Lutong Bahay: Food for the Filipino Soul

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By: Cheryl Marcelo, Managing Editor  >  Food, like family, is the center of Filipino life. In the Philippines or abroad, our food is a surefire entryway for others to get to know our culture. Whenever someone visits a Filipino home, one will surely bound to get an offer of food…actually more of a demand to have a meal. In fact, at every Filipino party, you’re guaranteed to bring home some kind of baon–take-out containers filled with everything from stews and soups to finger foods and desserts. So what makes Filipino food so good?

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Cheryl

The idea of lutong bahay, or a home-cooked meal, can answer that question. Most, if not all, Filipino dishes come in a package: its presentation, its smell, its taste, and its feeling of being home. For those who have never been to the Philippines, each bite is a taste of an imagined home, thousands of miles away, where the grass is greener, the air fresher, and life simpler; for those who have lived in or visited the motherland, each spoonful sings of Florante’s famous song “Ako’y Isang Pinoy,” a melodic ode to our language, our people, and our country.

The mouth-watering smell of adobo–the sharp, aromatic blend of garlic, soy sauce and vinegar–welcomed me home and wiped away all the frustrations of my day. College made me appreciate Filipino food even more, wherein home-cooked meals were a rarity and quick, cheap meals were the norm. Often, I found myself tasting a little bit of Filipino in other cultures’ cuisines, but none ever quite matched lutong bahay. And though many have questioned the originality of Filipino cuisine, claiming that our food is nothing more than a copy of others, any one person who has ever experienced lutong bahay would beg to differ.

The diverse influences in our cuisine only make our food that much more flavorful and vibrant. The mix of flavors within our own cuisine also broadens our palate, making appreciation of other foods almost instinctive. The foods we eat, infused with the care and hard work of the families who make them, feed our souls with a distinct Filipino identity that make us who we are. Just like our food, we are adaptable, colorful, and universal.

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