14 Jan2014

A balikbayan box arrived with an assortment of goodies from New York, amongst them, old issues of food and other magazines that Sister throws in for us to pore through. One magazine I don’t get to see often in this part of the world is the Annual Food Issue of the Smithsonian (June 2013), and it is packed with interesting articles, some more serious than others. I read through the article “The American Table” by Ruth Reichl, article now available on-line, here, and was struck by two particular quotes:

The first, by Michael Pollan, and I quote:

“I think the next chapter of the food movement will involve paying more attention to the workers in the food chain — on the farm, in the packing plants, and in the restaurants.”

I couldn’t agree more. Just as the locals are starting to pay attention to small farmers, the source of their produce, going organic, etc. they will have to start thinking more about the folks who prepare and serve them their food. Try to pay better wages, watch those working conditions, pay those benefits, try and develop your human resources, encourage them to aim higher and most of all, treat them well. I have been harping about this since the day we started Zubuchon, and I know there are other enlightened restaurant owners out there, but we need to convince more and more people to think this way.

The second quote, by Ruth Reichl, in reference to the recent craze and pre-occupation with Meyer lemons, is lighter:

“They’re, you know, a lemon crossed with an orange. Why would you want to do that? I like acid… (their flavor) is muted. I hate the fact that everyone loves Meyer lemons. I just hate it.”

Hahaha. I can see where she is coming from, but I think there are definite uses for a lemon with a slightly less acidic tinge and the sweetness of an orange. After all, our own kalamansi is a cross between two types of citrus as well, and it is fabulous. At any rate, I understand her view that she pines for pure and natural flavors, etc. I can’t believe it’s been 4 years since Gourmet stopped publishing a magazine, I must still have withdrawal symptoms of some sort…

If you haven’t come across this article before, you may want to read it, link is provided up above.



  1. Khew says:

    I adore Cook’s Illustrated.

    Jan 14, 2014 | 4:33 pm


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  3. Marketman says:

    Khew, yup, I try to get as many issues of Cook’s Illustrated as I can. Also Saveur. I like the Australian “Delicious” and I buy Food & Wine and Bon Appetit at Booksale only when their prices drop down to PHP80 or 60 an issue. :)

    Jan 14, 2014 | 4:43 pm

  4. Betchay says:

    Thank you to Booksale, Filipinos have more access to books and magazines at low, low prices!

    Jan 14, 2014 | 5:44 pm

  5. Sister says:

    Ruth Reichl is usually amusing but this time I beg to differ. Citrus is notoriously easy, cross breeding willy nilly with any other within range. How else would you get the honeybell, proud queen of all those gift boxes sent one’s way by the generous but unimaginative, or the satsuma, little gems of flavor and indeed the Meyer lemon, amongst the thousands of cross breeds that never made market with such tremendous success that Ruth needs to take a swipe at it?
    I’m thankful for the wide range of grapefruit seasonally available, from the delicious white Duncans to the Ruby Reds, pride of Texas. What is amazing is the ability to identify and farm desirable crosses and market them successfully.
    If Meyer lemon was the pet fruit of the first decade of the 21st century then Frank Meyer would be proud, after stumbling across it in China in the 1910. But alas, his was wiped out in mid century by a canker, and a new “improved” meyer lemon introduced in 1970. But there may still be a few of Frank’s that survived in some CA backyards.
    Now Meyer lemons are available all year after orchards of it were planted in New Zealand in response to the craze and the reverse season a complement to the FL and CA crops. I’m waiting for a larger yuzu crop.
    I have to defend the appeal of the Meyer lemon as opposed to the darling of the 90’s, the kiwi, whose value is still a mystery to me, more a triumph of marketing than taste.
    Meyer lemon marmalade is outstanding for flavor and the balance of sweet to bitter. I make jam is the summer and marmalade in the winter, currently experimenting with various sour oranges like bergamot, and buddha’s hand citron, and rangpur lime, ever increasing the varieties that go into my line of jams and marmalades I send out to friends and family. For my Christmas gift I requested my son to go to Alemany market, SF, and bring to NYC unsprayed, organic Meyer lemons, a suitcase full purchased from some Filipino farmers also offering calamansi. Meyer lemons sold in groceries usually have been waxed to extend travel time and shelf life.
    The most fabulous collection of citrus trees is at the UC Davies and well worth a visit, if possible, specially the Nov. tour, a more difficult ticket to obtain to than any museum show. Still high on my bucket list and I recommend marketman include on a future trip to CA since he loves to eat citrus.

    Jan 14, 2014 | 5:46 pm

  6. Chinky says:

    My sister inlaw who lives near Sacramento has a couple of Meyer lemon trees. When we visited in early spring 2009, it was fruit bearing and it was nice to see bunches of them in one small tree! I tried to bring them home to Manila but after a couple of days, they sort of shriveled up and shrank in size…..love them in lemon squares!

    Jan 14, 2014 | 8:18 pm

  7. natie says:

    “Go back into the kitchen. That is the one place you can control your life.” profound….

    Jan 14, 2014 | 10:13 pm

  8. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    I have to agree with Sister. The kiwi is the lame duck of the fruit world. Sort of like eyeing a cutie from behind but only to see butterface when she turns around.

    But I think you meant ‘UC Davis’ and yes for MM to visit CA (SF Bay Area) someday. Its funny that you should mention calamansi. Living in the south bay (San Jose Region) pretty much every Filipino household within a block radius has a calamansi tree and sure enough lemons. Although I’m unsure of the breed. So I’m a little suprised to see it mentioned at the Alemany Farmer’s Market. Then I realized two things. Bernal Height’s close proximity to Filipino households in SOMA and DC and the weather. That being misty overcast and cool as opposed to sunny and warm in SJ which favors the climate for citrus to grow.

    Watching Filipino programming on local cable sometimes makes me cringe at the fulfilling PSAs of cultural vingettes. There are some worth mentioning, but mostly not (Filipino Beat Boxing, c’mon really? Gimme a break). To me the Pinoy Spirit, particularly in modern US history, is that we don’t have to prove ourselves. But we do have to remind ourselves so contributions of our forefathers are not forgotten. Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz are examples of our history where their efforts helped pioneer the labor movement and ensure better working conditions for farm workers and the agricutural trade. Hopefully as people become more conscious of the their food sources that there is also time for reflection and not forget those who laid the foundation for the Pinoy legacy in America.

    Jan 15, 2014 | 2:34 am

  9. Sister says:

    To Getter Dragon 1,
    There is a large Filipino community in Daly City, close to Alemany, whose farmers may come from a few hundred miles away. Legend is the fog is caused by all the rice cookers being turned on at 5 pm, or so my cousin tells me.
    Anyway, walking around Berkeley a couple of years ago, I saw many calamansi bushes used as ornamental plants. I’m sure citrus grows even better further south.
    The same goes for Homestead, FL before going on to the Keys, where I happily found saba bananas, chicos, tamarind, and plenty of calamansi, some the size of small trees. Plenty of seedlings were smuggled in before luggage got x-rayed. There is a tropical fruit orchard that can be visited as well.
    My apologies for the spelling mistake, I did mean UC Davis. I hope to see the collection next Nov. hoping to nab a ticket from friends.

    Jan 15, 2014 | 6:28 am

  10. andrew lim says:

    @Marketman, @Sister, @Khew,

    When my food and wine obsession was at its peak, I would hoard back issues of the magazines you all mentioned. But what I treasure most, and even subscribed to for a while was SAVEUR. The quality of the writing is so good, and you could feel the affection of the writers about the food and how it related to their lives and families.

    As for food lit, I read Gabrielle Hamilton’s “Blood Bones and Butter” and it’s as interesting and intense as Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential”.

    @Getter Dragon 1,
    A good source on Filipino history in the Bay Area would be Boying Pimentel, who writes for Inquirer.

    Jan 15, 2014 | 8:13 am

  11. besYS says:

    Hi MM,
    I have the dwarft Meyer Lemon, planted in a big clay pot. I love the fruit, its flowers are so mabango! We also have 2 orange and 1 Tangerine trees. Instant orange juice everyday!
    There’s a lot of varieties available in some farmer’s market here in CA.
    I am just wondering why americans like to use our calamansi ( calamondin) when they are too yellow or too ripe na! I like it when they are still green- ang sarap sa pansit! ;-)

    Jan 15, 2014 | 2:52 pm

  12. Cora says:

    Hi MM,
    Can I please have the name of your trusted freight company for the balikbayan box. It’ll be from Brooklyn, NY to Pasig. My hearfelt thank you for your generosity of spirit.

    Jan 16, 2014 | 2:31 pm

  13. Gigi says:

    Re workers in the food chain. It’s very true many employers pay more attention to their margins than their people. But I think this is an issue that goes all the way up to the top of the supply chain, including mall fees that impact the total costing and valuation.

    It’s also not limited to food industry, the closest example I could think of being the garments industry where costing is “top down” based on buyer terms.

    There are just so many factors that go into this (and this is probably going off topic already). If you are a supplier, a lot depends on whether or not your buyers pay you on fair credit terms, if they pay you at all. I know a so-called entrepreneur advocate whose family (and their group of companies) are notorious for stiffing their suppliers.
    And still another local restaurant (with culinary school) who unreasonably delayed payments but ended up paying the suppliers in GCs from their own outlet.

    Jan 17, 2014 | 10:01 am

  14. Sister says:

    I use Johnny Sea Cargo based in Queens but they have an outlet in Manhattan. They pick up boxes and they are notoriously inefficient at scheduling but they have delivered all the boxes I have sent in 6 to 8 weeks for $59. a box to Metro Manila, very inexpensive for door to door service, and very honest, I’ve used them for 10 years.
    If you need to rush a small package they do air freight at half the cost of Fedex and they remit money as well.
    I used Road Runner before them and one Christmas they ran off with 3 boxes with very expensive contents, gifts for my family for the holidays, not just jam. They simply disappeared but not before cashing my check. I am mentioning this in case others were affected as well.

    Jan 17, 2014 | 9:52 pm

  15. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    No worries Sister and I have your bases covered. I texted one of my alumni attending UCD if he can get info onthe show. He thinks I’m crazy, but what do kids know. Your cousin is absolutely correct about the local lore and that banana trees (minus the bananas) are ornamental and functional to many households.

    Jan 18, 2014 | 1:54 am

  16. Cathy says:

    Thank you for putting this up! I don’t have access to any of these magazines except online. I am a huge fan of Michael Pollan, and I have tried his recipe for Sour Dough Bread (with great results) and Samin’s (his teacher) Soffrito, to less than amazing results, I always burn the vegetables.

    I am lucky that in Germany, most people have made the correlation and people who think like this are in the mainstream already.

    Jan 18, 2014 | 6:33 am

  17. Reggie Rullan says:

    Hi. Please enlighten me what kind of citrus fruits were crossed to breed calamansi? Thanks!

    Jan 19, 2014 | 4:12 pm

  18. Cora says:

    I’m sorry about your Road Runner experience. Taus pusong pasalamat po sa inyo MM and Sister for the information at higit sa lahat for your kindred generosity of spirit. I learned about door to door cargo service to the Phils. from this blog. Have been very grateful that Google took me here. Enjoyed MM’s rant the most because I don’t feel like an oddball about decency and common sense. Thank you once again.

    Jan 22, 2014 | 10:16 pm

  19. Firechef says:

    @ Cora: I have used LBC to ship boxes for many years, now they are $70 to the Visayas, $60 to Luzon. NEVER any problems, also door to door service. 6 weeks to Manila area, 7 – 8 weeks to Cebu.

    Apr 27, 2014 | 10:53 am

  20. traci says:

    Hi MM, I’ve seen the Cook’s Illustrated magazines at Book Sale go down to P35 an issue in the past year. I miss Gourmet also. Through my late dad I have issues from the 70s. Great buy!

    Jan 28, 2015 | 5:29 pm


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