01 April 2009

Filipinos and Food: No Reservations

I finally got around to watching the Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations: Philippines episode that has been lying in my DVR for weeks. Unlike the other show I watched featuring Filipino cuisine (Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods), this one featured many more mainstream dishes. Sure, they had several foods that I could hardly bear to look at (OMG there's Anthony Bourdain chewing on a goat's eye, bile.... brain!!). But I watched most of the show wishing I had a plate of whatever they were eating in front of me.

The focus of the show was really about discovering what Filipino cuisine really is -- which of course is as difficult to do as it is for Anthony Bourdain's guide, a Filipino American fan named Augusto, to discover his own identity. Because Filipino cuisine is such a mishmash of influences, (Malay, Chinese, Spanish, American, etc..), and has such variation among regions, it's unique -- but difficult to distill and describe.

In any case, I was happy to see some real Filipino favorites on the show, like pinakbet, lechon, kare-kare, fishballs, sisig, and adobong anything. And I was happy to see two of my favorite Filipino foodies featured on the show: Ivan Dy, who led Alfie and me around Manila's Chinatown on a Big Binondo Food Wok, and Mr. Market Manila, who cooked up the highlight of the show, that wonderful meal full featuring fresh local produce and succulent lechon, served outdoors somewhere in Cebu (the view from wherever they were was amazing!).

The third thing I was happy to see emphasized was the connection between food and family. Anthony was fed by his hosts morning, noon and night. He was welcomed into Augusto's family and treated to feast after feast. Sharing food is the Filipino way express generosity, hospitality and togetherness. And I know they really got this message across because while we were watching the Lechon Lunch part, Alfie had a Revelation . His eyes lit up, and he said to me in an Ah-Hah voice, "I think I get it now. Food is to Filipinos what Tea is to the English!"

Bonggamom blogs about food A Lot -- here, on Finding Bonggamom, Bonggamom Finds, and her various other blogs. She's got more thoughts on the No Reservations: Philippines episode here.

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