious stench to the nuns, divine aroma to the Lims – of the salted fish wafted throughout the Gramercy apartment building.
The “foul smell” was too strong the nuns suspected it was coming from a decomposing body and called in the Fire Department.
According to reports, the firemen searched every unit of the building and were able to trace the source of the smell to the Lims’ unit.
They knocked, and when no one came to the door, the NYFD came barreling in.
Gloria, a nurse, found her door knocked down and was obviously peeved.
It appears the MSSH leases the unit to the Lims and may have authorized the assault.
“I cook dried fish,” Gloria defiantly declared to the NY Post.
The average American may find it puzzling how one can derive pleasure of the palate from dried fish. Foodie Andrew Zimmern, who has been to the Philippines and braved balut (fertilized duck egg with an embryo) and Soup No. 5 (bull’s rectum and testicles soup, believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac), might be able to share the gustatory experience.
Gloria was referring to the tuyo, a Philippine staple usually eaten with steaming hot rice and fresh tomatoes. Some eat theirs dipped in vinegar and crushed garlic paired with fried rice and sunny side up egg.
Dried fish is not a Philippine exclusive. It is an essential in the traditional Chinese and Malaysian fried rice along with chopped spring onions, garlic and chili. Sometimes, it is pulled and sprinkled on chocolate porridge or champorado.
Food with a strong salty taste like tuyo or tinapa might be too intense for the morning stomach, but many Filipinos would never leave for work in the morning without having it for breakfast.
In the lawsuit filed by the nuns, Gloria was even more adamant. She was quoted as saying that “she is causing the smell by cooking and/or smoking fish, and she is going to continue to do it.”
The complaint appears to divide the apartment tenants, some finding themselves squarely on the side of the sisters who find the smell “potentially dangerous to life and health,” and some defending the FilAm family’s right to eat their own ethnic food in the privacy of their home.
“This is plain racist,” comes a shout-out from a supportive blogger.
The complaint says some tenants closer to the Lims’ unit have moved out, and that the Lims have been warned repeatedly about the smell emanating from their 16th floor apartment unit. Gloria, a 30-year resident of the US, denies this.
Which side to take, undecided tenants turn to what’s stated in the housing rules: Cooking smelly food is not allowed.
The nuns are seeking $75,000 in damages. They made it clear that they have nothing against Filipinos as a people.
I think this is a matter that can be settled with the apartment’s administration. $75,000 in damages? I suppose they (the nuns) did not even get sick because of the smell. Are they real nuns by the way? What do you think?