11 August 2008

A Bit of Carinderia Love and History

1875 illustration of a carinderia in El Oriente newspaper.

I love carinderias. Whilst on long-haul buses I have a Pavlovian hunger-related reaction towards food stops. I like eating my way across the varying landscapes. Or, if there are no veggies or I'm oddly full, I poke around at everything-- what their bathroom signs say, what utensils they use, how the places are laid out, what language the people speak.

Wide selection of food in Puerto Princesa-- and this is only on the left side of the door!

These places prove that prepared food does not have to be soul-less like they are in many commercial restaurants. In smaller towns, they are a place for community to gather, like the Western coffee house. There you get free soup and the ability to make your own sawsawan (I prefer vinegar with siling labuyo broken up into it). If you sit in long enough you will also overhear stories about other locals from the patrons and the owners.

Communities can use less firewood if they cook in larger amounts, in this rural Batangas place.

Coming out to say hi.

Carinderias became widespread in rural areas only after increased human mobility, around the late 1800's. Before this, I picture people simply setting up large pots by their windows or in front of their houses, much like in more "isolated" areas today. People come walking over with bowls from their homes and buy a bit to take home.

Jackfruit (langka) with coconut milk sauce (I poured it all on my rice), standard carinderia fare.

Felice Prudente Sta. Maria notes that carinderia is most likely derived from the word cari or kari, a Tamil word for sauce, or a saucy accompaniment to rice. Some theories attribute this connection to the large number of breakaway soldiers from the invading British army, mostly East Indian Bengalis or Tamils, ended up settling in Taytay and Cainta, major tourist routes at the time. Note: I don't buy this theory of word origin.

Good ventilation at a bus stop to El Nido.

Even better ventilation at an outdoor carinderia.

Most memorable of their offerings was spicy cari (it has been posited that our peanut stew kare-kare had evolved from this East Indian-Javanese dish). However, their enterprises, primarily catering to some locals and many tourists from pilgrimages and train journeys, served things from food, tobacco, water, and alcohol. Notable was the serving of betel nut, much like India's paan stalls.

A simple layout in Dumaguete.

Over time, the stalls evolved to serve solely food-- indigenized Chinese dishes, Filipinized Spanish food, and these days some more Western-evolved creations (recently I saw a strange creation-- breaded and deep-fried hotdog wrapped in a pizza). Still mostly saucy and all, to drench your rice with. They still serve the cheapest and most abundant food. That they are moving away from serving regional plants and animals, are an indication that local, unique food is no longer cheap and widely available.

Pinakbet and Chinese-influenced pancit in Camiguin.

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