A close encounter with Creole ‘soul’ cuisine-A A +A
Friday, November 1, 2013
LOOKING for “soul food” can lead a writer to a new gastronomic adventure—a delightfully unique gourmet experience replete with enriching memories and quite a few “shocks” as well.
For the very first time, this writer was introduced to a novel cuisine that was indeed food for the soul as well as for the body. It was a close encounter with authentic, exotic and very delectable Creole “soul” dishes designed by the culinary fairy, chef Divina Veloso Couvreux, exclusively for Metro Gourmet and Café in Ayala Center.
“Creole cuisine is popular in the southern parts of the United States (particularly in Louisiana) and in the West Indies. There are a multiple of cultural influences that have contributed to the distinct taste of this native food. These unique dishes have a touch of French, Spanish, African, Italian, as well as Caribbean influences,” Divina said.
The fare that Chef Couvreux prepared had a peculiar blend of spices and seasoning (not MSG or common taste enhancers) that made it very tasty, giving it a specific spicy savor and flavor exclusive to the region.
Each dish made use of what the natives call the “holy trinity” because of the ubiquitous presence of celery, red and green pepper, and white onions.
“People in this region consider these dishes as ‘soul food’ because in the olden times when food was scarce, they had to make do with what they grew in the backyard. Still they were able to create dishes that did not only nourish the body but were also very scrumptious. There were no freezers then, so they had to prepare these dishes in such a way that they will last for days, that’s probably one of the reasons why they had to make them very spicy,” Divina explained.
Of course, on the table was the most popular dish, the jambalaya, in which rice is cooked separately and used as a bed wherein the main dish is served: St. Galler Schueblig sausages, chorizo Pamplona, air-dried bacon, chicken breast and shrimp cooked in chicken broth with a dash of curry powder. It reminds the diner of paella.
There was another rice dish, the gumbo, with similar meat ingredients but with an entirely different preparation since it makes use of very spicy condiments and the surprise part—okra! Very exotic and tastes totally different! More “surprise” dishes arrived like the “Cod Fish Acra,”
“Baked Christophine” (what Pinoys know as sayote) and “Crab Farcis.”
One would think that these very foreign-looking dishes are very expensive. But as Jennifer Blanco, Metro Gourmet’s Food and Beverage manager, said, “You will indeed be surprised at how low-priced these Creole dishes are; they are priced over P100 per serving. If you notice there on the blackboard offering, we serve very delightful food at very affordable prices.”
Metro Gourmet & Café used to be at the basement of Metro Ayala, but now it has been moved to the supermarket area. Adjoining it is a deli counter, which is home to a wide variety of imported cheese and assorted brands of ham and sausages.
“By the way, all the ingredients we use for Creole cuisine are found here at Metro Ayala supermarket,” Divina said.
While enjoying Creole food, the diner can be transported to the time and place when people considered soul food as more than just eating. When they wanted to forget about their worries and think only of the good things life could offer. When cooking “special” dishes meant so much as it was a time when family would get together and enjoy a really hearty meal.
One realizes that soul food is good food and should not be taken for granted—nourishing the body as well as the spirit. Soul food is priceless tradition, keeping families together and holding a very special meaning to those who encounter it. (Emy Pedrosa)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 02, 2013.