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Art and chefs collab for a hipster Christmas dinner

There’s nothing traditional about the corner space in The Collective, the one with handpainted signs done in vintage fonts and little surprises lurking in every nook like mismatched teacups, an old park bench made into a lamp, and lots and lots of plants. Uses for things are always turned on their heads at The Office of Culture and Design (also known as The OCD), so why not Christmas dinner as well? It was a timely event that OCD headmistress Clara Balaguer planned around her latest visiting artist, Xavier Mañosa, a ceramics artist from Barcelona who gave a series of lectures and workshops at UP. With the students’ final works — clay renderings of a typical Noche Buena feast — displayed on a dining table as a backdrop to the real dinner organized by Collective neighbor Ritual, the dinner guests sat down to a locavore meal prepared by chefs Tom Bascon and Erwin Lizarondo.

The gathering served as a crowd-funding event for the worthiest idea pitched by the handful of social entrepreneurs in attendance. In between bites of kesong puti tortillas, pako salad, local red snapper served with squash blossoms and sigarilyos, turon dipped in the best tablea tsolokate Bea Misa of Ritual has found in the country as well as an amazing pandesal made with pork lard, we listened to a short presentation on each project and why it deserved to win the P30,000 kitty. A violin-playing child represented an appeal for musical mentorship funds. Someone addressed the need for more affordable burials by proposing woven rattan caskets. Another one offered to cull photographic services for the great number of people who cannot afford photo IDs for job applications.

The ideas that were tossed around the table all had the potential to be innovative, but the winning one came from JJ Yulo of food culture organization Pinoy Eats World. He wants to purchase a brick oven to be used by the community kitchen at Siliman University. “The point is for people to relearn how to cook from scratch, to learn from each other, and to connect more with local farmers and purveyors,” he explains. This is a step in the larger movement to bring “organic food” to the people, organic in its most natural sense — cooking without the use of sachets and powdered seasonings, basically bringing real food back and breaking the dependency on processed, artificial and inferior-tasting food.

While the 30 or so guests filled up on wine and good cheer, there was an even better feeling knowing that this was a meal that will beget more meals. Fellowship and food will be payed forward.

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