Unlike the Japanese we don’t serve rice expertly wrapped in seaweed but spaded from a huge kaldero. Unlike the French, we don’t serve pastries in bite size pieces, rather expect to see whole bilao of rice cakes or kakanin. We don’t drink by dainty sips, but by thirsty gulps. Observe beer sessions. Or the palamig stand. Americans may be the kings of supersize meals alright, but Philippine food can attest of high nutrient contents and much lower calories. Fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, coconut cream. We eat five times a day, but you could hardly see morose supersize people around here.
When I went to China a year ago, our Chinese guide was talking about how large China is, but on the dinner table he joked about how large Philippine plates are compared to the Chinese platitos, tea cups and chopsticks. Filipinos, he said, eat big. I couldn’t agree more.
We are not used to cooking for ourselves. It’s either you don’t cook or you cook for the whole tribe. Cook for one and the family will ask you – “Do you have a problem? Why are you cooking only one egg?”
Try going to a Philippine kitchen. Try observing holidays, birthdays, weddings, family reunions. A rural household will sell a carabao or borrow money just to have “celebration” – simple or large – but will celebrate anyway.
Or just observe family dinners. They are always a sacred daily rite. Try eating hotdog in front of TV while other family members are gathered at the round table, and before you could shift channels, expect your grandmother or your yaya to whack you with a rolled Panorama magazine “Igalang mo naman ang pagkain!” (Respect your food!) Or… am I talking from a childhood experience?
This heritage of large food is the reason why Filipino chefs aboard cruise liners can cook for 2500+ guests every day- breakfast, lunch and dinner- without complaining. They’re used to it. They’re used to feeding the many. It’s part of their essence as small people comprising a larger whole. A piece. A slice. A ladleful. Whatever the portioning is, it’s part of something greater than we are. That is why we see our food banquet extend from our immediate families, to barangays, to cities, to the world.