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Foodways

My latest research project explores the history and culture of Filipino Louisiana through foodways. Fascination with the foodway of Filipinos in Louisiana was documented in 1883 when a New Orleans newspaper sent an expedition to the southern shore of Lake Borgne to investigate the Filipino village on Bayou St. Malo. Lafcadio Hearn, in Harper’s Weekly, reported that the Filipino fisherman “live largely upon raw fish, seasoned with vinegar and oil.” Hearn was describing kinilaw, a Filipino dish that predated Spanish colonization of the Philippine archipelago in 1565. The fishermen used redfish and sheepshead they caught in seines to prepare a Filipino dish with Louisiana ingredients.

The goal of the project is to understand the foodways of Filipino Louisiana across three centuries. To this end, I employ a variety of methods.

I consider how Filipinos at St. Malo in the nineteenth century used the resources of Lake Borgne to make Filipino food. I shuck oysters fished out of the same waters and make kinilaw with ingredients available in the nineteenth century.

I participate in community events and document my observations. I’ve helped organize community events that featured food, including potlucks, kamayans, and food festivals with local Filipino chefs.

I prepare the recipes of my ancestors and consider how after generations they changed to incorporate New Orleans foodways. I cooked adobo and sotanghon, two dishes my grandmother prepared for us.

I consider what the communities at Manila Village cooked with the shrimp they dried, how the prepared the ducks and deer they hunted. I prepare deer kaldereta and teal adobo, seeking the balance of ingredients that make the best recipes.

I explore the gardens of Filipino Louisiana– the raised garden beds at St. Malo and the backyard gardens of Filipinos across Louisiana. I grow a kitchen garden and explore cooking with fresh ingredients like sweet potato leaves, mulanggay, and saluyot.

I explore the intersections of paella and jambalaya, moongo beans and red beans, in the Filipino kitchens of New Orleans. I consider how the Creole, Cajun, and Italian foodways of the city impacted Filipino cooks.

My research takes place in the garden and kitchen, at galas and birthday parties. I study Filipino, Filipino American, Creole, and Cajun cookbooks. I search for lists of ingredients available for sale in the French Market in New Orleans in the nineteenth century and menus of restaurants Filipinos frequented.

The project will result in a manuscript that LSU Press will publish. I hope to complete the manuscript by the summer of 2025.