The New York Times produced a profile of ‘Filipino food’s greatest champion’

August 2, 2019 - 6:06 PM
Doreen Fernandez
Late Filipina food writer and cultural historian Doreen Fernandez was featured in the prestigious The New York Times. (Photo from the National Library of Australia)

The New York Times featured a profile of a Filipino food writer and cultural historian whom the international publication referred to as “Filipino food’s greatest champion.”

Doreen Gamboa Fernandez, a highly-regarded figure in the local food literature circle, influenced a number of Filipino-American chefs in the United States with her writings that have shaped the Philippines’ food landscape.

The Times feature, written by Ligaya Mishan, provided a background of Fernandez’s life and how she “revolutionized Filipino food” with her contributions in literature, particularly her insights on local cuisine.

“Ms. Fernandez trained her attention on dishes low and high, from humble carinderias, the roadside stalls where the staff obligingly shooed away flies, and polished ‘tablecloth’ restaurants that had once served almost exclusively American and Spanish food,” Mishan noted.

Fernandez’s way of writing was called “crystalline,” whether she was giving direct or poetic descriptions of culinary creation.

Halo-halo, a Filipino cold dessert. (Gadjo Sevilla/CC BY-NC)

“Her prose was crystalline, at once poetic and direct, whether describing ‘the distinctive rasp and whisper’ of crushed ice in the dessert halo-halo, or freshly cut ubod, the pith of the coconut palm, ‘that just an hour before had been the heart of a tree’,” Mishan observed.

On Twitter, Mishan counted the “quietly subversive” Fernandez among her idols.

The feature also included testimonies from people whom Fernandez influenced, even after her death.

These include Filipino-American chefs and restaurateurs who aim to make known Pinoy cuisine in the international scene and dispel notions that it is “weird” or “smelly,” among others.

Genevieve Villamora, for example, was reported to have “bought everything from Ms. Fernandez’s oeuvre that she could find, scouring used-books websites.”

Villamora is a co-owner of Bad Saint, a Filipino restaurant in Washington, D.C. known for its “long lines and unbeatable adobo.”

Filipinos from the literary circle lauded Fernandez’s inclusion in the prestigious publication’s features, saying it is “much deserved.”

Among them are novelist Ian Rosales Casocot, Philippine Star columnists Wilson Lee Flores and Danton Remoto.

“This jolted me awake on a Wednesday morning. Dear Doreen in The New York Times,” Remoto said as he shared the feature.

'Suki' or loyal long-time customer of Quezon City's 80-year-old Kamuning Bakery Cafe, the #Philippines' late outstanding #food critic and educator Dr. Doreen G. Fernandez in the "New York Times" newspaper.

Posted by Wilson Lee Flores on Wednesday, July 31, 2019

This jolted me awake on a Wednesday morning. Dear Doreen in The New York Times. And no, NYT, that story of her…

Posted by Danton Remoto on Tuesday, July 30, 2019


A look at The Times 

The New York Times is a Pulitzer-winning publication globally known for its “throughness” in journalistic writing ever since it was founded more than a hundred years ago.

It also considered “one of the world’s greatest newspapers” in terms of editorial excellence, as noted by Encyclopedia Britannica.

A website that rates factual accuracy and political bias have listed the Times a “liberal” publication that looks and discusses issues from a progressive perspective.

It noted that the publication is “highly factual and considered one of the most reliable sources for information due to proper sourcing and well-respected journalist/editors.”

In a 2019 survey conducted among more than 2,000 adults in the United States from March 28 to April 19, the Times emerged as one of the most credible print outlets in terms of delivering reports.