|Culture, Environment, and Food to Prevent Vitamin A Deficiency (International Nutrition Foundation for Developing Countries - INFDC, 1997, 208 pages)|
|Part III. Assessing natural food sources of Vitamin A in the community|
|4. The Philippines: The Aetas Canawan during wet and dry seasons|
The typical meal of an Aeta would probably vary depending on the season of the year, whether he or she is at the village, near the fields, or in the forest. Age, of course, would also be a determinant, since all infants are breastfed. There was only one infant in the entire village who was not breastfed at the time of the field work, and this was because his mother became mentally ill soon after giving birth. Weaning takes place when the child begins to have teeth and begins to reach out for food ("nagsisimula nang umabot-abot ng pagkain"). Once the child starts raking solids, he is fed whatever the older members of the household are having.
The Aetas start the day by going to their fields. They may take a midmorning meal consisting of coffee made from burnt rice, and any leftovers from the previous evening's supper. The women, children, and older men who are left behind in the village have lunch at midday. This would consist of boiled rice and boiled or broiled vegetables, again usually leftovers. The main meal would be taken at dusk. The men and women who have returned from the fields bring home vegetables from their fields or plants growing in the wild (such as mushrooms) or, when lucky, birds or fish caught on the way. These are cooked by roasting or boiling and are eaten with rice. Meals are prepared with a minimum of utensils and little seasoning (usually salt, and occasionally bagoong or salted fish paste). There are times when a meal would consist only of rice and salt.
Seasonal variation would be reflected in the types of vegetables available for cooking. Those who stay near their fields with minimal cooking implements may opt to partake of foods from the wild (ferns, fruits, mushrooms) the availability of which will also be affected by the season.
More elaborate meal preparation is done during feasts, held to celebrate events, such as the opening of a new school or the Baptism of a child. On these occasions, noodles and meats with sauces may be prepared. The recipes, however, are of Tagalog origin.
The typical meal during the dry season would consist of rice (provided there is money to buy it from the market, or leftover grain stored from the previous harvest) and whatever vegetables are in season (mustasa, munggo, pechay). The vegetables would most likely be boiled. With luck, there could be freshwater fish or wild birds, either of which would be roasted. As their economy becomes more and more market-oriented, however, fish and birds when caught might well be brought to the market for cash to buy rice. Fruits like mangoes, carristel, cashew, black plums, Spanish plums, star apple, and pineapple are plentiful during the summer, so that it is common to see children walking about munching on some fruit.
Rice is scarce during the wet season that is also the planting season. When money is tight, or travel to the market impossible, the people turn to alternative staples, such as camote, kalot, and boloy (all tubers). Fortunately, vegetables are plentiful at this time, as are ferns and mushrooms. Fruits are limited to those available year-round, such as papayas or bananas. However, after a bad storm, even these are hard to find.