Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Feeding Frenzy

In Philippine culture, eating is not just a means of satisfying a physical requirement. It serves as a psychological fulfillment as well, and one that cuts across all socio-economic classes an genders.  So it was not surprising that the topic and consequences of “emotional eating”—using food as a means of escape from personal  problems—recently came to the fore as related by Sharon Cuneta, a popular local actress and unofficial spokesperson for whom this phenomenon predictably resulted in weight control problems, as it does for so many people. 

And no wonder. Because of its soothing and other pleasant sensory effects, eating is practically a recreational pastime here as well, especially as a group activity with family and friends. And it’s everywhere. For instance, when traveling through towns and the countryside, just glance out the window of your vehicle and you will see table after table of people gathered together in their yards or at roadside eateries enjoying a meal.  I will bet  that food sales, whether they are transacted by street and market stall vendors or in upscale restaurants and everything in between, likely comprise a disproportionate share of the  Philippine economy compared with this type of commerce in other countries.

Filipino food (basically a melding of Malay, Spanish, and Chinese influences)  is delicious and diverse.  And  my wife Lydia is an excellent cook of not just native dishes but various other cuisines as well.  Fortunately, neither of us has a weight problem—yet. Thus  this local custom of consumption suits me just find. I also eat in response to emotional distress, especially certain comfort foods. So  the first time that I heard the phrase "emotional eating", my immediate reaction was "What, is there another kind?". 

However, it should be emphasized that healthful eating is certainly a viable option in the Philippines.  Many fruits and vegetables here such as papaya and malunggay are highly nutritious.  It's just that foods with high cholesterol and fat content such as crispy pata and lechon are also the most tempting and sought after.

Meals themselves for the immediate family usually consist of at least two main dishes. When entertaining guests, three entrees are the usual minimum. As for the latter, sometimes it's hard to know where "Philippine hospitality" ends and ostentatiousness  begins.

So if you plan to settle or even just visit the Philippines, be sure to pack your appetite.   Whatever your tastes, you're almost sure to find a dish that will become your personal favorite.  As they say here "Kain kayong mabuti" (Eat well.)