December 1, 2017
LOOKING FOR THE RARE AND HARD TO FIND
Whenever we talk about ARK OF TASTE, people give us the look of wonder…ARK what?
Then we start mentioning fruits like macopa, chico, aratiles..and they continue with caimito, mansanitas and so on. As soon as you start it, everyone gets it. And the same goes for animals, maybe the tutubi or dragonfly, the tamaraw, and the old varieties of cattle our ancestors knew.
In addition, there are the traditional ways of making pinikpikan manok, how to make burong dalag (fermented mudfish), and so on. These are also ways to be preserved—styles of cooking, preparation, rituals and other community practices.
We need to look back and try to recall what we ate before—I remember eating tiesa, or duhat. What we did before with fermented rice which had a pinkish color called “angkak”, and other ways no longer familiar to today’s younger chefs and cooks. To think I did not even have a hometown or province, but our mother assimilated well, one day she spoke Ilonggo, the next day she will try a little Fookien, so nobody ever guessed where she hailed from. We came from Manila, with faraway roots to Jaro, Iloilo through my maternal grandfather and Bulacan from the maternal grandmother’s side.
Now that both parents have passed and we are now the elders in our clan, we must try and look back at what today’s generation is missing or does not know anything about. With the popularity of the Facebook page Classic Pare Titos and Titas, people started to look into their hope chests, their cabinets for memories of yesteryears. Other than those photos, let’s recall the experience with food and drink and everything when life was still slow.
We need your help to build the Ark of Taste listing for the Philippines. If you have some experience or knowledge about its origins, well and good. If not, we can help each other research through interviews of elders, relatives in the province or even our favorite vendor in Ongpin or Chinatown (my father used to buy his deli items in Ongpin in the 70s before the Santi’s and Terry’s became popular). Friday was “cold cuts” day when he would pass his favorite store and buy bologna, ham and sausages.
Sunday was for buying live chicken from the market and seeing its fateful end in our kitchen, or buying jumping fish and shrimps from the seaside vendors in Malabon. Then we would eat “boodle fight” style with banana leaves decked with chopped tomatoes and onions, mounds of steaming rice, grilled fish straight from the water and the lonely chicken which is now in the Pochero. We had a fire burning continuously with firewood my father would scavenge from his neighbors, so we enjoyed my Mom’s slow cooked stews, broths, and soups.
Those were the days. How do you remember yours?
Do help us at Slow Food Manila gather these long-forgotten ingredients and hopefully we may find some way to bring them back into circulation. Like what has happened to Adlai or Job’s tears, or Kadyos or pigeon pea or black eyed peas (not the band). Even heirloom rice is making a come back despite the commercials on hybrid rice filling the airwaves and the behinds of buses on Ayala avenue.
Think of what your grandmother or mother cooked. Or in my case, our grandfather cooked. He was a one fourth or one half Chinese from Amoy whose mother is a Filipina. In those days, fathers cooked, and my mother learned well from him.
Biodiversity depends on us. If you have read this to the last, you’re the man or woman. Come help protect biodiversity by just helping us recall what the past was like.
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