Thinking About Dinner, and Philippine Condiments

I have been, quite literally, thinking about dinner for a long time; from distinct memories I remember attributing to about fifth grade, I have thought about dinner whilst on my commute home, riding in suspension-challenged tricycles, crowded jeepneys, open-air buses, planes, streetcars and still-crowded subways. Dinner has always held a special place in my heart, cheesy as it is to say. When we lived in my grandmother’s house in the Philippines, people at home would often eat dinner together. In the dining room we had a large, round wooden table lined with cloth and a glass top; that table, which I loved, did not leave much room for passing through to the kitchen when all six spots (easily extendible to eight) at the table were taken.

On these various ways home, the idea of thinking about what I would soon have the pleasure of sitting to eat sustained me through what often were long, arduous commutes.

Philippine condiments, on the other hand, I’ve thought of more intensely over the last two days than I’ve ever accorded them. As I sat to eat another bowl of sinigang with sweet bagoong (sauteed fermented shrimp paste), I thought about the types of bagoong I’ve had the chance to eat – and quickly realized that I didn’t really know much about the process of making bagoong, a condiment I unabashedly love and cannot live without.

So off I took to research – and found some excellent sources.

• Philippine Fermented Foods: Principles and Technology By Priscilla C. Sanchez, published by University of the Philippines Press (I am currently working on getting a print copy – if anyone has leads to point my way, I would gladly appreciate it!)

• Episodes from an excellent GMA TV series called 100% Pinoy. Filmed and presented in Tagalog, two particular episodes of interest were “Tinapa, Buro at Sangkutsa: Pagkaing Pinasarap ng Panahon” (Smoked Shortfin Scad, Milkfish Fermented in Cultured Rice and Preserved Meats: Foods Made Delicious with Time) and one about common pairings of Filipino dishes. This awesome hour-long video has so much interesting stuff that I think it merits a longer post (and a topical outline)!

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