An Australian writer based in Jakarta is drawing flak online after she called Filipino food “bland” and the “worst in the region” in several Tweets posted over the weekend.
Cue the outrage. Bring out yo’ Philippine flag.
The controversy started when a Cornell University professor named Tom Pepinsky posted a list ranking the cuisines of Southeast Asia according to his personal taste. From his perspective, Vietnamese cuisine is the best, while Filipino food is at the bottom at number nine.
There were people who protested against Pepinsky’s ranking, including Filipinos who definitely think that our cuisine does not deserve to be at the bottom of the list. However, writer Kate Walton chimed in and said that Filipino food was “definitely the worst” in the region.
Walton, who describes herself as a “queer feminist activist,” then became the object of several angry tweets from Filipinos who were not happy with what she said.
Initially, she didn’t seem bothered by it and posted this general response on her account yesterday: “Lol Filipino Twitter saw my reply to @TomPempinsky about Filipino food, and now they’re mad.”
“Sorry but Filipino food is bland. I’ll choose spicy food over it any day.”
Look — saying that the cuisine isn’t to your taste is all good. But, “bland”?
She probably has never tried food from the Bicol region, which is known for spicy dishes like laing, a Bicolano dish of stewed leaves with coconut milk. Bicol Express, on the other hand, is a dish made up of chilies, coconut milk, and shrimp paste. It was created in Manila but was inspired by the flavors of Bicol.
The Pampanga pork dish sisig, which comes seasoned with chili peppers, is also spicy. It’s also full of umami and layered textures, and tastes so good that the late Anthony Bourdain said it would win the “hearts and minds of the world.”
Anyway, we could go on, but netizens already clapped back, and we all know that Filipinos do not respond to blanket criticisms about our culture and our cuisine too kindly, especially when it comes from foreigners: It’s no surprise that Walton’s tweet was met with angry reactions.
Filipino movie director Kip Oebanda referenced Walton’s Twitter bio when he wrote: “IDK it’s just the queer feminists I know tend to not generalize broad swaths of people and cultures because it is a tad hypocritical, but I guess that doesn’t apply to everyone.”
Another netizen wrote: “White people move to Southeast Asia and think they’re experts on every culture there.”
Another netizen wrote: “To describe Filipino food as bland when you’ve barely explored the cuisine?”
He also added a Lady Gaga gif to make sure his point comes across.
Another quipped, “You idiot, you probably ate a nilaga (a light soup).”
Walton eventually apologized for her comments in a tweet today and said that her tweets were “about food preference and poorly-phrased.”
Pepinsky and Walton are not in the minority for expressing dislike for Filipino cuisine. A survey conducted by YouGov released in March showed that Pinoy food is the fourth least liked cuisine in the world.
It should also be noted that Walton has previously contributed to our sister sites Coconuts Bali and Coconuts Jakarta.
Do you think Walton deserved the hate she received from Filipino netizens? Leave a comment below or tweet to @CoconutsManila.