“It is our connection through food and shared stories that we may reclaim our past in order to move towards a liberated future.” – Rooted Recipes Project
Filipino food has always been my primary vehicle for developing connections with others. The other day, I described a few popular Filipino dishes to someone I had just met, and I immediately felt like I opened their eyes to the complexities and power behind Filipino food, culture, and storytelling.
It’s exciting to see folks within our community take the matter into their own hands and bridge food, identity, and storytelling as a means to drive social change. Kubo sat down with one of the co-founders of the Rooted Recipes Project (RRP), Kim Boral, to learn more about the “why” behind the project and her connections to Filipino food.
As one of the former board members of the Filipino Food Movement, Kim co-founded RRP to create spaces for people to connect through food and storytelling to reclaim our histories and work towards a liberated future.
On her childhood and food as a form of communication:
I grew up in Oxnard, California. My dad is from Bicol, and my mom is Visayan, and my connection to food starts with our family. Beyond the basics of eating and cooking, food is central to how we gather. When it comes to verbal communication, my family isn’t the type to verbally share how we feel, but we show how we feel based on the time we spend in the kitchen together. For any family gathering or birthday party, we always had to help in some way. I remember separating lumpia wrappers and purposely tearing them so that we could eat fried lumpia wrappers.
When it comes to communication, sometimes it’s hard to learn the dialects of our parents. On the other hand, food can be easily picked up, and it’s an easy way to share our culture with non-Filipinos.
On role reversal in the kitchen:
Now that I’m an adult, my cousins and I are now the ones cooking, and I’m telling my mom to take a break in the kitchen. I have a lot more appreciation for the work that our parents, aunts, uncles did in the kitchen. I want to document all of our Filipino recipes and make sure that we can pass it onto future generations. It’s not something that our family has actively done, but I feel a responsibility to pass this knowledge onto younger generations.
On the Filipino Food Movement:
I developed a career working in youth development and higher education and re-engaged with the Filipino American community through the Filipino Food Movement. I started as a volunteer and ended up on the board, so I centered my community work on food. When we were first starting the Filipino Food Movement, we were reflecting on the state of Filipinos in the culinary world, and we were trying to get Filipino chefs noticed. This work is about access and telling the food stories of people who don’t usually get recognized and noticed.
On starting RRP:
All four of us on the RRP team have a Southeast Asian background, and we come with our unique stories and experiences. Thuy, one of the co-founders of RRP, reached out to me and a few other folks to see if we wanted to submit a proposal for a community meal at the 2018 United States of Asian American Festival. I said yes, because the theme of regenerative healing resonated with me.
Food is a conduit for healing – it’s not just about the food, but it’s about the stories and histories behind the dishes. We can reclaim stories as a way to heal our communities’ traumas and histories.
We designed this first meal based on different food traditions from Filipino, Vietnamese, and Lao cultures. We shared the stories behind each dish, and it was a way for us to highlight what other folks were doing in the community. Western culture tends to highlight a single chef, but for us, everyone plays a part in how we understand food.
After the response we got after this first meal, we realized that it’s work that we should continue to do, so we’ve held four events so far. We centered our most recent event on the Lunar New Year. The theme was radical joy, and we celebrated ourselves and our community as an act of resistance. It was a big house party with food, performers, DJs, stand-up comedians, and dancers.
Storytelling is an act of resistance. Through RRP events, we’ve heard a lot of stories, because folks start to remember stories associated with various dishes.
For example, folks make connections between the dishes and their caretakers (e.g., grandparents, parents) because their caretakers cooked these dishes when they were sick or would make a specific dish for their birthday.
On the next RRP event on June 9th:
Our next event is about Collective Memories at the 2019 United States of Asian America Festival. We’ll share the teachings of community leaders, bring in food practices and traditions, and use practices and tools to build solidarity across our communities.
This meal is unique because it’ll be interactive and we’re hosting it at the Hummingbird Farm in the Excelsior District [of San Francisco]. Everyone is going to play a part in creating the space and the actual food. We’ll have learning stations so that folks can help us finish the dishes.
On getting involved in RRP:
No matter your experience or background, there’s always a way to contribute to the work we’re doing. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to volunteer for our June 9th event!
Purchase a ticket to the Collective Memories event here.