by AJ Fernando
I have long thought about my answer whenever somebody asks, “What is Filipino food?” Initially, I would say that it’s an adaptation of Indigenous ingredients with a mix of different cuisines including Spanish, Malay, Chinese, and American. From elaborate dishes like paella, kare-kare, and pancit canton, to something as simple as spam and eggs, fried chicken and gravy, and spaghetti, we have taken what we have and what we know to work with what is new and foreign.
These days, however, I’ve come to think that maybe Filipino food is not just about a way of cooking, but a way of eating. It is not just what is on the table but how it is placed on the table.
These days, however, I’ve come to think that maybe Filipino food is not just about a way of cooking, but a way of eating.Take yesterday’s Kamayan (hand-to-mouth) dinner for example. We did a “Boodle Fight” which is a military style of eating in the Philippines where long tables are prepared and food is laid out on top of banana leaves. You serve yourself literally with your barehands. You feed yourself what you want, how much you want, and which flavours you want. Each dish is good on its own, but by placing all the options in front of you, you are given the power to mix and create your own fusion of flavours. Each bite comes alive in your own hands and into your mouth.
To me, that’s what Filipino food is all about: something that's open and personal, yet at the end it's still a shared experience of food and culture.