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Boodle Fight - A Filipino Feast

by Erin Peterson

In a tradition originated with the Philippine military, the Boodle Fight has a funny name for a uniquely fun food experience. It’s a feast set up on banana leaves where dinner is piled in the middle atop rice, and everyone eats with their bare hands. Everyone stands shoulder-to-shoulder, and you almost (or actually, depending on your company) fight over who gets to eat what. There is no better way to get to know your fellow party-goers than diving in and “playing” with your food. There is a technique for this style of eating, where you put your food on your four fingers and push the food into your mouth with your thumb, with your fingers never touching your mouth. No utensils, but lots of laughs. It is a quintessential example of how Filipinos value sharing, and has now gone mainstream.

I had the pleasure of attending my first Boodle Fight thanks to Ari Nordhagen of Mead, who is a well-known foodie in town as well as a Stanford graduate (where she met her husband, Eric) and mother to four boys. Her son Jakob was recently accepted to both Stanford (her alma mater) and Harvard, and he chose to follow in his family’s footsteps and attend the same college. Naturally, that meant a big celebration for this big family. Relatives flew in from all over the country and the world to take part in this special event. Luckily for us, she also invited members of the Spokane Culinary Arts Guild to join in and experience it as well. We were in awe of the amount of preparation that it took to build the table.

Beginning work at 7am, the family began cooking the dazzling meal, and it would not be finished until the party at 6pm. Three different kinds of lumpia, chicken adobo, lechon (a ridiculously crispy whole roasted pig), Longganisa (sausage), whole fried fish, beef skewers, noodles, pickled eggs and vegetables filled the 18’ long table as the hungry crowd watched in excitement for their opportunity to dig in. There was so much food that the hosts ran out of space on the table to leave a border for people to eat at, so they improvised and passed around pieces of banana leaf to use as an impromptu plate.

Waiting for the signal to begin eating, everyone giggled nervously as the proud chefs from Ari’s family posed for a picture with their handiwork. It was truly a masterpiece. When “Boodle Fight!” was yelled, the chaos and laughter ensued. As it turned out, this was a blast. Anyone who was previously hesitant dug in like a warrior and staked out their territory. Some went for pork, others fish, and the bravest ones got a little bit of everything right away, piling their leaves precariously high with more food than it appeared they could handle. Being outside, it was not that big of a mishap if food fell… the dogs were also enjoying the festivities on the grass as they snapped up anything that didn’t remain in the possession of the diner’s grasp. After the Boodle Fight, it seemed that everyone felt like victors in the battle, and appropriately so. Everyone even got to take home to-go boxes of anything they wanted thanks to the kid-decorated “Boodle Kaboodle” provided by the hosts.

Do you want to build a Boodle Fight of your own? Try your hand at some classic Filipino recipes and invite over a crew to help you demolish the goods. You’ll be the talk of the neighborhood.

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