By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter
OF ALL the facets of culture and history — think language, clothing, art — food is usually relegated to the sidelines. “It’s always going to be there,” we say to ourselves while it disappears from our tables, replaced by global selections that are easy to prepare, easy to eat, and are easily forgotten. Food does not deserve this position, for it is the fuel that forged revolutions, gave sustenance to communities, and, today, continues to build the nation.
The Diamond Hotel gives honor to Filipino heritage food via a food festival which will run from June 19 to 30, priced at P2,990 nett per person, at the hotel’s Cornice restaurant. For this food festival, they tapped chef and food heritage advocate Christopher Carangian.
Mr. Carangian is the Punong Heneral (Head General) of the Culinary Generals of the Philippines, a collective of cooks, food historians, and members of the academe who strive to preserve native cuisine by listening to elders who teach them lost dishes and techniques.
Of the dishes served during a tasting held on National Flag Day, May 28, a clear favorite by all was the Pancit langlang of Imus, Cavite. Mr. Carangian, also an in-house food historian of the GMA Network, says that he had looked long and far for this dish, described in Jose Rizal’s El Filibusterismo. While he conjectured that the detailed recipe of the dish (containing eggs, shrimp, chicken, and then chicken stock, all over a bed of noodles) was a favorite of National Hero Jose Rizal, a letter from the author, doctor, and revolutionary to his sister confirms it to be so. Rizal, it seems, favored lightness and balance in his palate, as exemplified in this dish.
A more exotic offering was the Ciento Quinse (115), named after the 115 chilies that went into the dish of jackfruit and seafood from the Chavacano culture in Mindanao (the dish was toned down for Manila palates). Warik Warik, a dish of charred pork, comes from Northern Luzon, and for its outing in Corniche, was stripped of the pig brains that would usually go into it — liver and mayonnaise sauce was substituted in this variation. The dish, apparently, was part of a ritual to call the ancient gods.
This wasn’t Mamma’s table of homecooked loving — this was history staring at you from the plate. It could be surmised that these dishes are fast approaching oblivion simply because of the fast-paced lives we lead today (how many people take the time to char pigs to offer to the gods?), but Mr. Carangian pointed to something else. According to his studies, “Kung sino yung malapit sa Maynila, siya ’yung nawawala (The ones near Manila are usually the ones lost),” he said. By this he meant that the closer a province is to the country’s near-cosmopolitan capital, the easier it is for their traditional dishes to be lost.
As we’ve mentioned above, food is usually ignored in history, perhaps merely to be seen as novelty; a detail of minutiae as to what this person living centuries ago ate and liked. This is an important detail in itself, for in food lies both motivation for and respite from the work of making history. In some cases, food can be nobler than clothing, or even language, in identifying a culture. Mr. Carangian said in a mixture of Tagalog and English, “Food is also a language. The good thing about food is, you don’t have to talk. Just hand it over, and everyone smiles.”
Mr. Carangian is also set to recreate the Malolos Congress Dinner of 1898, used by the early Philippine government to announce its independence, sovereignty, and well, style. The dinner will be paired with fine wine, and costs P5,000 nett per person, slated for June 21. For inquiries, call 528-3000.