Sunday, August 31, 2014

Reading Notes: Food and Immigrants ( in the US)

I enjoyed this recent article that I read on NPR's food blog The Salt about the volunteer work of women to make the feasts and meals that devotees (of several different religions) enjoy at the places where they worship.  It  includes some great pictures and highlights the work of these volunteers in several different New York City religious communities. The story comes from a very interesting project called Feet in 2 Worlds which is intended to bring the stories of immigrant  and ethnic journalists  from the across the US to wider audiences.   The site features a number of food related stories in a series it call Food in 2 Worlds which is quickly becoming a favorite read.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Reading Notes: " Rice" a poem by Mary Oliver

By Mary Oliver

It grew in the black mud.
It grew under the tiger's orange paw.
Its stems thicker than candles, and as straight.
Its leaves like the feathers of egrets,
but green.

The grains cresting, wanting to burst.
Oh, the blood of the tigers.

I don't want you to just sit at the table.
I don't want you to just eat, and be content.
I want you to walk into the fields
Where the water is shining, and the rice has risen.
I want you to stand there,
Far from the white tablecloth.
I want you to fill your hands with mud,
Like a blessing.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reading Notes: the Cultural and Social Context of Alcohol in Bhutan

From: Dorji, Lham ( 2012) " Alcohol Use and Abuse in Bhutan"  National Statistics Bureau, Thimphu 

In traditional Bhutanese society, people share drinks when they meet or depart. Alcohol serves as a consolatory treat during bereavement, as part of the relaxed atmosphere and pleasant sensation during festivals, a source of hospitality and as a reconciliatory agent during dispute. Festivals and other  important social events are organized with alcohol as a central enhancement substance.  The traditional offering of tshogchang to official guests as a welcome gesture is an example of the social function of alcohol. It symbolizes respect to the visitor and communal proclivity towards opulent hospitality.  
Alcohol has ritualistic and symbolic functions. It is used to please deities and as a vital substance of various offerings. In certain rituals, monks or lay monks, and nuns use alcohol thought Buddhist vows do not permit them to consume alcohol. In particular, chang used a libation offerings ( gser- skyems, literally 'golden thirst) connotes an elixir to quench thirst. Alcohol is a substantive drink consumed to quench thirsts in farming societies.  This seems to be the reason for drinking being often considered appropriate for those who are involved in manual toil than for those whose task involve mental exertion.  
Alcohol is used to ward off snakes and as protective substances from many evil, and as medicine to cure certain illnesses. Alcohol is a cultural artifact. The volatile, but valuable nature of the fluid has led to the production of a rich material culture like the production and use of chang palang, phob, etc to drink, store and transport alcohol.  
Alcohol is part of child birth observances.  Many mothers even consume alcohol as soon as babies are delivered to relieve pain and regain vigour. In many rural communities, children drinking is not been marked as a social taboo thought things are changing. It is likely that many children growing up in a drinking culture being to form their impressions about alcohol from an early age. This may be one of the reasons for their early acquisition of drinking habits.