13
Mar

2012

Thought Experiment: Cuisine Zealotry?

Post by Steven Dale

A thought experiment:

Imagine you’re a chef with a decent reputation, good training and a strong generalized understanding of most popular world cuisines. You know your Classical French, your Fresh Market California, your Asian Fusion, your Italian. But then one winter, you take a trip to The Philippines and discover something: Filipino cuisine is incredibly unique, incredibly interesting and (most important of all) incredibly underrepresented and misunderstood within mainstream culinary circles.

Philippino Kangkong.

You therefore decide to dedicate yourself for a few years to learn about the intricacies of the cuisine. You travel the country and learn how to make such staples as Adobo, Kinilaw and Kangkong. You see it made first-hand and read as many cookbooks as you can find – which are few and far between.

By the end of that time, you’ve developed a base of knowledge on Filipino cuisine rare in your industry and find ways to inform the food industry about that knowledge. Maybe you write a cookbook or start a website. You never say that Filipino cuisine is the best cuisine there is (because you know how pointless that would be) but you maintain that it’s an interesting cuisine worthy of further attention and use in mainstream culinary circles.

Does that make you a Filipino Cuisine Zealot?

Hardly. It makes you a chef who knows a lot about Filipino cuisine. Nothing more.

Some chefs specialize in Molecular Gastronomy. Others in pastry. You happen to specialize in Filipino cuisine.

I bring this up because last week I was accused by a commenter of being a blind “modal zealot” uninterested in “promoting transportation solutions that will actually come to pass.” I’m not going to go into why that’s demonstrably false. If you want to know why that’s demonstrably false, spend a bit of time reading this website (or just this post, for example). This is not a site of zealots. It’s a site of people passionate about public transit and passionate about looking at it from a different perspective.

That doesn’t make us zealots, it makes us transit specialists with a different specialization than the majority. That’s it.

We’ve a demonstrated understanding of public transit and its various permutations. We’re not hostile to other modes. We don’t claim gondolas to be superior to all other forms. We aren’t violent, rebellious or aggressive. At the end of the day, all we say is that gondolas are a transit tool – nothing more.

Perhaps the worst we could be accused of is getting a disproportionately high amount of media attention for what is – admittedly – a completely ridiculous idea.

But that doesn’t make us zealots any more than it makes us Filipino chefs.

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Comments

  1. never had filipino food. so the question is, why isn't there more of it?
  2. Matt the Engineer
    [monorail] The amount of filipino food is likely related to: 1. The population of Filipinos in your city. 2. The size of your city. The short e-book The Gated City covered this well. Variety in cuisine is so much greater in cities because you have access to so many potential customers. Even if only 1% likes your style of cuisine, in a city of a million people that means you have access to 100,000 potential customers - certainly enough to keep your business open, along with a dozen others. In a town of 5,000 that's just 50 people and you'll never stay open (unless those 50 people reeeeeealy love your cooking). The result is that restaurants in towns and small cities tend toward "safe" food that everyone (including the kids) tend to like, but few really love. Pizza places, greasy spoons, burger joints, fast food, etc. Google tells me Seattle (602k people, 2.6% Filipino) has 6 of them, and I've never eaten at any. Time to try one.
  3. Matt the Engineer
    In small cities in Alaska I've noticed an interesting phenomenon of the Mextalianese* place. The menu is broken up into Mexican, Italian, and Chinese (sometimes others). These are very common, perhaps to try to appeal to everyone. But short of seafood and one strange dumpling place I've never had good food in AK (not that I blame them - they ship everything in). * My term. They usually pick one as their official cuisine - it's the first page of the menu.
  4. They got good filipino food in Toronto!
  5. I think people missed my point :).
  6. I'm sure there's plenty of it in Filipino homes.
  7. In a travel guide the use the fact, that there are almost no Filipino restaurants outside the Philippines to describe the inferiority of Filipino cuisine. Compared to Chinese,Vietnamese,Thai, Malay cuisines the Filipino cuisine is clearly underrepresented. And it somewhat true even they have Filipino staff restaurants serve other cuisines as other cuisines suit more people. Replacing McDonalds with Jollybee would be a good way tho fight overweight tough.