Home Institution

University of Richmond

Publication Date

Fall 2011

Program Name

Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples

Abstract

Everybody eats. This is a basic fact of life: that all people, given that they have the means, consume some type of food on a daily basis. Although this is a common factor which on some level may unify us all as one people, the food produced and consumed by any given individual, or culture as a whole, divides us by who we are and where we come from. Food consumption is more than just an act of survival and within our eating habits lays greater meaning than purely sustenance. Eating is a form of expression shaped by history and limited by present circumstance. What we eat, how we eat and when we eat, can tell an intricate story about the type of life we lead.

I originally set out on this project because of my love for food and interest to study something new. In the several leading Nepali cookbooks, Sherpa cuisine, although the Sherpa people are a popular ethnic group in Nepal, receives zero representation. for some, this may be an understandable oversight, given the limited variety of Sherpa food in comparison to the diversity which it produced from Thakali and Newari kitchens. But for others it is an invitation to delve into a greater meaning which lies behind this simple food.

For this project, I spent three weeks doing field work in Solukhumbu. I lived primarily in the villages of Junbesi and Sallerie so that I would have access to the Saturday market in Sallerie. I conducted one on one and group interviews with Sherpas of different ages, sexes, and occupations, and spent as much time in as many kitchens as possible. What I found was that some of the most interesting pieces of information I received where given by informants when iI just happened to be around rather than when i was asking direct questions. Once community members learned of my interests they were eager to point out tidbits of information whenever they came to mind.

As I began conduction my research, I realized the niche that exists for this type of work. Each year thousands of tourists and trekkers flock to Solukhumbu with only a vague conception of the people who live there. The vast majority of foreigners who i encountered in Solukhumbu came to the region with Shangri-la notions about the Sherpa people and Solukhumbu as a whole, but with little actual knowledge. This void did not necessarily represent a lack of interest, many people were inquisitive an eager to sample the local cuisine one the topic was breached. But previously they were under the impression that dal bhaat was the main staple of the Sherpa cuisine, when in fact dal is only a recent introduction. It is my hope that this may be a guide for anyone interest, and it is for those who have a genuine interest in the people of the mountains and not just the mountains that I am completing this project. The structure of the project reflects this notion in that each chapter is organized around what the food can tell you about the people. It is my hope that it may be a delicious learning experience for all involved.

Disciplines

Civic and Community Engagement | Family, Life Course, and Society

 

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