Food brings Philippines and NYC closer during the holidays

December 22, 2010

Christmas brought us another gift in the form of a lovely article by Bea Zobel, Jr. in the Philippine Star about Purple Yam.

This year, I have indeed grown closer to the home country.  I went home to the Philippines twice –in Feb and then in October first to celebrate my mother’s birthday and then my birthday.  And both times, the family and I had decided to use the occasion to celebrate the culinary treasures of our country — Ang Sariling Atin (celebrating what is ours).

Romy and I came upon this phrase to recall one of the critical chapters of our cookbook, Memories of Philippine Kitchens — the second chapter entitled: Food That Was Always Ours.  The structure of the book — which was based on our and other people’s memories of kitchens of our childhoods — puts forth a logical path towards understanding our cuisine (or any cuisine for that matter) which is to look first at ingredients and dishes that came from within and therefore the local environment and then moving forward to encompass borrowed foods that came from trade, wars, conquest and globalization.

I have always believed that a true Philippine cultural value is to use food as a unifying factor — for both families and communities.  “Kain na tayo” (let’s eat) is probably one of the most used phrases in our language.  And the use of the phrase is not just an invitation to join in the meal, but it is a gesture that signifies that it is unthinkable to eat without sharing food.  To leave anyone out of a meal is sacrilege in our culture.  So food is also an intangible that makes everyone a part of the feast.

How wonderful it would be if that value were to be translated in all aspects of our lives especially in these hard times.

Going back to Bea Zobel’s article, they selected to publish several photos of mine taken at Cendrillon and at Purple Yam.

Diket Paella using heirloom rice from the Philippine terraces

I selected this photo of the diket paella primarily to call attention to the delicious and healthy rice that Mary Hensley of Eighth Wonder is bringing into the US.  She has made it her lifelong passion to promote the heirloom grains that our Filipino farmers in the Cordillera Mountains are preserving.  And every time we buy and use these grains, we help keep these farmers financially viable.  Every time a farmer decides to abandon his terrace, we lose these grains forever since they own the grains.  Remember, in these heirloom grains live the original DNA of rice that our ancestors ate.

And I would like to end this post with a photo of our tocino slider — truly one of the most fun items we have done at Purple Yam — an innovation because we moved away from the usual burger, but replaced it with something really Pinoy — the tocino (grilled sugar-cured pork).

tocino slider at Purple Yam

The tocino is in our homemade purple yam pan de sal, homemade mayo, pickled persimmon (during the winter) or green mango slice (during the summer) and some greens.

To all our friends and customers,  we would like to wish all of you a prosperous new year.  But I would like to define prosperous in terms of friendship and fellowship especially around the table.

Kain na! And see you soon at the Purple Yam!

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