CLAUDE'S BOOK & OTHER ARTICLES

 


MANILA, Philippines - Travelers may visit a new city and appreciate its history, architecture and sites, but they cannot claim to know a people until they have appreciated their cuisine. Food and culture are so intertwined that the characteristics of a people are readily uncovered by the quirks in their eating habits. The American cowboy culture is reflected in their passion for a good steak; the Singaporean penchant for cleanliness is apparent in their squeaky clean hawkers; the Japanese emphasis on discipline is exemplified even in the way they prepare and present their sushi, sashimi, Wagyu beef, etc., while the Chinese practice of feng shui is evident not only in the arrangement and decor of their homes but also in the way they serve and slice their fish and eat their noodles. Filipinos? We are a barrel of quirks that to describe our eating habits would take an entire book!  read more

 

 
 

FOOD TOUR is available at Powerbooks and
National Bookstores in the Philippines.

For U.S. residents, please direct your orders to:

email: linda_nietes@sbcglobal.net or call 310-514-9139. 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Essence of Claude

By Margaux Salcedo
Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines - Travelers may visit a new city and appreciate its history, architecture and sites, but they cannot claim to know a people until they have appreciated their cuisine. Food and culture are so intertwined that the characteristics of a people are readily uncovered by the quirks in their eating habits. The American cowboy culture is reflected in their passion for a good steak; the Singaporean penchant for cleanliness is apparent in their squeaky clean hawkers; the Japanese emphasis on discipline is exemplified even in the way they prepare and present their sushi, sashimi, Wagyu beef, etc., while the Chinese practice of feng shui is evident not only in the arrangement and decor of their homes but also in the way they serve and slice their fish and eat their noodles. Filipinos? We are a barrel of quirks that to describe our eating habits would take an entire book!

So artist/food writer Claude Tayag has done just that. His book "Food Tour" (Anvil Publishing) is a journey through the Philippines that explores the culinary cultures of Pampanga, Manila, Ormoc (Leyte), Davao, and the rest of the country. In easy-going journal style, he captures with uncanny precision the endearing qualities of our people as reflected in our cooking and eating habits. By injecting his unique brand of humor, which he can't seem to help, Tayag elevates our quirks from petty to poignant, boldly owning up to the cultural truths of our people. Every Filipino, and anyone who knows a Filipino, will be able to relate to the author's experiences as narrated in this journal.

The truth is that "Food Tour" had me at hello. The first story, "He Said, She Said," already found me laughing and relating to Tayag's family's traditions in Angeles City, Pampanga, which he boldly contrasted with the culinary traditions of the family of his wife, who hails from the same province but from a different town, Mabalacat.

"Nobody, but nobody, eats bangus belly in that house. But on my mother's table, it's World War III if someone dares take the entire belly for himself or herself; we always cut the bangus crosswise so everybody gets a more or less equal share of the yummy belly fat."

Like the man, I could not believe that his wife's family leaves their bangus belly untouched. In my own household, the belly is a treasured part of the fish, even more prized than the head, that devouring that entire portion for oneself is an act regarded not just as uncivilized but downright wrong!

The banter between the two (a rebuttal from the missus is found on the next page) on which is the better delicacy, burong isda (fermented rice with fish) or balo-balo (fermented rice with shrimp) is an amusing debate that allows us a peek not only into the cultural differences of different provinces, but more interestingly, into the life of this legendary artist and writer and the woman who is clearly the inspiration for his success. Tayag's perennial infatuation with his wife, who is mentioned in practically every story, is not only evident but glaring, and although initially you simply wonder who this "darleng" is because of his comments ("I call my darleng my 'laptop sexytary'"), in the end you find yourself won over by how smitten he is by her and charmed by her own witty comments, tidbits of which are scattered throughout the book.

Indeed, Tayag's plain language exposes his own personality, revealing not only a passionate but a learned culinary master with a quiet integrity, who has no patience for showy know-it-alls. In "Which Came First, the Wine or the Food?" he makes fun of the snooty ambiance and brings it down to street level: "Just to show off, I was so tempted to say the Kilikanoon does resemble a bouquet of kilikili (armpit) to me, with a grassy hint on the edge."

Tayag's capacity for creative writing is also reflected in other articles, such as "Look Who's Talking," where I doubled up in laughter as I read the marketing pitches among the pig, the duck and the lamb that cried to him on a buffet table, the lamb probably winning with this pitch: "Oh Claude, dear, do not bother with that gander and the swine. Both are no good. Look at them, they are both Chinese and yet they fight over you, instead of sharing you. I am meek and humble so I cannot tell you how good I am, especially if taken with freshly baked naan bread straight from the tandoori oven. We lambs believe 'self-praise is a disgrace.'"

The success of this book lies in the fact that Tayag runs the gamut from silly to serious, with articles that are as academically-inclined as they are amusing. His story on the Manila Peninsula's chocolate buffet includes a brief history of chocolate, which is not only a good read for the chocoholic but also good reference material for chocolate-makers and food writers. There is also an extensive collection of restaurant reviews that for now may serve as a guide, but more importantly, in the years to come, will work as lasting remembrances of these favorite food stops and fine dining places.

Tayag's travels, both around the Philippines and abroad, are also documented with care so the traveler and food enthusiast will benefit much from his notes. An article of note is "Waddling Our Way through Negros," a journal entry on a 'trans-Visayan tour for a group of self-professed foodies' organized by Lory Tan. The article succinctly points out highlights of the trip and offers even the experienced traveler new ideas for places to visit. For the foodie, Tayag's articles are, for the most part, a clear description of the best delicacies offered by different regions.

The aspiring chef and other gourmands will be delighted as well by the recipes sprinkled throughout the book, not only from the author but also from acclaimed chefs nationwide. You will find the recipe for the sinampalukang manok of Josephine Senares of Josephine's Tagaytay, the "Pato Tim" (yes, it uses a whole native duck) of Chefs Paul Poblador and Frank Rabara of Kusina Salud, and the corned beef sinigang of Sentro, among other recipes.

By the simple narrations of this seasoned gourmet, "Food Tour" captures the essence of the Filipino spirit while highlighting the best of Philippine food. It jabs at cultural banalities, unabashedly making fun of Filipino mispronunciations and peasant habits, but by doing this the author boldly declares that this is who we are, quirks and all, so let's just own up to them and be proud of who we are. Best of all, though maybe not by design, "Food Tour" captures the essence of Claude Tayag- his sense of humor, his lifelong romance with his wife, his love for life and passion for food - and gives the reader an idea why this man is one of the most loved artists of our time.
 

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He started writing for STAR in 2000.
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