“Ready on the left,
Ready on the right,
Commence boodle fight!”
Being born in a family where my maternal grandfather served the Philippine Military for decades and experienced the hardship of battle during the Vietnam War, my mother would always emphasize to us that food is sacred and we should always be present during mealtime or else we won’t get any food to eat.
Our grandfather would always tell us how they would end up sleeping in caves in the jungles and rain forests of Vietnam and they would eat ferns and shells they would find inside the cave.
I still vividly remember the time when I wasn’t able to come to our house for lunch at 12 noon because I went to the mountains to get some wild fruits, I arrived with no viand left. I was in tears while eating cold rice and salt. From then on, I promised myself not to be late every mealtime.
What my mother would always tell us and practice in our house is what we call the Boodle Fight which started from the Philippine Military Academy. We always eat in bare hands (kamayan), without the use of spoons and fork.
What is a Boodle Fight?
They said that it is a style of eating that originated from the Filipino Military. Boodle sometimes spelled “Budol”, is a term used by military cadets referring to “Food” and “Fight” associates itself as a “Free for all eating battle”.
It is a symbol of camaraderie, brotherhood and equality. It’s salient features include eating with hands (kamayan), on standing position and as fast as you can or you could be left with nothing to eat.
The food is placed on top of a long banana leaf and in the true military practice, diners do not sit in chairs but instead stand shoulder to shoulder in a line on both sides of the table.
The “fight” in the name refers to the act of grabbing and eating as much as the soldier can before others grab them, otherwise you won’t have any. Remember this is served to very hungry men so if you’re slow you will definitely run out of food.
In theory, plates and utensils weren’t used due to soldiers needing to remain quiet and undetected from enemy soldiers. During the wars, most Boodle Fights took place in the dark and using your hands was the most logical thing to do.
Nowadays, you’ll find this tradition being done during fiestas and family celebrations.
What dishes to serve?
You can find variety of vegetables, fruits, meats and seafoods during the Boodle Fight.
Roasted vegetables like Okra and Talong, slice fresh tomatoes and salted eggs. Dishes like fried dried fish like tuyo and danggit are quite common.
Breakfast meats are also popular like longanisa and pork tapa but the favorite ones are the charcoal grilled seafoods and meats. Some also add deep fried items like lumpia or ground pork wrapped in lumpia wrapper, fried fish, fried chicken then to top it all up, rice and noodles are also served as a carbohydrate source.
Fruits are also served as a balancer to the salty and oily viands. Fruits such as pineapples, mangoes and papaya are very common.
I know from experience that eating with your clean bare hands make the food taste better. In the Philippines, it’s customary that we pack our foods using banana leaves as it has an added aroma to the food.
What I like best in Boodle Fight is the experience of intimacy with your loved-ones and the sheer joy of sharing delicious foods with them.
I’d like to always uphold camaraderie, brotherhood and equality epitomized in the Boodle Fight. Whatever it is that we face, the good will always surface in time. Whatever hard the decision to be true and side with the good, it’s always better to sacrifice for the benefit of the many others.
In this time when social media is a powerful tool, it is always best to validate the facts and never be fooled by fake news.