Food, Traveling and Sociological Analysis of People

  May 29, 2021   Read time 2 min
Food, Traveling and Sociological Analysis of People
Food tourism can be a good strategy for approaching the people whose lifestyle represents their social character. E.g., major contemporary impetus for buying prepared food in Thailand and Southeast Asia comes from rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and concomitant changes in family structure, affecting, in turn, the roles played by women.

Rice is so important to Southeast Asians that it is an almost sacred substance associated with life essence (Thai = khwan). As explained by Jane Hanks, femininity— specifically women’s bodies—is associated with rice and with this essence. Thus the khwan is sustained by, and its incarnation grows from, the physical nourishment of a woman’s body. What is to sustain it after a woman’s milk gives out? Rice, because rice, too , is nourishment from a maternal figure. ‘Every grain is part of the body of Mother Rice (Mae Posop) and contains a bit of her khwan.’ When weaning is to rice, there is no break in female nurture for body and khwan. Indeed, pre-Buddhist fertility rituals persist in the Thai countryside and principally involve women during rice planting. Keyes has characterised the Southeast Asian region as subscribing to the cult of ‘women, earth and rice’. Fish is also a substantial element in the Southeast Asian diet, and a distinguishing characteristic of the region is the preparation of spicy fermented fish paste which is served as a condiment (Thai = namprik). Thai cuisine also includes a great variety of vegetables—some introduced by the Chinese—as well as indigenous varieties of yams, eggplants and the characteristic fragrant herbs and pungent spices. The familiar combination of fi sh sauce (a Chinese invention), garlic, lime juice and chillies (introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century) is considered the essence of Thai flavour although tamarind (sweet and sour varieties), palm sugar, lemon grass and galangal also play a crucial role.

Prior to the introduction of the automobile and other forms of land-based transport in central Thailand, food retailing most often took place on canals. Floating markets ( talad nam) were the dominant type of food market and persist today in parts of central Thailand and often cater to tourists. Women dominate these traditional markets of central Thailand as vendors. Land-based markets (talad din) selling fresh produce, meat and fish have replaced the quintessential central Thai form of retailing, Land-based markets are considered by many to be originally a Chinese commercial form and, thus, are traditionally male controlled; ‘… in those days the Chinese were the pioneers of street-living hence the talad or food markets usually resembled the fresh food market pattern in China’. Today, Thai and Sino-Thai women are widely represented as vendors in land markets.

Today, Bangkok continues to have the same basic system of public markets but—as the next section demonstrates—élite shopping practices now include regular trips to North American style supermarkets. The city has one large wholesale market (pakklong talad) which supplies many of the smaller neighbourhood talad with fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers. Neighbourhood markets involve both male and female entrepreneurs who work in the middle of the night to get the food ready for dawn. The markets sell semi-prepared items such as curry pastes and coconut milk—labour saving devices for both housewives and employed women. Owners of foodshops (Thai = raan ahaan) or small restaurants and stalls also sometimes make use of these shortcuts.

Write your comment