Photoblog: A Year in the Life of Dinnertime with Filipinos

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I’ve spent a year of my life living and eating with Filipinos. Joy, Denisse, and Jenny came to Singapore for work, the same as I did. The four of us work a great deal. But when we’re together, nine times out of ten, it’s over a home-cooked Filipino feast that we reacquaint.

Photoblogs are cop-outs by nature unless the photos are excellent. The photos above are less than excellent. Most were shot in the heat and steam of the moment with a grease-covered iPhone. So, up front, my apologies for a post more hedonistic than epicurean, more food porn than pointed culinary analysis. I’ve found time in the throws of reading season to cook up a few salient points:

–       Filipinos love pork. It is the sun of the Filipino solar system. They love all parts of the pig. And I love Filipinos for it. Check out http://www.myfilipinorecipes.com/ for proof: pig offal is everywhere. Winning.

–       Every Southeast Asian country has a soupy/saucy/pasty fermented fish product at the heart of its food. Thailand and Vietnam have, commercially, Squid Brand and Three Crabs Brand fish sauce, respectively. Myanmar (can I call it that now!?) has ngapi, Malaysia and Singapore have belacan. The Philippines have the inimitable bagoong, which one eats on mangos or with the Ilocano stew pinakbet. Just last night I loaded up sliced Thai green sour mangos with bagoong and went to town. My flatmates tell me that pregnant women are particularly fond of mangos and bagoong, FYI.

–       We find the cultures and cuisines of Spain (colonizers from 1565 to 1899) and the United States (colonizers from 1901 to 1946) grafted onto Filipino life at every level. The Philippines is the most Catholic country in Asia. 1960s and 70s American rock blares from the Jeepneys of Manila and Baguio. Every fourth sentence on Filipino TV – I’ve winced and gagged my way through enough of it to speak with some authority – is fully or mostly in English. The same is true of the food. Longganisa, embutido, and Spam accompany rice and pandesal with processed cheese for breakfast. For lunch, kare-kare and dinakdakan might share the table with lechon and sweet Filipino-style spaghetti with hot dogs (it’s actually called “spaghetti” on menus in the Philippines). And it’s menudo and leche flan for dinner and dessert.

I visited the Philippines in August with my flatmates – a few photos are from Joy’s house in La Union, Ilocos, Philippines. The rest were taken in Blk 663A, Jurong, Singapore.

One comment

  1. Mira

    Incredible photos, a real testament to food’s role in creating friendship and community! This also makes me think that I need to talk to Laura Kruikshank about where we are going to locate the college’s outdoor cooking facilities and roasting spit. We need an international grill station!

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