Daily Archives: January 12, 2012

The case of the mysterious Filipino cookbook

Is Vegan Filipino food a new phenomena? Or has it been around long before I was born? Meeting young vegan Fiilpinos through Twitter and on this blog make me ponder these questions. I have yet to meet a Vegan Pinoy in his/her 50s or older (if this is you, please say hi!). The only person I know is my dad’s Filipino best friend because of his religion, Seven Day Adventist. Aside from that, no luck.

Most older Filipinos who find out I’m vegan would look at me with pity, as if I generated a disease. Filipino stand up comic, Rex Nevarette even joked about Filipino parents disowning their children if they find out their kids are vegetarian (enter the scene of a vegetarian kid “coming out” to his parents).


But then again…there’s this book:

You could tell by the quality of the photo cover that it is dated. The book was copyrighted in 1970 and unassumingly called “Best Recipes for the Home”. I flipped through page to page, then realized… ALL recipes are Filipino vegetarian! I flipped through the pages faster and found a slim chapter in the end with International recipes that are, yup, also vegetarian.

A small population of Filipinos practice the religion, Seven Day Adventist so I thought maybe this book was meant for them? Maybe my dad’s best friend left it at our house? Here’s when the plot thickens…

The book belonged to a “Herminia M. de Jesus”. As common practice in the past, Filipinos would sign their book and write the date they got it. She put down 1974. My parents denied they know her or have heard of her. Yet, we’ve had this book since we were living in the Philippines, which was more than thirteen years ago, long before I was vegan. We never opened it. We never really read cookbooks, we simply hoarded them. The mysterious cookbook quietly sat in our kitchen drawer. Then one day it was picked up and carried along with other cookbooks through distant shores when my family and I moved here to the US.

I discovered the book for the first time when I went vegetarian, which was about four years ago. I was perusing through a stack of cookbooks when I stumbled upon it.

According to the publisher, Philippine Publishing House of Manila, the authors are selected Filipina cooks and scholars namely: Erlinda Romulo, M.S. in Nutrition, Alice Ramos BSFN, Elisa M. de Leon MS in Nutrition, Edelma de Leon BSFN, Corona Llaguno, Helen Brodeur, and Exequiela L. Jimenez MS in Nutrition. The photos and illustrations were set by Nita Flossman.

The first chapters talk about meal planning and budgeting your vegetarian meals. It also dispelled myths as well as tackled the topic of religion.

The book also dedicated a chapter in Nutrition. Heck, it even teaches you how to make gluten from scratch!

The middle chapters showcase a vast array of vegetarian Filipino recipes. From Relleno to Sinigang, the book offers them all. I find the instructions easy to follow but some seem too simple and lacking of certain ingredients.

The later chapters also offer International recipes: Russian, Japanese, Swedish, Italian, Mexican, etc.

By the same token, the authors also thought of those people abroad who would like to try vegetarian Filipino recipes. The book features a glossary of substitutions for those hard to find Filipino ingredients (especially back in the 70s).

The book simply gives you no excuse for not trying it.

Who knew this old cookbook would come in handy someday?! It’s as if it knew I was going to be vegan in the future.

To Herminia, whoever and wherever you are, thank you for letting me borrow this book and I hope you didn’t get disheartened to have lost it. I promise I’ll return it to you if  we ever crossed paths.

So maybe the veg Filipino trend is not new after all. Although it may not have been popular, at least I have proof that it was recognized in the 70s, and who knows maybe even earlier than that?

P.S. more recent Filipino vegetarian and vegan cookbooks to check out are: “Gulay”  by Nona Lema, and “Pinoy Vegetarian Cookbook” by Dolly T. Dy-Zulueta and Susana T. Dy. For Asian cuisines, try The Asian Vegan Kitchen by Hema Parekh.