Rice Talks

Rice Talks

Food and Community in a Vietnamese Town
Nir Avieli
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 04/30/2012
Format: Paperback 14 b&w illus., 1 map
ISBN: 978-0-253-22370-8
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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.

Author Bio

Nir Avieli is Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ben Gurion University in Israel.


“This vivid and highly personal account 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.”

“Readers with an interest in Vietnamese, Southeast Asian, and Asian cuisines and/or the influences of colonialism on local foodways will find the work useful. . . . Filled with descriptions of meals and dishes likely to get the culinarily-minded reader drooling. And almost any non-academic writer planning to do food-related research anywhere in the world could take something away from the final chapter, which discusses the practicalities of this type of research.”
 — Robyn Eckhardt, author of EatingAsia

“In this very engaging narrative Avieli captures the flavor and richness of everyday lowland Vietnamese life, as well as the trials and tribulations of attempting to eke out a livelihood, fit within family hierarchical structures, and correctly pay homage to the necessary deities and ancestors.”
 — Sarah Turner, McGill University

“For students, researchers, or everyday readers looking to explore the area of nutritional anthropology, Avieli provides a wonderfully written ethnographic narrative that is as engaging as it is appetizing. ”
 — Allegra

“Rice Talks brings a unique perspective to the study of foodways. The rich ethnography of the culinary sphere of Hoi An fills an important gap in the study of Vietnamese culture, and the theoretical framework adds a new dimension to the study of foodways. . . . For anyone interested in doing a comparative study of the culinary sphere, Rice Talks is a highly valuable addition to anthropological studies on food. ”
 — Sojourn

“Rice Talks deserves a readership beyond its obvious geographical constituency. This book makes a thought-provoking intervention in anthropology’s long-running engagement with the culinary sphere, and anyone interested in identity, community, and contemporary foodways will find stimulating arguments to debate here.”
 — Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“[T]his is a carefully detailed study, which is easily accessible because it is largely jargon free. For those teaching a course on foodways, it would be highly suitable because it illustrates a particular approach well and offers a view on a cuisine that has not been extensively explored in the existing literature.”
 — Social and Cultural Geography

“Written in a clearly accessible style, this book will be greatly welcomed by food researchers, teachers of undergraduate anthropology classes, and general readers, who will then understandably want to search out a good Vietnamese restaurant in their neighborhood. . . . Highly recommended. ”
 — Choice

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Table of Contents

1. Deciphering the Hoianese Meal
2. The Social Dynamics of the Home Meal
3. Local Specialties–Local Identity
4. Feasting with the Dead and the Living
5. Wedding Feasts: From Culinary Scenarios to Gastro-anomie
6. Food and Identity in Hoianese Community Festivals
7. Rice-cakes and Candied Oranges: Culinary Symbolism
in the Big Vietnamese Festivals
Conclusion: Food and Culture Interconnections
Epilogue: Doing Fieldwork in Hoi An

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