Food finds in literature

NCCA’s Food Trip compiles literary works as well as music and visual arts mentioning or featuring food.

Several books have already been written about Filipino food with historians such as Felice Prudente-Santa Maria and the late Doreen Fernandez leading the way in research and publication of materials pertaining to the Filipino comestibles and culture.

Apart from them, there are other writer, cultural workers and culture bearers who also specialize in the study and promotion of local foods such as Ige Ramos of Cavite and Lillian Borromeo of Pampanga, as well as other researchers who, in one way or another, had studied or written something about Pinoy food.

Food has also been a source of inspiration, used as metaphor and a subject by itself in many well-known literary works. The book Food Trip: Ang Pagkain sa Panitikan (Food Trip: Food in Literature) explores this side of food writing and gather together works mentioning or featuring food.

The 222-page compendium, published by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and edited by Aldrin Pentero, Kriscell Labor, Eilene Narvaez and food writer Jenny Orillos, is inspired by and a follow-up to what Fernandez wrote way back in 1994 about food in literature in the Philippine setting.

The editors note that the book is an “introductory compilation of works to show Filipino food in accordance with those written by our poets, narrators, essayists and other disciples of art.”

Featured in the book are poems and essays, as well as images created by artists, taken by photographers and drawn by cartoonists, making the book also a way surveying food as depicted Philippine visual arts.

According to the editors, those considered to be part of the publication are literary works on food that plumb the writer’s feelings, political stand and traditional beliefs; musical compositions that engender different feelings; and items that describe a situation in history or society.

Included in the book, which is divided in four chapters — “Agahan” (breakfast), “Tanghalian” (lunch), “Hapunan” (dinner) and “At Iba Pa” (and others — are many works by National Artists such as Nick Joaquin, Bienvenido Lumbera, Virgilio Almario, Levi Celerio, Resil Mojares and Edith Tiempo; essays by Rolando Tinio, Ambeth Ocampo and Rosario Cruz Lucero; and pieces from Jose Rizal, Jose Corazon de Jesus, Lope K. Santos and Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil, as well as those by Jaime Laya, Jerry Gracio and Bienvenido Santos.

The book is dedicated to the late publisher, author and cultural worker Gilda Cordero Fernando who passed away on 27 August 2020. Fernando had an essay in the book on basi, the quintessential Ilocano wine made from sugarcane juice.

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