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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Advocafe

Our hot drinks and hearty meals do far more than just quench our appetites. What we pay for our food, more often than not, goes to fund an enterprise that we may not consciously think about when we are gathered for some grub. At Advocafe, one can see where the profits go—and the impact that a meal can have on the life of a community.

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We heard of Advocafe several years ago, from a student studying in the Ermita area of Manila. This was touted not only as a place with reasonably priced dishes, but also as an advocacy for the Philippines’ indigenous groups. At present there are around 110 indigenous ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines, comprised of 14-17 million persons. Many of their communities have difficulties with accessing basic services and utilities as well as preserving their local culture and traditions. There are several groups involved in the advocacies for indigenous groups, some of which have partnered with Advocafe to provide a venue for marketing indigenous coffee and other products.

It took us some time to find Advocafe owing to its being a relatively small location in a neighborhood of large businesses. Its relaxed and warm interior was the perfect place for us to stop for a leisurely brunch. We ordered the Biya (dried fish) all day breakfast meal, Pesto Pasta, and a cup of Hot Chocolate as well as a cup of Dilaw (Turmeric) herbal tea.

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The crispy Biya came with a cup of upland rice, with its signature reddish-purple grains. We realized that the perfect combination would be this Biya meal with the sweetish hot chocolate, the latter being perfect for pouring over the rice. The fish itself was not greasy or overly salty, giving some mild sharpness to the meal.

The Pesto Pasta was at least well cooked, with the pesto itself having a mild flavor. The Dilaw Tea was rather strong for our tastes, and we figured would be better for pairing with rice cakes.

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To cap off our brunch, we got a slice of Advocafe’s signature moist chocolate cake. To our delight this treat was not sickly sweet, but provided just a mild hint of dark chocolate. We recommend this for diners who may not be so accustomed to rough tablea flavors, but still want a taste of local dark chocolate.

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All net profits from Advocafe  go to educational programs for various indigenous groups in different parts of the country. These educational endeavors include livelihood training as well as adapting to climate change. Other local products such as tablea blocks and herbal teas are also available here on a retail basis. This is truly one place to dine for a cause.

Food Score: 3.5/5: While we certainly enjoyed the all day breakfast, we feel that their pasta could be improved in flavor and presentation. The portion sizes are reasonable for student and backpacker budgets.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4/5: The service here was fast, even at an early hour. The ambiance of this place is very inviting with its comfortable seating and warm colors. The photograph displays also help provide a bird’s eye view as to what Advocafe is all about.

GERD Score: 3.5/5 For anyone dealing with heartburn, there are some options one can select such as the cakes and tea, along with a meal or two. One could say that Advocafe is a good spot for an quiet afternoon snack.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5: Some of the breakfast selections involve processed meats such as hotdogs, which may not be tolerated by some diners. However the herbal teas and non-coffee selections make this place very worth the visit.
Team Glasses Score: 4/5 : Advocafe is a place with a heart: simple and reasonably priced food, with a mission to help others. We definitely recommend a visit to this place not only for the meals, but to also learn how you can help our countrymen from these indigenous groups.

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

Recovery Food

The search for a cure to hangovers may be almost as old as the existence of breweries and alcohol consumption. Old wives’ tales and urban legends list a whole plethora of remedies ranging from peppercorns up one’s nose (not recommended!) all the way to consumption of copious amounts of coffee. More sound cures include rehydrating as well as getting a good breakfast, two things that all-day restaurants such as Recovery Food are more than ready to provide.

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We visited Recovery Food’s branch in the BGC Stopover, and found it to be quite full even as early as 8 in the morning. The no-frills menu here featured a complete lineup of dishes from starters, rice bowls, all the way up to dessert. For our breakfast here, we picked the Amadobo rice bowl: traditional pork adobo and rice, topped with a scrambled egg. We also indulged with a bowl of Hey Jude’s Paksig: bangus belly with rice. For this venture we chose to upgrade the rice in this dish to ‘talangka rice’, or rice cooked in crab paste. We also ordered the Oriental Salad, which was comprised of greens mixed with a combination of fruits such as green mango and pineapple, with a choice of either peanut dressing or citrus vinaigrette.

22714A46-4C95-4BF8-ACD2-309F651F5130The Amadobo had just the right blend of salty-sourness that one would expect from an excellent adobo recipe, with an added kick from a crunchy garlic topping. The fluffy scrambled egg provided a good contrast to the stronger flavors of the pork and the sauce soaked in the rice. In practice it was not much different from home-cooked adobo, but it was an adobo done very well.

BF78B539-026E-477F-AC7F-62D37BA6C915The Hey Jude’s Paksig is a treat with the subtle flavors of the talangka rice and the sweet and fresh bangus blending together. Along with the well-cooked sunny side up egg mixed in, it’s a succulent experience mixing in all three.

0BC91025-6CBF-4AB2-94D4-57DB7BE4D7B9We made a good choice with having citrus vinaigrette with our Oriental Salad, since this dressing provided a light tanginess that complemented the sweetish flavors of the fruits and greens. This refreshing starter was a surprisingly good partner to our more savory entrees, thus rounding out our breakfast in a way we never had before.

Although Recovery Food caters to those who need a hefty meal to end a late night, we would recommend this place too for those who want a filling start to their day, or just plain good food to suit all hours.
The Food Score:  4/5: Recovery Food serves up its meals in two sizes: regular and Full Recovery. We tried the Full Recovery size, and found it good for two, or for one very, very hungry person. The menu here also features soups such as pho and mami, Filipino desserts, and a wide selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, making this place perfect for dining at all hours.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4/5: Despite its simple, no-frills ambiance, this restaurant was still comfortable and well-lit. The service at this branch was prompt and courteous, adding to the dining experience.   

GERD Score: 3.5/5: While there are options for different people, Recovery Food doesn’t offer much for anyone with heartburn. And if one makes the mistake of ordering the full recovery size alone, best to have half for take out.

Epilepsy Score:  3.5/5: Some of the dishes here are prepared from canned and preserved meats, thus making them less of an option for some diners. Nevertheless there are other fresh dishes (apart from the salad) that are worth considering even for those with concerns about medication interactions or high preservative intake.   

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: Recovery Food is certainly an option not only for late nights but also for early mornings and even casual lunches and dinners out. Although this is not exactly a place for fine dining, it is one for good old comfort food to suit most everyday ventures.

Recovery Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kanto Freestyle Breakfast

Since we at Team Glasses have taken on the challenge of being working students pretty much six days a week, we have realized that a hearty breakfast has become essential to maintaining our well-being and sanity. Fortunately for us, we have learned of some 24-hour dining places not too far from our usual haunts. One such example is Kanto Freestyle Breakfast, which has become synonymous with delicious yet affordable meals to begin the day (or end a late night).

We stopped by Kanto Freestyle Breakfast’s branch in Poblacion, Makati, one Saturday morning. This branch is literally at a kanto or street corner, evoking the feel of a homestyle diner or eatery. Despite the rather simple ambiance, the menu laid before us was anything but. The fare here encompassed traditional Filipino breakfast food such as tapa (beef jerky), longganisa (sausages), tuyo (dried fish) and champorado (chocolate rice porridge), as well as other cosmopolitan favorites such as pancakes, omelets, and sandwiches. Diners even had the option to ‘freestyle’ breakfast by mixing and matching different viands. For this adventure we decided to try out Kanto Freestyle Breakfast’s rendition of tapsilog: New Zealand Beef Tapa served with garlic fried rice and an egg cooked as per the customer’s preference. We also tried out the hash browns topped with poached egg and tomato pesto.

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The tapa was scrumptious but perhaps a prior warning in the menu that the tapa had chili in the marinade would have been appreciated. Along with the rice and fried egg, it balances and spreads the saltiness of the soy sauce marinade around beautifully. However, like most Filipino breakfast choices, it tends to be on the oily side.

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The hash browns with poached egg was an interesting experience for us; this was not a combo we normally would have thought of. The egg was cooked to the right degree of runniness, and went well with the crispy hash browns. Although we had been looking forward to having the tomato pesto to round out the dish, the tomato was more of garnishing in this case. Thankfully the dish was flavored with a hint of paprika for a much needed kick.

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We also had the Kanto Hot Choco to accompany our meals. Though this drink had much in the way of flavor, and was served with a good helping of hot milk, we found it a little on the thin side for our tastes.

Throughout the meal we wound up musing about the health value of the ‘traditional’ Filipino breakfast, which often consists of rice with a side of some fried or boiled meat or fish, and in some cases accompanied by an egg. Coffee, especially instant coffee, is also a feature of many Filipino morning meals. Admittedly the Filipino breakfast can be improved with the addition of more whole grains as well as fruit and vegetable options, alongside the reduction in the consumption of sugars such as overly sweetened coffee. This will be something we hope to find in our future breakfast excursions.

The Food Score:  4/5: The servings here were hearty, with well cooked and flavorful viands. The menu also caters to a variety of tastes; those who eschew rice for breakfast may choose pancakes, waffles, and bread to fill up on.  

Ambiance/Service Score: 2.5/5: Sad to say this was the major downside of our breakfast. The service at this branch was rather inattentive with small things such as cleaning tables, or bringing the bill to the customers.  

GERD Score: 3/5: The variety does help to find options for people with heartburn. However, it would be helpful for people with GERD if the menu pointed out if a meal had chili peppers or is inherently spicy.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5: Variety saves the day again here, as there is a selection of dishes that are mostly free of preservatives and other possible triggers. Some caution must be exercised with the  meaty breakfast viands, as these often tend to be cured or preserved products.  

Team Glasses Score: 3/5: This place is excellent as far as comfort food and hangover cures are concerned. However we feel we can find other healthy breakfast options in different establishments.

Kanto Freestyle Breakfast Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Negative Space Cafe

Negative Space Cafe
Team Glasses’ Student Specials: Part 1
A major change we’ve been hurdling over the past few weeks is that both of us have begun our graduate studies. Among the various challenges our new situation presents is the need to find places where we could spend hours quietly studying, preferably with access to good food and Internet. In the interest of fulfilling all these criteria, we steered clear of the more ubiquitous coffee shops and cafes near our workplaces, and headed back to a familiar area frequented by university students: Maginhawa Street in Diliman. This time we tried out the Negative Space Café, located in Teachers Village.

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The café’s name already suggests a different feel and aesthetic from other ‘art cafes’. Instead of boasting of brightly decorated walls filled up with canvases, sculptures, installations, and kitsch, the Negative Space Café has a spacious, relatively uncluttered interior. The artworks featured on the walls are carefully curated, providing a balance that arouses cafe patrons’’ interest but do not prove too distracting for work. The general feel is that of a straightforward yet welcoming place that is conducive for quiet reading as well as group discussions.

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The menu here at Negative Space Café boasts of an extensive selection of beverages, as well as Japanese-themed snacks and entrees. For our afternoon sojourn here, we tried out the cha soba with vegetable tempura, as well as the Japanese cheese curry bake. The cha soba noodles were firm and lightly flavored with sesame, providing a refreshing contrast to the richer flavors of the vegetable tempura. The tempura went beyond the usual kangkong and radishes; over here even mushrooms and eggplants could be turned into a delectable fried dish.

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On the other hand, the Japanese cheese curry bake was served in a no-nonsense fashion in a ramekin, with a side of coleslaw in Japanese mayonnaise. This entree was not too heavily spiced, and well-balanced by the melted cheese; however, it was not as sweet as we had expected from other Japanese curry recipes. Nevertheless, it was still a filling, satisfying choice for an early dinner.

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Although we had heard of the varied coffee blends available in Negative Space Café, we opted to try the Italian sodas, particularly the watermelon soda as well as peach soda topped with whipped cream. These drinks were refreshing, avoiding the usual sickly sweetness of other carbonated drinks.  The addition of whipped cream to the peach soda turned this concoction into a delightful cream soda that was good as a drink on its own or as a light dessert.
The Negative Space Café is a promising example of what a student hang-out ought to be: affordable, with a variety of quality snacks and light entrees, and with ample facilities for different types of study sessions. We hope that more students as well as patrons from other offices and businesses in the Diliman area will consider this café as a venue not only for solo dining but for group ventures and meetings.
The Food Score:  4/5: The food was reasonably priced and filling, with flavors that were familiar and not too jarring. The selection, though mostly Japanese themed, is varied enough to cater to different appetites and tastes.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5: This place goes beyond the usual café setups of small tables and cushy chairs; here there are no-nonsense wooden chairs with wide tables that are more suited for spreading out books and worksheets, or setting up laptops. As mentioned before, the décor and art collections here are quirky yet not overly distracting, thus making the place more conducive for study.

GERD Score: 3.5/5. Considering the size and heftiness of the meals on the stomach, and at the same time, some triggers for food and drinks, one should share meals from the better part of their selection.

Epilepsy Score:  3.5/5: Alas some of the foods here such as the curry cannot be prepared from scratch, and may rely on highly seasoned mixes for quick cooking. Gluten free foods are in short supply here as well. However there is a decent selection of non-caffeinated drinks for those diners sensitive to this substance. The lighting and sounds here are mellow, without flashes or overly loud blaring that may trigger a seizure episode.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. This cafe is not a place for diners looking for haute cuisine or novelty eats. However if one needs an area to work in, with a snack or hot drink on the side, the Negative Space Cafe is a place to go.

Negative Space Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato