Foodways
Material

Filipino ensaymada (cheese bread roll)

ITEM:
Dough: flour, melted butter, whole eggs, yeast?, cream of tartar for texture
Form the dough
Let it rise once
Separate it into clumps
Roll it out so each clump is very flat
Brush it with semi-soft butter — very, very buttery
Flat piece of dough is rolled into a cylinder and then coiled into the roll, adding parmesan cheese and sugar to the inside of the coil
Afterward doing that with all the rolls, let them rise again
Left to bake — afterward, brush with more melted butter and roll with more cheese and sugar

BACKGROUND:
The informant ate it growing up whenever she went to her lola’s (grandmother’s) house, who would make it as snack food (symbol of hospitality). It was one of the many snacks she’d make whenever the informant and her sister would visit amongst the summer.

Ensaymada is definitely a Filipino dish, found in bakeries both big and small. Everywhere has a different take on it but obviously, “my grandmother’s is the best.” When the informant got older, her lola would try teaching it to them by making it in front of them and they’d help mix the ingredients and form the rolls, but she doesn’t exactly know what goes into the dough. Her lola would even mail these rolls to both the informant’s mother and her, because she said “You guys don’t do it right.”

CONTEXT:
The informant is one of my housemates. She isn’t really involved in Filipinio cultural practices, but does have deep connections to family who are. She told me the story of her lola in conversation.

ANALYSIS:
Filipino culture, like many Asian cultures, is very food-centric — additionally, it’s fun to collaborate and plan meals together, but these meals also symbolized hospitality and, in the informant’s case, grandmotherly love, a way to keep her there even when she wasn’t physically present. In the informant’s words: “It’s one thing to share your meal times with us, but it’s another thing to have a physical symbol of ‘your house is my house’.”

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