MANILA, December 20, 2005 (STAR) By Joy Angelica Subido - Sometimes, one cannot help but go with the flow. In the busy metropolis where an individual has many lifestyle choices, the tendency is to accomplish everything as quickly as possible. After all, getting tasks done quickly enables one to experience more things. The prevailing belief is that progress is dependent on efficient multi-tasking.

This mindset has somehow affected all facets of our lives. For example, fast computers are essential to work, transportation has to be quick, and ready-made clothing has diminished the workload of the neighborhood dressmaker or costurera. Food, too, has not been spared. The popularity of fast food has somehow reduced the consumption of traditional food, leading us to wonder: Will our traditional food be alien to a new generation of Filipinos?

Slow Food: Philippine Culinary Traditions, edited by respected writers Erlinda Enriquez Panlilio and Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, with illustrations by Manuel Baldemor (Anvil, 2005), is noteworthy in its goal of ensuring that traditional Filipino recipes and practices are not lost on future generations. In the preface called "Pampagana," Sta. Maria writes: "Slow food … traditional food … food prepared from scratch with no shortcuts, using only the finest ingredients acquired at the peak of their season, is a vital and valuable component of every Filipino’s sense of self. Appreciating and conserving Philippine culinary traditions protect the uniqueness of regional and historic flavors, the production techniques and tools of so often unacknowledged culinary artisans, the agricultural heritage and environmental balance of food sources, and the local customs that give communities and families so much pride and pleasure."

Writers included in Slow Food: Philippine Culinary Traditions are members of the International Wine and Food Society Manila Ladies Branch (IWFS-MLB), founders of the Manila Slow Food Convivium, and winners of the Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Award.

The IWFS is the world’s oldest and most prestigious gastronomic society and supports the Slow Food Movement, which started as a reaction to fast food and fast living. It has spread to all five continents, lists 60,000 members, and sustains a network of local grassroots groups called convivia that are responsible for conserving food traditions. Doreen Fernandez, long-time dean of Filipino food writers, initiated the first Philippine Convivium, but passed away before it could be launched. The Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Award is the country’s first culinary writing contest aimed at promoting food literature. Chaired by Michaela Fenix, it was offered as a tribute to its namesake after her demise.

The essays included in the book make up a virtual feast. As rice is our staple food, Mara Pardo de Tavera’s "Wild Rice of the Philippines" is fittingly the first essay in the book. Corazon Alvina, founding member of IWFS-MLB, National Museum director and National Commission for Culture and Arts board commissioner, writes about the natilla of her childhood in "Caridad Begins at Home"; respected chef Myrna Seguismundo writes about a "lechon attack" in "My Lechon Memories"; and journalist Dexter Osorio writes about the homosexual crab in "The Bulaqueño Crab Mentality."

Food is an integral part of religious celebrations and book editor Felice Prudente Sta. Maria writes about "a time when, for 40 days every year, no one held lavish birthday parties or balls, and no one ate meat or fowl," but indulged in a delicious "Filipino cod stew"; and IWFS-MLB president Cecilia Juntereal writes about food cooked to honor loved ones who have died in "Pangalay Food."

Regional food is well-represented in essays, such as "Batanes: Survival Food" and "Pampanga: Where Every Dish is a Delicacy" by respected food columnist Michaela Fenix; Elizabeth P. Romualdez’s "Favorite Bicol Dish: Adobong Manok sa Sinunog na Gata"; Fil Juntereal’s "Tayabas Food"; "The Vanishing Tawilis of Lake Taal" by Ipat Luna; Guillermo Ramos Jr.’s "Cavite Chavacano Bacalao"; and "Trio of Ilonggo Favorites" by Elsie Louise Pfeider Araneta.

Family favorites are well documented in "Bamboo for Food and Survival" by Pia Lim-Castillo, "My Family’s Puchero" by Josefina Pedrosa Manahan; "My Mom’s Pinangat" by Marian Medina Umali; "Lola Kikay and her Samar Specials" by Erlinda E Panlilio; "My Inang’s Sapin-Sapin" by Jessie Sincioco; and "The Original Hot Chocolate by Margaux Salcedo.

Proving that the interest in culinary pursuits is passed on from generation to generation, Salie Henson Naguiat, whose paternal uncle Mariano Henson wrote the seminal recipe book Cusinang Capampangan for their province, writes about "Cooking With Firewood" with a dalican; Anne Marie Castro, whose grandmother owned Dagupan City’s oldest restaurant, writes about "Inacia’s Sinigang." Chefs Suzette Montinola and Ed Quimson write about food in their grandmothers’ homes in "GG’s Table" and "Recipes from My Grandmother’s Kitchen."

Other writers include Floretta Simpson, Maria Fatima Regala, Eda Veniola Brojan, Elizabeth Calero, Clinia Frances Carandang, Christine Nunag, Gloria Buencamino, C. Horatius Mosquera, Jenny Lou Orro, and Philippine STAR contributor Joy Subido.

At the end of the book is the "Panghimagas," where Erlinda E. Panlilio writes: "It goes without saying that food is at the center of life, that it is not just life-giving but life-enhancing as well, bringing families and friends closer together in the ritual of eating. We bond with every meal, celebrating the love we share as a family, the friendship that has lasted through the years. When the food is prepared patiently, with loving hands, it is the best gift of all." Her essay is entitled "Slow Food is Love." Indeed.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved