Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cocina Blanca

Open fire cookery.

Touring the coffee farm was cool but touring the kitchen was even better.

Through the semi-opened door in the main house, I noticed the orange glow from the burning embers in the traditional firepit. I had long known that they cooked like this in the Old World of the Philippines and had even toured museum houses that featured these kinds of kitchens, but I had never seen a working kitchen. I was excited.

Rat control.

The convenience of modern appliances means that one can precisely control the heat source, and with the advent of induction cookery, I can dial in a specific temperature and walk away. Could the same be done with open fire cooking? I had to see for myself.

Most houses in the Philippines come with a "regular" kitchen and a "dirty" kitchen. The "dirty" kitchen is the one where the household staff does the real work of preparing your meal and the "regular" kitchen is the one that your guests sees. Without a doubt, this is the "dirty" kitchen and the most notable thing about this kitchen is the layer of black soot covering everything above six feet. There's no exhaust fan or stainless vent to contain the smoke, it just goes everywhere and coats everything. Fifteen minutes in the kitchen and your clothes smell like you've been sitting too close to a campfire all night long.

El Comal or La Plancha.

Surprisingly, these cucineras are able to control the heat to boil or simmer as needed. This is the real wizardry of cooking. Mystical and magical, these women transform humble ingredients of corn, plantain and chicken into tantalizing traditional fare that most cooks only can dream about.

I'm enamored - and covered in soot...


All cooks like to hang their cookware.

The kitchen sink.

Preparing the elote.

Could be dinner...

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