Food Philosophy: Minahasa’s Tinutuan Porridge

Do you believe that food also has a philosophy? A Roger Scruton’s article which titled “Eating the World: The Philosophy of Food”, showed that food can be examined from multi-perspectives—economic, social, cultural, even moral and spiritual.* Maybe we can understand this food philosophy idea by examining an example. Minahasa’s Tinutuan Porridge probably can be a good one.

Minahasa is the largest ethnic group in North Sulawesi. Minahasans people known for their hospitality. Besides knowing the beautiful culture and nature, it is incomplete if we don’t taste the Minahasan traditional foods. Hot and spicy are the main characteristics of Minahasan foods. They call it as rica which means chili. But the most interesting about the food is Minahasan likes extreme culinary. They eat ‘almost’ everything. There is even a local joke that says Minahasan eat all those have legs, except human and table. They eat bats, forest rodents, snakes, dogs, cats and other animals that you’ve never imagined!

In North Sulawesi, different with majority areas in the west and middle Indonesia, Christian becomes the dominant religion. According to Statistics of the local government, the amount of Christians reached 75% of the population.** In consumption activities, especially eating, Christian doesn’t really have restriction about food, relatively different with Muslim—the religion that professed by most of Indonesians. This fact supports the eating habit of Minahasan. The visitors which come from outside North Sulawesi choose seafood most of the time, since North Sulawesi also famous with their sea richness. They can also choose Tinutuan porridge, a typical food of Minahasan.

The name of Tinutuan comes from the Tuutu (or Tu’tu) word in Minahasan language which means porridge. Tinutuan itself means ‘mixed’ or bercampur in Bahasa Indonesia. But Tinutuan is not only name for this food. It is also called as Peda’al in South Minahasa, and Sinede’an in Tondano, another region of this province.*** In Manado, the capital city of North Sulawesi, this food called as Manado porridge. This name seems more popular than Tinutuan name in the outside of North Sulawesi although it is not the original name.

Different with the other dishes, Tinutuan porridge contains no meat. Rice becomes the main ingredient of the porridge since it is also the main food for most Indonesians. Besides rice, there are only vegetables and tubers which become the ingredients of this porridge. They are spinach, pumpkin, cassava, sweet corn, basil leaves, water spinach, and many mores. It is probably not so easy to identify each of them. Because of its healthy ingredients, for the Minahasan, Tinutuan porridge becomes the main menu at the end of January and early February to neutralize the fatty foods that they consumed on Christmas and New year-eve.

Its ingredients actually describe the natural resources of North Sulawesi. Agriculture becomes the mainstay of this province. From that point, Tinutuan could be seen also as an identity of North Sulawesi. It really shows what North Sulawesi has. Talking about identity, the word ‘Tinutuan’ since 2005 became the motto of Manado City which means all ethnics can be assembled in this city.****

Besides that, Tinutuan porridge becomes the media to improve the relationship among the society. In the past time, Tinutuan usually served at a group of farmers who worked together to complete processing of agricultural land or called mapalus— a cooperation system of Minahasan. It served on long tables are paved with banana leaves. Now, this role is still held by Tinutuan porridge because its ingredients makes it can be eaten by all religious groups in Indonesia. Tinutuan porridge unites the locals and visitors.

In various parts of Manado and other places in North Sulawesi, Tinutuan porridge becomes the source of income for the people. There are so many stalls and restaurants which sell Tinutuan porridge as the main menu. And the famous are at Wakeke Street in downtown Manado.

Finally, through the story of Tinutuan porridge, the idea of food philosophy asks us to believe that food is more than nourishment, and eating activity is more than consumption. There are so many stories behind the food. So, are you interested to examine your today’s dinner food philosophy?

* See Roger Scruton, “Eating the World: The Philosophy of Food”, , downloaded on May 3rd, 2012.
** Badan Pusat Statistik Sulawesi Utara, Sulawesi Utara dalam Angka 2011, BPS, Manado, 2011, (no page number).
***——, “Tinutuan, Bukan Sekedar Rasa”, , downloaded on May 9th, 2012.
**** ——, “Tinutuan”, , downloaded on May 9th, 2012.

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