There’s a lot to be said about how food carries meaning in our lives. It brings us together, comforts us, and is passed down from generation to generation, often carrying a sense of connection and belonging.
One who was interested in this concept was Annette Shun Wah, who took the notion and created the culinary theatrical performative show, Double Delicious.
“I’ve discovered food is a really great way of getting immediately to the heart of very personal stories,” Shun Wah says.
Back in 2014, Shun Wah was part of the critically acclaimed show, The Serpent’s Table, which featured five storytellers each delivering a story inspired by a dish that was significant in their lives. As she explains, “Double Delicious is like the next evolution of that show with brand new storytellers and brand new stories.”
With food as the vehicle of deeper subject matter, it’s no surprise Shun Wah wanted to go further with the concept.
“I think food is mostly very strongly related to memory, and also often to family,” Shun Wah explains. “And so, that’s why it gets so easily to the heart of something. And certainly in the stories for this show that’s the case.
“They connect, not just to the personal story of each storyteller, but also to some really big themes. Things like forgiveness, love, sense of family, resilience, legacy; some really quite big themes are explored in the course of the show.”
The storytellers delivering these thought-provoking works are Chinese cooking icon Elizabeth Chong, writer and media personality Benjamin Law, pre-eminent Korean cooking instructor Heather Jeong, performing artist Valerie Berry, and performer and choreographer Raghav Handa.
Picking these great storytellers was no easy feat. “We wanted to make sure we had a diversity of storytellers from different cultural backgrounds with different kinds of stories and with different tones,” Shun Wah continues. “So, happy or sad, or historical or political, we were trying to get really great diversity within the show so that each story was a different experience.”
The cast ended up being from all walks of life, with some cooking extraordinaires, some experienced performers, and the wonderful 88-year-old Chong, who’s making her theatrical debut.
Each one of these storytellers has crafted a deeply personal story from the show that surrounds a particular dish. That dish is then presented to the audience at the end of the show for them to try.
Although it would be quite impressive for each storyteller to cook for, in some cases, a 100-member audience, the show does have a professional catering team to help deliver the goods. They work off a recipe given to them by the storyteller and have the food ready to taste in the show.
“As soon as each story finishes, the food is delivered – it’s just a taste of the dish”, Shun Wah explains.
“It’s still part of the story in many ways. It’s the way they finish their experience with the story.”
The multisensory experience is to further deepen the connection the audience will have will each story. As Shun Wah tells, each narrative isn’t just an antidote, but really digs deep on personal, and at times, political subject matter.
While alluding to the secrecy surrounding Double Delicious, she does let on about one performer’s show.
“Ben’s skill is making wontons, so those little Chinese dumplings,” she says. “So, it’s a real comfort food for Chinese people and he’s really clever at making them.
“And his piece includes talking about his own story but also the notion of authenticity, and he also relates it to the current situation in Hong Kong. So, it’s quite a complex piece.
“It’s the stories that really touch you,” Shun Wah explains. “So, I hope people will come just to experience that.”
Double Delicious comes to the Abbotsford Convent as part of AsiaTOPA from Thursday February 27 to Sunday March 1. Grab tix via abbotsfordconvent.com.au.