Thai Food as a Cultural Product

May 5, 2018

Golden Papers

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The use of food as cultural products by tourism industry today affects the culinary heritages in negative senses Do you agree with this statement? Please explain and give example. Cultural products as a part of tourism industry have become an influential strategy in modern international trade. Food is one of the distinctive goods, which have popularly been brought to represent the country and the culture of its residents.

However, surprisingly, the use of food as a cultural product by tourism industry today no longer fully displays the intellectual inheritance of the nation; on the contrary, it affects the culinary heritages in negative senses. Having become a cultural product, foreign-cuisine restaurants blossom in every part of the world. For instance, Thai food has become internationally popular because of its sophistication and variety. (Global Investment Center, 2008, p. 245) People can experience Thai cultures without practically going abroad through various choices of Thai food, which are available in their own countries.

Nevertheless, often times, the food to which they expose is not a real representative of Thai culinary art since it is reduced in terms of cultural accuracy. There generally are some changes in ingredients due to some difficulties such as rare alien constituents, but, surprisingly, the changes in Thai food are usually not by reason of the lack but intentionally made. Thai cuisines served abroad are frequently modified. This does not occur from a misunderstanding of Thai cultures because several chefs in Thai restaurants overseas are from Thailand.

Instead, this happens to be more because of customers; in other words, this is an effect of culture shock. Peter Adler describes culture shock as a five-stage educational and developmental process based on work by Kalvero Oberg and others – which are the honeymoon stage, the disintegrate stage, the reintegrate stage, the autonomy stage, and the interdependence stage respectively. Newly exposed individuals experience the curiosity and excitement of a tourist at first before they feel overwhelmed by the new culture’s requirements.

After that, they will express outer-directed anger and resentment toward the new culture before they gradually gain a balanced perspective of the two cultures and become fluently comfortable at last. (Pedersen, 1995, p. 3) The first two stages give an explanation to the Thai recipe modification case. Like any other cuisine, one dishful of true Thai food can be exciting and appealing while a repetition of it may not be as superb and may later cause to feel uncomfortable.

When it comes to business, a dish per person is not adequate; a restaurant needs a regular customer. As a result, a number of Thai restaurants overseas choose to simplify their own recipes to make their diners feel less awkward with their menus so as to keep their visits. Even though, according to Adler’s theory, the culture-experiences will eventually get along with the real Thai food, the business has a tendency not to take the risk as the stake is too high.

The loss of some ingredients due to changes in recipes does not only mean the loss of its taste but also the loss of Thai culinary heritages accumulated since hundreds of years ago, for the ingredients do not only flavor the food but have benefits both in terms of medicine and cookery as well. Even though Thailand was not scientifically advanced back in old times, Thais learned how to utilize herbs as medicament and put them in their food.

For example, flowers of a Hummingbird tree in Tamarind paste soup can help balance the body systems, relieve a seasonal fever, and deodorize the soup when adding fish. Tom-Yum is another example. A variety of herbs in the spicy soup, apart from seasoning, can help digestion, prevent bloating, release gas, relieve a fever, and control sexual desire and blood pressure. The removal of some components from Thai food in Thai restaurants overseas without the least concern regarding the culinary heritages is, therefore, the neglect of cultures in a cultural product itself.