Giada De Laurentiis’s Filipino Chicken Adobo, Cultural Appropriation and the White Savior

19 thoughts on “Giada De Laurentiis’s Filipino Chicken Adobo, Cultural Appropriation and the White Savior”

  1. I love your blog! I watch her too but not always. Let’s teach her how to cook proper Adobo, the Filipino way 🙂 Have you ever tasted Pancit Buko? It’s a yummy dish, another experiment in the kitchen. I hope you’ll find time to visit my blog too. Thanks!

    1. Hi Arlene! Salamat po! Yes, let’s teach her. After all, she’s taught me a lot about cooking over the years. Pancit buko, yes I believe I have tried that. I will make a point to stop at your blog, too. Happy writing, reading & eating!

  2. With all due respect to you and your culture, I think you are taking this way too seriously. Immigrant cultures have always brought their food to the United States and it has been adapted and loved by many people here. The key word here being adapted, or changed a bit to suit different tastes. I think Giada was using her adaption of Chicken Adobo as a substitute for chicken wings at her game day party. Americans have loved and served chicken wings with many different types of sauces, adapted from all over the world, at game day gatherings for decades. Using chicken legs instead of wings, provides more meat per serving and is a better alternative for children since they love drumsticks. Please give Giada, and the rest of us, a break for not being food purists.

    1. Thanks for reading and for your comment, Dia. The voice of dissent is always an important one.

      Yes, I do take my culture seriously. I’m taking that as a compliment!

      Here’s why I wrote this blog post at all: Filipino cuisine isn’t widely known in American mainstream culture. And I wanted this blog to say that what this major media and culinary figure, Giada, presented is just her version, one interpretation, of Filipino Chicken Adobo… And then I wanted to show another way – my family’s version, the version I grew up with. It’s a line of reasoning Giada often takes when she presents Italian recipes. I’m just doing the same thing.

      As for being a “purist,” perhaps I am. But in an American food culture where Trader Joe’s frozen Butter Chicken and Basmati Rice, Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken, the Olive Garden franchise exist alongside the immigrant and generations after family-run establishments and everything inbetween isn’t there room for all of us, and enough civility to point out the differences and similarities?

  3. Sarahlynn, great commentary. I chuckled a bit. But I have to say, I’d probably sound like that guy if I was going to read directions off in tagalog.

    1. Glad I could make you smile. I know I sound like an American trying to speak Tagalog — if even I can find the words — and practice is the only way we get better at anything,… but I’m not putting up YouTube videos speaking Tagalog either. 🙂

  4. Come on. Please don’t make a big deal out of this. You don’t hear Americans complaining when we eat Fried Chicken or Steak with rice. Imagine what Giada would think if she heard about the infamous “Sweet Filipino Spaghetti with ketchup and hotdogs!” Food is like language, it’s meant to evolve. Instead of criticizing Giada for putting her own spin on Chicken Adobo, we should just appreciate the fact that she likes our beloved dish so much that she decided to feature it on her TV show.

    While we’re at it, if you’re so concerned about maintaining the sanctity of Filipino culture, why don’t you try to exert some effort into learning Tagalog? That’s what I don’t get about Filipino-Americans. Why are you guys so embarrassed to speak Filipino? Who cares if you speak it with an American twang? You don’t see Mexican-Americans or Vietnamese-Americans squirming with embarrassment when they are made to speak their respective native languages.

    1. Sorry about the delay in responding, Robby.

      You’re right about the evolution bit. Food and culture with time changes. When, how and why Filipino culture changes interests me. I believe there is something sacred about Filipino culture — even sweet spaghetti with hot dogs! As it is my culture, I feel I have the right to say something (as I think any Filipino has).

      It’s true chef Giada has paid some homage to the national dish on a big stage, and that’s cool on one level, but it’s a slippery slope from showcasing a dish with respect on one end to fetishizing the ‘next hot culinary trend.’ Where Giada fell on that slope with adobo is debatable. Chicken adobo served without rice, I think that’s pointless. I had to call that out.

      Those are a lot of assumptions about me in your second paragraph: that I can’t speak Tagalog or that I feel embarrassed about speaking or that I haven’t put any effort into it, all because I’m Filipino American. I have nothing to prove, but for argument’s sake, let me break those down stereotypes using myself as one example. I speak Tagalog. My Tagalog abilities are nowhere close to flawless but they are workable … at hindi ako nahihiya sa aking Taglish o sa carabao Tagalog ko. Hindi perfect pero pwede akong nag-usap kami at ng mga kamaganak ko sa Pilipinas at mga Pinoy kikilala ko sa mundo. (That’s and I’m not ashamed of my Tag-lish or carabao — or muddled — Tagalog. It’s not perfect but I can speak with my family in the Philippines and other Pinoys I know around the world.) I studied Tagalog in college, here in the States and back home with more Filipino Americans. My parents spoke Tagalog and Ilokano with each other and other Filipinos but did not teach me because they wanted me to speak English very well and many people in 1970s America were (and still are) racist. I totally understand their decision. English is my first language and most of my audience speaks English, so that’s why I choose to write in English on this blog and give translations of Tagalog when it’s used.

      In my opinion it doesn’t make someone less Filipino because they don’t speak Tagalog. People have a hard enough time with learning a language without pressured familial expectations and suppositions of belongingness. So, thanks for giving me an idea for another blog post, Robby!

  5. Awesome blog Sarah! Well written, quirky and great key points to start conversations with 🙂

    Robby — How do you know that she doesn’t speak Tagalog? Or any dialect? Just because she writes in English peppered with some Tagalog phrases doesn’t mean that she doesn’t speak or write it. Do not be presumptuous.

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