Soy Lime Marinated Beef, dressing made with Chef Rossy Earle's Diablo Verde hot sauce on rice noodles (a dish I made recently)
Some recent conversations about food I’ve had with friends in Toronto and New York prompted me to write about it today. I was raised with an almost sacred view of food. I realized how much this has contributed to my perspectives, love and respect for food of all types as an adult. Some of the unwritten rules around food in my childhood were:
· try everything once (especially food you’re afraid to try; there were very, very few exceptions)
· never scoff at food you don't necessarily care for (esp. when at people's home cooked dinners or even restaurants) because that would be extremely disrespectful to whomever prepared it – and to food, in general
· meals are enjoyed together and talked about at length
· nothing is ever wasted (before the ‘nose-to-tail’ was ever a trendy thing, poorer countries practiced this as a given), so excess was frowned upon
· processed/packaged food wasn’t readily available in the Philippines and also more expensive. Therefore nearly everything was cooked fresh (thankfully)
· you ate everything on your plate because so many children around go hungry everyday so a clean plate was a sign of gratefulness
· when dining on the beach, you ate with your hands on picnic tables lined with banana leaves
All of this taught me to enjoy and respect food as much as I do today. I think it’s normal to have personal preferences. But a narrow-mindedness about food and scoffing at food you didn’t like was looked down upon and simply not allowed when I was growing up. So it drives me crazy when I see narrow-mindedness now. I feel lucky and grateful to have had the upbringing that I had. I love that I was brought up this way. I love seeing children who are growing up with a wider palate and an open-mindedness about food. I have my parents —especially my mom— to thank for this. I was never the kid who was fixated by eating candy. Nor was I allowed to be picky. I was always more interested dinner (not to mention, dessert). Filipino culture centres so much around food in many ways too. So none of this is a surprise. I lived there until I was almost 12 before moving to California. Food was the other religion. Meals were, in essence, pure love and joy. Meals were everything. Not much has changed today.
Living in New York starting in 1999 only helped enhance and widen my perspective and palate. I'm surrounded by even more people over the past two+ years who regard food in this same way in Toronto. It's an endless journey of discovery. It's so fantastic and I wouldn’t have it any other way.