Paano nga ba naging pagkaing pinoy?
This is the question Karen ”The Pilgrim” of The Pilgrim’s Pots and Pans tried to answer through her seminar on History and Filipino Food last Saturday, November 17. I was fortunate enough to be a part of a small group of like-minded individuals who are genuinely passionate about learning, food and our history.
The session started and we were brought to a charming little kitchen inside the Carelink Asia Institute facility. It doesn’t feel like a seminar at all. What it felt like is a group of friends meeting for lunch, getting so engrossed in an interesting conversation without minding the time. Imagine a square table good for 8 people with mismatched chairs. On my left a display of plates and drinking glasses, in front of me is an open kitchen with different produce.
We did the usual introduction and Karen asked us our expectations and reason for coming to the seminar. What do we expect to learn from all of these. I had to think deeply about the whats and whys, but at the end of it all, I really am just genuinely interested about food, not necessarily its history. Thinking about it now, I think I had a stage fright. Surprised by the question, I didn’t have the time to think of the true meaning of my attendance. It didn’t occur to me until later on that I have always wondered why Filipino food is not very popular around the world. Why do we feel like we have an inferior culinary history compared to other nations. Why do we feel like our dishes are based from some other dishes from other places. It seemed like the group can read my mind because all of those questions were answered as we progress into our discussion.
For starters, Karen prepared for us a plate of gabi. An unassuming root crop that grows anywhere and everywhere. We ate it with or without the sugar. Topped with niyog. I used to eat this when I was a child living in Laguna. This is our usual snack. And it is as good as I remembered it back then. Karen said that before Filipinos became rice and corn eaters. People from the provinces were root crop eaters.
There were a lot of topics covered during the 4+ hours we were in that kitchen. More than food, we discussed the history of the Filipino people. Our history before the Spaniards came. The kind of people our ancestors were. Why we have the ingredients we have right now. The difference of native ingredients and produce that just went through indigenization. We also tasted several kapampangan dishes that Karen brought with her including sinuam na mais, an original recipe sisig from her grandmother’s, inihaw na tilapya with a mix of alagao leaves and ground pork filling and turones de kasuy for our dessert.
I have read a lot of articles about the Philippine cuisine not being at par with other foreign cuisines and the reason behind it. But collectively, I think we found the answer to that question. It is because culinary students or even just we, as regular people, do not bother to really dig deep into the history of our culture and our food. We get fed information everyday about Thai, Korean, Japanese, Malaysian and other dishes, but nobody has a concrete answer as to how our own dishes came to be. It’s because we get passed on general information that we just accept whole-heartedly and pass on to another without really knowing. Our culinary experts and students we believe, should know more about our own culinary heritage so that when they start going overseas to work, they have a concrete answer as to why Filipino food the way it is and how it came to be. This kind of passion should be ingrained in all of us.
This is what this seminar thought me and I hope everyone finds the time to learn about it too.
Would love to hear your thoughts about this topic! If you have a story to share about an instance when you were asked about Filipino cuisine, please write on the comment section!
Additional reading on this topic:
- Karen’s recipes
- Philippine chefs look to take national cuisine mainstream
- Filipino food is the next big thing
- Why is Filipino food not popular worldwide outside of Filipino communities? via Quora
- Giving Filipino Food An Identity
- In defense of Filipino food (a rebuttal by Claude Tayag) via Our Awesome Planet
- Philippine cuisine via wikipedia