Pondering a passion for food

February 13, 2002|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Filler Up, a one-woman comedy about food and relationships, opens tonight at the Theatre Project in Baltimore. New Zealand actress Deb Filler, the daughter of bakers, says food is her passion. During the show, she bakes bread while ruminating on the meaning of food.

What is Filler Up about?

Filler Up is the story of one woman who tonight is baking ... a secret challah-bread recipe. And in the course of the audience meeting the central character, Deb - which happens to be my name - we also learn how Deb got fat, what it was like to be a fat child or think she was fat. ... She's got lots of conflict because food was totally encouraged and also discouraged. ... It's a journey of how she comes to terms with who she is and if she comes to terms with who she is.

Is the story autobiographical?

There are some very true points in the show, but there are also some hugely, lovely leaps.

What inspired you to write the show?

The last show I wrote, Punch Me in the Stomach!, and that was a show that was inspired by a trip I took with my father [a Holocaust survivor] to the death camps of Eastern Europe. ... This show is about another large issue and that is food. I love food. I love to eat it. I love to cook it. I love to talk about it. ... The last show was about his survival. This one turns out to be about my own.

Is the show targeted mainly to women?

Clearly the show is about a woman, and one of the main stories [in the show] is about her relationship with her mother. ... I think women naturally go for it. Is it a show targeted toward women? No. ... Everybody loves to eat. Not only is it about loving food, but it is primarily about addiction and how we all have addictions.

Did you have an eating disorder?

No, other than overeating.

You were overweight?

Yes. I was always overweight as a child. When people look at me, they don't think I'm fat. But I feel fat.

You mentioned you love cooking. What is your specialty?

I'm really into Thai food right now. I'm interested in the combination between salt and sweet. I'm writing a cookbook focusing on those flavors.

What kind of cookbook are you writing?

I'm writing a cookbook called Filler Up. It's going to be recipes from the show and also my mother's recipes, which are pretty extraordinary. ... It will be sort of modern, eclectic, Pacific, Jewish. I want it to be sort of healthy.

Are you more of a cook or a baker?

I do think more of a cook at the moment although recently my mother gave me one of those Kitchen Aid mixers and it's gorgeous. I'm trying to find a way to put it in the show so I can take it on the road with me. I want to sleep with it. ... When I lived in New York, a woman asked me to dinner and asked me to make a challah. I said, "I've never baked a challah in my life." She said, "Well, I want you to do it." And I made the challah, and I think it was one of the happiest moments of my life. ... So I'm getting more and more into baking.

Do you think there's a cooking show in your future?

I do. I do. ... What I'm interested in doing is why people eat what they eat. And why they are passionate about it.

If you go ...

Filler Up runs through Feb. 24 at the Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St. For times and ticket prices, call the box office, 410-752-8558.

Deb Filler's Challah Bread

Makes 1 loaf

1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided use

1 package yeast

1/2 cup oil

2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

3 3/4 to 4 cups flour

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

poppy seeds

Dissolve 1 teaspoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl, which has first been rinsed with hot water. Sprinkle yeast on top and let stand 10 minutes. Stir to dissolve.

Combine with oil, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, eggs and half of the flour. Beat well. Stir in remaining flour. Dough should be sticky. Cover dough and let rest for 10 minutes.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes, adding flour as needed. Round up in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down, cover and let rise again until double, about 45 minutes.

Divide dough into three equal parts. Shape into strands. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and braid loosely. Fasten ends securely. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until double. Brush with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with seeds. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until golden-brown.

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