Third time's the charm: Another gastronomic journey at Madrid Fusion Manila 2017
This year marks the third time that the Philippines hosted Madrid Fusion Manila. It was also my third time to be in it. But this time I wasn't a member of any exhibit team. I was there to learn a bit more about Philippine gastronomy and culture, and to visit my friends in the food industry.
While Tita Nollie and Ana were with the representatives of the Department of Agriculture (heirloom rice was featured in their booth after all, I chatted with one of the organisers, Joel, who instructed me on how to claim my badge.
This year's theme, based on the display outside the exhibition hall, was all about sustainability and food... it's about time because food production should always be viewed from a systems perspective, rather than with a more narrow focus... if we want to help farmers improve their livelihoods.
I recognise, however, that this kind of mentality belongs more to people who are involved in influencing policy... not necessarily (but highly valuable) for scientists who need to take the narrow view more often than the general perspective in order to create solutions that are projected to be needed a few years down the road.
And one more thing: "heirloom" is not just about rice anymore.
The exhibits communicate that there are other crops that are equally precious, like bananas... the different varieties of bananas. I can readily name four: saba, lacatan, latundan, and señorita. I've never seen cardaba, morado, and inabaniko til Madrid Fusion Manila 2017. In fact, this is timely because some fungal disease is plaguing Cavendish bananas and scientists are most likely going back to the older varieties to see if these have resistance genes against this fungal disease.
On the other hand, I wonder why I haven't seen a feature on the diversity of Philippine mangoes yet...
There was also a feature on Job's tears (Coix lacryma-jobi), locally known as adlay in Southern Tagalog, a potential alternative to rice as a staple because it is a more resilient crop during periods of drought. Not sure how it could ever replace rice, though. Fancy marketing approaches are probably needed to convince regular rice-eaters to switch.
After looking at all these good stuff, for me, the highlight of my visit (as has always been for the past three years) was my visit to Terry's booth where I have befriended Michael, the cortador de jamones, who was made ham-cutting an art form worthy of several visits to Terry's booth.
He was, as always, cutting jamon iberico, the famous Spanish black pig fed with acorns. As usual, I had a brief chat with him before I bought some of the world's finest jamon iberico, manchego cheese, and fruit jam... perfect for when my parents visit this year. They'd get to taste the best ham.
I might not have been an exhibitor this time around but I had a lot of fun being in this year's Madrid Fusion Manila. The DOT did a splendid job once again! Looking forward to next year's edition!