Juana Manahan-Yupangco to launch Mesa ni Misis Cookbook

Published October 20, 2020, 9:24 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

You just ‘Juana’ eat healthy

Juana Manahan-Yupangco

There’s a new Cookbook in town, and it’s Juana Manahan-Yupangco delivering on her promise to go beyond her website, FB, and IG platforms, and gifting us with a “hold it in your hands” Mesa ni Misis Cookbook. Honestly, if Juana hadn’t begun her culinary advocacy in late 2017, we’d have had to invent her, the cookbook and the vision behind it, for this pandemic (and post-pandemic) time. It checks all the boxes nicely in terms of relevance, urgency, and social responsibility without even trying. It’s the same message Juana has been espousing for three years now, but it’s suddenly acquired greater resonance.

For those in the dark about Mesa ni Misis, it’s all about promoting the health benefits of local vegetables by creating delicious, affordable recipes for the whole family. Without sacrificing taste and variety, Mesa ni Misis believes that the best in nutritional value, freshness, and affordability can be gained by utilizing local market produce—and thereby, directly supporting local farmers, our wet markets, and the domestic produce sections of our favorite supermarkets. Juana’s rule of thumb when creating her recipes is that P250-P300 should easily feed six persons.

For Juana, it’s about reinventing our lifestyle eating habits and discovering the diversity and versatility of our local veggies. The Mesa ni Misis Cookbook can be found and/or ordered at National Bookstore, Shopee, and Lazada. I know Juana would like to thank Solane and Maxicare, along with Midea, Nutri Asia & Melawares for helping making this book a reality. The cookbook contains 40 recipes. Beyond the native Filipino dishes, there are a number of foreign dishes. Uniformly, the recipes have all been tweaked and reinvented to use Filipino vegetables, without sacrificing taste.

What this means is that you’ll find innovative stuff like a Kalabasa Paella, a Kangkong Dip (with the kangkong taking the place of spinach or asparagus), a Vegan Mushroom Alfredo Pasta, a Sitaw Seed Shepherd’s Pie, a plant-based Mechado, and a Kamote Rendang. If you’re one of the titas hooked on Korean telenovelas, and want to add to the ambiance while watching, Juana has Vegan Japche and Korean Cauliflower Wings (as seen in photo). That’s the kind of imagination that abounds within the recipes gathered for this first Mesa ni Misis Cookbook.

Vegan Japche and Korean Cauliflower Wings

And mind you, Juana eschews labels and heavy-handed proselytizing. She’s got an easy attitude, not insisting you go Vegan or Vegetarian. She does preach the plant-based angle, but her cookbook is there to help make our lives healthier. If you want to mix her dishes with fish or meat, it’s not like she’s going to reprimand you or take the cookbook away. I recall how in the early days of Mesa ni Misis, I attended her collaboration with Chef Luis Chikiamco of Flame at Discovery Primea. One dish presented that day was the very French Lentil Stew. What Juana and Luis did was use our native monggo, and substituted shiitake Mushrooms for the traditional sausage balls. Knowing I’m a carnivore, Chef Luis had added ‘Lardon’ (fatty Bacon cubes) to my soup. Juana just laughed, “commanding” me to eat quickly, so the others attending the event wouldn’t catch on that I was “cheating.”

Cousins Juana and Alex M. Eduque

Aware of the literature and trend of treating such produce as kale and quinoa as “powerfoods,” Juana champions our local veggies and plants as just as nutritious, plus we can source them fresh, and they’re so much easier on the pocket. Her cookbook is filled with factoids about our local produce, their health benefits, how to store them and extend their shelf life. She’s done seminars and cooking demos at the barangay level, knowing these are precisely the audience that would benefit the most if they adopted a healthier diet for their families, and could do so without stretching their spending power and possibly, even saving in the long run.

During the start of the pandemic, Juana took it upon herself to make Mesa ni Misis relevant in whatever small way possible. Her Market ni Misis was a mobile palengke organized to bring produce to the barangays and communities hard hit by the lockdown and under very restricted mobility. It was of great benefit to the farming people who could rely on her to help sell their crops. Her Kusina Connection was her effort to help the various frontliners, and deliver meals to Covid heroes. It could have been easy for Juana to just sit back, and treat the ECQ as a period when staying put at home would be the norm, but that’s not just Juana. Even while safety dictated that she practice health protocols, she mobilized resources to make these Mesa ni Misis initiatives happen.
So now we circle back to the cookbook.

While Juana readily admits a number of the recipes and information can be found online, she was surprised by how many Mesa ni Misis followers had mentioned that a physical cookbook, compiling a number of recipes, and to be stored, ever-ready in their kitchen, would be just the thing. With an SRP of P250, it’s a steal. It just might be the first step to turning a healthier, new “leaf” (pun intended) at your home.

Vegan Japche and Korean Cauliflower Wings
Market ni Misis, Kusina Connection.