For my individual research project, I will be re-creating the Nepali dal bhat experience. Dal bhat is a traditional Nepali meal consisting of rice, lentil soup and a variation of curry, chutney and bread. I will do this by first reflecting on my time spent in Nepal/ Thailand/ Vietnam in July of this year. Next I will reflect on the traditions of my family home. Finally, I will try to re-create a similar ‘traditional experience’ I had in Nepal with my family in Bomaderry, NSW.
As part of my project I will reflect on different cultural traditions stemming from food. I expect to find that with the introduction of certain trade agreements, the immigration of Asian people to Australia and the internet (in particular search engines such as Google) has informed both cultures of such traditions.
Aslop’s (2002) Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-Ethnography, inspired me to take the approach of reflecting on my own ‘home’ experiences in comparison to the reflection of my time spent ‘away.’ As mentioned in my last post, a lot of Aslop’s feelings and insights resonate with me as someone who has multiple ‘homes.’ In the text, Alsop highlights that those who study other cultures should explore their home. Aslop also explains the importance of self-reflexivity when partaking in autoethnographic research. Each autoethnographic text I have read has been very engaging and clear, I plan to follow this same technique in my blog writing and in the final presentation of my research.
After researching different types of autoethnographic studies I was presented with Weiskopf-Ball’s auto-ethnographic study of evolving traditional food. I wish to create something similar to this study, drawing on my experiences with in-depth research. Weiskopf-Ball’s study analyses the ways in which the expectations of traditional foods have been adapted over generations.
I will be telling a story of my time in Asia alongside my re-created experience in Australia, thus my research will take the form of a narrative ethnography. Ellis et al (2011) explain narrative ethnographies to incorporate the ethnographer’s experience into the ethnographic descriptions and analysis of others. Ellis et al (2011) highlights that the narrative often intersects with analyses of patterns and processes. I hope that throughout the re-creation of my dal bhat experience with my family, it will bring back memories from Nepal.
MY TIME IN NEPAL (Background)
I was in Nepal for two weeks as part of a volunteering program with IVHQ (a worldwide volunteering agency). I was away from ‘home’ on a solo trip for four weeks. My trip first began in Vietnam then to Nepal and ended in Thailand. In Nepal I was placed in Chitwan, a very rural, hot and dry area. In Chitwan, I taught at a local school. I was mostly there as a relief teacher and played games with the children. The ages of the children at the school ranged from 4 years to 18 years. I also had the chance to teach English, which was extremely difficult. In Chitwan I stayed with a man called Sanjeev and his mother, who we called Aama. I also stayed with six other volunteers. Everyday we were given two meals which were both dal bhat. All the volunteers ate together….it sort of became the best part of the day as often we didn’t receive any food during the day, so by 7pm at night we were starving. It was also the time we spent trying to communicate with Aama, a beautiful woman who welcomes volunteers into her home on a weekly basis.
It is important to note, that the reason for my trip was to escape my familiar routine that I was becoming complacent with in Wollongong. I was ready to immersive myself into others cultures, learn new things and reflect on my life back home. If my time spent away was to have a holiday, I would have not made the same observations and potentially not have been able to reflect on the experience like I am for this project.
MAIN POINTS TO NOTE ABOUT ‘NEPAL DAL BHAT’ EXPERINCE:
In comparison to our stimulated ‘auto-ethnographic’ experiences in class – I am drawing on a past experience that I wasn’t aware I would be reflecting on in such detail. Ellis et all (2011) explains that the author of auto-ethnographic research does not live through these experiences to make them part of a published document.
- We ate together at the same time each day (10am and 7pm)
- No one wore shoes in the kitchen
- My host family ate with their right hand but we were provided with a fork and spoon
- A lot of the food was made at the start of the week and then re-heated
- The boys at the table were given three times as much food as the girls
- There was no running water, water was sourced from a pump in the bottom of the ground
- The food had all been sourced locally from farms (were I lived was surrounded by rice fields)
- The curry was sometimes really mild and other times really spicy
- Most of the time we ate in dim lighting or darkness due to the scheduled power cuts everyday
- Meat was a not often available, there were plenty of goats in the village being fed well to be eaten in a few months time
- There was no cooling system in Nepal and the average temperature was 30 degrees and 100% humidity, so often I spend the majority of dinner wiping sweat from my forehead and neck.
My family (in Bomaderry’s) usual traditional meal:
- When I lived at home my family and I sat together every night for dinner
- The majority of my friends didn’t eat at the same time as their parents and were allowed to eat in front of the television on in their room
- Our most recurring meal was an Indian meal (usually a Rogan Josh curry) on a Sunday night, I have always found this bizarre as my parents (who grew up in Ireland) would have had a traditional roast beef every Sunday after church
- We always ate with a knife and fork, it would be considered rude to use our hands
- The only items of food we source ourselves were eggs from our chickens and herbs (mint, coriander, parsley)
- Most items of food were sourced from the local supermarket – we never pay much attention to where I food comes from
In my next post, I will reflect back on the observations made above paired with further research.
Aslop, C K, 2002, ‘Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, 3., 3.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12., 1.
Weiskopf-Ball, E 2012, ‘Eating Up Tradition: An Autoethnographic study of evolving traditional food, ‘Integrated studies project, Athabasca Alberta.