There are certain flavors that remind you of home—some dishes you need only catch a passing scent of and you’re transported back to a certain time and place with a specific feeling welling up inside you. Nostalgia is a powerful force after all, and sometimes you just need to spoil yourself with something that tastes of youth to warm your soul.
And this doesn’t apply just to Filipino cuisine. The world is a vast kitchen where rich histories and traditions are handed down over everyday meals and festive spreads. At the very least, food preparations, secret ingredients and heirloom recipes change hands over generations and across geographic divides, such as how Chinese noodles and Italian pasta became distant cousins once Marco Polo breached the ancient Silk Road. Closer to home and in more recent times, certain dishes have managed to retain their distinct character despite the spin and reinvention by schooled chefs. Various regions across the world arrived at similar basic preparations, but due to variances in topography, customs, and resources, the same dish would be unique to its country of origin and arrival. Imagine how, despite their proximity China doesn’t have a perfect equivalent to Japan’s takoyaki.
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And despite sharing many of the same resources, various cultures have developed personal and iconic food preparations whose sterling reputations precede their arrival on your plate.
Food is an integral part of being human not only because we kinda need it to survive, but also because many dishes that exist today are the sum total of people’s experiences through countless years—these are memories of warm homes and quiet afternoons enjoying tea, family celebrations indulging in exquisite meals and seasonal dishes, and sneaking into your room some of grandma’s rich desserts that had been set aside for guests.
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But with air travel making cultures more connected, even homogenous, distinct traits and diversity sometimes fall along the wayside: beloved recipes, for one, have been tweaked to make them more acceptable to a universal palate. Which makes it important to look back on our roots and keep our food traditions intact in the inevitable clash between cultures and cuisines.
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Yes, there’s something endearing about food places that hold on to tradition while refining age-old cooking techniques until they become more accessible across borders and generations. It is finally what would entice more people to regard food as both sustenance and indulgence, and dining as a pleasurable and necessary ritual of sharing and connecting.