We Californians are all too familiar with the issue of shark’s fin soup. It’s a priced delicacy that’s been a highlight of our visits to Chinese gourmet restaurants. But that was before we were made fully aware of how shark’s fin was being sourced.
This soup is made with fins that are sliced off sharks in open waters. The fish are then tossed back into the water, where they can drown or bleed to death. Many of the fins served in the United States come from endangered shark species, according to a recent study by Stony Brook University and the Field Museum in Chicago.
Then there’s foie gras.
Foie gras, a delicacy made from fatty liver of the goose or duck, is usually served in high-end restaurants. How it gets to your plate is a different story altogether. The birds are restrained while a long metal tube is inserted down their throats, through which pounds of corn are force-fed to them several times a day. After about a month of force-feeding, they're slaughtered.
Back in the Philippines, as a food connoisseur, I’ve always fancied indigenous dishes, especially those that represent time-honored tradition.
But there is one popular Filipino delicacy that I won’t eat: pinikpikan.
Pinikpikan is a dish from the mountains of the Cordillera region. Pinikpikan comes from the Ilocano word, pikpi, which loosely translated, means to hit repeatedly.
This dish is prepared by beating a live chicken with a stick prior to slaughtering and cooking. The beating bruises the chicken's flesh, bringing blood to its surface, which is said to improve the flavor after cooking.
It’s hard to ignore this cruel preparation process while partaking of what locals and tourists claim to be a unique-tasting chicken.
Unfortunately, preparing pinikpikan is a longtime tradition and there seems to be no stopping this process, despite the fact that it is in violation of
the Philippine Animal Welfare Act of 1998.
The law states:
“It shall be unlawful for any person to torture any animal, to neglect to provide adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat any animal or to subject any dog or horse to dogfights or horsefights, kill or cause or procure to be tortured or deprived of adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat or use the same in research or experiments not expressly authorized by the Committee on Animal Welfare.”
Unlike California, politicians in the Philippines are less willing to enforce laws that go against established, time-honored tradition. Is it any wonder then that while cockfighting is now illegal in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, it is still very much alive in the Philippines — legally and illegally? It’s a tradition that has existed even before Magellan discovered the Philippines.
The challenge with pinikpikan is that it involves cuisine that has been the source of pride and sustenance for many generations in the Cordilleras.
Pinikpikan is no longer unique to the Cordilleras. Chefs across the country have incorporated this dish into their gourmet menus.
Not for this home chef. Ever.
Rene Astudillo is a writer, book author and blogger and has recently retired from more than two decades of nonprofit community work in the Bay Area. He spends his time between California and the Philippines.
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