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Pigafetta's Philippine Picnic: Culinary Encounters During the First Circumnavigation, 1519-1522

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by as retold by Felice Prudente Sta. Maria
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This singular work of scholarship expands on a key first person account of European exploration to reveal much about shipboard victuals and early interactions between seafaring adventurers and local peoples in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Antonio Pigafetta was an Italian, trained in geography and cartography, who was one of just 18 survivors of the first sea voyage around the world. The expedition, led initially by Ferdinand Magellan, left Spain in 1519 seeking a westward route to the spice islands of modern day Indonesia. Along the way, its members would encounter starvation, malnutrition, and foods that no Europeans had ever recorded eating.

Magellan’s death in what are now the Philippines was the result of battle precipitated by his demands for food from local villages, but it is just one example that Sta. Maria, a dedicated scholar of Filipino and culinary historian, highlights using Pigafetta’s journals as original sources.  She supplements them with other sources as ancient as the thirteenth century along with twenty-first century archeological discoveries. Her endnotes are detailed and extensive, touching on subjects as diverse as the conjugation of root words in Philippine languages and sixteenth-century Italian coinage.

Also included, as an kind of extended supplement, is a glossary of food terminology drawn from 19th century dictionaries of the Cebuano language used in the southwest Philippines, providing a glimpse at possible ways that local culinary culture had changed since Pigafetta’s time and, of course, how it has change in the more than 100 years since.

This is a compact book, 7.5″ x 5.25″, 160 pages, cleanly designed but set in small type, likely 8 points. Paperback.

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