“If You Knew Sushi” by Nick Tosches is one of those articles that define, for me, the way of food writing: something lost in photos of food before eating or culinary journalism by dumping the contents of the menu on an article, or watermarked pictures of food from the lenses of everything from a DSLR to a camera phone. All that dovetails quite nicely with Prof. Solita Monsod’s column yesterday in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, where she writes that pork is more luxury than necessity.
Which brings me to ask – in the tradition of this newfangled fixation with appropriating German (philosophical) terminology for the most inappropriate situations – what is the (modern) Filipino Weltanschauung on meat products?
Our Sein-zum-Fleisch (read: being-toward-meat) should, like our neighbors in the Pacific, should be towards fish-eating. We are, after all, surrounded by water, and therefore we should be eating a lot of fish. Our marine ecosystem is filled with a lot of edible fishes. Heck, Jose Rizal’s favorite fish, per one of his biographers – Zaide, I believe – was the ayungin, which is something we don’t see very often in the fish markets of the modern Filipino nas-Markt. Instead, we see canned tuna – Dosen-Tunfisch – in all of its variations, forms, and flavors.
The relationship of tuna with sauce is Gerwofenheit: thrown into the attendant peas and tomatoes and potatoes not presented or available by choice, but by those things being just there by instrumentality and being present-at-hand. Vorhanden, so to speak: the tuna flakes are the same, it’s only the sauce that differs.
But this is not the point of this… discourse, if you will. Like any luxury good, there is a high income elasticity of demand for pork, but such an overarching definition does not fully encapsulate the nuances of pork – much less meat – into our Zeitgeist. Some fishes – and a lot of fishes, at that – are considerably more expensive than pork. Or that some indigenous fishes have evolved into luxury goods by virtue of how they are preferred by the Western palate: once the galunggong was called a “round scad,” the labahita a “surgeonfish” and the kanduli a “cream dory,” the traditional fishes of the poor have been mixed into the general category of Asian-style soul food. The most the poor have access to in terms of fish now generally come from a can, with the only marked difference – differance – would be the sauce that the mackerels would be cooked in.
But for those without religious and cultural restrictions to food, or discounting the absolute limit of poverty, pork is a staple source of protein. Not only is it readily available, but it can also be as expensive and as cheap as you want it to be. If you can’t afford the loins, you get the bones. Lutong ulam businesses have fatty pork dishes because the fat is cheap, but there’s also a bit of meat there for the dish to be a suitable viand. Whether or not this is reflective of Western tastes and the influence of colonization on the modern Filipino Zunge is debatable – I myself would be leaning towards the affirmative – but there are nuances to pork beyond mere luxury. It is, outside of cultural and religious restrictions, a necessity, as long as the view of pork is more nuanced than just being a chop or a loin or a jowl or a plate of sisig.
And no, not for the modern Begeisterung towards “organic” goods – biotic vegetables and produce imported from somewhere – and not the native vegetables and produce grown here as part of the staples of Asian soul. Things like the saluyot, the alugbati, the sitaw, bataw, patani that take the lowly, undeserved back seat for the modern noveau riche predilections toward things like celeriac and broccoli rabe. Or tofu, reserved for those who can afford the slimming diet, and prioritize fitness over the fullness of the stomach. And it’s not like we’re “carnivorous” either: the viand flavors the carbohydrate source, after all. The few shreds of meat should be enough, if not for matchbox-sized portions we’ve been taught to consume in Gesundheits-Klasse.
The (modern) Filipino Weltanschauung on meat can be summed up this way: pork, like any meat, can be a luxury. It can be a necessity, depending on how we see it as an instrument in our nutrition as individuals, as families, or as a people.
Of course it could have just started and ended that way, but the very inappropriate use of German neologisms and misappropriations made it more Geistigen klingenden, in my estimation. Perhaps even deliberately oberflächlich. Oh well, komme was wolle.