Hmong Food Culture
Last spring, I wrote several times about the Global Food for Thought Meal Series that I organized for the GreenHouse environmental learning community. Check out the following posts from the archives to catch up:
- Overview and 1st Meal: GreenHouse Global Food for Thought Meals
- 2nd Meal: Taste of Tuscany
- 3rd Meal: Hunger Banquet
- 4th Meal: On Top of the World, Nepal
- 5th Meal: Global Vegetarian
- 6th Meal: Kallari Chocolate Cooperative and Ecuador
I'm continuing with the Series this year, and we have a great line-up: Hmong, Afro-Caribbean, a new and improved Global Vegetarian, West African, and more!
The first meal featured a focus on Hmong cuisine and food culture, with a fascinating presentation by a Hmong student from the UW, who introduced the student audience members to a range of stories and facts about Hmong people.
Most of the knowledge I have about Hmong culture comes from a book and a film that I highly recommend:
- The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a book by Anne Fadiman, which explores the cultural clash between a Hmong family living in California, and the American physicians who treat the Hmong daughter's epilepsy.
- The Split Horn, a film by Taggart Siegel, which follows the life of a Hmong shaman living in Appleton, Wisconsin, documenting how his family is gripped by dramatic cultural transformation as ancient Hmong traditions collide with American lifestyles.
We ate a soup of plain, pureed squash, taub hau. This was a quintessential Hmong dish--unseasoned and very simple:
But we also ate Pad Kaprao Gai (Stir-Fried Chicken with Thai Basil), and a vegetarian version of it, that were more traditionally Thai dishes, but have become adopted by Hmong cuisine, as the two Southeast Asian cultures have come under each other's influence:
And for dessert, we had the Nab Vam, or the Tri-Color Dessert of Tapioca Pearls. This Hmong dish is also eaten in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and elsewhere, and combines the classic Southeast Asian tapioca with the Western green Jell-O:
Food can show us how cultures have come together and shaped one another, through colonization and mutual influence alike.
More Global Food for Thought Meal reports to come!