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The Perfect Storm. A Shift in Social Acceptance

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

For What's Cooking Atlanta

A Blog Docomenting the Rise of Filipino Food in Atlanta

By Hope Webb

On March 25, 2002 I was just 22 years old, living alone and working at The Bank of New York. The episode of Fear Factor aired and Balut made its debut as the cringeworthy staple food of the Philippines. The message was clear, civilized people should only consume Balut if they are dared to, blind-folded, with a chance to win $50,000. After that every American was programmed to ask every Filipino they ever encountered for the rest of their lives the unoriginal, stereotypical and very predictable question, “Do you eat Balut?”.  If my eyes weren’t attached they would roll right out of my head onto the ground and into the beyond.

Since becoming more grounded in Atlanta’s Filipino Food scene, I’ve made it my mission to trace back the Filipino Food Movement here in Atlanta. I’ve heard about Fil-Am in Asian Square, the place in Virginia Highlands next to Yeah Burger, Barrio Fiesta, Janet’s Kitchen, and Andrew Bantug’s sold out Kamayan dinners at Upper Room in 2015. I’m finding the more that I dig into the history of Filipino Food here the more I have to go back to those moments in time when Filipino Food was first exposed to the American masses. A time when impressions good or bad were made to the American consumer and then do some detective work to pinpoint exactly when there was a shift in social acceptance.

In 2007, Episode 3 of Andrew Zimmer’s first season of Bizarre Foods aired, he picked and probed at Balut making certain to reinforce for the viewers at home that “all Filipinos eat this.” He called the embryonic fluid (that we describe as tasting like chicken soup) as the “funkiest” part of the whole experience. I can’t help but to roll my eyes (out of my head… again) at this poorly orchestrated pixelated episode that may as well be from the 70’s. The juice is really the funkiest part Andrew? Really? He certainly did change his tune 5 years later when he declared Filipino food “the next big food trend in America”. only after Anthony Bourdain toured and tasted his way through the foodscape of the Philippines in a more graceful, grateful, poetic, empathetic, and down to earth way leaving the world curious not crude as Zimmer had left it in 2007.