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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Honey Nutribar: The Future Disaster-Relief Snack

In a country where natural disasters happen often, food that’s both filling and nutritious is a necessity. Unfortunately, most relief packs from donations consist of either crackers and biscuits, canned goods, or things like noodles or rice which require potable water. The last two options have downsides to them, which are the problem of artificially made preservatives, as well as the lack of sustainable potable water or water-filtration systems in evacuation centers and in ground zero.

If my guilty pleasure of watching people who eat military or civilian Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) has taught me anything, ready to eat foods need to meet certain criteria.  Since its purpose is to be ready to eat even after a year of storage or more, an MRE pack should remain edible despite being stored  for a long period of time. It should be easy to transport without crumbling apart readily. And most importantly, these should have a healthy amount of calories and nutrients to make one survive the grueling day or have a substantial meal in a pinch.

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While we don’t have locally-produced MRE packs like in the US or Indonesia, I would have to say that the Honey Nutribar is a step in the right direction.

Created by the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), the Honey NutriBar is made out of pinipig (pounded glutinous rice), honey, rice krispies, dried fruits, and pectin. What sets this bar apart from the commercially available ones is the process that’s involved in preserving it.

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Each bar is vacuum-sealed in laminated aluminum foil, and then irradiated at a dose of 1 kilogray gamma radiation at the PNRI’s Multipurpose Irradiation Facility. Now one asks him or herself, “Irradiated? Isn’t that toxic?”. Unlike what happens in nuclear meltdown and accidents like Chernobyl or Fukushima, the irradiation process does not turn the food radioactive, and in fact makes it safer for consumption.

Now what is irradiation exactly? It is the process wherein the food (in this case, the Honey NutriBar) is exposed to electron beams or gamma radiation. Here are some benefits to the irradiation process.

  1. Preservation by destroying or deactivating the organisms that speed up spoilage and decomposition.
  2. Elimination of disease-causing bacteria such as Salmonella and E.Coli.
  3. Sterilization. Sterilized food last long in storage and a useful source of food for patients with severely-impaired immune systems.
  4. Irradiating does not change the taste or consistency of food.

Currently, the said product is still in development. The team at PNRI has managed to get the Honey Nutribar’s shelf life at nine months, but the staff in the PNRI conference area told us that the team is aiming to make it shelf-stable for two years.

With a bit of help from individuals and groups willing to invest in this research, the Honey Nutribar will soon be able to provide a readily available and tasty source of food during natural disasters and other emergencies. Since these are packed with nutrients and sufficient calories, these snack bars are also great for athletic events and outdoor activities.

 

For more information on the Honey Nutribar, please contact:

Ms. Zenaida M. De Guzman

Head, Biomedical Research Section, Atomic Research Division

Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Nuclear Research Institute

Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City

Tel. No. 929-6010 to 19 loc. 273

Email: zmedguzman@pnri.dost.gov.ph