Food for the Earth: Students Organize Dinner-Lecture in Response to Climate Catastrophe and COVID-19

April 21, 2021
By: 
Karl Eli Alconis

Atenean students host a one-of-a-kind dinner-lecture that shows how what’s on our plate plays a role in culture, current social issues, and community togetherness.

On March 20, 2021, Ateneans taking the Anthropology course entitled Culture and the Senses hosted “The Humane Plate: Food for a Planet in Crisis”—a dinner and lecture bringing together multiple topics represented by food.

The event was organized by a team composed of Patricia Viloria, Danielle Concepcion, Angelica Gonzaga, Luna Nuñez, and Mikaela Baliola under the tutelage of Dr. Fernando Zialcita of the Sociology and Anthropology Department. It featured a remotely hosted four-course dinner by Chef Waya Araos-Wijangco of Gourmet Gypsy Art Café, and a lecture by Dr. Fabian Dayrit on his research on Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chef Waya Araos-Wijangco and Dr. Fabian Dayrit answer audience questions.

“The Humane Plate” was based around the theme of food in relation to current issues such as global warming and the pandemic. The dinner showcased plant-based alternatives for pork and beef to encourage the decrease of meat production, one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions. The dinner also highlighted the contrast of Filipino food with foreign counterparts to show their shared characteristics as well as the uniqueness of Filipino cuisine. Other cuisines brought into the discussion were from Mexico, Peru, and those in the Caribbean, which also have a history of colonization and cultural contact.

Kinilaw na Puso ng Saging and Peruvian Octopus Ceviche were served as the first course. Meanwhile, Pampanga’s Suam na Mais (a light soup featuring the Spanish introductions of chili and corn) and Mexican Pozole containing hominy (known locally as binatog) made up the second course. The third course featured Faux-tatim (made with jackfruit instead of the pork in Pata Tim) and Vegan Caribbean Curry. The fourth course showed different iterations of cassava, a crop known for being tolerant to dry climates: Filipino Cassava Cake and Buñuelos de Yuca (cassava fritters) commonly served in Spain, South America, and the Philippines. Lastly, the beverage served to participants was blue-colored Ternate Lemonade, made from the eponymous blossoms found in Southeast Asia.

Chef Waya's Faux-tatim makes use of jackfruit as a meat substitute.

The influx of Indian indentured laborers to the Caribbean led to the creation of Caribbean Curry.

Ternate blossoms are notable for the bright blue color they give off when steeped in water.

In the second part of the program, Ateneo Chemistry Professor Dr. Dayrit introduced the audience to his research studies on VCO’s efficacy against COVID-19. VCO is known for its health benefits and its antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory characteristics. His ongoing research on its efficacy against COVID-19 has so far shown a trend of quicker recoveries from COVID-related symptoms in people who took VCO.

Due to the pandemic and the restrictions on large gatherings, the event had to shift from a face-to-face dinner-lecture to an online event. Food had to be delivered to participants’ homes and the event’s promotion had to be done completely online. This, however, led to a larger turnout. The organizers shared, “The event was able to accommodate more people, both guests and [audience members]. We had 102 participants registered in the online event. If it were done face-to-face, only a few would be able to attend due to the restaurant’s limited capacity.”

Aside from the high turnout, this event showcases how an Anthropology class could pave the way for addressing climate change through food (specifically through plant-based diets and meat substitution), for highlighting the uniqueness of Filipino cuisine, and for educating participants on the huge potential of VCO.