Paella is an exquisite dish made exclusively for special occasions
Photo by: Érica Becker de Araujo, Creative Commons
The Filipino diet is as much a reflection of its history as it is a reflection of the country’s geography and natural resources. The Philippines has been blessed with vast arable lands perfect for farming and for raising different animals, and with various fishing grounds as the country is surrounded by water. With so many resources, Filipinos have plenty to choose from with regards to what they eat and this was further compounded by the coming of several foreign influences to the country’s culture and cuisine.
Foremost of these influences are the Chinese who brought with them the practice of growing rice, which led to rice becoming the staple food in the Philippines. It is usually prepared steamed and served with other dishes. The Chinese also brought along with them a slew of seasonings and ingredients that the Filipinos have used in their cooking, like the fish sauce patis. Other countries with a heavy influence on the Filipino diet are Spain and United States.
Because of all these foreign inputs, the Filipino diet has evolved into one that is a mix of the simplicity of local and traditional fare and the complexity of foreign dishes. People in the rural and coastal areas are known to usually eat a simple meal of steamed rice and dried fish only. Complex dishes such as paella and cocido, which are of Spanish influence, are usually prepared for special occasions such as fiestas and birthdays.
The current Filipino diet is said to be very high in sodium and fat owing perhaps to predominant cooking techniques such as deep frying, the increasing preference for meat products such as pork, and the heavy seasoning that comes along with every dish. This is a far cry from the traditional practices of just boiling vegetables and grilling fish, foods that are now only commonly consumed in some provinces.
Fast food chains are abundant in the country, showing the influence of the Americans. Hamburgers, hotdogs, and other common American snacks are consumed daily by younger Filipinos. It seems that history has indeed played a great role not only on how Filipinos eat, but on what they eat.