Author: thetremendousunknown

Dal Bhat 2


I will begin this blog post by dot pointing reflections on my second autoethnographic experience. I will then pair reflections from my blog post (week 5) and this experience to highlight some key areas of research. I want to highlight again, that my research is based off Ellis et al’s (2011) ‘narrative ethnography.’ Furthermore, the purpose of my research is to reflect on the shared experience I have had in order to understand my time in Nepal and its culture and to also inform others. These ‘others’ will initially begin with my family (cultural strangers) and then to the viewers of my digital artefact (Ellis et al 2011).

Accounts from re-creation of Dal Bhat with my family


  • The ingredients used to make the meal were gathered mostly from Coles, little to no attention was paid at where the food was actually sourced from
  • The dal bhat did not taste the same, some of the flavors were similar
  • Aama (my host mother in Nepal) made the meal with no recipe. However, as this was mine and dad’s first time making dal bhat we tried to follow a recipe
  • The whole time my dad and I were cooking the meal he was stressed about my little sister not liking the food, he almost made a second meal for her
  • Throughout preparing, cooking and eating the meal I was presented with multiple ephianies (that I had previously forgotten), they where:
    • Most international students I have met wash their rice before eating it where as domestic students do not
    • We used plastic cups and plastic bowls/ plates in Nepal
  • Everyone enjoyed the meal, my mum and dad even went back for a second plate of food
  • It was extremely amusing trying to teach them how to eat with their hands – however by the end of the meal they were enjoying it

Points from first blog post

After reading over my reflections from the first autoethnographic experience and after watching the re-creation of the dal bhat experience with my family I have decided to look further into the sourcing of foods. In Nepal, every item of food I ate was locally sourced (most of it grown just outside the doorstep of the house where I lived). Where as the food my parents and I cook with on a daily basis are not locally sourced.  I will also look at the introduction of Asian food into Australia, moreover the Asian contributions to Australian food culture.


The reason why the foods used to re-create the dal bhat experience are available is the Asian migration to Australia. These migrants have played major roles Australia-wide through the introduction of food crops (rice, green vegetables, tropical fruits, range of herbs and spices), food imports, fresh-food markets and restaurants (Wahlqvist 2002). A lot of people take advantage of fresh-food markets, Asian restaurants and imported food. As well as Asian migration, the introduction of international students to Australian universities also plays are a large role in Asian contributions to Australian food culture. In the 1950’s, following the approval of the Colombo plan an increased amount of Australians were exposed to Asian (in particular south Asian, Indonesian and Chinese) cooking techniques.

Despite the introductions of such foods and other contributions from the Asian culture, one must question if dinning in an Asian restaurant or making an Asian meal from supermarket ingredients is an ‘authentic.’ From my experience it definitely does not taste the same. In Nepal, everything cooked and prepared was from local sources. This gave the food a fresh taste. The reason for the food being locally sourced is partly due to the poverty level of rural areas. The host family and other neighbors in the village are unable to travel to the city to buy supermarket items so they’re restricted to whatever food they can make from the land. In my family home, every item of food is bought from the supermarket (other than the occasional herb grown in the garden). My parents can afford to travel to the supermarket and are too busy with work commitments to maintain their own grown food. However, both my parents grew up in Northern Ireland where their diet consisted mostly of potatoes, eggs, milk, meat, oats and fruits all grown within a sixty kilometer radius of their house.

After visiting Nepal and eating the same meal made from local produce every day as well as reflecting on my experience via this assignment I have come to realise that the majority of my friends and family have limited knowledge on where the produce that makes their breakfast, lunch and dinner comes from. There are many benefits from eating locally produced foods. These benefits are: supporting local farmers and producers, local produce is often fresher and tastier and less energy emissions and food miles associated with our food (click here to find more benefits).

From this post and the last post, I will produce a digital artefact built on my experiences, reflections and research.


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12., 1.

Wahlqvist, ML 2002, ‘Asian migration to Australia: food and health consequences’, Asia Pacific Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 11.

Dal Bhat Proposal

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)


Where I lived for two weeks

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.


14247542_10154620265669427_1991458102_oIn 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.



A little more about autoethnography


One Punch Man.jpeg

One Punch Man, a television series I have been watching since the  viewing of Godzilla (1954)

Four weeks into the semester and a few autoethnography readings under my belt, I am coming to terms with what this method of research entails. Interestingly, this week I read that autoethnography began as an answer to the crisis of representation in the late modern anthropology (Cohen 2011). Autoethnography as mentioned in my last blog post, steers away from canonical research and incorporates thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experiences (Ellis et al 2011).

Erick Cohen in his autoethnography of the 2011 Bangkok Flood, describes his personal and interpersonal experience perfectly. I enjoyed Cohen’s research because he clearly explains his understanding of autoethnography, his own personal background, the experience/ situation he accounted and his reflection on the experience.

Like Cohen, in my last blog post I touched on my personal background in reference to Aslop’s (2002) Home and Away: Self-Reflective Auto/Ethnography. However, I did not mention that I had seen limited films that have been produced in Asia, as well as limited films with subtitles. This is potentially why I was confused with the smaller details in the film. Despite my confusion, I was able to follow the storyline from beginning to end because I was familiar with the overall plot (big unknown creature threatens earth, people are scared, a method of defence is formed, creature is killed). I found that people who had watched a lot of anime or similar Asian films understood Godzilla (1954) more and were able to note elements or aspects that I did not personally see the first time watching the film.

Since first week I have been watching One Punch Man, an animated television series that originated from a Japanese web comic. I have noticed similar tropes, framing and styles between the animated series and Godzilla.  Characters being over dramatic is definitely a common occurrence as well as the reference to war/ violence and the fast paced nature of plot lines.

After re-reading what I had noted about Godzilla in my last blog post and reading others posts I became aware of the similarities and differences in the ‘epiphanies’ encountered.  The live tweeting of our comments and opinions, added to the overall auto-ethnographic experience. The reflection of Godzilla would have been entirely different, if Chris had stopped the film to discuss something every time he thought it was worth noting. Throughout high school we would watch films such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth, my teacher constantly stopped and started the film sharing with us his opinions, hindering each students train of thought (crisis of representation?).

Next time, it would be interesting to see if comments by students would differ if the environment in which we were viewing the film was altered. For example, instead of sitting communally in a class room, we would all stream the film from our laptops. I felt a little uncomfortable at the start of watching Godzilla because I am used to (like many others) watching Netflix in the confinement of my own room.

I am also interested in the idea that dubbing/ subbing plays a big role in the way we watch and reflect on media. Prior to watching Godzilla, I had never contemplated the effects of subtitles on the viewing experience.  For my individual artefact I wish to pursue this interest in subtitles as well as  in understanding similarities and differences of people’s responses to similar texts.

Cohen, E. (2012) ‘Flooded: An Auto-Ethnography of the 2011 Bangkok Flood, ASEAS – Australian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 5(2), 316-334. Further Reading: Russo, A., & Watkins, J. (2005, December 31).

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12

More than just a few interviews and statistics


Research is a perplexing term that can be interpreted numerous ways by countless people…. Previous to university I would have nonsensically considered thorough research to include a few surveys, statistics and a literature review. This is why I am excited to encounter and produce an artefact using autoethnography as a method of research.

Ellis et al (2011) describes autoethnography as a process and a product. This method of research aims to use characteristics of both autobiography and ethnography to treat research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act (Ellis et al 2011). Autoethnographic investigation works by including thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience (Ellis et all 2011). This research method in relation to older methods of research is able to reach a wider audience and can make social change possible for more people (Ellis et all 2011).

Autoethnography is often criticised for being too artful and not scientific enough (Ellis e all 2011). However, autoethnography is praised for understanding that personal opinion and experience will effect findings depending on the individual undertaking the research.

As a class we watched Godzilla (1954). I’d missed Chris’ description about the film, I was very confused at the initial opening scenes. When I tweeted,

‘Maybe a large unknown species got hungry and ate the boat, like we were before the tiny teddies,’


I was completely joking…for one reason or another I thought the film was about war. Much to my amusement I was right about the murderous unknown species. What distracted me throughout most of this film was the weird framing, there is an entirely different cinematography involved in comparison to mainstream ‘Hollywood’ films. One ‘weird’ shot that I distinctly remember is when there was a long radio announcement, the shot was of the physical radio in the house not of the person conducting the announcement. I found this film to be very fast paced and overly dramatic. I also noted that often throughout the film Emiko (the main female character) was excessively distressed and frantic.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film, however I need to admit (hesitantly) that I missed a lot of the smaller details that happened in the storyline. I was very confused around Emiko’s romantic situation. For example, I wasn’t aware Emiko was planning to leave the man she was engaged to until I read about it online afterwards. I also found the link between the Godzilla creature and radiation confusing in the film. What I found most interesting about watching the film, was the things I missed that others picked up on and live tweeted about.

After Chris’ recommendation in class,  I also decided to read Alsop’s (2002) Home and Away: Self-Reflective Auto/Ethnography piece. Personally, I resonate greatly with Alsop’s piece because my parents immigrated to Australia in the early 1990’s from Northern Ireland. My sister and I were born in Australia and have lived here all our lives but still consider ‘home’ to be in Ireland. Phone calls from aunties and uncles would often end with the question, ‘And when are you coming home?’ I have struggled with this my whole life. I was often furious with my parents for taking me away from my ‘home.’ When my parents did decide to leave Ireland they knowingly created a divide into a here and a there (Alsop 2002).What they did not realise is that there two ‘Australian’ children would also be included in this divide. Despite growing up listening to Irish rebellion songs and not Daddy Cool’s classic, Eagle Rock I have a great ability to empathise and understand ‘others’ cultures and traditions.

I look forward to learning and using this method of research throughout the semester.