Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Taste of the Philippines?

There's been a lot of buzz on the Internet lately around Anthony Bourdain's show called No Reservations on the Travel Channel. The show recently featured cuisine from the Philippines, where Bourdain really got some home-cooked food from those who make the same dishes daily. After looking at his travel itinerary and reading his own qualms with his visit, it seems as though Bourdain got a taste of only three large cities. Manila, Angeles City and Cebu were food stops and locations of host restaurants. Some highlights were the various pork dishes - which he seemed to enjoy since he named the Philippines #1 on his Hierarchy of Pork, his opinion listing the best tasting and best cooked pork.

Did anyone else see the show? What did you think? Do you think this is a step towards visibility for Pilipina/o Americans? Given the anthropological nature of the show, is this "white-man-exploring-a-native-culture" narrative valid? Are Pilipina/os being further typecasted or honored in culinary arts as chefs, cooks or servants?

There were times when only Pilipino men could join come to the United States if they joined the navy as petty officers, band musicians, firemen and then only as stewards, mess attendants and cooks. As the linking between talented Pilipinos and their food becomes more evident in popular culture, it may be important to think about people like Pilipino American Dale Talde, who was a contestant on a Bravo's Top Chef who said that Filipino cuisine is "the next big thing that's gonna catch." Bourdain has caught on and built a strong Pilipina/o fan base with No Reservations (have you seen the intense amount of fan videos on YouTube?).

On Top Chef, Talde even made a halo-halo dessert dish! How's that for recognition and representation? But then think about when former U.S. President George W. Bush said to Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, "I am reminded of the great talent - of the Philippine-Americans when I eat dinner at the White House," alluding to his Pilipino chef. What does this mean?

Pilipinas/os are known and often praised for their food and work in the kitchen. Will we only be great when we are recognized at someone else's say-so in front of press and media? "You are what you eat," right? So are we just that?

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