Letter to the Editor

The Toronto Star

Attention: Desk of Michael Cooke

1 Yonge Street

Toronto, ON

M5E 1E6

Dear Editor:

I’m writing in response to the article titled “PETA-offending treats on the menu in Philippines,” which appears online at thestar.com at the time of my writing on August 20, 2015.

I’m quite surprised that the Toronto Star would permit the publication of an article with this slant in the Life/Travel section of your esteemed publication. The choice in title appears to deliberately bait readers, basically reducing a country with a rich and nuanced flavor palate to the backwoods. The writer framed the article unfairly by choosing to highlight each dish’s ‘Ick Factor’ rather than provide an objective reporting of what could have been a very delicious food trip had she been guided appropriately.

Of course, the Philippines has its share of street food, as well as choice of unusual, even ‘exotic,’ ingredients. What would the writer have said if she had been served the chicken backside as the amuse bouche in a nose-to-tail restaurant? Would she have turned up her nose at the choice of the chef to serve her red bean ice cream to finish off her meal?

I’m not sure what Ms. Counter’s objective was when she set off on this gastro-adventure. Did she set out wanting to prove that Filipino cuisine was in fact icky? Could someone also be commissioned to find the Ick in Canadian cuisine by trolling the streets of downtown Toronto to pass judgement on the 3AM hotdog outside of Osgoode Station?

Intrepid Travel should have been more discerning in their choice to feature cuisine from the Philippines. As a company that prides itself in packaging small group adventures that have been “carefully designed to make sure you have an unforgettable grassroots travel experience,” they’ve done a really great job offending the people on the ground who are resourceful in their use of the available ingredients and in their interpretation of traditional ways of cooking. A people who are also unmatched in their efforts to be hospitable to a visitor who ungraciously “threw up over a wall. True story.”

I would invite Ms. Counter and Intrepid Travel to get in touch with Filipinos and in fact other globetrotters who have made their way to the Philippines or have even sampled the cuisine as interpreted by new chefs in Toronto and across North America. Yana Gilbuena of Salo Series, who is now concluding a trip across Canada in Halifax, would love to cook Ms. Counter a meal that would re-educate her on the flavours of the Philippines, perhaps, even give her a history lesson on why we’ve been avid nose-to-tail chefs well before it was cool and hip. (By the way, ask James from Bar Ape in Toronto on how much he liked collaborating with Yana to create a cheese and corn ice cream bar when Yana was here in early August).

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen could also give Ms. Counter and her friends a delightful introduction to remixed traditions. Kanto by Tita Flips could show her on a warm Thursday afternoon in Toronto how ihaw-ihaw (off the grill) can change her perception of Filipino street food. Then, if that still weren’t enough, travel to Lola’s Kusina in Rexdale to cap it off with a sweet ending of halo-halo or Nutella, sans rival.

I would hope that in a time when the world is getting smaller and our pantries are starting to include new staples like soy sauce, sugar cane vinegar and fish sauce, that instead of clickbait and ick-mongering the Toronto Star would encourage an exploration and appreciation of new flavours and different cultures.


Isabela Palanca

City Curator Team, NextDayBetter + Toronto

Associate Producer, Carlos Bulosan Theatre


Photo Credit: youqueen.com

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