by: Anthony Nash O. De Leon
Street foods have become a common delicacy among all Filipinos. No matter how old or young you are, whether you’re rich or poor, or even if you don’t have any fingers left on your hands, you could not resist the sinful temptation (because it is maybe bad for your health) that a street food offers you. But have you ever asked yourself why you eat street foods?
You see, vegans eat vegetables because they are disgusted with the thought of eating meat or because they have decided to live a cleaner and healthier life. Guys who are working out prefer eating the chicken’s breast part because studies show that it would help in making their abs more toned. And toddlers and lasses, whose bones are still developing, drink more than one glass of milk everyday to have stronger bones and to grow taller. Simply put, there are reasons as to why we put street foods in our mouth; maybe because it’s our crush’s favourite or maybe, just because of curiosity, we wanted to know what it tasted like on our palate; or, just a guess, maybe because we’re just really hungry. Yes, there are countless reasons, but have you ever wondered what were your raison d’être?
1. Is it because of the street food’s availability?
Wherever you look, outside the school, outside the church, or in the park, pull-carts, stalls, and mga naglalakong tindero’t tindera are present selling street foods that are incessantly calling on your name to buy them. It’s like wherever you go in the Philippines, your eye would always catch a glimpse of a fish ball, a kikiam, a tokneneng, a quek-quek, a barbecue, a banana cue, or whatever street food there is available in the market..
There are even instances, that eating it becomes a habit because you know that it will always be there. For instance, Joyce, a senior marketing student, has made eating street foods a routine after classes because of its availability. “Ever since noong elementary pa ako, mahilig na akong kumain ng street foods. Noon kasi, hinihintay ko pa service ko. E ginugutom ako sa kakahintay. Kaya kapag nagugutom ako, pupunta lang ako sa tindahan ng mga fish balls kasi malapit lang naman at maraming mapagpipilian. Solve na ang gutom ko. (Ever since I was in elementary, I like eating street foods. Back then, I still had to wait for my service until I get hungry. So, to solve my hunger, I would go to the fish ball stalls near the school where I’ve got a lot to choose from.)”
It’s like you’re eating in a buffet. Everything is already served and all you have to do is choose, get, and eat. Just be careful not to eat too much because as they say, too much of anything is bad for your health.
2. Is it because it’s cheap?
For most people, especially students, they prefer eating street foods than other stomach-filling delicacies because of the amount of money they can save and put in their piggybanks.
A piece of fish ball is still sold today at around 50 cents to one peso. On the other hand, a piece of tokneneng costs at around Php 2.50 while a kikiam costs Php 1.00. And a calamari is sold at Php 3.00 apiece. Comparing its price to the amount that you could have spent buying food from fast food chains and karinderias, it is clear that you would be able to save a lot of money by just eating street foods.
However, remember not to be too selfish with yourself when it comes to food. Because, in the end, you might wake up wearing a hospital gown, lying on a hospital bed, with a needle connected to a dextrose injected beneath your skin.
3. Or do you see it as an object where you could channel your emotions?
Whenever you feel sad, angry, unsatisfied, disappointed, or even broken-hearted, who, or should I say what, do you go to so that you could express your feelings? Some would say their families. Some would also mention their friends. But has it ever occurred to you that whenever you say your emotions to your relatives or friends, there should always be the presence of food?
A study by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at Bethesda, Maryland four months ago states that food affects an individual’s emotions. According to Lukas Van Oudenhove, M.D., one of the study’s authors, food gives a strong soothing effect on a natural being. However, further research is still needed to prove a direct relationship between the human’s emotions and the food he intakes.
If you would think about it, because of the street food’s availability and cheapness, it’s the easiest way to get all your emotions off of your shoulders. It’s like a best friend who you can talk to but can never talk back to you; something that you can tell your secrets to. (But if it gets a little too often, you might want to call a psychiatrist.) It can be something that you can grind your teeth with when you’re angry. It can also be something that just melts in your mouth when you’re in cloud nine. It can be anything that will satisfy your taste buds’ desires.
So, when do you often eat street foods? When you’re feeling lousy, ecstatic, or just happy?
4. Do you eat it because it reflects Filipino’s innovativeness?
Ever since the Chinese introduced the selling of street foods to the Filipinos, it has flourished and developed which, eventually, drove people to begin venturing in the same business. And since there was an increase in competition, Filipinos had to find ways to make their product more sellable. They thought of various ways of making their products unique compared to the others. From the steamed delicacies came the fried food. Then, fried food revolutionized and the skewed food became popular. And the story of evolution (not Charles Darwin’s version) continues as the selling of street foods continue today. Filipinos’ innovation of street foods today is evident in a restaurant in Mandaluyong called Lime88 which offers street foods on their menu. But it is prepared in a more sosyal manner.
Some of the street foods that are of Philippine origin are the smooth syrupy taho, the colourful and satisfying halu-halo, the eye-catching and sweet kakanins, and a lot more.
5. Or you eat street foods because you want to celebrate life and your relationships?
For some people, the first four reasons that I have cited might have been their rationale for eating street foods. But for me, my reason (which I have to say is the best) for eating street foods is to push the boat out and share memories with my friends and family.
There are those times that you already feel that you’re stomach is already full. But for some reason, when a friend or a relative asks for your company to eat an isaw, a banana cue, or a siomai with them, hunger strikes back and you accept their offer. These times are what many people call the Kodak moment (even if you don’t have a camera). It is called a Kodak moment because these are the times that you celebrate life to the fullest. You don’t notice the time spent when you’re with them because you’re with people who enjoy your company and vice versa. The experience becomes a memory that you will never forget even if you choose to store it in the part of your brain that carries the sign, “short-term memory.” But I doubt you’d do that.
It is indeed true when Arritipus said, “Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow, you will die.” (Well, except for the part when he said you’ll die.) Because these Kodak moments, when remembered, will always put a smile on one’s face and will always remind a person that s/he lived his life well with the right people.
As my father would always say when I was still a toddler, “What is the essence of having a heart if you don’t love? What is the essence of having a brain if you think?”
Isn’t it quite ironic that those two parts of our bodies have conflicting purposes? But that’s not the point. The point is that everything exists because it has its purpose. We eat street foods not just because they release us from hunger. We eat them maybe because we remember, we celebrate, we enjoy, or we love. A sheet of paper might not be enough to write all the reasons; or the over 51 million results that pops out when you type the phrase ‘Philippine street foods’ in Google does not even outnumber your reasons. But the fact that you know why you eat street foods is enough.
Your reasons might not have been written above. But here’s all I can say, before you take in that golden caramelized banana cue or that ice-cold refreshing buko juice into your mouth, take a moment and think. What motivates you to eat street foods, is it the people, the feeling, the food itself, or the experience?
Harding, A. (2011 July 27). Study offers clues to emotional eating. Retrieved on November 29, 2011 from http://edition.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/07/25/study.clues. emotional.eating/index.html.