becoming spice routes

an introduction

a history of cooking is a history of feelings. sensations felt by the body while submitted to the alchemic process of fire, water, air, metal, earth and heart into one series of rituals. it is in fact a theatre of a thousand acts, and one could break it down based on the feelings authored by the cook or cooks. this is one human act where we have learned to integrate into a choreographic process the act of creation. Feelings sparked into a desire, desire turning into an intention, intention unfolding into acts, acts that lead to new branches of acts, processes of doing and doing nothing, an endearing collaboration between the patient human body and time. cooking nourished us. it is the meeting place between life and death, sacrifice and survival. We learned to cook and eat what is there in order to survive. hence, cooking is a history of survival. and it is the rituals of survivals that has defined us as humans. both our longing for love and our greediness. its a long story. it has many stories.

now here. to tell my story of cooking, i have to begin from my own voice and experiences of surviving. the knowledge of survival comes out of living and overcoming. hunger for example. have you ever lived a dramatic experience of hunger? do you remember how it felt? i was six when i was woken up by my mother one early morning. we were living then in the island where she was born and where i spent a good part of my childhood. she told me to get up and go to our neighbor’s house and hand them a letter. our neighbor was my first grade teacher and her son was my bestfriend then whom i always go to school with. we would walk through rice fields and i remember we always talked about the dream of eating pizza and rootbeer.

i reached the neighbor’s house and as I came in, i could smell the fried garlic that is now flavoring the fried old rice from yesterday, there was fried dried fish, eggs, and tomatoes. i stood in front of the family as they were having breakfast. while i handed my teacher the letter, i became aware of my hunger. my teacher read the letter and after what seemed like a while, she said, ‘i’m sorry, we dont have extra money to borrow you, but we can give you three cups of uncooked rice.’ I was fully awake now. and i became aware of a feeling of shame. i realized then, that that morning, we had no rice left to eat. we had nothing to eat. later that day, i found 50 centavos that was good enough to buy a line of oil and a line of soy sauce so that we can flavor the rice. i do not question the conditions of how we ended up there, but i believe this is one of my first profound artistic moments. made of precarity and hunger it is one of those circumstances that made me aware that we could not have everything. and that we have to work with what is there. the ingredients: neighbor, a little oil, a little soy sauce. it was delicious.

little did i know that this story would inspire me to start cooking for and with other people. the seed idea of cooking leftovers, which would become one of my main currencies in life, came from that day. it awakened slowcooked longings, that would lead me, with my own micropolitical intentions and impulses to travel from one place to another, and closer and closer to my nomadic search of home. hunger catalysed for me an attitude that would inform my life design.

i have been to many places and have met and cooked for many people. hunger enrolled me into the school of life, and there i met many friends called serendipities, or to say it more appropriately and fittingly, napadpad ako dito. in the process, i would unravel a different story of colonization. one that is made of love, desire and longing. this is the story that i would like to tell. slowly slowly. the history of cooking.

to be continued…

photo: Mari Sierra. taken from Spice Routes, performance by Pepe Dayaw, Entretempo Gallery, Berlin, 2014

Categorized as notes

By Pepe Dayaw

performance artist and choreographer from Manila, based in Berlin / Brandenburg

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