July 11, 2014
Where Does Your Food Come From?
I remember where my mother used to get our food. Our eggs came from our own little poultry (maybe with about 40 hens), our beef and pork came from her “suki” or “preferred purveyor” in the market, and our vegetables usually were from the garden and her favorite suppliers.
There was a time I thought my Mom’s cooking was unique. She learned a lot of recipes from our maternal grandpa (yes, the boys in the family cooked) which we grew up knowing as my mom’s specials. Until we went to Xiamen one summer, and I discovered “amoy lumpia” and other specialties as Fujian food. But Mama was a good cook. She could win hands down in any “market basket” competition. She invented variations of her recipes depending on what she saw in the refrigerator. She would not waste any ingredient, throwing it into a soup or stock which always was boiling or slow-cooking in our kitchen. My Dad even built a “dirty kitchen” for her—a place where we used scrap firewood from my Dad’s warehouse—and cauldrons of soup stock would be slow cooking for our brood composed of eight children.
My Dad shopped on weekends—getting the freshest fish, prawns, and crabs from nearby Malabon market where the fish-buying happened everyday (think Tsukiji in Tokyo). He would wear his rubber boots, take our jeep, and get up at 4 am to buy Sunday’s best buffet food. We learned how to eat “boodle fight” style on banana leaves especially when we had guests and we had to set a table for over 20 people. Out came the pingpong table (table tennis) and we covered it with fresh banana leaves and then set the food in the center. Our relatives loved it! They would always come and partake of our parents’ love for food and the simple preparation it entailed. NO heavy sauces. Just grilled, boiled, or steamed fresh seafood. Grilled liempo (pork loin) and occasionally, a whole lechon (roast pig).
Today, we recreate it in BINALOT, one of our businesses. We wrap the food in banana leaves to preserve the wonderful aroma of steamed rice and whatever viand is in the pack—pork, chicken adobo, or beef steak (bistek Pilipino). Binalot is now 18 years old and the family continues to support its foray into quick service or fast “slow” food. It must be the “slowest” fast food—still promoting grilled and stewed Pinoy recipes. We continue to grow the vegetables in our little farm in Amadeo and my brother also has local or native pigs who feed on organic vegetables which become our lechon come Christmas.
And this is why it is important to know where your food comes from. It is not only clean and good food. It also preserves recipes of your clan because you demand the ingredients that goes into your grandma’s chicken or your mother’s special soup.
I just read an article on sustainable fishing which prompted me to write about the origins of food. Now, tuna is not even recommended by a famous chef because he says it has a “metallic” taste. Where do we find fresh fish then? I am not a fan of cultured fish because we grew up knowing different fish and how to eat them without fear (some people do not know which species have many bones, which species has a gall tasting inside, etc). I like deep-sea fish varieties.
Where will our fish come from now? Please do not promote the fish fillet or the whitened variety that many fast food restaurants use. Fish must be good, clean, and safe. Fish fillet is not even real fish anymore but a lot of breading and “cultured fish”.
For my pesco-vegetarian friends who are tired of the imports like salmon (also farmed now unless you get wild sockeye salmon), and codfish (gindara), what will you now eat? I remember seeing individual lapulapu being shipped by air from Tawi Tawi airport. The fish are put in plastic bags with water. They probably get enough oxygen to survive a 3-hour trip to Manila, and they are in individual styro boxes ready for Manila restaurants. Too much carbon footprint I thought. In fact my friend Nicky tells me that the reason flights from General Santos City are so early (7 am) is not because of the passengers’ choice but because the tuna has to make it to Japan on the noontime flight. Again, too much carbon footprint.
Oh well. I guess it will have to be sardines for now. I may have to eat Tawilis from Taal Lake or sardines from Zamboanga. But is this not eating the small fry when they can still grow?
For a country with a very long coastline, I am in search of fish. Lord help us find healthy, safe, and clean fish with the omega 3 and omega 6 that nature gave them. I heard that these Omega 3 and 6 only occur when the fish is able to swim long distances. What happens when they are cultured and penned?
I hope we find the answers to our fishy questions.
Photos by Chit Juan/ Select photos courtesy of Binalot/ Tsukiji market from margauxlicious
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