Book Review: I Am a Filipino and This Is How We Cook
Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad
Reviewed by Kahron Spearman, Fri., Oct. 26, 2018
The book's title is as much a statement of a manifesto as a straightforward cookbook. That's not by accident – it's immediately stated as such. One of the book's first pages features a passage of "I Am a Filipino," an anti-colonialist essay written by General Carlos P. Romulo, first appearing in The Philippines Herald in August 1941. Filipinos have long existed in America's tapestry, and are the second-largest Asian ethnic group in America. Writer Nicole Ponseca (proprietor of New York City's Pinoy-centric hot spots Jeepney, Maharlika, and Tita Baby's) aims to push Filipino cuisine to the forefront, creating an authoritative affirmation of pride in Filipino heritage.
For readers who've never been to the Philippines, Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad's grounded tome serves as excellent foundational work, even including a section called Filipino Food 101, which provides age-old processes, essential ingredients, and linguistic data necessary for success with the sophisticated cuisine. From the start, a nostalgic Ponseca leans into her personal experiences as a second-generation Filipino-American and her profound desire for more broad representation of her culture. "I felt uplifted whenever I saw someone who looked remotely like me in the media," she writes. "I was hungry for it. Starving."
The book mashes on the gas, with Ponseca quickly pulling in co-writer/chef/restaurant partner Trinidad's influence. Together the duo builds out over 100 recipes, including curries, adobos, soups, 21st century fusions, and items for your sweet tooth. Surrounding Ponseca and Trinidad's blending of data and sentiment is gorgeous and earnest photography throughout. I Am a Filipino and This Is How We Cook is also served with love. Ponseca provides a recipe to kare kare, an oxtail-based dish – the first she remembers. While surprising her mother with her enjoyment of the fishy, fermented condiment bagoóng, her father says, simply: "Of course. She's Filipino."
I Am a Filipino, and This Is How We Cookby Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad
Artisan, 304 pp., $35
Ponseca will speak at “Filipino Culture Through Family and Food” at 11am Sunday, Oct. 28, in Capitol Extension Rm. E2.028, and Ponseca and Trinidad will sign I Am a Filipino at 3pm in the Adult Signing Tent on Congress.