Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945 (a book review)

What makes a city? It is more than just the mortar and stone in its buildings, or even the very people populating it. A key aspect of a metropolis is its supply lines for food and resources, which is the very thesis of Daniel F. Doeppers’ book, Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945.

 

Doeppers, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has retold some of the most intriguing chapters of Manila’s history in terms of how its inhabitants regularly (or not so regularly) ate, drank, and sourced their basic needs from nearby provinces. The book goes into interesting details ranging from how the waterways of Bulacan and Malabon were changed to accommodate the rice trade, all the way to the rise of the popularity of chocolate as a beverage, and how it was displaced by coffee. Everything from animal and human diseases, fishing practices, and the potable water supply makes its way into the text.

Apart from these bits of trivia, Doeppers’ text also documents the rise of families and companies involved in the food industry, many of which are still big players in commerce to this day.

 

Although lengthy and at times tedious with its emphasis on economic trends and statistics, Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945 provides a fresh look into life in the city of Manila, especially for the denizens who hardly get a mention in textbooks. One gets a vivid sense of the ingenuity, tenacity and good humor characterizing the residents of this old city, all the way up to the devastation that befell it during the Second World War. It reminds people that much of human history is associated with the realities of existence such as feast and famine, all of which go on despite upheavals and grand events.

 

This book is a recommended read not only for anthropologists and scholars of Philippine History, but even for foodies and culinary enthusiasts. It is well thought out and spaced under easy to follow subject headings, making it suitable for earnest study as well as casual reading. Since we at Team Glasses Food Blog are not only foodies but also history geeks, this book was a particular treat.

 

Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945 is available from the Ateneo de Manila University Press at Bellarmine Hall, Katipunan Avenue. More details may be found at www.ateneopress.org.

(featured image from wikipedia)

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Watami

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A quick look at history shows that, Watami has around 700 branches within the Asia Pacific region. According to their facebook page, it actually opened its doors here in the Philippines on 2012. Six years later, they now have four branches in the country. (Mall of Asia, Greenbelt 2, Shangrila Mall, and Uptown Mall)

We decided to try the branch at Shangrila Mall, Mandaluyong with our party (Me, Kat, Hiyas, Gabby, and Francis) before the day’s dungeons and dragons’ session.

For this Team Glasses and D&D partymates trip:

Kat – Cold Soba with Chicken Skin skewers.

Lee – Tonkotsu Ramen

Gabby – Cold Soba with mixed tempura

Francis – Pork Katsudon

Hiyas – Volcano Roll, Pork and Enoki skewers, and Chicken Liver skewers.

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Tonkotsu

Watami only has two selections for their ramen set, the Tonkotsu and the Spicy Miso. Being the ramen-lover of the group, I decided to partake in some Tonkotsu. The noodles were firm and chewy just the way I like it. The  pork slices were just the right amount of tenderness, though my personal preference is to thinner slices. However, the broth didn’t cut it for me since it came out too oily, possibly a combination of the broth base and the fatty pork slice. The egg did soften the blow to the tastebuds a bit with its own milder creaminess.

The great thing about their Mixed Tempura and Soba combination was that it offered a good deal of variety and textures to one’s palate. The portion of noodle to sauce was a bit imbalanced, but that was more of a matter of preference.

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Pork Katsudon

The flavors of the Pork Katsudon were spot on with just the right amount of spice and crunch, but were unfortunately too thick for easy and balanced bites.

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Volcano Roll

I would say that their Volcano Roll was the star of this food trip, since it was well thought out and created. The heat of their mayo’s mixture complemented the subtle creaminess of the raw salmon slices. The Pork and Enoki skewer was a close second because the crisp bacon with enoki was a savory treat all in itself. If one added some rice in, one would consider it a good Pinoy meal for the daily grind.

With the chicken skin and liver skewers, these were as one would expect, typical fare but done rather well.

We ended our meals feeling satiated and ready towards the day’s adventure, dice rolls, role playing, and copious amounts of shenanigans to liven up the day.

Food Score: 3.5/5: Eating Japanese food is both a matter for the palate and eyes. Watami doesn’t hold back with their visually appetizing rolls and tempura but misses the mark with some of the others. Though I would say that the food here is typical fare flavor-wise, good for a casual dine.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: Set as a casual Japanese restaurant, Watami’s layout has modern touches to the typical reds and dark red tones set off the vibe of a place to kick back and relax.

Service Score: 5/5: The service here at Watami is top notch to say the least. When our designated server wasn’t immediately available, another took up the mantle and took care of our needs for our stay here from start to finish.

GERD Score: 3.5/5: Even with the Tonkotsu experience, it could be safely stated that Watami is still great for people with GERD because there are different selections

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: Some of the spices used may be less than ideal for people who are sensitive to condiments. However there are many non alcoholic and non caffeinated selections for people with dietary restrictions.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5: All things considered, Watami is a decent place to hang out with friends and family for a casual meal, provided that ones with health considerations should keep an eye out with their choices.

Watami Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato