I’ve become a better podcaster. I’ve been writing about food - and getting published! And I’ve been working with some incredible people/organizations.Read More
As my love and understanding of the foods of the Philippines deepens, I find it stirs a great well of belonging in me - something I have spent a lot of time looking for.
I'e confessed of my desire to write about Philippine cooking in the context I find most interesting: culinary history. Learning as much as I can about the history of the Philippine islands - of the abundance of native produce in its lands, paired with the ingenuity of cooks who came to understand what their ingredients were capable of - is an ongoing mission. My goal? To share the striking beauty of the Philippines and its cuisine, by reporting on what culinary traditions exist, how they got there, and why it is necessary to document these techniques and practices before a generation of cooks so attuned to their environments across the Philippine islands, disappears.
Like many people of my generation - Filipinos and non-Filipinos - my attention span is short, and I wish I had the seemingly boundless energy that incredibly successful people have with their work. I have trouble defining what's important to me, and following the general rule of growing up I've found that my priorities shift as time passes - not always in the upward direction of advancing your career, pay scale, apartment size or wardrobe quality - but in a linear pattern too, where I'm thankful to realize that to grow as a person, you need to build character and resilience, to develop confidence and belief in the things you do.
This long weekend has proven to be quite therapeutic for me. Cliched as it is to say, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. People write routinely about the changing of the seasons for a reason. The sunlight encourages me to be outside, to bike around town, to cook, to spend time with the boys at home. I really want to take a stab at writing this book that I so clearly envision making. The first step is to really take a close look at outlining what I want to do, in a documented form to show I'm not just made of ideas, with an execution plan. Second, to verbalize my thoughts and see what other people think of them, to speak with an agent and other writers. And from what I've read, the one thing I need to be absolutely sure of is the determination involved with a project of this scope. This is not going to be a weekend thing, I'm going to have to really devote a lot of time and give up quite a bit to want to do this - and whether I really want it that much is a question that can understandably linger in your mind.
I'm going to have to put career advancement - or jutting from one career path to another, at the very least - on hold if I really envision that book materializing. And I have to be happy doing it, happy with the job I spend much time in, serious about planning a research trip to the Philippines. I need to let go of the regret and blame I feel for fucking up the last year or so, of being naive and quitting a job (two jobs), and having the guts to see what I could do; failing, ultimately, and taking me to where I am right now - listening to music that reminds me of summers back home, smoking cigarettes in my bedroom and thinking about what life would be like in Canada, imagining doing the activities I do today would be the norm of every day.
Life throws curveballs often, and getting to the conclusion that you need to adapt - to sink, or to swim - becomes, you hope, inevitable.
I feel compelled to write about how I feel - about why my generation of globally-plugged in Filipinos love our food, but generally slide on the actual cooking part - but feel like I'll want to cover so many points that I don't even know where to begin. "Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan." "He who does not know how to look back upon where he came from, will never reach his destination." - Jose Rizal
Talking to my family always provides much-needed perspective - sometimes, incredibly needed ones, on days when I feel like absolute shit, on a day like today where I was *this close* to buying a pack of cigarettes that I've managed to avoid for just over two years (well, I've lapsed on the smoking part a couple of times, but have not purchased an entire pack since).
This week, an article from the Washington Post titled "At long last, Filipino food arrives. What took it so long?" made the rounds on all my social feeds, with lots of conversation around it. And I will admit that reading it earlier today, prior to meeting my lola for breakfast, hit me in so many ways - I nodded in agreement with acknowledging the "hiya" factor on Filipinos' acceptance of Filipino food as a whole, and bobbed my head with vigorous enthusiasm on Filipino food channeling "spice, sourness and pungency, three of the trendiest flavors in American dining."
I feel incredibly fortunate to participate in the Filipino Food Movement sweeping the globe, slowly but steadfast and sure in its pace, particularly when an article about four trendy Filipino restaurants opening in D.C. appears in my reading list next to a piece about "kaldereta a la pagpag" - kaldereta being a tomato-based meat stew, in this version made with chicken flaked off of previously consumed pieces of fast-food leftovers.
It breaks my heart, and the hard part is knowing that this middle ground where I feel like I'm straddled between two worlds, not knowing what to do, never seems to go away.
I'd love to write about what Filipino food means to me, from the perspective of someone who grew up loving it but always shelving that love beneath the pedestal of Western cuisine - and now realizing how robust the subject of Filipino food really is. The variety of ingredients and cooking methods across the Philippines could take decades to document in its scope; the cuisine's history just as long to research; its cultural influences, regionality and seasonality leaving much room for discussion and study; its flavours and textures ready to be broken down and reconstructed not as trendy fusion food, but in essence as a reflection of how Filipinos have adapted to their environment through time.
These stories could take years to understand, with countless stories to tell.
I made cookies for my birthday and then wished I could just send a couple batches to people on the other side of the world. I know, I get incredibly sentimental over things like food, love and identity; which, by no coincidence, are things I have recently spent a lot of time learning and thinking about.
Sentimentality is a trait shared by many Filipinos, in varying degrees. It is certainly something built into my core, outwardly demonstrated by my love of guitar-driven classic rock, highly introspective characters in books and snuggling up to watch Freaks and Geeks from beginning to end.
I used to regard the feeling of being sentimental as something I could leave behind with my old self from Manila; with the ridiculous amount of things I needed to do to become an assimilated Canadian, dwelling over how I felt about personal changes seemed an inappropriate use of my time, particularly when I needed to rush between classes, a 20 hour per week job and balance side projects, chores and making time to visit friends.
In light of what the last few years have been like, taking time to assess my personal and professional goals and drawing plans for achieving those goals seem like an alright use of my time.
Photo via Lars Plougmann on Flickr.