I began my day expecting that I would just learn about the technicalities of creating wine and olive oil and while that part was true, this excursion gave me insight into so much more as well. Through the guidance of our experts Albert and Antonio, I realized that wine and olive oil hold a purpose of not only consumption but also of connection to the community that it feeds. During this day’s excursion I found myself continuously reflecting on my conflicting identities as a first generation Filipino-American who succumbs to the consumer lifestyle of the U.S. while also celebrating meals in a traditionally Filipino way.
At the Massana Noya winery Albert, our tour guide, had an intense passion for the wine component of his Catalonian culture and his enthusiasm was contagious. His eyes lit up when explaining the process of a grape vine developing and eventually transforming into wine through months and months of waiting, growing, and fermenting. Strangely, Albert sharing his knowledge of grape vine harvesting reminded me of my dad’s own stories about his life in rural Philippines. He would describe his method of picking rice and harvesting coconut trees with a huge smile, reminiscing on those backbreaking days that though tiresome still gave him great pleasure and a sense of accomplishment. I recognized a similar passion for local foods through Albert’s narrative and especially fascinating were his strong thumbs that had become massive due to years of work on the Catalonian grape vineyards.
After our trek through the grape vineyard we took a lunch break, actually more of a lunch feast. Appetizer after appetizer lined our long table and for over an hour we all were able to savor the taste of these fresh dishes we were enjoying in between sips of wine and entertaining conversations. This experience made me reflect on my Filipino identity and how we have a similar respect for and celebration of food. Every Filipino party consists of many family members, karaoke, and most importantly FOOD. Dining room tables are not used as a seat-at-the-table kind of deal as they are in Catalonia. Rather, they are used to align the many trays of Filipino dishes including some of my favorites: sinigang, dinuguan, and a huge lechon (whole-roast pig) smack dab in the middle of the table.
As a first-generation American I juggle between being Filipino and being American. When thinking about my latter identity, I could not come up with an American agricultural comparison for Catalonian culture. While the wine and olive oil produced in Catalonia would many times be consumed right in their community as stated by Antonio himself, the millions of acres of corn fields in Illinois will mainly not be consumed by the residents of Illinois. Just in that comparison I can see that Catalonia has much stronger ties between their food and their sense of community than does my home state of Illinois.
At his Catalonian olive oil mill, Antonio himself described his love for olive oil and the more intimate, romantic way of producing olive oil through traditional means. On the other hand, the capitalistic ideals of the United States places pressure on farmers to let go of tradition and move towards more efficient methods of production even if those methods use machines that not only pollute but also distance the farmer from the personal acts of agriculture. Perhaps Catalonia could teach us a lesson about returning to our roots for sake of tradition, quality, and community.