Food is an indispensable part of travel; it is our first taste of a place, our entry point to a new culture. This issue is a journey from the fields to the kitchens, as we delve deeper into the food and the land that nourish us: from the rich (and troubled) history of rice, to the heritage of pan de sal, to the chefs whose job it is to think about the food that ends up on our plates. The stories and essays here remind us that food is an introduction to the places we will go—and it is a potent reminder of home.
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What’s a travel magazine doing with a Food Issue? Well, we’ve wanted to do one for years—almost since the beginning of GRID.
The connection between food and travel is fundamental: On the first and most obvious level, many of us experience a place first through its food. The cuisine is often our entry point into a new culture—it’s what greets us at inns and airports, in faraway diners and in the homes of new friends.
The connection runs far deeper than that, and it’s those connections that fascinate us. The peerless Doreen Fernandez, quoting Japanese anthropologist Naomichi Ishige, wrote about eating as “the act of ingesting the environment”; to this, she added, it is “quite certainly also ingesting culture.”
Our food is a living record of our geography, our weather, our flora and fauna. Our histories, both national and personal, leave their marks, too. Cuisine is never static—it’s as constantly evolving as culture itself, because it is as much about time and movement as it is about material ingredients. Food contains our past and our present, inasmuch as it very literally prepares us for the future. Look closely at every piece of food, and you will find in it complex worlds to explore.
With endless possibilities about Filipino food out there, we decided, first of all, to talk about our staples. Michelle Ayuyao tackles the daunting story of rice, in particular the heirloom varieties that is so rich in history. Because it’s so inextricably important to Filipinos, any discussion of rice is loaded: there is politics, there is science, there is history, and there will always be emotion.
Same with the humble pandesal, whose heritage Jenny Orillos has tracked down, reminding us that the march of change might move us ever onward, but that also means there are things we might have shed along the way, and that it’s a worthwhile practice to take stock of what we may have lost.
We also tackle the concept of food as movement, via a first look at a book being embarked on by Clinton Palanca and Neal Oshima. We are honored to introduce it here. We also talk about herbs as medicine, and about the chefs whose job it is to think about the food that ends up on our plates.
In making this issue, we’ve been reminded that food says so much about the people who prepare it, and it says so much about the people who eat it. That food is an introduction to the places we will go, and it is a potent reminder of home.