As they entered the Thrift Alumni Room on Jan. 31, students peered around chairs and Florida Southern catered food at the stage, where Ricky Orng and Anthony Febo milled around their cooking equipment and mics.
Two hot plates stood on each side of a long wooden table, surrounded by corn, plantains and Goya brand seasonings. A fondly used child’s kitchen set sat behind them, a sign boasting, Adobo-Fish-Sauce.
Moc Speaks member Tatiana Montilla, the organizer of the event, guided students from the free food (advertised heavily in the event posters) to their seats. Free, mini bottles of Tabasco were passed out, and phone volumes switched to silent as Orng and Febo took center stage.
“This wasn’t our first time at a school, but one of the only ones who allowed hot plates,” Feebo said after the event. “Sometimes because of regulations we’ve had to improvise, even just prepare food with our hands. It works though because improvisation is something we advertise.”
Orng and Febo began by introducing themselves and their cultures but then quickly transitioned into cooking, starting their hotplates and transferring ingredients. Feebo, proudly wearing a Puerto Rican flag apron, performed first.
“The topics we choose are always the ones that are most important to use, like family and our daily lives,” Feebo said. “We use spoken word and cooking to tackle what is to be a minority and what culture is in general.”
Students snapped their fingers (a spoken word tradition) and cheered in appreciation. Feebo bowed before going back to cook as the plantains were simmering loudly. Orng, transitioning from his Cambodian corn to the mic, started to perform on his family roots, going in a different direction then Feebo before him.
“We had planned to go on tour for a while,” Orng said, after the event. “I had written a poem about brunch, then Feebo suggested we mix food and poetry, and it just took off from there.”
Orng spoke about his grandmother and how language was a barrier between them. Mixing comedy and heartfelt language, the audience applauded heavily when he finished. Other performances followed the same format and soon, the food was finished.
“We cook the things that mean something to us, and hopefully our audience,” Orng said. “We trust ourselves and the audience we get, and do our best to share our stories with them.”
The smell of tostones and Cambodian corn filled the room. Eager students made a line to eat and chat with Orng and Feebo. The air was casual, friendly. Music filled any silence as students tried the food and shared bits with each other.
“I hope students really enjoyed this event, and want Adobo-Fish-Sauce to come back,” Montilla said. “Poetry and food together is such a unexplored area, and I’m glad there is someone who’s going over it.