by Chevalier Wesley Jefferies
On a warm spring evening, members of the Bailliage of Greater Washington D.C. gathered for a traditional Kinamot feast at Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly in Rockville, Maryland, hosted by Chef/Owner Javier Fernandez.
The bailliage first experienced a Kinamot feast with an at-home event in January 2021. Then, Chef Fernandez and his team delivered all of the ingredients for the extravagant dinner to members’ homes and the bailliage gathered on Zoom to share the experience. This time, diners were excited to gather in person for this uniquely Filipino culinary and social tradition.
As members of the Chaine arrived at the restaurant, they were greeted by long tables covered in banana leaves on which a magnificent spread of some twenty traditional Filipino foods was presented on a foundation of steamed rice, a traditional Filipino side dish. The centerpiece of the feast was the lechon, a succulent roasted pork belly, glistening with a crisp, golden-brown crust. The lechon was joined by an array of traditional Filipino dishes including chicken inasal, a pre-colonial dish involving stewing chicken in vinegar; daing, a dried fish dish; and longaniza, a Filipino variant of Spanish chorizo. Vegetable, sides, and sauces completed the exciting dinner.
Kinamot is a traditional Filipino feast where food is spread out on a communal table and diners use their hands to eat. It’s an ancient tradition that dates back to pre-colonial times when it was a symbol of unity and fraternity among the indigenous peoples of the Filipino archipelago. The modern feast is now interwoven with the richly textured history of Filipino culture and cuisine combining Hispanic influences from Spain and Mexico with indigenous Austronesian roots.
As members of the Chaine dove into the feast with their bare hands, Chef Javier explained the origins and significance of Kinamot in Filipino culture, as well as the unique preparation for that evening’s feast. He explained that Filipino foods for Kinamot are best served and eaten as soon as they are prepared, so the kitchen had a tight two-hour window in which to prepare the multitude of varied ingredients that comprised meal.
As the Kinamot came to a close, Bailli Judith Mazza presented Chef Javier with a commemorative Chaine plate to mark the bailliage’ visit and thank him for hosting the bailliage for a unique and unforgettable culinary experience and for sharing this tradition of the Philippines. The evening’s Kinamot was a testament to the power of food and tradition to bringing people together across cultures.