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We Are What We Eat: A Review Of The TV Program Show Me The Market

Show Me The Market hosts Joel Binamira and Chef JP Anglo

There are cooking shows as there are so many such programs.  With the recent fascination for kitchen wizardry and sophistication of palate, it is understandable why a diversity of programs are in production celebrating the newfound interest in both local and international culinary arts.

ButSHOW ME THE MARKETis different for a good number of reasons.  Yes, at the end of the show the two chef hosts conclude the episode with a not-so-detailed preparation of unique dishes served to chosen guests. 

But what is more important than the cooking is the process involved—the contextualizing of food as a way of life and as a reflection of the uniqueness of regional culture in our country. This is something so badly needed but barely addressed in mainstream and alternative media nowadays. The wealth of Philippine culture is its diversity.  For a nation comprised of more than seven thousand islands and speaking more than seventy languages, the richness in the variety Filipinos offer about themselves should define our uniqueness as a nation rather than emphasize the divisiveness of its people.

The understanding of the way of life, the practice of tradition and even the simplest observation of what constitutes the ingredients in each kitchen reflect the multi-faceted aspects of being Filipino.

So why does this show manifest a successful attempt that carry a far greater importance than the rest of its lot? 

Because the show is not just about two chefs going around a chosen locale and cooking: the material goes much farther and deeper than that. The program follows two experts coming face to face with the raw materials and condiments sold in a local market—then traces the specialties of a particular place and the signature dishes created out of what is available on hand. It pries into the lives of the residents, absorbs the atmosphere and eventually relate these to the dishes discovered and prepared. Everything is eventually summarized by what is cooked and served.

Only at the end of the show do we see the hosts JP Anglo and Joel Binamira concoct their own version of native dishes, giving it the culinary twist not to upgrade but to show the richness of possibilities in what can yet be done with a simple, time-beloved traditional meal.

This is what also makes SHOW ME THE MARKETnot only eye-opening or informational: the hosts show utmost reverence and respect for what they discover, taste and eventually unravel.  There is no condescension but rather wonderment as a cutting edge JP goes hand in hand with an intellectually curious Joel.  The result is not just another cooking show but a celebration of curiosity, learning and culture.

For instance who would have known that places like Coron, Palawan or Basco, Batanes can offer so many surprises and challenges for discriminating taste buds?  

These are tourist sites world famous for their breathtaking sceneries. Little if not anything is known that Coron and Basco can offer possibilities for rediscovering roots of culture and tradition through a sampling of its cuisine.  SHOW ME THE MARKETbrought its hosts not only to explore the humblest of public markets, exposed to the availability of local produce and catch.  Then they were immersed in the way of life of the residents—explaining how and why certain dishes, particular tastes and ways of cooking have naturally evolved from the natural environment.  This is the most important of all the information one can learn: why we eat what we eat and how we prepare and appreciate the bounty accessible to us.

This aspect adds fascination but also greater significance  to the content of this show.  The viewers are introduced to how seaweeds are collected and dried in elevated platforms at mid sea in Coron, then eventually used not only as garnishing but as condiments to dishes.  There is the nocturnal hunt for snails in remote hills of Basco then how they are cooked in order to become a native delicacy.  Or who would have known that Coron boasts of cashew nuts as one of its most abundant harvests or that there exists an entire community tradition behind the fishing for the dorado or dolphin fish and that this custom has been preserved through years of insular existence.

The preparation of the final dish to be served to the residents is only the dessert.  The understanding and sincere interest in the way of life of people expressed through their dishes and culinary practices are the main courses rich for the mind and imagination.

SHOW ME THE MARKET is not just another cooking show that showcases the dishes of remote places found in our provinces. It is above everything else a cultural study showing that everything around us, about us and within us can be found in the everyday lives we take for granted.  The market and the kitchen is not only about food: it is all about who we are for indeed—we are what we eat

 

Published with permission from Jose Javier Reyes and philstar.com