A couple of years ago in Milan, Italy, Patis met Ana bel Mayo. She was featured in a fashion show staged by I Colori Del Mondo, a non-profit association which promotes the appreciation of cultural diversity among ethnic minorities, of which Ana bel is founder. After nine years, Ana bel came to the Philippines for a home visit and spent some time at Patis Tito Garden Cafe and soon-to-open Bed & Breakfast.
One brisk Monday morning, Ana bel took our staff on a field trip to the San Pablo Public market. There she happily shared her expertise in purchasing quality fresh ingredients by giving tips on how to choose meat, fish, vegetables, and fruits—a trained eye she obtained by running a 200-capacity restaurant in Italy back in the day.
How to know if meat is fresh
Good meat is identified by the fiber or lines on the sliced meat. The thinner the fiber, the better the cut. However, choosing quality meat is a bit tricky. Freshness cannot be based merely on color, as some sneaky vendors can enhance this to make it look pinker or redder. According to Ana bel, you need to find a trustworthy vendor who can consistently supply quality meat through trial and error.
How to know if fish is fresh
One must inspect the scales and eyes of the fish, Ana bel points out. The eyes should be clear and the scales should be intact. To be more certain, smell the fish as it should not smell foul. This applies to prawns as well, as the prawn's head should still be connected to its body and not hanging loosely.
How to know if vegetables and fruits are fresh
Vegetables are easy to choose based on appearance. These should look as if they were recently pulled out from the soil. San Pablo is still a largely agricultural community, and with the growing number of organic farming, buying fresh and organic vegetables has become easier.
As for fruits, mangoes are currently in season. The best way to know if the nice fresh mango you see is a sweet deal, is by holding it close to your nose and smelling it. If you cannot put the mango down due to excessive sniffing of its delicious aroma, then you are certain of buying a delightfully sweet bunch!
Why is a Filipina-Italian immigrant so concerned with sharing her knowledge of Italian culture to fellow Filipinos?
Ever since it opened as Kusina Salud in 2004, PatisTito Garden Cafe has been an advocate of the slow food movement which started in Italy in 1989. Ana bel is one such bagong bayani who generously shared her experience of a foreign land to her own countrymen. This movement does not only contribute to the livelihood of local farmers of fresh produce but also ensures that the way of life of future generations is enhanced with the sustenance of rich gastronomic traditions closely tied with its local heritage.
Salamat Ana bel Mayo! Hanggang sa muli! Ciao!