Doreen Fernandez books now in demand | Inquirer Lifestyle
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Doreen Fernandez books now in demand

New York Times calls her Filipino food’s ‘greatest champion’ who paved the way for the mainstreaming of PH cuisine

Last July 30, an article in the New York Times remembered the late Filipino academic, writer and cultural advocate in a lengthy article recalling her career, her writing, and even her discreet political leanings during martial law—when she sheltered leftist rebels, even as she was accused of writing “bourgeois” subjects.

The article, “She Was Filipino Food’s Greatest Champion. Now Her Work Is Finding New Fans,” was written by Ligaya Mishan, and features a beautiful black-and-white portrait of Fernandez by Stella Kalaw.

The author notes how Filipino cuisine, once subjected to negative stereotypes and known only to homesick Filipinos living in the US, is finally being brought to mainstream attention by “a new generation of chefs and restaurateurs” inspired by Fernandez, who died in 2002 at 67. She succumbed to pneumonia on a visit to New York.

Several of US-based chefs and restaurateurs are mentioned, such as Charles Olalia of Ma’am Sir in Los Angeles, Nicole Ponseca of Maharlika and Jeepney in New York, and Genevieve Villamora of Bad Saint in Washington.

Mishan also reports that, due to renewed interest in her work, both Dutch publisher Brill and Filipino publishing house Anvil are reissuing her book “Tikim,” a collection of essays published in 1994.

Young Filipino chefs and foodies are actually scouring bookstores and the internet for Fernandez’s books, which “were published only in the Philippines and are almost entirely out of print… Today, copies can command more than $700, if they are available at all.”

Fernandez had a food column in the Inquirer starting in 1986, “In Good Taste,” which ran for 16 years.

Some writers and foodies have pointed out a rather glaring omission, however.

“Why is Purple Yam aka Cendrillon not mentioned in this article?!” wrote Labrador from New York in the comment section on the article in the New York Times website, referring to the restaurant of Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa that virtually put Filipino food on the map, and which closed in 2009.

“Romi (sic) and Amy Dorotan opened Cendrillon on Mercer Street in NYC in the early 2000s. They received a Times review and more. I was introduced to Filipino food through Cendrillon and have loved it ever since. They were trailblazers in NYC.” —ALYA B. HONASAN