Monday, July 6, 2009

In Search of Ingredients

These past few months, I’ve been aiming in substituting processed and refined ingredients with healthier, unrefined and whole ingredients. It wasn’t easy as most of the ingredients that I like to work with are not available here. They may be available at health food stores but some of them cost a fortune and the selection is still quite few.

(image from Hart Foods - Whole Spices)

I’m talking about whole grains in different colors and sizes; whole-grain flours that ranges from spotless white to sandy brown and their different textures; an array of beautiful patterned beans; a dozen variety of mineral-rich dried seaweeds; those unrefined cold-pressed fats and oils; some healthy nuts and seeds. Of course, what is food without the revolution of sweeteners that ranges in diverse shades and flavors and the regionally harvested artisan salts. And cooking would never be the same without the addition of fragrant herbs and colorful spices. Don’t you think I should be living in another continent?

(image from Active Rain - An Adventure in Groceries - Checking Out the Whole Foods Market)

There are few people who do buy a different types of grain. But when it comes to the other categories, whole grain flours for instance, it’s still foreign to use quinoa or amaranth flour in baking. I think we have more brands of clothes and beauty products brought in from different parts of the globe than these kinds of food. I do agree in buying local and seasonal foods and they are the fruits and vegetables and other perishable foods such as your various meats, fish, shellfish, poultry and eggs. But building a natural foods pantry from unrefined ingredients deserves to be mentioned as well. I understand the geographic impact as well as the culture and traditions we have here. Maybe I should have my own farm and grow my own food, and then I’ll have this Farm-to-Table Restaurant in the middle of the city. It's probably the reason why I want to live in Vancouver because you can find an organic market or an organic farm in the middle of the city without the need to travel for long periods of time. They are everywhere in the city and you could reach a farm by 30-minute drive, 15-minute bike ride or a 10-minute walk. You can even do some volunteer work.

(image from UBC Farm at the University of British Columbia - UBC Farm Market)

I think I would rather go to a whole food store than go shopping for clothes or shoes. I don't think I am alone in this. (Just one of those days, I guess). I am fascinated by bins of whole grains lined up in one row, and another row for whole grain flours, beans, nuts and seeds and many other ingredients. I’m not a vegetarian but building recipes with plant-based ingredients is one of those things that I would like to add to my repertoire which I started last year. Just wondering why I didn’t start sooner. Of course, I’m not against meat and other flesh animals but sometimes we eat way too much of it.

(image from The Farm - Gallery - Environment)

I’m also looking for that day where I could buy freshly stone-ground whole grain flour or affordable organic produce and more variety of beets, potatoes, tomatoes and even salad greens beyond lollo rosso and romaine lettuce. Well, not only for me for all people of all class levels. Growing organic food takes a community and it's actually better than depending on vast agricultural lands that grows mediocre ingredients and the money coming in doesn't even benefit the farmers. Smaller farms are good. We could start in our own backyard and whatever we grow we share with our neighbors. I think this is the future of food. Anything is possible. After all, we are blessed with a good fertile land.

I just thought if I'm missing something because I’ve been inactive at the workforce for quite a long time or is it because I’m not just aware of what we have in this country? I guess it’s time to hit the farmer’s market for some new inspiration or maybe travel out of the country..


  1. That's an inspiring blogpost. Thank you.

  2. have you been to salcedo market? you may find some great organic produce and ingredients there. i think people here are still generally unaware that there are healthier alternatives to refined and processed foods (i mean, go to any supermarket and it's filled with instant noodles, canned meat, and chips) and besides, organic foods (even whole wheat alternatives to bread and pasta) are soooo much more expensive here. and since we're a 3rd world country, most filipinos can't be bothered with buying more expensive ingredients, with the basic ones already being so expensive as they are. so i don't blame you for your sentiments on living in vancouver or somewhere else. sayang, what is healthier has to be so much more costlier that it is only the rich who can benefit from it.

  3. I have been to Salcedo Market a few times but I haven't been visiting for such a long time. I totally agree with what you've written. I just hope that in the near future, almost everyone can afford it or that prices would really go down.

  4. Divina,
    Hi, I really enjoyed reading your blogs and recipes. I am like you, a past student of NWCAV. I graduated in Sept 2004, at age 50. Too late for anything, who wants to hire an old frog. I took a trip back to Singapore and then came back, and finally got a job after several failures. Some chefs take advantage of me, letting do all the work and no pay, and some just use me for part-time assignments. Well, finally I got one proper one but not without a lot of stress. No one believe that I can work and no one believe that I can work fast. Everyday, I was being watched, and after 6 months, they still cannot believe what they see. Anyway I end up working there for 3 years, I became the glue to all the staff. I fed the young ones, who were always hungry and it became the best place to work, until the company got bought over. I think you may know the place, it is called Cafe Artigiano.
    Well, I should digress. Since you are so good at writing, have you thought about writing to the newspaper about food, your whole philosophy about organic, local, food labeling, etc. It is your chance to educate the public, and hopefully prompt some rich person to import those things you crave for. If there is no market, you try to create one. Just my opinion, hope it helps.

  5. Hello Faye,

    Thank you so much for your wonderful comment and for sharing me your story about working in the kitchen. That is truly inspirational. Some young chefs think that older people can't do it. But you've proven them wrong. And thank for you for encouraging me to write as writing is really not one of my skills when I was in high school. And right now, I am having a writer's block. But I will start writing again. :)


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