Stories on food and life

Editor’s Note: Today, The Manila Times Lifestyle welcomes Kay’s Kitchen as a new column to the “Flavors” section. Its author is Kay Calpo Lugtu who is an active nutrition advocate. She is vegan by choice and still prepares regular meals for her family. She studied at the International School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management (ISCHAM) and has taken food and nutrition-related courses locally and overseas. She is also Chief Operating Officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her other advocacies include nation-building, education and sustainability.


Food plays a special role in Filipinos’ lives with every milestone and special occasion celebrated with food.

Every dish that is served is not just food per se though, because much thought and consideration go into it before deciding on a menu to cook at home or what to order. For college graduation, would it be the graduate’s favorite steak house or the best go-to place for seafood? For weddings, will the bride and groom prefer to include a charcuterie board of cheeses and cold cuts as part of the cocktail setup that will be Instagram-worthy? For Sunday gatherings with families that usually go potluck, shall I make that tiramisu I learned in Florence while backpacking and bring it for dessert?

Indeed, food is a key element in prompting conversations that form part of the enjoyment of meals together. It is like a dance, only that the dance cannot be danced alone; it requires company, an engagement and interaction that then creates stories which would serve as anchors as we go through life.

Don’t get me wrong — I have dined alone and have created many stories in the process as well. However, simply put, food is truly best shared and experienced collectively. When experienced well, food is like a fountain of happy emotions that would fill your memory bank to the brim.

Such is the intention of this column. In this age of convenience and preferences, there are so many ways to eat — hurriedly, slowly and “savoring-ly” or even insignificantly. All of these carry with them stories and narratives, especially now that Covid-19 quarantines have also brought out the best of us in the kitchen.

With the lockdowns keeping us put in our homes, we have all spent time making home cooked dishes. I imagine so many of us having a lot of “pandemic cooking” stories to talk about, as is the desire this column to share the stories behind beloved dishes and the inspiration and influences that shaped its process and taste.

Some hinge on travel when they think of food; some on family memories and some on other things still. But as a proud Filipino I would like to showcase the many sustainable dishes that we have and how a lot of our natural resources can be creatively used for preparations that are not only healthy but also accessible. Sustainability and accessibility are two things that I hold dear.

To end this maiden column, I leave you with the words “eat well and be well” — an experience we will share together from here on.


Email the author at or follow @kaycalpolugtu and @aplateofbahaykubo.