VILLASIS -- Talong or eggplant is perhaps the most versatile Philippine vegetable.

It is one of the main ingredients of the Ilocano’s pinakbet. It can be grilled, boiled or fried and dipped in bagoong or soy sauce with calamansi, and voila, you have an appetizing viand.

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In response to the suggestion of their kababayans living abroad regularly coming home during fiesta, the mayor’s wife, Dita Abrenica, said the local government decided to publish a cookbook, which will be launched this month during the Talong Festival, one of the events in the town fiesta.

The “101 Ways of Cooking Talong” is perhaps the first and only locally published cookbook in the province of Pangasinan.

The recipes in the cookbook is a compilation of the winning entries in the “101 Ways to Cook Talong” contest in the past four years, said Abrenica who had been the chairman of the cooking competitions, as well as the Nutrition Month cooking contests held before the Talong Festival was conceived.

To complete the 101 recipes, she said the members of the Villasis Ladies Brigade, which she chairs, conducted kitchen tests of their own recipes.

Initially, 500 copies will be out. Those who would like to reserve a copy may do so at the mayor’s office.

The price per copy is minimal, she said. “Just to recover the printing cost and a little profit which will go to the fiesta fund,” she explained.

Aside from its palatability and nutritional value, Abrenica said the main consideration in including a certain recipe in the cookbook is availability of the ingredients in the supermarkets.

“The dish/recipe should be simple, delicious, instructions are easy to follow and most importantly, ingredients should be easily available. I'm not looking for recipes that look very good to eat but require a lot of ingredients,” she remarked.

She said what inspired them more to proceed with the plan to publish the cookbook were the reactions of the vendors at the public market when they distributed copies of recipes.

“What we did after the 101 Ways of Cooking Talong contest, we printed the recipes and distributed the copies at the public market for them to try it at home. The other vendors looked for copies of the other recipes because they were only able to get one recipe,” she said.

Meanwhile, the committee which took charge in the compilation of recipes and the publication of the cookbook is chaired by Abrenica herself with Belen Bautista, Aida Santos, Nelda Rabang, Ma. Lolita Sison and Estela Bautista as members.

Villasis town is considered the vegetable bowl of northern Luzon. Year-round, it produces eggplant, tomato, okra, ampalaya and other vegetables. The variety of talong commonly planted here is the violet one which is ideal for pinakbet, inihaw for ensalada and torta.