Rice Talks: Food and Community in a Vietnamese Town
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Rice Talks explores the importance of cooking and eating in the everyday social life of Hoi An, a properous market town in central Vietnam known for its exceptionally elaborate and sophisticated local cuisine. In a vivid and highly personal account, Nir Avieli takes the reader from the private setting of the extended family meal into the public realm of the festive, extraordinary, and unique. He shows how foodways relate to class relations, gender roles, religious practices, cosmology, ethnicity, and even local and national politics. This evocative study departs from conventional anthropological research on food by stressing the rich meanings, generative capacities, and potential subversion embedded in foodways and eating.
liqueur share these characteristics with the mut quat, they have nothing in common with the kumquat tree. Therefore, despite my informants’ suggestion that it was the tree that encompassed the symbolic meanings of the candied fruit, it seems that the shared characteristics of the candied kumquats and the mulberry syrup and liqueur are meaningful in themselves in defning these dishes as iconic Tet fare. Another aspect of the event described above, that is, the conflict between Le and Giang, needs
and Nutrition In densely populated monsoon-dominated Southeast Asia, growing rice as a staple is an ecologically sound (Huard and Durand 1998: 163–64) and “practical” choice (Popkin 1979; see also Reid 1988: 18–25). Irrigated, transplanted, labor-intensive paddy rice grown in the major river valleys and deltas is the most efficient crop (Phan, Nguyen, and Nguyen 1997: 8, 77–78; Taylor 1983: 12) under the conditions of limited arable soil, abundant water, high temperatures, perennial humidity
com ga, the chicken is boiled for some fifteen minutes with monosodium glutamate and garlic and then removed from the pot. Dry rice is sautéed in a little oil for a couple of minutes and then cooked in the chicken broth. Most cooks add turmeric (nghe) to the dish, which gives it a distinctive yellow color. It is important to note that rice is never sautéed in fat before steaming for any other rice dish in Hoi An. The inner organs of the fowl are boiled separately and bits are added to the plate
beat a shiny bronze gong. To the left of the main altar was a smaller one, with a photograph of an old woman surrounded by white funeral flags embroidered with black Chinese characters. A similar array of offerings was set on this altar, though on a smaller scale. I asked Xuan why there were two altars; she explained that the central one was for the ancestors, whose photographs, she pointed out, were displayed. Then she led me to the smaller altar and said: “This is my grandmother. She died two
sophistication and refinement, aimed at enhancing the hosts’ prestige. Third, local identity was expressed in the hoanh thanh (the local wontons). Moreover, the rice dish was a variation on the theme of the festive kim ngoc man duong (“house full of gold and jade”), with its notions of prosperity and longevity. Even the shredded vegetables could be read as a version of the goi (salads). Thus, though the entire range of dishes was radically substituted, the change did not necessarily mean a total