A Cook's Diary

Filipino cuisine, re-imagined (a rant against purists)

Filipino cuisine, re-imagined (a rant against purists) | casaveneracion.com

My friends find my eating habits amusing. Lisa observes how I chew every mouthful of food fifty times which is such an exaggeration but that has never prevented her from saying so almost every time we have a meal together anyway.

And the last time we had lunch together, Laly reiterated, with a giggle, how I never put two dishes on my plate at the same time. You know, if I have porchetta on my plate, I will not have it mixing with the sauce of beef salpicao. So, I eat one dish first, and then, the other.

It’s really a matter of keeping the integrity of each dish, of keeping flavors and textures pure for maximum enjoyment. Eating, after all, is a sensory experience. How can one truly appreciate porchetta if it had been splashing on the sauce of salpicao? I even have a system when I eat buffet-style. Dishes without sauce can go together on the plate because there is no danger that they will contaminate one another. Dishes with sauces and broths go into separate plates or bowls.

Does that make me a purist? In terms of keeping the purity of each dish, yes, I suppose. But in the context of ethnic and cultural purity… ah, no. No, no, no, no… I just don’t believe in that. Ethnicity and culture are dynamic things, they change everyday ever so slowly, and we sometimes don’t notice the changes until a long time has passed. Inter-racial marriages have continued to dilute ethnicity and there is an observation that, in a few more centuries, ethnicity as we know it today will no longer exist.

Culture is even more dynamic. Every generation brings change and technology has hastened and multiplied those changes over the past century.

So, to define Filipino cuisine, for instance, in the context of what the Filipinos of 1891 cooked, and how, would be totally ridiculous (insert: read this exchange from 2010).

It is heartening to note that there is a movement, as informal and as interconnected the players may be, to make Filipino cuisine reflective of social and cultural changes. I am especially enamored with attempts to fuse local agricultural produce into dishes that were unknown to the average Filipino fifty years ago.

For instance?

The pizza with malunggay (moringa) and tinapa (smoked fish) in the photo above is from OMA Restaurant and Bar in Quezon City.

casaveneracion.com pasta-pinangat

Alex and her friends enjoyed this pasta pinangat at Small Talk Cafe in Legazpi City.

casaveneracion.com pasta-mangoes

In Laoag City, Saramsam’s Cafe serves this delectable pasta with ripe and unripe mangoes.

I’d like to think that I am part of that informal movement in my attempts to re-imagine lechon kawali and lumpia, among other things. I’m a forward-looking person. I always have been.

And while I’m all for the preservation of the historical significance of how the Filipino cuisine developed and evolved, nationally and regionally, I just feel that it is so counter-productive to resist change and to insist, in such characteristically small-minded way, that Filipino cuisine is, and should always be, defined by standards from a bygone era. Excuse me, but I’d rather cook with a crock-pot or a pressure cooker than with firewood.

Edited at 11.38 p.m.

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