SULLIVAN — Geraldine Chappe misses her native island of Cebu in the Philippines, with its striking limestone and craggy mountains. She misses swimming in the warm cerulean waters and the close relationship she had with neighbors. And she really misses the food.
“The fish! The fish is fresh and sweet.”
With her new project, Punkinville Nibbles and Knits, she is trying to bring a bit of the Philippines to Maine, and hopefully alleviate some of her nostalgia in the process.
Geraldine moved to the United States in 2012 to be with her now-husband, Durin Chappe, whom she met while he was vacationing in Cebu. Two years later the couple had a daughter, Mayumi, and Geraldine stayed home to be with her. But she couldn’t resist her entrepreneurial leanings, and began selling crocheted hats and felted flowers on Etsy and eBay.
So when neighbors insisted she sell her empanadas and lumpia, Geraldine jumped right in.
“I made them for a winter solstice party at a neighbor’s house and they said ‘why don’t you sell these?’” she said.
She took the idea and set to work, starting with empanadas, which are crescent-shaped pies filled with pork, boiled eggs, peas and potatoes, while lumpia are fried egg rolls stuffed with pork and vegetables. Geraldine serves hers with a spicy-sweet dipping sauce, although she adds that this isn’t the usual Filipino way.
“Everything is ketchup in the Philippines!” she said.
The Sullivan resident isn’t a chef by training. She studied nursing at university and later worked as a marketing director. But her mother and aunt were both avid cooks and her mother had a particular flair for lumpia.
These days, after dropping her daughter off at daycare, Geraldine gathers her ingredients: delicate phyllo dough for the lumpia wrappers; carrots, potatoes, spring onions, bean sprouts and ground pork for the filling. She scoops flour from a labeled glass jar on the counter to make the empanada dough, a family recipe, and keeps a jar of homemade relish nearby to spoon on top. Whenever possible she uses ingredients from the extensive gardens out front.
Geraldine rolls out the dough on a wooden island in the middle of the kitchen and skillfully crimps the edges of the empanadas after they are stuffed.
The kitchen is full of light, painted in bright shades of azure and turquoise, with purple accents and exposed beams. Plants wind their way up the walls and poke out from jars lining the kitchen window. Blueberry fields, raised garden beds and a chicken coop are visible from the front door.
Last summer, Geraldine began working as a housekeeper in Northeast Harbor, but she says that a flexible schedule will allow her to continue cooking this year. She plans to add pancit, a rice noodle dish with vegetables, garlic and lemon, to her menu in the coming weeks.
She says her creations have been very enthusiastically received in the area, where many often haven’t tasted Filipino cooking. She took the greatest number of orders for Super Bowl Sunday, and sales have held steady since then.
Empanadas cost $12 per dozen (with a minimum order of two dozen) and lumpia go for $10 (minimum order of one dozen). There is an option for vegetable lumpia.
Orders should be placed at least one day in advance of an event by emailing [email protected] or calling 266-9451 or 422-3230.
Punkinville Nibbles and Knits is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/punkinvillenibblesandknits/ and on Instagram @punkinville_nibbles.