Food Feature #2: Midwest Comfort Food

As tech week begins, and everyone gathers his or her favorite snacks for the tech table, we’re reminded once again about how the idea of comfort food functions in the play. Other posts have discussed the importance of Filipino food as a connector for Edith and Kenny to their heritage and their late mother, but American comfort food plays an important role as well. Midwestern food, specifically, shows up to indicate the journey of the characters and how they’ve grown up and learned to accept parts of their identities that make them feel alien.

For example, Edith tells Kenny how Mrs. Osheyack taught her to make tuna salad sandwiches. Later, when Kenny needs to prove to Edith that he has learned to stop telling lies and using Mother’s stories to get his way, he brings her a tuna salad sandwich, using Edith’s recipe. Likewise, when Benji invites Kenny on a date to burger chain A&W, he significantly tells Kenny that he is partially inviting him out so Kenny can meet Benji’s dad. On their earlier date to Edith’s recital, Benji had shrunk away from Kenny’s attempt at a goodnight kiss in fear of his mother catching them.

Thinking of Midwestern food, hearty, “meat and potatoes” comfort dishes usually come to mind. Midwestern food tends to reflect the regional crops of the farm communities it feeds, so corn, potatoes, soybeans, and wild rice often play a pivotal role. Locally-grown fruit and vegetables often grace Midwestern tables; for example, Rey Pamatmat’s home state of Michigan is known for its blueberries, apples, and cherries. Dairy products and beef are especially prominent in Midwestern cattle-raising states like Indiana and Ohio. Often, Midwestern specialty dishes vary according to the immigrant populations who originally settled the land.

Here are some of our favorite Midwestern comfort food dishes mentioned in EDITH. Click on the pictures for recipes:

Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad Sandwich

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

French Bread Pizza

French Bread Pizza

Though Benji loves the curly fries at A&W, the chain is more well-known for its root beer floats. (Unfortunately for Benji, curly fries are no longer available on the menu, though cheese fries and cheese curds are.)

Classic A&W in the Midwest.

And Bostonians hoping to recreate Benji and Kenny’s A&W date will have to travel out of state – the closest A&W is in Rhode Island!

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Filipino Cuisine, Part 2: Eclectic food for you

A big thank you to Maria, who is playing Edith, who found this great spotlight on the rise of Filipino restaurants. The foodies featured in the article attribute the slow-burning popularity of Filipino dishes to two factors — the unusual flavors of the food, which reflect the multiplicity of cultural influences in the Philippines, and the tendency of Filipino cooking toward comfort food, which suggests a cozy, family-oriented atmosphere to best enjoy the food. This can be at odds with the sometimes trendy, fast-paced world of niche restaurants. However, the linking of food with family and comfort resonates with the themes in EDITH. Like Kenny and Edith, some of the chefs profiled associate their mothers’ homecooking with their favorite dishes. Click on the pictures below and check inside the article for more mouth-watering recipes!

Chicken adobo, we meet again

BBQ Pork Skewers

For those looking for Filipino cooking closer to home, chef Patrick Enage has curated a special program of Southeast Asian cuisine for South End restaurant Wink and Nod. Chef Patrick calls his menu Akinto, meaning “this is mine” in Tagalog, and curious diners can try his creations from 5-10p.m. Monday through Friday. (Thanks to C1 HR Manager Sarah C. for the heads-up about Akinto!)

Pork and beef spring-rolls known as lumpia.

Or try Pamangan, a pop-up dinner series that features Filipino food. The dinners change time and location monthly, but their Facebook page has all the details. You might even find fried rice for breakfast at Gising, Pamangan’s first breakfast event, happening Saturday, April 25 at 9:30.

Finally, try your hand at cooking your own Filipino dishes. C1 friend Josh recommends Panlasang Pinoy for the best recipes.

Food Feature: Filipino Cuisine

In the play, we’re given to understand that Kenny and Edith are Filipino, though their background isn’t a driving plot point in the storytelling. Rather, in the middle of the rural midwest in the 1990s, it’s another one of the ways in which Kenny and Edith aren’t part of the “mainstream.” It’s Benji who seems most interested in their background, reminding Kenny that “boondocks” is a word derived from the Philippines, and brought to America by US soldiers.

For Kenny and Edith, their background connects them most to their absent mother, primarily through Filipino comfort foods like chicken afritada (stewed in tomato sauce with carrots, peppers, and potatoes), mongo (a thick mung bean soup), sinangag (a vinegar-laced fried rice served at breakfast with eggs), and even spaghetti (which in Philippine preparation is dressed with a highly sweetened tomato sauce).

Filipino cuisine reflects the numerous ways other cultures have intersected and sometimes conquered this Pacific archipelago nation. Its flavors are Chinese, Japanese, Spanish (and Mexican), American, Italian, Malay, Indonesian, and many others as well. It relies on combinations of sweet, sour, and salty flavors, and features strong uses of vinegar, both as a flavoring agent and as a preservation technique.

At our first rehearsal for EDITH, the potluck featured chicken afritada, chicken adobo (not mentioned in the play), and sinangag. Here are some of our favorite recipes (click the pix for links)!

Sinangag

Sinangag

Chicken Adobo

Chicken Adobo

Chicken Afritada

Chicken Afritada

Mongo

Mongo

Filipino Spaghetti

Filipino Spaghetti