On the finish of 2019, Rachel Lucero made it her New 12 months’s decision to deal with a distinct Filipino recipe every month to enhance her understanding of the delicacies she grew up with. However what began as a private undertaking to easily grasp 12 recipes has as an alternative advanced into three seasons of the Sago Show, a collection of snack-size movies that commemorate traditional Filipino recipes with narration by Lucero—the place she discusses the relevance of colonization, imperialism, and local weather change interwoven into every meals historical past.
In not solely rising extra snug with cooking a roster of dishes like arroz caldo and pork sisig, every season acts as a “syllabus” of essential pillars to each Filipino delicacies and a deeper understanding of id throughout the diaspora. One season explores the impression of imperialism on Filipino delicacies, as evidenced by the now-iconic bottles of banana ketchup invented during a World War II tomato shortage, whereas one other zooms in on the worldwide complexities of palm oil and high consumer demand throughout the coconut farming trade. It’s as if every video serves as an prolonged recipe description—unbound by concise phrase counts, and with hyperlinks for additional studying and dialogue within the feedback part.
We not too long ago caught up on Zoom to debate the present’s evolution, how that modified Lucero’s personal notion of id, and eventually seeing respect for halo-halo in meals media.
What impressed the launch of the Sago Present?
It was actually late 2019, and I used to be fascinated about what I needed my New 12 months’s decision to be. As an alternative of a decision, I made a decision to do a undertaking that might assist me develop extra of an understanding of my Filipino id. I knew from some conferences and workshops I had gone to round Asian-American id that, to ensure that me to do that improvement, it needed to be an intention I set for myself. I actually wanted to push myself to study extra about our historical past and do extra reflecting. And so I assumed, “Okay, I wish to cook dinner, however I don’t know quite a bit about Filipino dishes.” So I made a decision that, for my undertaking, I used to be going to cook dinner a distinct Filipino dish every month and study its historical past.
Rising up, I all the time needed to have my very own cooking present. It’s actually humorous. Once I was in first grade, we had this project to shoot a video of ourselves cooking something—which is form of humorous, to have six-year-olds cooking on the stovetop—however I selected champorado. My mother was positively stage-mom-ing within the background. However I liked doing that, and after that project, each time I might be making meals or fixing up one thing, I might simply discuss to myself and fake I used to be on a cooking present. I all the time liked cooking, and in addition the instructing aspect of cooking.
How do you go about selecting which dishes to function? Is there a protracted working listing of recipes that finally you need to make?
Once I got down to do my first 12 recipes at the start of 2020, I had chosen considerably randomly based mostly on my favourite issues to eat. The first one on the list was adobo, the traditional. I began out making adobo, and it was quite a lot of FaceTime with my mother. I used to be placing my telephone as much as the sauce so she may inform me if it was proper or flawed. However once I talked to her extra in regards to the historical past of it, she wasn’t as certain, and my dad wasn’t both. They each guessed it was introduced by the Spanish. And once I began to do analysis on adobo, I discovered that my assumption that it was introduced by the Spanish was utterly flawed.
It was actually enlightening to see all of this analysis and proof that cooking in vinegar, which is what adobo is, was carried out by indigenous folks earlier than the Spanish arrived. They had been already cooking meat in vinegar. That actually pushed me to alter how I needed to method the Sago Present. At first, I used to be form of like, “Yeah, it’s going to be 12 recipes, and I’m going to offer you some enjoyable info and findings about adobo.” However my preliminary studying about adobo altered my perspective, in that I needed to actually look beneath the floor of quite a lot of the meals histories, as a result of now I had this lingering query: How does this tie again to colonization? How does this tie again to American imperialism? What are the indigenous histories behind this dish? I pushed myself quite a bit additional after I did the adobo episode, as a result of I knew I wasn’t going to be happy simply giving a couple of “enjoyable info” right here or there—that there was actually one thing that I needed to say, and one thing that I needed to study on a deeper stage than what I got down to do.
I really feel like, usually, anytime I see adobo recipes, they’ll all the time point out that is the nationwide dish of the Philippines. That’s all the time simply been a truth I’ve accepted, however by no means actually questioned why, and what does it imply to be a nationwide dish, to signify a complete nation, when there are such a lot of regional variations and experiences?
The adobo instance in itself—that it’s from pre-Spanish colonial occasions, however all of us see it as a Spanish dish—I actually assume that’s a microcosm of how I used to be myself as a Filipino and the way I used to be our tradition as a colonized one. And that was it. It was then I spotted that I needed to look additional into our indigenous roots and simply what was beneath the floor, as a result of the best way I checked out myself as a Filipino earlier than that was fairly simplistic.
How do you're feeling that your personal relationship with Filipino meals has advanced?
Once I’m a recipe, and I see the substances, I've a greater understanding of the place that dish may need come from. Like, if it has a really heavy tomato base, then it makes me assume, “That is most likely one which was launched throughout Spanish colonization after which advanced from there.” Each time I see processed merchandise, like American cheese or canned meats, then I take into consideration the time the Philippines was colonized by america. A further factor that I believe I’ve realized is that I not have this want for American society to just accept Filipino meals. That’s not actually my focus. Early on, I spotted that what was extra vital to me was the school scholar that's thousand miles away from house, nowhere close to their mother and father’ cooking, and so they need to have the ability to make adobo within the kitchen, or somebody who's grappling with their Filipino id, and so they assume that studying extra about meals would assist, form of prefer it helped me. An important factor to me is giving different Filipinos entry to their meals in order that they will cook dinner it for themselves—and in addition to their historical past. As a result of I do know, for me, I didn’t take Asian-American lessons, I didn’t take Filipino-American lessons in school. We didn’t have quite a lot of that training rising up, in Ok-12 training. So I really feel like, engaged on the Sago Present, I’m form of having to catch up and create my very own curriculum. And if another person can profit from that, it makes me actually completely satisfied.
I've to ask: I do know you've robust emotions in regards to the Bon Appétit halo-halo recipe from 2016. How do you're feeling about their most recent reissue of the recipe?
I had a sense you had been going to ask about this. Once I first noticed that article, I had quite a lot of frustration that individuals had been going to learn it and assume that was truly halo-halo. I puzzled quite a bit about whether or not they had been making the selection to change the recipe as a result of they thought that the actual halo-halo recipe wouldn’t match an American palate. I had quite a lot of frustration, you already know, like, why couldn’t they've somebody Filipino who may inform us in regards to the textures of all the substances, and the way they’re integral to the dish? And to have a good time it as this tremendous wonderful and candy and comforting dessert. Once I watched the brand new, up to date video, it was tremendous enjoyable to look at. I like how they’ve had quite a lot of enjoyable with it, and so they had all the substances. It was all the things that was lacking within the first recipe, and Tiana [Gee] and Harold [Villarosa] did a extremely nice job.
You just about created your personal syllabus, which is wonderful. Is there a dream episode that you'd like to make, however haven’t but?
I might like to up my baking recreation and I believe my dream could be sans rival. However lots of people have requested me to bake it, together with my household. And I’m like, you guys know the way arduous it's?! However that might be a dream episode for certain.
The place are you at the moment with the third season?
It’s all in regards to the state of the coconut farming trade within the Philippines. I’m wrapping up that season proper now. This was a extremely fascinating season to work on, as a result of it was the primary one the place it was all centered on one ingredient. I needed to go deep into the coconut as an ingredient and the coconut trade, as a result of I felt like, as a Filipino that’s residing in america, it’s very easy for me to not take into consideration points which might be affecting quite a lot of farmworkers within the Philippines. That was a means for me to develop a greater understanding of what was occurring and share that with different folks. Plus, I like coconut, and I like utilizing coconut as an ingredient, and I do know quite a lot of different folks do, too, so I assumed that folk could be fascinated about studying extra about it.
What’s the response been like from viewers?
I like connecting with different Filipinos who reached out to me after they watched the present, as a result of once I set out to do that present, my aim was actually to decide to working alone id. I ended up placing it on the market on-line, as a result of different folks had been in a position to share that and watch what I created. I get to have actually good discussions from it, and I really feel like that helps me hold my intention alive from the very starting. And perhaps if I didn’t make it a video collection, and I used to be form of simply doing it alone, I won't have met the parents that I’ve met.
This interview has been condensed and edited for readability.
OTHER BOOKS TO BUY, COOK, AND READ FROM
Final week, we spoke with What’s the Difference? writer Brette Warshaw to discuss the food questions you were afraid to ask.
I Am a Filipino, a favourite of Lucero’s, is as a lot of a cookbook as it's a cultural and historic lesson in regards to the 1000's of islands that make up the Philippines.
Nadiya Bakes, from Nice British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, contains 100 recipes that may set you up for scone, cookie, and cake success.
Elizabeth Haigh shares the colourful, multicultural dishes that make up Singaporean delicacies in Makan.
Sheldon Simeon is placing his personal spin on the Islands’ flavors with furikake ranch and birthday cake butter mochi in Cook Real Hawai’i.