The Color and Taste of Purple

By: Jonathan Valdez  

Over the last five years, desserts made with the purple sweet yam known as ube began taking over American social media feeds with its arresting purple color. Mostly developed by an up and coming younger generation of Filipino American chefs, ube became a sensation on social media for both its purple color and unique tastiness. A part of Filipino cuisine’s repertoire of ingredients, ube has become a key element in the digital vanguard of Filipino food’s continuing rise in popularity. Ube’s popularity in large part has been due to the ways younger Filipino American chefs have appropriated ube as a key ingredient in American desserts such as cheesecake, donuts, and cookies. Companies such as Manila Social Club in New York City, Hood Famous Bake Shop in Seattle, and Uber Desserts and UBAE in Honolulu use social to promote their brands digitally across national and global boundaries. Extending what Mark Padoongpatt calls the culinary contact zone, I extend the conversation in regards to the ways people come into contact with ube on social media. I turn to the ways social media has popularized not only the taste and visual nature of ube but also its contributions to popularizing Filipino food. I explore the visual and digital nature of culinary contact zones to demonstrate social media’s ability towards shaping popular trends. I argue that social media as a culinary contact zone forces American eaters to contend with the still colonial and postcolonial histories shared between the United States and the Philippines.

Social Media, Ube
2018 Special Focus: Digital Food Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Jonathan Valdez

Graduate Student (PhD) and Lecturer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the Department of American Studies. I currently teach a Popular Culture course.