Foraging for Kreame

In our then-hackerspace, Tsinelas Labs when it had a home at Green Papaya Art Space last March 2013, we’ve arranged for Kreame Isaac a tasting session as part of the No-Menu Guerilla series. This event was entitled “NO PAN INTENDED”. It was indeed a No-Menu kitchen, and the week before the event, the organising team members were just given hints of what might be served, and what Kreame had been able to forage. I thought it best to not expect anything for fear of the unknown.

Poster Invite 1
Early poster invitation

Admittedly, I’m a clean freak as far as I could remember, and I’m afraid of Salmonella and other food-borne pathogens. But at the same time I am also very curious and it would kill me to not try the disclosed ingredient : Janitor Fish, even once in my life. I also know that Kreame wouldn’t try killing off her guests with her own food so there’s some sense of safety right there! Here’s the poster that came out next :

Final poster : the Revelation
Final poster : the Revelation

Along with the poster made public, Kreame also gave us a very detailed list of Kitchen SOPs and set of rules, and even a visual guide to the dress code. Very professional! And so, the day came and the team members each knew what roles they had and worked in synchrony even if I’ve never met most of them before.

One by one the dishes came out, as batches of people came and went. People eyed the dishes suspiciously at first, but like me they’re probably there because they’re curious as to what this is all about and most importantly, they’ve got the guts to try cured bottom dwellers from polluted lakes. Some tables had groups that were very social and some were very solemn. It was very interesting to see various reactions & feedback from them. Some were at awe at how long some ingredients were naturally processed by curing and fermentation, some were amazed because the janitor fish actually tasted good (I know I was!), some expressed their favourite component of the dish, and some just ate in silence, revelling in the experience and trying to empathise with the now-dead-but-delicious pet pig, Peter.

Kreame at work
Kreame at work

What was this exercise about? What is FORAGING for Kreame?

The whole point of foraging is to make use of what is available in the local environment. We might take this for granted because now that groceries & convenience stores have become part of our “local environment”, you might as “why wait for six months to get your meat fix ready?”, or “why do we have to ferment potatoes in miso shiro for half a year when we can just boil them for half an hour?”. There are also readily edible things like the Ashitaba (Angelica keiskei) pesto dip, dried bamboo fungus (Phallus indusiatus), and Gynura procumbens leaf and Peperonia pellucida for the wrap, which can be eaten raw. I think that this exercise, if adapted as one’s way of life, is taking everything a step further from all this backyard gardening of lettuce & tomatoes, and getting reoriented with what is REALLY growing locally in the natural environment.

Cured Janitor Fish (taken from Kreame's Facebook photos)
Cured Janitor Fish (taken from Kreame’s Facebook photos)

Kreame is advocating the awareness of the sources of nutrition readily available to us, which we often neglect because we seem to have gotten dependent on whatever is available in the groceries and markets for a couple generations now. People have closed their minds on these potential sources of food simply because its not available on the shelves and food HAS to be bought, but they may be just passing by it everyday in their own gardens, street gutters, plant boxes, and parks.

Another thing she thinks is important is that we should break the habit of thinking that the amount of food corresponds to the amount of nutrition. I agree with this fully! A lot of Filipinos, perhaps due to widespread poverty and a lot of brainwashing, had for some reason thought that stuffing themselves with a lot of rice is enough for them to get by, “Basta busog” (“As long as I’m full”). The problem with this kind of thinking is that practically anything can be considered a meal as long as it makes you forget you’re hungry. People don’t question advertisements such as those of Sky Flakes and other nutrient-deficient crackers telling you that you’re ready to face the day with a pack of crackers in your pocket, or promos such as “Unlimited Rice” to go with a small piece of meat.  At our tasting event the servings were quite small, even smaller than French couture cuisine, but it was very satisfying and I didn’t crave for anything more afterwards. The end goal shouldn’t be to be full, but to be satisfied. If you happened to be out-of-sync with your body and only have the full = satisfied function, then give it a little practise and try not to eat until you’re full, but make sure you’d put worthwhile things in.

No Pan Intended
Scenes at the No Pan Intended

There are so much more statements that The Hatter’s Group, Tsinelas Labs, and Kreame herself would want to make through this event, and it would be such as long post to go into the details of each one. But here’s an abbreviated version of some of our thoughts & shared goals :

  • Share your recipes! Open source it! Kreame says dishes may have the same recipes but interpreted differently by individuals anyway.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with food. Learn the basics, be bold, and proceed with caution.
  • Be more aware of what’s around you. Be resourceful (not just of food). There’s so much more than what culture has imposed on us.

If you’re interested in how to make Kreame’s dishes from the No Pan Intended event, send her an email at kreameisaac@gmail.com and if you’re itching to get updates on our events, you can join our mailing list HERE or visit The Hatter’s Group website for updates.

Check out articles about this event on mainstream media too!
Kitchen Adventures at the No-Menu Guerrilla Restaurant – GMA News Online by Carmela Lapeña

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