Everybody Was Boodle Fighting: Military Histories, Culinary Tourism, and Diasporic Dining


This article examines how Toronto’s Filipina/o food establishments have reengaged with military practices of eating together across rank through the boodle fight, in which diners eat with their hands, sharing heaps of rice and viands on a central table covered in banana leaves. It asks: what negotiations do urban ethnic restauranteurs make with the Philippines’ history of U.S. imperialism and militarism when they advertise and host boodle fights in their establishments? This study excavates the boodle fight from its West Point origins, to its appearances in Philippine militarized civic education, and its entry into transpacific diplomatic gatherings and urban diasporic culinary tourism initiatives in North America and the Middle East. It further anchors itself by means of oral histories with restauranteurs and diners—around a boodle fight meal—and explores the entangled narratives of militarism across generations in the Philippine diaspora. While the boodle fight is advertised as a break-down of ranks in favor of a collective Philippine culinary nationalism, we argue that it never rids itself of military histories and social inequalities reinforced by militarized culture.

Daniel E. Bender (Professor of History, University of Toronto Scarborough)

Siopao and Power: The Place of Pork Buns in Manila's Chinese History

This article explores culinary suspicion toward Chinese Manileños during the Spanish and American occupations of the Philippines. It takes siopao—an urban Filipino adaptation of the Cantonese char siu bao (steamed barbecue pork bun)—as its point of convergence, and explores modern controversies accusing Chinese cooks of using taboo meats instead of pork. These suspicions developed according to a cultural lineage rooted in the exclusion of Chinese migrants and their foodways and formalized in legal mechanisms of urban segregation and exclusionary laws. This article suggests that the simultaneous love and repulsion for siopao stands in for a range of alternative multiculturalisms that sought to govern Chinese bodies, adapted across the imperial fringes of the Spanish and US empires. At the same time, tracing the global networks of Chinese labor, Spanish and American imperialisms, and Philippine migration, this article tells a story of how a portable, working-class Chinese dish became Filipino as it passed through the hands and mouths of a global Pacific.

Awards and grants:
University of Toronto Excellence Award in the Social Sciences and Humanities (2014)

Archival research:
American Historical Collection, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines

Field work:
Binondo and Quiapo Chinatown Districts, Metro Manila, Philippines
Various Restaurants in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada

SALT: Scarborough, A Little Taste

The SALT (Scarborough, a Little Taste) App is a curated culinary tourism project that showcases a a sample--a taste--of our local communities. It starts from the immigrant communities themselves, bringing together stories of their history and local cultures, contextualizing the dishes showcased (and the restaurants where they are served). The team, co-sponsored by the Culinaria Research Centre and the Hub Ideation Centre, brings together undergraduate and graduate students into developing the project’s digital and ethnographic infrastructures. Our methods draw from the concept of “Deep Data,” drawn from the inter-university City Foods Project, in which multi-layered histories converge on particular points in order to give fuller bodies of knowledge of the dynamic culinary conditions present in cities such as Scarborough.

Awards and grants:
Bissell-Heyd Chair in American Studies, 2014-2016
Canada Research Chair Program, 2014-2016

Field work:
Various Restaurants in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada