Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Food & History

Exciting things are happening in Metro Manila. I attended two forums on Philippine Food, one on Green Tropical Architecture and a revealing historical tour of Intramuros.

It's a great feeling to know that something I advocate, local sustainable food (wherever I am), is finally gaining some ground in the metropolis. Although, it is far from the mainstream, important and influential people in the world of Phil. food are talking about it and spreading the word. Good food is appreciated by everyone, so I am not of the belief that local sustainable food is an exercise in failure or an out-of-date concept. Other factors lie in the demise of small farms growing heritage crops and "artisan" producers. But I won't go there just yet.

All the speakers in both food forums had intriguing and well thought out ideas on the state of Philippine food. The talks, although about food, delved into culture, business and history. The last to talk in the first forum I attended, Alain Ducasse: Before Cuisine There Was Nature, was the famous French Chef himself who summed up the forum by talking about the concept of Glocal food. Glocal in a nutshell means to, “think globally, act locally.” In the world of food and cuisine, it means to use global techniques in cooking while using local sustainable produce. In this age of Climate Change, this is a wise attitude to take.

Straight from the food forum I went to another forum this time by Green Architecture Advocacy Philippines. Each time a practicing green architect gives a talk on the different aspects of Tropical Green Architecture. The one I went to was about cooling buildings and homes. Arch. Raymond Sih explained the why’s and how’s of cooling structures in an urban setting. These talks occur every month as advocates of green architecture explain the necessity and practicality of building or retrofitting with the environment in mind.

The second food forum on Phil. food, Ang Sariling Atin, conducted by Amy Besa of The Purple Yam restaurant in New York and author of the award winning cookbook Memories of Philippine Kitchens, was bittersweet. It was pure delight seeing the different local Filipino food processes and listening to Ambeth Ocampo on Filipino food in history. It was interesting to learn that ube comes in a number of varieties from white to deep purple in color, white being the more flavorful. I never knew that and will now make it my mission to try all the ube varieties I can! In the same forum we sadly heard of the vanishing local delicacies. Arenga vinegar and the different varieties of Negros suman which can no longer be obtained have lost it’s appeal for producers. The Negros suman brought over by Lyn Besa-Gamboa were just delicious: Alupi, Sundol, Latik, Pururutong and Mais, all of which had to be made special for that day by artisan producers. It really is a pity.

That evening, the icing on the cake for that day, was the sunset Intramuros Tour of Carlos Celdran, to mark the 65th Anniversary of the Battle of Manila. The moon was out and it was a lovely way to spend the evening. The tour began at the Manila Cathedral then we walked around moonlit Intramuros, stopping at particular Hispanic and American buildings where Carlos would give an entertaining history of the Spanish-American War of Phil. Independence. The way it really happened. We then proceeded to the Bamboo Gardens for dinner and the mellow music of a Flamenco guitar band. The evening ended with more than a hundred people lighting up the skies with “spirit balloons”. Here are some snapshots of the tour...