Home cooking, eating and surviving a health crisis (part 2)

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veggies with saucy pork

For most Filipino homes during the community quarantine, one of the easy-to-prepare dish is this sauteed medley of vegetables consisting of potato, string beans, and pechay with slabs of pork. (image appears courtesy from the photo archives of Chef Jeff Ayento)

A few weeks ago, I was thinking if food can be a medium in transmitting the coronavirus. In addition to worrying about having an ample supply of food in the house and feeling anxious over shopping in crowded supermarkets, I can’t help but be concerned about the invisible threat brought to us by covid-19.

Thanks to Google, I took a dive in finding out from frontliners in the medical field if my fuss about our recent health crisis warrants my anxiety. Here’s the good news: “The science around coronavirus continues to unfold, but there is currently no evidence that the disease is transmitted by food,” says Donald Schaffner, Ph.D., a distinguished professor in the department of food science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

That’s because it’s a respiratory virus, passed primarily from person to person in droplets when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes. Though it’s possible to pick up the virus by touching a surface where the droplets have landed and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, that’s not the primary way it is thought to spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also declared that food is not known to be a route of transmission of the virus and the information available from outbreaks of SARS and MERS, caused by coronaviruses similar to the one that causes covid-19, is reassuring. According to the WHO, the evidence showed that those illnesses were not transmitted by food.

That said, it always makes sense to practice good food safety habits.

Chief among them: Wash your hands before and after preparing food—and during if you are handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs—as well as before you eat. Wash fruits and vegetables. In addition, be sure to prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat separate from other foods, using separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables. You should also refrigerate perishable foods and leftovers promptly.

The downside of the coronavirus, at least temporarily, is that we stock up and limit our trips to the grocery store and to the market, stop going to restaurants and summon food delivery drivers instead. No one knows where the virus might thrive next, or how long restrictions might last. What is clear is that this will be different from the usual health crisis.

As to food availability, it’s a good thing that government efforts were rolled out in Metro Manila as well as other regions to make food accessible to the public via the Department of Agriculture’s “Kadiwa on Wheels” along with the Kadiwa Market in partnership with the Agricultural Training Institute. The Kadiwa on Wheels bring vegetables, fruits, eggs, and other farm produce closer to residents which are sold at relatively cheap prices. This mobile palengke initiative makes food accessible to communities and also helps local farmers earn from their harvests despite the difficulty of selling and transporting their produce from farm to market.

Still, to comply with the community quarantine protocols, buyers must wear masks and bring their own eco-bags and observe social distancing.

My first blog contributors consisting of chefs, home cooks, food bloggers, farmers, food lovers, nutritionists and dieticians here and abroad were candid about how they cope up with the pandemic by sharing practical ways to cook food, store up essential kitchen items and commodities and share other “wais” tips---all by keeping and maintaining a healthy diet. The next batch of contributors below were no different since most of them desire to become well-fed and nourished and come up with solutions for the food security problem by engaging in family farming to augment food production at home.

Gigi Morris
School Farm Director of MoCa Family Farm RLearning Center
Padre Garcia, Batangas City

“For family farmers, learning to grow food is not enough, it should go hand in hand with learning how to preserve your own produce. This pandemic situation highlighted the importance of self-sufficiency for the family and their community. Come to think of it, back then, people find ways to store and preserve food until their next harvest season!

With most of the rural families in quarantine, everybody turns to their available local food. We bartered and exchange farm produce in our communities. When the quarantine started, I knew that the first thing we have to do was reduce our livestock. We cannot have our livestock “competing” with us for food. Armed with skills on food preservation, we processed our meat and preserved them. For meat, popular meat preservation techniques are curing, drying, salting and smoking.

When I first moved in the farm, I find it disturbing to see produce go to waste. As farmers, we sometimes let go of some comforts in life just so we can farm, grow and produce food; therefore, it is ironic to see that what we traded for little comforts just go to waste. So if you are one of those families who started their vegetable gardening during this time of quarantine, you will soon realize that if you have a bounty harvest, it is important to learn how to prolong their viability as food.

There are many traditional ways of preserving our food, other than the ones I earlier mentioned, you can also do sun drying, pickling, fermenting, freezing and canning. Let’s expand on one easy and popular method that you can try, that is pickling. This time-honored method of food preservation will not only help you preserve the flavor of your harvest, it may even start an extra livelihood for you!”

Jerico “Jec” Chua
Professional Chef, Nutrition and Dietetics-UST graduate
Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) Manila alumnus

With limited resources we tend to eat junk food and other unhealthy food items that has high sodium content, processed food and food that contains large amount unhealthy fats such as saturated and trans fat.

• We need to plan our daily menu to avoid over spending and avoid food waste.

• Choose vegetable that has high fiber content, fiber has a high satiety value that leaves us feeling full. It can also improve our blood sugar and cholesterol level.

• Pick dark green leafy vegetables. Store beans and legumes (peas, chick peas, nuts) since they have low fat and no cholesterol but high in fiber and potassium as well as high in iron. Legumes can be stored for a long time affordable and a lot of ways to cook.

• Choose lean meat, but limit meat intake and it should only take 25% of the plate.

• Eat several varieties of fishes. Lean fish such as sea bass (apahap) grouper (lapu –lapu), snapper (maya-maya), flounder, sole, halibut (isdang dapa) and tilapia . Eat also fatty fish that are rich in Omega 3 like fresh tuna (tambakol, bariles), mackerel (tanigue, tulingan) sardines (tawilis, tamban), anchovies (dilis) and of course salmon.

• Eat a variety of whole grain food like brown rice.

• Cooking in bulk saves time and money.

Theresa Aurora Cosico
Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian

“During this crisis, especially when ECQ is in place wherein we can only go out twice or thrice a week, we have to plan food items that we can store for a week or two. Make a list of menu for one week or so depending on your budget and of course your refrigerator capacity. A list of menu will help you make a food list on what to buy and an estimate of its quantity.”

Make sure that you will still achieve a balance diet, despite this scenario. While making your menu list, make a mental visualization of the viands just to see if it has the Go (energy giving), Grow (body building) and Glow (immune system booster) foods.

For Go foods

• Rice (of course)
• Store some malagkit (glutinous rice) – for champorado, arroz caldo or native kakanin
• Bread – you can put this in the refrigerator for added shelf life
• Pasta - you have time to cook so don’t go for the instant noodles
• Some root crops like kamote, gabi, and potatoes

Grow foods

Basic pork parts that I buy which can be of general use (when I say general use, I mean you can make several viands using this part/cut) which are:

• Liempo (BBQ, fried, lechon kawali, sisig, dinakdakan, adobo, menudo, bicol express, sahog for vegetable dishes)
• Spare ribs (nilaga, sinigang, caldereta, sweet and sour)
• Lomo (pork bistek, pork tapa, morcon)
• Ground pork (shanghai, meatballs, patty, somai, skinless longganisa, embotido)
• Chicken for your fried chicken, tinola, roast chicken, chicken inasal, adobo
• Beef
• Fish and dried fish/pusit – You can also make your own fish sardines
• Legumes – but munggo will do because you can also make your favorite toge (sprouts) just by soaking it for several days
• Eggs

Glow food

• Fruits in season or your fruit preference. I usually buy unripe saba so it can be stored for several days before it can used (eaten raw, turon, maruya, fried, boiled, inihaw and sweetened)
• Vegetables. Depending on your list, don’t forget to include green leafy vegetables which can be boiled (ensalada) or turn to bulanglang (boiled with ginger)

John Loren Ocampo
Head Chef, Five Stags Pirongia
New Zealand

“When cooking, make sure to cook in bulk or in batches and if possible have some vinegar in your cooking to make your dishes last longer. You may pre-cooked your pork and beef until tender by cooking them with salt, pepper, garlic and onion. These are the basic spices I cook with my meat, but you may add other spices if you want.

In this pandemic, we should be cautious on what to eat and cook, always plan ahead before you go to the grocery stores and wash all your grocery items before storing.

Also, we need to limit ourselves to be outside with everyone, like here in New Zealand, they already have eliminated the virus but not eradicate it, and we are still vigilant not to go out as possible.

We only go out to but what is essential to our needs. Right now in my bubble (house) we only eat twice during brunch and dinner only, and we cook only one dish with vegetable on it, simple and easy cooking.

Since winter is coming, we normally just have hot honey lemon drink rather than coffee to give us an immune boost.”

Nick Jay Arr Engallado
Food joint owner and Manager, Rescuers Stop
Co-owner, Engallado’s Nature Farm & Natural Food Products

“Staying home is the essential response to avoid the viral infection thereby limiting movement of people to purchasing essential household supplies especially food.

Since all are seemingly at a pause, not everyone has access to their sources of funds - work or business. this situation led us to identify a rapid response to adjust with the developing set-up.

For me, it narrows down into the essential goods we needed most in the kitchen so we can cook our food. Since the announcement of limiting people's movement, we made sure that we have oil, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices that will last for at least two weeks since we can access most of our supply from our garden.

Our rice supply is sufficient since we control the milling of palay in stock. This way, we are able to keep the good quality of rice for our daily consumption and main ingredients for our delicacies.”

Jessie Marco S. Cabrera
Mechanical Engineer
Project Manager for Salam Industries, Qatar

“My cooking background started out during my younger years when I was helping my mother in the kitchen after I did the pamamalengke. I learned so much from her because her cooking and ways in the kitchen can be both traditional and non-traditional.

Personally, I rely more on spices and herbs and less on commercial condiments when cooking and I prefer to cook up things from scratch. There is joy in cooking when you work whatever ingredients is available on hand and come up later with something delicious. I love working with my hands and not rely everything with kitchen amenities and gadgetries.

Later in life, more cooking experience came when I resigned from my former job then I started catering to a nearby school canteen from home. Although it’s a small set-up, I came up with fan favorites such as pares, ramen, asado and other usual snack items. My involvement also in the cooking ministry in our church prompts me to learn other dishes from my churchmates.

Some of the ingredients I can’t live without:

• Dahon ng sibuyas
• Sesame oil
• Butter

Kitchen essentials include:

• Wok
• Oven
• A sharp knife
• Chinese Chopper
• A good cooking stove

Here in Qatar, I managed to attend culinary school in my spare time and enroll in culinary courses such as Cakes and Pastry, International Bread and Local Bread, as well as Sushi and Tempura. I intend to learn more about international cuisine and learn different cooking styles since that is my passion---level up cooking which is a bar higher than usual.

My future plan when I come home and retire young (hopefully) is to establish a family restaurant with a choice of specialty foods and high quality fusion cuisine. God willing!”

Perhaps, the most critical step in achieving food security during a pandemic is by helping out our food producers. The initial effort of the agriculture sector in providing key support to smallholder farmers can safely continue their food production. Supporting food producers, specially our local farmers, is more important now more than ever.

Our creativity, ingenuity and resilience can also help mitigate the disastrous effects of covid-19.

May your kitchen cook up fond memories as we cope with this pandemic altogether and here’s to our collective plate that everyone stays healthy and that no one will go hungry.

ATI Today

Extension services continue to evolve. With the challenges that extension workers and farmers face, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) continues to explore various strategies to improve its efforts as the extension and training arm of the Department of Agriculture. In over 30 years, the ATI has celebrated various successes and learned from the lessons during hard times. Nonetheless, we are proud to be standing the test of time through the support of our partners and the clientele themselves. This is the ATI Today, more committed to bring you extension services beyond boundaries.