The evolution of cuisine varies from place to place yet the process is the same. A cuisine begins with the weather, the seasons, the sources. From these come the food elements. Although the choice of these may seem arbitrary at times, in general, an item is eaten because it is there, and has been part of one’s or one’s ancestor’s experience.
Food Element… Cooking… Process… Dishes… Cuisine
From the food elements come the cooking processes. Most Southeast Asians cuisines include, for example, a soured broth because souring ingredients proliferate in our landscape and also because a sour broth is cooling in hot weather. From ingredients and cooking processes come dishes that vary per cook, per place, but they have similarities because they grow from the same land or seascape.
Cuisine… Flavor Principles… Dietary Practices
From a cuisine — its dishes in context and in combination — come a people’s flavor principle and dietary practices. Filipino flavor principles include salty and sour. This comes from the need to preserve food withour refrigeration, and their compatibility with rice, the staple food.
Foreign Influences… Change
When the foreign cultural influences enter a country — though trade, colonization, assimilation, and other kinds of intercultural exchange — they are adapted and indigenized, and the cuisine changes. The Chinese influence, for example, ushered in noodles, lumpia, soya products, and rice gruel. The Spanish influence brought in rich foods that became the marks of feasting, as well as the merienda habit and a dessert repertoire. The American influence introduced speed and convenience food.
From a country cuisine comes a food culture — ways of gathering, cooking, serving, as well s attitude to food. In the Philippine context, for example, the cook initiates and designs the dish but its completion is left to the diner, who uses sawsawan (dipping sauce) in as many combinations as desired, to finetune the dish to his taste, and in effect “finish” it.
Food culture forms our food preferences and ways, and thus the dietary patterns we live by. These we can plan and modify, according to needs — illness, activities, lifestyle.
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