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Bangkok’s foodscape : public eating, gender relations and urban change Yasmeen, Gisèle 1996

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BANGKOK'S FOODSCAPE: PUBLIC EATING, GENDER RELATIONS AND URBAN CHANGE ' -by • GISELE YASMEEN B.A., University of Ottawa, 1988 M.A., McGill, 1991 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Geography) We accept this thesis as confonhing to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA August 1996 ® Gisele Yasmeen, 1996 BANGKOK'S FOODSCAPE: PUBLIC EATING, GENDER RELATIONS AND URBAN CHANGE by. GISELE YASMEEN B.A., University of Ottawa, 1988 M.A., McGill, 1991 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFTLLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Geography) We accept this thesis as confomiing to the required standard y THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA August 1996 © Gisele Yasmeen, 1996 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT This is an examination of public eating in urban Thai society. By advancing the concept of foodscape the recursive relationship between society and space is studied with respect to the habit of purchasing prepared food in Bangkok. The sale of prepared food, particularly at the level of small and micro-enterprises, is dominated by women. What is fascinating about the Thai case is the presence of women in this sector making them a firm part of the public sphere. By looking at the mutual interrelationship between food-systems, gender relations and urban spatial phenomena, I establish why and how public eating is gendered and how small foodshop (eating establishment) owners are adjusting to the rapidly changing environment of Bangkok. There are three specific questions addressed: i) how can we represent Bangkok's foodscape?; ii) how is this foodscape gendered?; and iii) what spaces are associated with the sale of prepared food in the city and how are these changing in light of rapid urbanization? The theoretical pivot is that urban space is gendered with respect to the Thai food system in unique ways which intersect with discourses of "public" and "private". Through recourse to relevant literature, statistics and my empirical research, I construct a portrait of Bangkok's foodscape. The methods used include participant-observation, formal and informal interviewing, and a quantitative survey of the Victory Monument Area in central Bangkok. The result is a hybrid between ethnography and more traditional approaches to urban geography. A self-reflexive use of fieldnotes and interview transcripts creates a grounded representation of place focussed on the field research encounter. Conclusions identify the socio-economic, ideological and spatial factors which explain the public eating phenomenon and its gendering. It reflects on the heuristic considerations of an ethnographic bricolage and the advancement of the foodscape concept. The meaning of public/private spheres as evidenced in Bangkok's foodscape is clearly different from that of neighbouring South and East Asian societies. Recent changes in the Bangkok food-system point to the blurring of boundaries between home and work, formal and informal enterprises, as well as "tradition" and "modernity". ii Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Tables , vi List of Figures vii Fieldnote Entries , ix Acknowledgements x Dedication xii CHAPTER ONE - Public Eating and Bangkok's Foodscape 1 1.1 Studying Urban Food Habits 3 1.2 The Culture of Public Eating in Thai Society 10 1.2.1 Stalls, Restaurants and Foodcentres 13 1.3 Food Habits and Urbanization 18 1.3.1 Thai and Southeast Asian Urbanization 20 1.3.2 Studies of Eating Habits and Streetfoods 21 1.4 Research Questions 26 CHAPTER TWO - Public / Private Spheres and Thai Food-Systems 29 2.1 Gender and Public Space in Cross-Cultural Comparison 30 2.1.1 Gender in East and South Asia: Implications for Thailand 33 2.1.2 Thai Fernininity and the Image of Motherhood 37 2.2 Gender, Food and Place: "You are where you ate" 39 2.2.1 Eateries, Economics, Women and Men 40 2.2.2 Food-systems and Foodscapes 43 2.3 Ways of Doing and the Public-Private Continuum 47 2.3.1 Private / Public Sphere Models 50 CHAPTER THREE - Feminist Ethnography and Field Research 56 3.1 Methodology 57 3.1.1 Feminist Ethnography 58 3.2 Fieldnotes, Maps and Transcripts 61 3.2.1 The Diary as Research Tool 63 3.2.2 Maps and Sketch Maps 68 3.2.3 The Quantitative Survey 71 iii 3.2.4 Qualitative Interviews 72 3.3 The Victory Monument Area 75 3.3.1 Historical Geographical Description 76 3.3.2 The Victory Monument Area in the Mid-1990s 76 3.3.3 Omissions - 81 CHAPTER FOUR - Thai and Southeast Asian Food Systems 83 4.1 Rice, Fish and the Foundations of Southeast Asian Eating 84 4.1.1 The Thai Diet 84 4.1.2 Traditional Retailing 86 4.1.3 Supply Linkages: Where the Food Comes From 92 4.2 The (Post)Industrial Palate 94 4.2.1 Social and Environmental Costs 95 4.2.2 Profitable Palates: New Food Retailing 96 4.3 Why Eat Out? 104 4.3.1 Public Eating 112 4.3.2 Everyday Food Strategies 117 4.3.3 Bangkok's Elite Foodscape 131 4.4 The Future of Streetfoods 138 CHAPTER FIVE - Food Microentrepreneurs and Eating Establishments 143 5.1 Thai Hawkers and Cooked-Food Sellers 146 5.1.1 Typical Southeast Asian Food Entrepreneurs 147 5.1.2 Thai Food Sellers 149 5.1.3 Food Vending and Thai Women's Sense of Responsibility 152 5.2 Food Establishments in Bangkok 158 5.2.1 Typology of Eating Places 159 5.2.2 Large Versus Small Establishments 167 5.2.3 Distribution of Eating Establishments 177 5.3 Results of the Quantitative Survey 181 5.3.1 Socio-Demographic Characteristics 181 5.3.2 Shop Types and Food Specialties 187 5.3.3 Clientele and Daily Selling Patterns 193 5.3.4 Locational Patterns 195 5.4 Conclusion 196 CHAPTER S K - Lives and Voices of Foodshop Owners 199 6.1 Profiles of Key Informants 199 6.1.1 Microentrepreneurs 205 6.1.2 Formal Establishments 206 6.2 Everyday Lives and Spaces 213 6.2.1 Daily Routines 216 6.2.2 Operating Budgets 221 6.2.3 Rent for Housing and Business 230 iv 6.3 Integration Between Home and Wage Workplace 232 6.4 Shop Design and Patterns of Location 235 6.4.1 Floor Plans 235 6.4.2 The Soi Versus the Street 245 6.5 Conclusion: Lives and Spaces 248 CHAPTER SEVEN - Bangkok's Dynamic Foodscape 251 7.1 Opening a Foodshop 251 7.1.1 Cooking Knowledge 255 7.1.2 Access to Capital 259 7.1.3 Mutual Aid 263 7.2 Setting Up on the Soi 272 7.3 "A Point to Ease the Situation": Coming to Terms with the Local State 275 7.3.1 Jut phon pan and the BMA's Toleration of Hawking 277 7.3.2 Singapore's Foodscape 278 7.4 The Local-Global Dialectic: Food Microentrepreneurs 282 and Thai / International Capital 7.4.1 Shopping Plazas and Foodcentres 283 7.4.2 Independent Foodcentres 285 7.4.3 Small Foodshop Owners in the New Economy 292 7.4.4 The Vagaries of the Real Estate Market 293 7.5 Spatial Issues & Thai Conceptions of Public and Private Space 294 CHAPTER EIGHT - Epilogue 300 8.1 Highlights 301 8^ 1.1 The Thai Urban Food-System 303 8.1.2 The Gendering of Bangkok's Foodscape 304 8.1.3 Changing Urban Socio-Spatial Systems / 309 8.2 Blurred Vision 313 8.2.1 The Bricoleuse / Bricoleur 314 8.2.2 Non-Western Sphere Models? 315 8.2.3 A New Syncretism 316 8.3 Future Investigations .319 GLOSSARY 321 BIBLIOGRAPHY 328 APPENDICES 359 v List of Tables Table 4.1 Distribution of Goods Sold in Food Markets 88 Table 4.2 24 Hours at Khlong Toey Market 93 Table 4.3 Shopping Centres and Department Stores 100 Table 4.4 Migration to the Extended Bangkok Metropolitan Region 106 Table 4.5 Type of Dwelling (% of Housing Stock) 107 Table 4.6 Average Monthly Expenditures per Household by Type 114 of Food Consumed Table 4.7 Average Weekly Expenditures for Prepared Food Taken Home 115 Table 4.8 Frequency of Eating Meals at Home 116 Table 4.9 Average Weekly Expenditures for Prepared Food Eaten 117 Away from Home Table 4.10 Most Highly Patronized Eating Establishments in Bangkok 122 Table 4.11 Attitudes Towards Eating Out 138 Table 5.1 Number of Eating and Drinking Establishments 160 According to Lopation and Number of Employees Table 5.2 Number of Employees in Eating / Drinking Establishments 175 by Sex and Size of Establishment Table 5.3 Households Where No Cooking is Done 180 Table 5.4 Shop Types in the Victory Monument Area 188 Table 6.1 Tip - Monthly Expenses 224 Table 6.2 Daeng - Monthly Expenses 226 Table 6.3 Professor's Pub - Estimated Monthly Expenses 228 Table 6.4 Mister Donut - VMA Branch - Estimated Monthly Expenses 228 Table 7.1 Characteristics of Foodshop Owners in the Rattana Foodcentre 289 Table 8.1 Contributions of the Dissertation 302 Table 8.2 Hybrid Institutions in Bangkok's Foodscape 318 vi List of Figures Figure 1.1 A Model of Gender, Food and Place 2 Figure 1.2 Locating Bangkok within Thailand 11 Figure 1.3 Photo of a Typical Market Stall 15 Figure 1.4 Floating Restaurant Selling Noodles in Damnoen Saduak 15 Figure 1.5 Hong Kong Bank Advertisement I 16 Figure 1.6 A Chinese Hawker in Bangkok, Late 19th or Early 20th Century 22 Figure 3.1 Victory Monument Area, Bangkok 69 Figure 3.2 Food Stalls and Restaurants, Rajavitee Road 70 Figure 3.3 Bird's Eye View of the Victory Monument Area, 1994 78 Figure 3.4 The Victory Monument Area's Southeast Corner, 1992 and 1994 79 Figure 3.5 Site Under Redevelopment in the Victory Monument Area, 1993 80 Figure 3.6 Proposed Park in the Victory Monument Area, 1993 80 Figure 4.1 Floor Plan of a Kitchenless Apartment 109. Figure 4 2 Female Labour Force Participation Rates (%) in Southeast Asia 113 Figure 4.3 Menu from a Tiffin Catering Network in Bangkok 119 Figure 4.4 D'jit Pochana - the First Proper Thai Restaurant 120 Figure 4.5 Floor Plan: Central Plaza Ladprao 126 Figure 4.6 "Cabbages and Condoms": a Family Restaurant with 133 a Family.Planning Theme Figure 4.7 "Tom Nuk Thai": The World's Largest Restaurant 134 Figure 4.8 An "Authentic" Thai Coffee Cart 142 Figure 5.1 Night Markets: Victory Monument Area, Bangkok 162 Figure 5.2 Floor Plan, Ground Floor: Tara Apartment 165 Figure 5.3 Menu from an Apartment Foodshop 166 Figure 5.4 Bussaracum Restaurant Serves Thai Food in the "Royal Style" 168 Figure 5.5 Food Stalls and Restaurants, Rangnam Road 171 Figure 5.6 Percent of Eating Establishments with One to Four Employees I 178 Figure 5.7 Percent of Eating Establishments with One to Four Employees II 179 Figure 5.8 Age Distribution of Food Sellers 183 Figure 5.9 Education Levels of Respondents 183 Figure 5.10 Birthplaces of Foodshop Owners 186 Figure 5.11 Principal Type of Food Sold 189 Figure 5.12 Number of Customers per Day (estimate) 189 Figure 5.13 Busy Food Selling Periods 189 Figure 5.14 Food Type and Peak Selling Time 194 Figure 5.15 Gender of Foodshop Owner and Selling Location 194 Figure 6.1 Noo's Pork Noodle Stall 207 Figure 6.2 The Professor's Pub 212 vii Figure 6.3 Floor Plan: Luung's Shop 215 Figure 6.4 Daily Activities in Five Small Foodshops 217 Figure 6.5 Tip's Stall 222 Figure 6.6 Flyer Advertising Mister Donut 229 Figure 6.7 Floor Plan: Rattana Foodcentre & Adjacent Student Residence 231 Figure 6.8 Floor Plans for Three Small Foodshops 236 Figure 6.9 Children Playing in the Vicinity of Foodshops ' 238 Figure 6.10 Buying and Selling in Front of a Foodshop 239 Figure 6.11 Floor Plan: Fong Kee Restaurant 243 Figure 6.12 Floor Plan: Home Food Centre 244 Figure 6.13 Advertisement for the Home Food Centre 246 Figure 7.1 Wipa Helping in Daeng's shop 267 Figure 8.1 Hong Kong Bank Advertisement II 311 viii Fieldnote Entries Fieldnotes 3.1 Out of Town Trip with Daeng 65 Fieldnotes 3.2 The Inconvenience of Public Eating 66 Fieldnotes 3.3 Supper at Angkhana's House 67 Fieldnotes 3.4 Luung's Interview 73 Fieldnotes 3.5 Prostitution on Rangnam Road 81 Fieldnotes 4.1 Early Morning at Say Yut Market' 89 Fieldnotes 4.2 The Mall, Nonthaburi 99 Fieldnotes 4.3 The Asian Institute of Technology's Student Food-System 111 Fieldnotes 4.4 The "United Nations" Foodshop 127 Fieldnotes 4.5 Foodshop Based Childcare Fieldnotes 5.1 An Isan Restaurant on Rajavitee Road 169 Fieldnotes 5.2 Two Cafes in Bangkok 172 Fieldnotes 5.3 Isan "Evening" Restaurants 192 Fieldnotes 6.1 Central Plaza Ladprao's Food Park & Foodcentre 201 Fieldnotes 7.1: Taxes, Utilities and Interim Land-use Restaurants 298 ix ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I have had the great fortune of working under the supervision of Professor Terry McGee over the past five years at UBC. His commitment to his students is exemplified by an open office door at the busiest of times. It is an honour to count Dr. McGee - both a scholar and a gentleman - as one of my friends. The advice of my coinmittee members, Charles Keyes, David Ley and Cathy Nesmith, was invaluable. They have had the patience to read through this thesis in detail and provide thoughtful suggestions for improvement. I would also like to thank Alf Siemens and Geoff Hainsworth for enjoyable discussions over the years. The Department of Geography in general and the "McGlee Club" in particular have provided both material and moral support. Alison Gear not only became a valuable friend but played a key role in the drafting of the dissertation by chauffeuring me to UBC in the early morning! Claudia Dubuis, through the latter part of the writing, provided great companionship. Marilyn Walker passed on valuable data for me from her survey of food habits in Thailand and accompanying dissertation and her friendship and suppport has played an important role in the latter years of the doctoral programme. If it were not for the encouragement of Claude Comtois, now at the Universite de Montreal, I might have never undertook graduate work in the first place. My Thai language instructors at the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI) at the University of Washington deserve special mention. Dr. Peansiri Vongvipanond and Ajaan Kannikar Chanprasert were both excellent instructors and provided valuable information for this thesis. While in Seattle, life was made more pleasant by the friendship of Carol Lee. Graduate education is impossible without financing and for this I am indebted to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the International Development Research Centre's Young Canadian Researcher's Travel Grant and the Northwest Consortium for Southeast Asian Studies. Travel funding was also generously provided by the Canada-ASEAN Centre and the Canadian Universities Consortium UBC-AIT Partnership Project. On the technical front, Lisa Kwan is the first to be thanked for her top quality maps and floorplans. Catherine Griffiths and Mark Yaolin Wang also designed excellent graphics. Cyndia Pilkington helped with editing. Thanks go to Meg Rakow for entering part of the bibliography. Jessica North kindly assisted with the glossary. My mother Marie Antoinette Martineau's enduring love and support has made the arduous journey of the past five years possible. It is she who cared for me when I was discouraged and egged me on. Altaf Jadavji's unwavering love and friendship has comforted me over the turbulent years of the Ph.D. programme. He generously donated his time as a copy editor, graphics consultant, table of contents engineer and provided free printing. This dissertation would not have been submitted on time without him! I am also grateful for his mother Zarina's delicious cooking which has sustained me on many occasions. Those to whom I owe the greatest thanks are the people in Thailand who so kindly opened up their world to me. The anonymous informants described in this x study are the first to be acknowledged. My advisors at AIT and Chulalongkorn University, Dr. Nurul Amin and Dr. Amara Pongsapich respectively, deserve my wholehearted gratitude. Ms. Napat Sirisambhand-Gordon also acted as advisor and provided me with documentation and feedback. Thanks particularly to the Chulalongkorn University Social Research Institute for office space and services. Khop khun maak to Kamolrat Sa-Ngeam (Morn) and Arporn Somjit (Kapook), my dedicated assistants in Bangkok. I benefited from their advice, hard work and enjoyed their companionship. For friendship and fruitful discussions in Bangkok I would particularly like to thank Xavier Bonnevie, Angkhana Chindet, Koen de Wandeler, Govind Kelkar, Devyani Mani, Xavier Oudin, Ira Robinson, Rosario (Geles) Sosa, Hari Srinivas, Orawan Sukasaem, Mary Sun and Malia Zoghlin. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Arthur and Marianne Vespry who were there when I needed them. xi For Marcel xii Figure 6.5 Chapter One PUBLIC EATING AND BANGKOK'S FOODSCAPE The appropriation and use of space are political acts. - Pratibha Parmar "Other Kinds of Dreams" This dissertation is primarily about public eating in Bangkok, how this foodscape is gendered and the myriad ways in which the food-system is experiencing socio-spatial change as a result of rapid economic growth in Thailand. I therefore examine three interrelated topics and bodies of literature: Thai and Southeast Asian food-systems; sex-gender systems in the region; and studies of urban social relations in Bangkok. The primary problematic - to explain how and why public eating is gendered and how, specifically, large numbers of women come to use public space to sell and consume food - is situated at the conceptual interface of gender, food and spatial systems. Figure 1.1 is a model of my approach. This chapter unearths the foundations of the research project. First, I provide a sketch of the subject matter to introduce the central questions which the dissertation addresses. I justify the study of food and foodways1 and briefly comment on the bodies of literature which have conditioned my view of urban foodscapes, a concept introduced in this chapter. The theoretical "hook" of the thesis is outlined in greater detail in Chapter Two. Finally, the specific research questions and organization of the remainder of the dissertation are discussed. 1 Foodways refers to the gamut of ideologies and practices which are both constitutive and the outcome of the set of activities related to all aspects of human nourishment (Wagner 1994). Figure 1.1 A Model of Gender, Food & Place Study pf Bangkok's Gendered Foodscape 2 1.1 STUDYING URBAN FOOD HABITS Food and foodways can be used as a "lens" to focus on many other aspects of human existence. Like the concept of landscape, which is a view of space from a certain perspective, a foodscape can be thought of as a point-of-view on a given place (Appadurai 1990; Cosgrove 1984; Daniels and Cosgrove 1993). It is therefore a type of representation, or "aid to vision" which pays particular attention to the spatial relations in the "food-system". An ontological justification for this type of spatial representation, and the complementarity of a foodscape approach with food-systems analysis is detailed in Chapter Two where the terms are fully defined. The study of eating habits interfaces with other social spheres such as agricultural systems, religious beliefs, kinship patterns and medical practices arid is a solid province of anthropology and history (Arnott 1976; Barrau 1983; Camporesi 1993; Fenton and Owen 1981; Mennel 1985; Montanari 1994). Social hierarchies are often reinforced — and contested — by and through food praxis (Douglas 1984; Goody 1982; Van Esterik 1992; Walton 1989). By studying eating habits from a geographical perspective, the role which food plays in the production of space and functioning of urban places becomes apparent (Sorre 1952). Despite many years of both direct and indirect study of food and food-systems by geographers, eating habits constitute one aspect of mainstream geography's "taken for granted world" (Ley 1977) although this is quickly changing.2 Several 2 The January 1996 meeting of the Institute of British Geographers included a special session entitled, "New Geographies of Food" organized by lan Cook, Sarah Whatmore and David Drakakis-Smith. In 1994, Stephen Bell and I organized a similar special session on "The Geography of Food" at the 1994 annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers. 3 geographers have studied food and eating habits, notably Simoons (1991, 1961), Drakakis-Smith (1990), Walton (1989), and Watts (1983). Carl Sauer in Seeds, Spades, Hearths and Herds (1963) and parts of other volumes (1952) presented a macro-historical treatise on food and agricultural history. There are two bodies of literature which this study resembles more substantively. The work of McGee and his colleagues spawned several studies of urban labour markets and petty-commodity production in the "Third World" and has paved the way for my own enquiries into the urban food-system (Guerrero 1975; McGee and Yeung 1977; MacLeod 1989; McGee 1988).3 Similarly, Tinker and her collaborators at the Equity Policy Centre conducted comparative research, from a feminist perspective, on streetfoods in various provincial towns in southern Thailand providing me with considerable comparative data (Chapman 1984; Cohen 1986; Tinker 1987). Feminist geographers and others exploring "the geography of gender" have a particularly useful contribution to make to the exploration of foodscapes. A few have taken on the challenge as a subject worthy of study on its own or as part of enquiries into housing or community development initiatives and related social activism.4 As a gendered activity, the daily course of buying, preparing, selling and consuming food in many ways defines, distinguishes and modulates the life-worlds of women, men and 3 See also Chiong-Javier (1989). 4 The recent Vancouver conference on Food Security in the Greater Vancouver region which I attended in October 1995 was a forum to interact with many of these activists - many of whom are nutritionists/dieticians or nurses and most of whom are female. These women are involved in instituting community kitchens, farmers' markets and other community-based food initiatives and are part of a world-wide trend to reappropriate food from its displacement as a placeless industrial commodity to an integral part of local agricultural and commercial systems (see Vancouver Food Policy Coalition, 1995). 4 children (Bowlby 1988; Charles and Kerr 1988; Giard and Mayol 1980). The performance, or non-performance, of food-related work is also instrumental in defining culturally meaningful ideologies of ferriininity and masculinity. The spatialization of motherhood and femininity in Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand, does not seem as "housebound" as traditional Western, South and East Asian formulae. Could this be somehow related to Thai relationships to food, as evidenced by the prevalence of public eating which indicates a more flexible cultural valuation of the "home cooked meal"? If one compares these practices with traditional Mediterranean or South Asian societies, this seems plausible. The thesis draws considerably from non-Thai examples, as well as from some non-Southeast Asian cases, to further explore these questions. I examine "public" eating in Bangkok by studying the habit of selling and consuming prepared food outside the home. Streetfood vendors, outlets in foodcentres and catering networks serve urbanites meals for consumption in situ or as take-out or delivery to homes and offices. These small, usually family-based establishments comprise what I have labelled as Bangkok residents' everyday food strategies. Medium-scale and larger establishments which cater to the middle-classes and the wealthy serve a more exclusive clientele. This elite foodscape is compared and contrasted to the mass-based everyday strategies. The boundary between the two systems is far from clear, the distinction between systems being an analytical choice rather than an empirical reality. Indeed, typologizing food establishments is fairly complex and is one of the objectives of the dissertation. 5 Although public eating has drastically increased in the past twenty years following Thailand's rapid industrial and urban development, many of these patterns have historical roots related to gender relations prevalent in the region. One of these is the longstanding presence of women in food vending and small scale commerce which is a wider Southeast Asian phenomenon (Manderson 1983, Van Esterik 1982; Tinker 1992). Rural markets and travelling merchants selling both raw and prepared food are an important part of Southeast Asian folklore and of the ethnographies of the region, many of which were produced by women anthropologists fascinated by the apparent power and autonomy of Southeast Asian women (Djamour 1959; Firth 1966; Geertz 1961). "These women (and their male colleagues) were struck by the participation of indigenous women in economic life, and the extent to which this afforded them autonomy, power and authority" (Manderson 1983, 2). A writer from the 1950s summarizes his perception of the high status of Thai women: The social position of the Thai peasant woman is powerful: she has long had a voice in village governmental affairs; she often represents her household at village meetings when her husband cannot attend; she almost always does the buying and selling in the local markets. (It is so unusual for a Thai male to do this that it elicits comment if he does.) Through their marketing activities Thai farm women produce a sizeable portion of the family cash income, and they not only handle the household money, but usually act as the family treasurer and hold the purse strings (de Young 1955:24). Women in many societies, including East and South Asia, manage family finances. Southeast Asian women add to this role by actually earning the money and often by doing so while occupying the public sphere. Of additional importance in the case of Siamese5 society is the historical importance of "restaurant culture"; a hybridized offspring, or luuk kreung, of the indigenous market-stall tradition and Chinese shop-house commerce (Skinner 1957).6 This is partially an outcome of the historical alliance between entrepreneurial Thai women and migrant Chinese labourer merchant men who met, married, reproduced and created a new cuisine and way-of-life in urban Thailand beginning in the late 19th century (Keyes 1987; Van Esterik 1992a, Skinner 1958). To a certain extent, this hybridization resembles the development of peranakan, or mixed Chinese-Malay, culture in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia (Hellwig 1994). Unlike the "pluralistic" society of colonial Malaya described by Furnivall (1939), Chinese immigrants to Siam are thought to have integrated somewhat more smoothly into mainstream Thai society, although this is now considered an exaggerated representation of their experience (Chan and Tong 1995; Szanton 1983). Bangkok is still a city with strong Chinese influences. The pivotal role of the Chinese and Sino-Thai in the Bangkok food-system shall be referred to throughout this thesis.7 5 The term Siamese will sometimes be used interchangeably with Thai although, as Benedict. Anderson explains, Siam was never as much of an ethnic designation as Thai. "Siam," used to refer to the Kingdom before 1949, was more all-encompassing and is sometimes preferred as a less nationalistic designation for the citizens of the country (Anderson 1985, 25-26). 6 This has been informed by recent discussions with Charles Keyes who argues that middle-class Thai culture is very Sino-Thai (see note below). Luuk kreung, literally "half breed" can refer to anyone or anything of mixed heritage but the term luuk ciin is preferred to identify descendants of Chinese immigrants, whether of mixed ancestry or not. 7 Sino-Thai is a an ambiguous term mainly because it is one of self-identification. Keyes defines Sino-Thai as those who identify mostly with Thai culture, practicing Theravada Buddhism and speaking standard Thai, but who continue to keep some Chinese customs (Keyes 1987, 20). I will use it to refer to persons of Thai nationality who are partly or mostly of Chinese ancestry. 7 Thai gender relations are central to the way urbanites have negotiated access to public space in order to sell and consume prepared food. In the case of rural ethnic Thais, particularly those from the North and Northeast, these relations are predicated on matrilineal kinship patterns, bi-lateral or cognatic inheritance systems and residence patterns often matrilocal or at least neo-local residence following marriage. Some of these rural social relations have been retained by urban dwellers and recent migrants in particular, many of whom are women from the North and Northeast and sell cooked-food. Women entrepreneurs dominate the sale of cooked food and also play an important role as consumers. Men play key roles as food suppliers, customers and as co-owners/managers of the enterprises. In larger, more profitable restaurants, men account for nearly half of the employees. The food-system is undergoing many transitions in terms of gender relations and spatial organization as Bangkok continues to experience rapid socio-economic change. I examine some of these changes in reference to Thai urban society at large through a case study of a central neighbourhood in Bangkok. Public eating is important for several reasons. First, it is an important branch of the urban life-support system by supplying a primary need - food - to the population. Small scale vendors and shop owners are part of an efficient inexpensive mechanism for distribution of commodities in the mega-cities of "developing" countries (McGee and Yeung 1977).8 For most urbanites, food must remain affordable, hygienic and 8 I place the term "developing" in quotation marks because it, and the related term "Third World," is rife with implications of colonial discourses as Escobar has recendy argued so eloquendy 8 geographically accessible. Second, a widely used cooked-food retailing structure provides a source of employment for micro-entrepreneurs and their assistants. In Bangkok and other Thai cities, this represents a significant share of overall employment opportunities for women. An interrelated and more important result of convenient prepared food is that its spatial and economic accessibility lessens the burdens of domestic work related to shopping, cooking and clean-up. Although Thai men are known to participate in household duties, women tend to be ultimately responsible for food-related work in the home.9 Public eating is hence a convenience for the female consumer who is employed outside the home. Single men also benefit. Thirdly, there are a host of externalities to the consumption of food in public space. To begin with, an active street life creates a vibrant city, although this view is seldom shared by city authorities. A significant part of Bangkok's vibrant street scene is associated with its foodscape. People are found in public places cooking and purchasing prepared food for on-site consumption or "take-out" twenty-four hours a day. Related to this is the safety associated with having "eyes on the street" which provide an informal civic patrol (Jacobs 1961). When streets are populated by both women as well as men benefits include the actual and perceived security of women and children in public. Finally, the (1995). This dissertation is not situated within mainstream views of "development," or even the popular "gender and development" framework, although I will engage these discourses throughout the thesis. I would prefer to see this work situated within the discourse of sustainable community development. The dissertation ultimately remains an academic piece rather than a concrete set of policy recommendations. 9 There is some dispute in the literature about the extent to which Thai men cook. In the case of Central Thailand, the classic Cornell studies of Bang Chan village argue that men and women participate quite equally in food-related work (Hauck, Saovanee and Hanks 1958). A recent Master's thesis on the "culture of food" in Bangkok, written by a young urban Thai woman, argues that cooking is considered women's work (Bhavivarn 1993). 9 spaces of food consumption can also serve as informal community venues where information is exchanged and children cared for. 1.2 THE CULTURE OF PUBLIC EATING IN THAI SOCIETY Most middlemen who control traffic in large expensive goods are male, while those who deal in local produce in daily markets are usually women, who are referred to as maelians (mother-nurturer). - CF. Keyes Thailand: Buddhist Kingdom as Modern Nation-State The origins of Thai public eating are evidently complex and shall be unpacked in this thesis as an economically, culturally and socially crucial aspect of the Thai urban lifestyle. "It was reported that in Bangkok, 90% of the population goes out a majority, of the time for meals outside the home" (FAO 1989, 8 emphasis added). Recent household budget data indicate that 50.4% of monthly food expenditures are spent on prepared meals in the Greater Bangkok Metropolitan Area (NSO 1994, 43).10 This represents an increase of 5% compared to 1988 data (NSO 1994, 43-4). In 1962, only 30% of the food budget was spent on prepared food in Greater Bangkok (NSO 1963). Given that the extended metropolitan region of Bangkok has a population of nearly nine million, the prepared-food industry is clearly an important part of the local economy. I begin by defining and describing the "culture of public eating" in Bangkok. The peculiarities of the Thai situation are, throughout the dissertation, compared to the 1 0 The Greater Bangkok Metropolitan Area (GBMA) is defined by the National Statistical Office as the Bangkok Metropolitan Area plus the provinces of Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, and Samut Prakan (see Figure 1.2). ' 10 Figure 1.2 Locating Bangkok within Thailand Key to Inset Scale: 1:10 000 000 Source: Govt of Thailand 1990, .i;jKanchanaburi 2. Suphanburi : 3. Arg Thong 4. Saraburi 5. Ayutlhaya • 6. Ntakhon Nayok Scde: 1:5000 000 7. Chachoengsao 8. Chonburi 9. Rayong 10. Phetchabui 11. Samut Songkhran 12. Ratchaburi . Map courtesy of C. Greenberg and C.Griffiths. Greenberg (1994) proposed the Extended Bangkok Metropolitan Region (EBMR) which added ten surrounding provinces to the GBMA. 11 literature on other Southeast Asian cities, especially Singapore, where public eating has shifted to government and private "hawker centres", "eating houses" and other types of foodcentres. The "pure competition" associated with the less regulated environment of Bangkok is fruitfully contrasted with the formalized and hyper-regulated prepared food sector of the island state. The cleavage between the two, as well as the convergence, facilitates the discussion of key concepts of "formal and informal" dr "traditional and modern" sectors in the food-system. These comparisons appear toward the end of the thesis. The majority of cooked-food producers are women, forming 82% of small-scale vendors (Amin 1991). Unlike the situation found in much of Indonesia, a balance of male and female customers for both eat-in and take-out food is evident.11 Women and men roam much of Bangkok with relatively equal ease. This gendered access to urban space is a stark contrast to the traditional 'place' of women and men in other societies where it is or was common for women to be secluded in the home while men dominate(d) the "public" sphere. Engaging public/private sphere models and critiquing their relevance to Thai and Southeast Asian urban society is one of the theoretical objectives of this dissertation. 1 1 For the case of Indonesia, see Klopfer (1993) and Jellinek (1991). 12 1.2.1 Stalls, Restaurants and Foodcentres Small restaurants, food-centres and larger more expensive establishments play a crucial role in Thai urban eating habits. Over the past twenty years, the typical "market stall" and floating market restaurant (see Figures 1.3 and 1.4) have been replaced by the curry and noodle shop. One can still buy kwaytiaw reua or "boat noodles" in the city where customers typically buy beef noodle soup from a shop in a boat on dry land (Pranom 1993, 37). This is a nostalgic reminder of a by-gone era in Central Thailand where "canal culture" once prevailed. Van Esterik explains the historical importance of market food in Thai cuisine:12 Noodle dishes, snacks, and other market foods were very mobile in Bangkok. Market foods were brought directly to the homes of the wealthy as well as of the middle class and poor, by peddlers who sold their dishes up and down the lanes and canals of Bangkok. Push-cart vendors gathered near schools to sell meals and snacks to children. In the sixties, Thai department stores featured food pavilions where Thai and foreign foods could be purchased to take home or consume on the spot (Van Esterik 1992, 181). Today, the canals have been paved for the most part but the selling and eating of prepared food continues to take place on streets, lanes or sois 24 hours a day and includes both mobile and stationary vendors. Increasingly, public eating is taking place in indoor or semi-indoor (covered) places such as office buildings, university cafeterias, vaguely Singaporian foodcentres and shopping plazas.13 1 2 For no apparent reason, this passage is written in the past tense. The descriptions are all valid today and shall be explored in greater detail in Chapter Four. 1 3 The nature of foodcentres in Singapore will be introduced in the following chapter and discussed in greater detail in Chapter Seven. 13 Some "traditional" eating-establishments are in decline whereas others continue to attract business. The juxtaposition of "tradition" and "modernity" in the foodscape is illustrated by Figure 1.5. In this Honk Kong Bank advertisement, two wealthy Chinese men are seen sitting in a simple traditional foodshop. They are wealthy as evidenced by the Mercedes Benz parked in front of the restaurant and the way they are dressed. "Everything has changed except the relationship and the barbecued duck," says the ad. The photograph and message could be applied to many parts of urban Southeast Asia where the middle-classes are asserting their cultural origins and traditions, often through food habits. This is a direct remise en question of Westernization. Defining "cooked-foodshops" (or simply "foodshops") versus restaurants is not a simple affair. The term "foodshop" is a direct translation of the Thai raan ahaan which refers to any stall or restaurant where prepared food can be obtained. The word is informal and used in everyday speech. Expensive eating establishments are often referred to as pattakarn; a more elegant expression which has a more literary use and is invoked to attract customers. There is a whole spectrum of eating establishments in Bangkok ranging from street stalls to the largest restaurant in the world. Both ends of the continuum can be conveniently referred to by the term "foodshop" in Thai. The only fixed criterion seems to be that the establishment should provide seating to qualify as a raan ahaan, whether these are small stools or lavish and expensive furnishings is immaterial though an expensive up-scale establishment can also safely be referred to as a pattakarn. 14 Fieure 1.4 Floating Restaurant Selling Noodles in Damnoen Saduak Photo by Gisele Yasmeen, 1994, Ratchaburi Province. 15 Figure 1.5 Hong Kong Bank Advertisement I 'Everything has changed. Except the relationship, and the barbecued duck. In Asia, there are always new markets and new /opportunities. And there are always new ideas, new products and new technologies. But there are • a l s o old ties and long relationships. IIHongkongBank The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporatiun Untiled (The Economist 1996). 16 Historically, the only grand eating establishments in Bangkok were Chinese, hence the term implies a Chinese restaurant for some even today. The boundaries become even more blurred with foodcentres and other hybridized establishments. One of the objectives of this research is to negotiate through the fuzzy terrain associated with public eating. It is in the exploration of these positions and spaces that insights into the workings of the food-system can be gained. There is a great deal of convenience for the consumer in this food-system. In Bangkok, prepared food is generally available at all times - particularly in areas where young single people live - resulting in a more active night life. Working women can be seen stopping at roadside and shopping centre foodshops on their way home to purchase food for the family. Curries and side-dishes are typically placed in plastic bags. The proverbial "plastic bag housewife" (Cf. Van Esterik 1992) who has made her appearance on the Thai urban stage in the past ten to fifteen years is a testimony to the contracting-out of domestic work to micro-entrepreneurs. Nurturing behaviour CThai=liang) is commodified and displaced from the household to the public sphere and yet remains mostly a woman's domain. Thai society appears to be well organized when it comes to the "contracting-out" of food preparation. This initially attracted my attention to the Bangkok food system as a potentially liberating strategy in the sense described by Dolores Hayden with respect to community cooking and dining (Hayden 1981). It is now clear to me, however, that this system is possible due to the great divide between rich and poor in Thai society. Thai society is a highly hierarchial system; small-scale cooked-food sellers tend to be 17 carefully circumscribed within the food-system as subordinates. There are social, health and environmental costs associated with this inexpensive and convenient system, notably for the producers of prepared food. This thesis goes into detail about patterns of (self)exploitation in the prepared-food distribution system. The origins of Thai public eating are ensconced in patterns of socio-economic inequality which are dealt with in subsequent chapters. Nevertheless, neighbouring countries and regions with a similar level of poverty do not exhibit the same degree of public eating or, more specifically, their women do not participate in public eating to the same extent or in the same, visible, ways.14 1.3 FOOD HABITS AND URBANIZATION In Dublin's fair city Where the girls are so pretty It was there that I met my sweet Molly Malone She wheeled her wheelbarrow Through streets long and narrow Singing "Cockels and Mussels Alive Alive O" - traditional folk song Not so long ago, women "micro-entrepreneurs" could be found selling food in many cities of Europe and North America as the above folk song suggests (Bowlby 1988). Women clearly had a place on the streets as micro-entrepreneurs as well as consumers. It was at this time in North American history - the late 19th and early 20th centuries -that women in cities began to formally defend and demand their access to the public 1 4 For example, in Pakistan where notions of purdah result in the spatial and social segregation of the sexes, women have one of the lowest labour force participation rates in the world at 15% (Donnan 1988). 18 sphere and ask for this access to extend to the formal political sphere (Ryan 1990). The turn of the century also witnessed the birth of the planning profession which significantly altered the previous use and design of public space. The concomitant and later activities of developers led to the massive construction of suburbs, the ultimate privatization of space and women (Mumford 1961; Hayden 1981, 1984). A number of studies have touched upon some aspect of food habits in relation to economic and spatial transformation (Drakakis-Smith 1990; Konvitz 1987; Lam 1982; McGee and Yeung 1977). More generally, Engels observed in the 19th century that home-based production was gradually edged out of the market with the development of industrial capitalism and that this - along with the rise of private property - resulted in the economic and social marginalization of women (Engels 1972). Engels and his school have not been without their critics (see Bryson 1992). Mies (1986) in, her discussion of "housewifization" challenges Engels by arguing that the nuclear family itself was a product of capitalist accumulation. The housewife, and the related creation of the private sphere, was an outcome of this development. Certainly this was the case in North America and Europe until economic restructuring in the past 20 years resulted in the emergence of new home-based businesses (many of them owned by women) and industrial home-working (MacKenzie 1987; MacLeod 1986). Southeast Asia's rapid industrialization and urbanization have resulted in an explosion of small home-based enterprises selling prepared food. These businesses reduce the costs of reproducing labour, and serve the interests of large-scale industry by freeing up labour, especially that of women. The widespread availability of cheap food 19 both facilitates and is an outcome of this labour force participation and "subsidizes capital" by making low wages economically possible (Chua 1994). Combined with local cultural practices, this is a partial explanation of the preponderance of buying prepared food in Bangkok. Since the Southeast Asian industrial strategy is based on high rates of female labour force participation, it seems unlikely that Mies' housewifization is an inevitable outcome of economic change there (Cf. Bell 1992). This may be one step toward explaining the resilience of the Thai "public" sphere evidenced in the foodscape. 1.3.1 Thai and Southeast Asian Urbanization Night stalls and eating outside the home are traditional aspects of Southeast Asian society. The growth of urbanization and industrialization have contributed to the rapid development of the prepared-food sector (Drakakis-Smith 1990; Lam 1982; McGee 1967; McGee and Yeung 1977). As Van Esterik and the references of early travellers to the Kingdom explains, the "market tradition" included many stalls selling prepared food and snacks for sale or barter (Van Esterik 1992). In the case of cities like Singapore and other colonial agglomerations, the importation of labourers from China and India fuelled the demand for prepared food sold by street hawkers. The workers who migrated to these entrepot cities were mostly men who could not cook for themselves due to lack of knowledge and facilities. Male hawkers ended up responding to this need and women sometimes acted as business partners in family enterprises (Lim 1982). Bangkok, too, was the destination of many migrants, especially from China. 20 This resulted in the institution of a similar food-system albeit one that evolved differently (see Figure 1.6). In Thailand, the hybridization of Thai and Chinese ways fused to the point that the eating habits and cuisines transplanted by Chinese immigrants were assimilated into Thai urban culture along with the creation of a hybridized Sino-Thai identity and behaviour patterns (Skinner 1958, Keyes 1987). As early as the 1940s, when Singapore was still a British Colony, efforts began to eradicate the "scourge" of streetfood vendors which was quite a typical municipal response at the time (McGee 1971). The island began to transform the spatial economy of food hawking by proposing to relocate mobile and stationary vendors in government operated hawker centres. By the 1980s, the process was complete and the last "real" street vendor was relocated.15 The Singapore case provides a fascinating contrast to Bangkok. 1.3.2 Studies of Eating Habits and Streetfoods In addition to the IDRC street vending studies from the 1970s and EPOC's streetfoods project from the 1980s, there are interpretive studies of urban eating habits which touch on the issues addressed in this thesis. Prominent work has been conducted by anthropologists who have compared and contrasted society's engagement with food in "traditional" versus "modern" situations (Douglas 1984; Goody 1982; Mead 1964). 1 5 As Chapter Seven explains, the only street restaurants that exist today in the city are in the gentrified areas of the city that try to recreate the ambience of "Old Singapore". They are expensive and poor imitations of the coolie stalls of the past and mostly serve middle-class consumers and tourists. These public eating institutions can be compared to restaurants in Vancouver's Gastown district or in "Old" Montreal. 21 With a wider historical and geographical sweep, the Annates school has studied the breadth and depth of food habits (Forster and Ranum .1979), much of it with reference to the city and its spaces of consumption (Arpn 1989; Leclant 1979). This work has usually been based on archival and/or ethnographic methods which interrogate the meanings and practices associated with food and foodways. Methodologically, the approach of these aforementioned authors is more closely related to my own which will be detailed in the following chapter. There is, however, a quantitative side to my approach which complements the qualitative data gathered through in-depth interviews and participantobservation. Recent work which is relevant for this study treats the emergence of working-class eating establishments as well as those of urban elites (Amdur 1992; Klopfer . 1993; Rouffignat 1989; Shelton 1990; Valee 1989; Walker 1991; Walton 1989; Zukin 199116). This appears to be a novel development which focuses attention on the recursive relationship between foodways and place. Many studies are framed within a discussion of social hierarchies or economic restructuring . On a larger scale, the impact of industrialization and urbanization on the British food-system and associated gender roles is examined by Goodman and Redclift (1991). They examine the relationship between the changing roles of women - particularly increased labour force participation rates - and the ways and places in which food is prepared, distributed and consumed. Similar work has been conducted on the role of fast-food and the effects of "McDonaldization" on the family (Reiter 1991). 1 6 See particularly Chapter 7: "Gentrification, Cuisine and the Critical Infrastructure: Power and Centrality Downtown." 23 The food consumed by the household has increasingly, in the past half-century, become processed and prepared outside the home, in the food manufacturing sector, service industries and, through a growing sophistication in household food preparation using new domestic technologies (Goodman and Redclift 1991, . 7). Women form the majority of employees in food processing and food services both in "post-industrial" and industrializing economies (Employment and Immigration Canada 1990). This is partly due to the gendering of certain skills and the stereotyping of women as "nurturers" as well as the flexibility, ease of entry, and lowrpay associated with the industry. Similar reflections were made by Hartmann who critically examined the impact of industrialization on women's lives in the United States. The sexual division of labour reappears in the labour market, where women work at women's jobs, often the very jobs they used to do only at home — food preparation and service, cleaning of all kinds, caring for people, and so on. As these jobs are low-status and low-paying, patriarchal relations remain intact, though their material base shifts somewhat from the family to the wage differential, from family-based to industrially-based patriarchy. (Hartmann 1986, 25 emphasis added) Another factor which explains this division of labour is that women are considered to be a disciplined, malleable and docile labour force. These are the same "qualities" that are associated with women workers in export-processing zones (Enloe 1989, Ong 1987, Wolf 1992). Although not "innate" feminine characteristics, employers believe these stereotypes and the success of their enterprises depends on the exploitation, consent and vulnerability of their employees. Another interpretation would be'that women's traditional abilities, learned through gendered socialization, are marketable, money-earning skills. There are parallels as well as differences between the food-system in Europe and 24 North America and the situation found in Bangkok. The "Western"17 food-system has grosso modo undergone a transformation which involves capital intensification of food processing and displacement of formerly home-based activities into factories (staffed by women).18 Recent economic restructuring, however, includes the return of small-scale entrepreneurialism, much of it home-based and performed by women entrepreneurs (Better Meals 1995; Simple Salmon 1995). Alternative food-preferences and critiques of the "industrial palate" have materialized in Western cities in the form of food co-ops, natural foodshops and restaurants and the resurrection of local farmers markets (Belasco 1989; Farm Folk/City Folk 1995). In contrast, the Thai system has been characterized by increased micro-entrepreneurship and the maintenance of a labour-intensive system although domestic and foreign capital already plays an important role in the food processing industry -largely for canned fruit and seafood, packaged noodles, snackfoods, drinks and some Thai foodstuffs for domestic consumption (curry pastes, sausages and poultry). There is also, similar to recent Western developments, a growing interest in pesticide-free organic foods and a return to lost Thai culinary traditions, as Chapter Four illustrates. This activity is largely fuelled by the educated Thai "new" middle-classes. Like the Western situation, Thai domestic meal preparation is partly displaced 1 7 I use the term "Western" throughout this thesis in a loose way to refer to North American and Western European societies. I am aware of the critique of this terminology and the reification of the so-called Occident as opposed to the orient. The term is used for the sake of simplicity and to compare Southeast Asia, itself a spurious construction, with another part of the world. 1 8 Dolores Hayden chronologizes the development of household "labour saving devices" which actually increase the burdens on women by exacting higher cleaning standards and the maintenance requirements of appliances. 25 and is performed by micro-entrepreneurs who locate in public space (streets, lanes) or in privately-owned spaces with public access such as shopping centres, foodcentres, and office complexes. Could it be that the Thai cooked-food distribution system is a manifestation of service-based patriarchy in addition to one based on industrialization? Feminist authors have argued that women's integration into factory employment has, to a certain extent, marginalized them by subordinating female workers to paternalistic discipline (Ong 1989; Wolf 1992). The service sector, including the sale of prepared food, may appear to be liberating Thai women by granting them use of public space to earn income, but upon further scrutiny, may be (re)producing their subordination relative to more powerful social agents, including local state officials, property owners and other "patron groups." While remaining wary of highly criticized meta-concepts such as capitalism and patriarchy, this thesis attempts to address these questions. 1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS This dissertation seeks to answer a set of three interrelated questions: 1. How can one represent and interpret Bangkok's food-system? What are its past, current and future trends? 2. How is Bangkok's foodscape gendered? Is it possible to typologize eating establishments vis-a-vis gender relations in urban Thailand? What are the different roles played by women and men in the culture of public eating? Are gender relations complementary, hierarchical or antagonistic? 4. What are the spaces associated with the sale of cooked food in Bangkok and how are these being affected by rapid urban development? How are foodshop owners adjusting to the socio-spatial changes? How is space conceptualized with respect to gender and food-systems in Thai society? Are private/public spheres relevant in the Bangkok case? 26 Chapter Two details my theoretical position, drawing from the work of Smith, de Certeau and recent cultural geography to advance the notion of foodscape and how it can be used to interrogate public/private sphere models. The third chapter introduces my methodological approach - ethnography broadly defined - and illustrates through the use of examples how I went about reaching conclusions and gathering data. The Victory Monument case study area is also presented. Chapter Four outlines the basic structure and function of the Thai food-system and couches it in wider Southeast Asian foodways. In Chapter Five I focus on Thai and Southeast Asian gender relations in the food-system and introduce my quantitative survey results. In Chapter Six, the principal informants of the study are introduced and their daily lives profiled; daily routines and operating budgets are presented and analyzed. Chapter Seven, "Bangkok's Dynamic Foodscape" weaves together the factors which enable cooked-food sellers to open a business. The necessary and contingent relations present in different locational environments and the changing real-estate market and role of the local state are also explained. I conclude in Chapter Eight by reflecting on the interrelationship between gender, food and spatial systems in Bangkok's foodscape. Appropriation of selling areas is based on larger questions of "access," defined as the right or ability to approach and use space. Relations with the state and corporate capital, funding sources, family and kinship networks and "patron-client" relations are identified as critical factors. I distinguish between the ways men versus women are involved in Bangkok's foodscape, and summarize how femininity and masculinity are constructed and practiced in relation to public eating. Furthermore, I 27 explore the implications of the increasing number of privately-owned "public" spaces in office buildings, shopping centres and foodcentres which sell cooked food. I allude to Thai conceptualizations of public and private space to challenge Western sphere models. The contribution of a foodscape approach is evaluated along with suggestions for further research. 28 Chapter Two PUBLIC/PRIVATE SPHERES AND THAI FOOD-SYSTEMS This chapter begins by laying out the conceptual, historical, and most of all the geographical foundations of the inquiry into Bangkok's foodscape, an exploration which is framed within three themes: gendered access to space, women's work, and the impact of socio-economic transformation on eating habits. The research forms a building block in the exploration of the "politics of location", a deeply contested and complex cross-cultural terrain (Caplan 1994; Massey 1994). The sale and consumption of prepared food in the city's ubiquitous "foodshops" (raan ahaan) - or general restaurants -illustrates wider social processes.1 I begin by discussing the cross-cultural differences in gendered use of public space and associated ideologies of femininity and masculinity. Following this a conceptual framework for the study of gender, food habits and place is advanced by developing the foodscape concept. Finally, I outline the theoretical foundations of my research by advancing Michel de Certeau and Dorothy Smith's approach to social research and critically assessing the literature on private/public sphere models. 1 The very definition of restaurant in the Thai context is difficult and is the subject of section 5.2.1 in Chapter Five. The Thai terms, which are many, help distinguish types of "indigenous" eating establishments although the introduction of Western style (as well as Japanese and "new style" Chinese) restaurants complicates this process. However, the very idea of searching for "indigenous" or vernacular culture implies that Thai culture was somehow pristine or devoid of foreign contact which is not the case. 29 2.1 GENDER AND PUBLIC SPACE IN CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARISON The wives of the people managing all the trade do enjoy a perfect liberty. Those of the nobles are very reserved, and stir not abroad but seldom, either upon some family visit or to go to the pagodes. But when they go out, they go with their face uncovered, even when they go on foot; and sometimes it is hard to distinguish them from the women-slaves which accompany them. - Simon de la Loubere The Kingdom ofSiam It is often stated that Southeast Asia is a crossroads where South and East Asian influences mix with indigenous cultural traditions. In terms of gender ideologies and practices, a "bedrock" of typically Southeast Asian fernininity persists in many rural areas today and is characterized for the most part by matrilineal descent systems, bi-lateral inheritance and the importance of pre-Buddhist and pre-Islamic feminine deities/spirits (Tambiah 1970; Potter 1976; Reid 1988; Sharp and Hanks 1978). Women in this region traditionally have access to money, land and do not lose their kinship ties after marriage. Whereas on a regional scale of comparison it is true that women in Southeast Asia tend to follow the patterns described above, it is important to note the high degree of intra-regional variation. For example, Vietnam continuously stands out due to its Sinitic heritage whereby patrilineal descent and patrilocal residence after marriage are the norm. Yet, women there continue to dominate as food vendors in public places and are often exclusive custodians of food knowledge (Drummond 1993; Nguyen 1993). Similarly, societies which have embraced Islam - such as Malaysia and Indonesia - have customarily placed greater restrictions on women.2 An added 2 Westerners tend to exaggerate the effect of Islamic revival on women's status in the Malay world. Perhaps it is due to the stark visible difference presented by the adoption of hijab (veiling) by Muslim women in Malaysia which has come into fashion in the last 15 years. In a number of Muslim regions in Southeast Asia, such as Kelantan, Minangkabau and southern Thailand, women dominate as food vendors in markets, on the streets and even in small restaurants (Chavivun 1985; Jamilah 1994; 30 complexity is the Chinese influence in the region which has been pervasive and highly diverse as well as upland/lowland distinctions (see McKay 1994 and 1995 for the upland Philippines). Keyes (1996) argues that the roles of women in Theravada Buddhist societies has been much more varied historically than in areas influenced by Islam or China (such as Vietnam). Perhaps this is because lowland island Southeast Asia, except the Philippines, was more thoroughly Hinduized prior to Islamicization. Within the geographical space known as Thailand today there is also a great deal of variation in gender ideology and practice according to region, class, urban/rural residence and so on. Although the Tai (or T'ai)3 peoples who share a common linguistic heritage are difficult to characterize given this high degree of regional and historical difference, Wyatt has attempted to do so showing the regional distinctiveness of traditional gender relations: They lived as nuclear families in small villages, among which there was regular communication and some trade in such items as metal tools, pottery and salt. Because the region was underpopulated, manpower was highly valued and women enjoyed a relatively high social status, certainly by contrast with the low social and economic status of Chinese and Indian women... Women frequently were believed to have a special power to mediate between mankind (sic) and the spirit world, and were called upon to heal the sick or change unfavourable weather... Young people customarily were allowed free choice of marriage partners and were given wide sexual license in an annual spring festival (Wyatt 1984, 4-5). Klopfer 1993) 3 Tai is a linguistic term. Over 80% of Thai citizens speak a Tai language. The Tai (or Daic) category also includes Lao, Shan (from Burma), and certain dialects of northern Vietnam and southern China. '"Standard Thai' - that is, the national language taught in the schools, used on all official occasions, and employed, in written form, in almost all printed materials - is based on only one of the Tai languages spoken in the country, namely that of the Siamese or Central Thai. People who speak Siamese as their domestic language, that is, the language of the home, constitute only about a quarter of the total population or 30% of all Tai speakers in Thailand" (Keyes 1987, 15). 31 This partly explains why women in the region have traditionally been active in the public sphere where they play key roles in local politics and commerce in addition to the household (Atkinson and Errington 1990; Manderson 1983; Potter 1977; Van Esterik 1982). The contemporary cosmopolitan society of Bangkok exhibits a far more complex system of gender relations than those summarized for "traditional" Tai ethno-cultural groups. First, the nobility has adopted Brahminic traditions to a far greater extent than commoners in the provinces. Secondly, Chinese immigrants to the Kingdom -themselves a mixed group - have mostly settled in Bangkok and influenced the local culture. Both Brahminic and Chinese traditions, for the most part, are detrimental to women's equality. The Chinese generally practice patrilocal residence, pass on property to sons and restrict the movement of women and girls.4 The same can be said for most of South Asia. Brahminic influences-originating from India, like Theravada Buddhism •which made a circuitous route through Sri Lanka, have had profound influences on Thai society influencing rituals, mythology and other aspects of life. Patriarchal notions imported from India and China are partially responsible for the erosion, among some elites and members of the middle classes, of relative gender symmetry in Southeast Asia in terms of granting women access to the public sphere (Bencha 1992). These traditions associate the proper conduct of women with being spatially bound to the home sphere. Aspects of these influences can be detected in contemporary Bangkok although one cannot identify a simple straightforward pattern. 4 Sino-Thai, more influenced by local kinship practices, tend to opt for neo-local residence after marriage (Skinner 1957; Keyes 1996). 32 Migrant women from rural areas may be found boldly selling food on the streets but may be subordinated to their socio-economic superiors. Educated middle-class women might be home-bound but more comfortable than vendors among government officials. 2.1.1 Gender in East and South Asia: Implications for Thailand The gender ideologies borrowed from China and India resemble one another by ideally secluding women. These ideas pertain to the appropriateness of spatially secluding women to a greater extent than men to "protect" them and preserve family "honour". The core of these practices find their rationale in patrilineal descent and inheritance systems where the identity of the father is a crucial factor in order to pass property from father to son. Traditionally, female and male children both inherit property in most of Southeast Asia except among the unassimilated Chinese minorities and in Vietnam. The form that this inheritance takes, though, is varied. In Lao-speaking areas and Northern Thailand, the youngest daughter usually inherits the family home and is expected to care for aging parents in return (Keyes 1996; Potter 1977). Confucian ideas of femininity, for example, revolve around the concept of the "three obediences" whereby a girl first obeys her father until marriage. After marriage, she must obey her husband and - in the case of widowhood - obeys her son (Salaff 1984, Wei 1989).5 More specifically in terms of access to the public sphere, the idealized spatial segregation of women in old China is summarized by the proverb pau 5 In a recent discussion with a historian of China, essentializing representations of ostensibly Confucian Chinese society are empirical overgeneralizations (Lary 1996). There are plenty of Chinese women, both within and outside mainland China who do not and have not ever subscribed to the "three obediences". 33 to lo min6 - or "to uncover your head and show your face" in public - behaviour considered shameful for a woman. To step outside the family compound and interact with strangers is considered an unrespectable and dangerous activity (Lin 1995; Smart 1989). Similarly, purdah, prevalent in Northern India and Pakistan, comprises a whole set of activities which aim to segregate women from the public as well as within the domestic sphere (Papanek and Minault 1982; Ward 1963). The essence of purdah is to impede the social and spatial proximity of women to men who are not their fathers, husbands, brothers or sons. Women are further segregated within the home from men when the "need" arises, for example, when male guests enter the home (Reddy 1994). Women and men consequently inhabit highly different social and spatial spheres. As Johanna Lessinger explained in great detail, these ideologies seriously hamper women's abilities to independently operate small enterprises in urban public space (Lessinger 1989).7 This marginality of women vendors is particularly striking in comparison to Latin America, the Caribbean, West Africa and South-East Asia, where petty trading, and particularly the retailing of food, are viewed as an almost exclusively female preserve, as "women's work" (Lessinger 1989, 104). " The imported ideology of seclusion explains why Thai noblewomen, who as part of the 6 This phrase could also be transliterated with the Mandarin pronunciation as pau tuo lo mie. 7 There are exceptions to and variations of this tendency in South Asia. For example, Kerala is known to be matrilineal and a state where women have a great deal of financial independence and mobility. One explanation for this vastly different state of affairs is that Keralan men traditionally spent much time away from home sailing and conducting business leaving women in charge of agriculture and local business. 34 elite were more highly affected by Braliminic ways, were usually confined to the palace and sheltered within a sedan with a retinue of handmaids and eunuchs when venturing into public space (de la Loubere [1693] 1986).8 This is echoed in the contemporary middle-class role of housewife in urban Thailand: urban women who remain in domestic roles often find themselves more estranged from their husbands than do rural women. Not only is an urban housewife cut off from her husband's workplace, unlike in villages where men and women work in the fields together, but she rarely sees her husband in the tetter's public roles, again unlike in the villages where women witness much of what the men do in their meetings or ritual activities (Keyes 1987, 124 emphasis mine). Exceptions can still be found in East and South Asian societies which contradict the model I am sketching above. Keyes (1996) notes that Taiwanese women still play an important role as vendors in the informal sector. I was also surprised to see so many Korean women selling goods, including prepared food, in the markets of Seoul in 1993. Though not a Sinitic society, Koreans have certainly been highly influenced by Confucianism and other Chinese traditions. As Smart (1989) explains for Hong Kong, women vendors in Chinese societies are looked down upon because they are forced through economic circumstances to earn their living in public space, thereby transgressing gender ideology. But perhaps it is important to resist essentializing cultural factors and turn toward a more materialist explanation of the spatial segregation of women. Creation of the "housewife" role is not solely an imposition from neighbouring India and China, 8 La Loubere presents contradictory information indicating that noble women went out in public quite freely then stating that some were required to venture forth into the city with an entourage and seat themselves in a sedan: This must reflect that both practices were common. 35 but, as in the West, a product of later industrial capitalism (Mies 1986). "Housewifization" nevertheless draws on antecedent gender ideologies. Traditional Chinese and Indian ideas and practices are similar to the "honour/shame" complexes in Mediterranean societies and in Victorian England which gave rise to the concept of feminine domesticity and the housewife role (Hayden 1984; Sennett 1974). The limitation of women's mobility, in terms both of identity and space, has been in some cultural contexts a crucial means of subordination... spatial control, whether enforced through the power of convention or symbolism, or through the straight-forward threat of violence, can be a fundamental element in the constitution of gender in its (highly varied) forms (Massey 1994, 180). . Although Thailand has been influenced by its neighbours it has never adopted the idea(l) of spatial segregation of the sexes in toto. Even elite women were known to have more spatial freedom than their counterparts in neighbouring regions and went about with their heads and faces uncovered. Foot-binding or complete seclusion were never adopted as techniques to hamper feminine mobility, except among ethnic minorities. This does not mean that Thai women are equal to men in theory or practice. Thai-style sexism and machismo are still present and part of women and men's lived realities. Spatial mobility and the visibility of women in public is no indication of equality or that women have roughly equal control of the "public sphere". There are many debates in Thai studies about the status of women as either traditionally subordinated (Kirsch 1982; Khin 1980), or part of a complementary system (Atkinson and Errington 1990; Ong 1989). Despite generalized access to public space. women are presently excluded from the upper echelons of power and are involved in struggles to change their social, economic and legal positions (Cf. Darunee and Pandey 36 1991; Decade 1992). These realms are also part of what is usually thought of as the "public sphere". Even in terms of spatial access, "good" women, do not frequent certain insalubrious institutions such as private member clubs, "cafes" and bars (Mills 1990). Women's spatial mobility is conditioned by class, age, ethnic, and educational factors. Symbolically, many argue that Thai women and femininity are subordinated to men and masculinity within an ascetic Theravada Buddhist value-system and its characteristic contemptus mundi (Khin 1980; Kirsch 1992). This point, however, is debated (Keyes 1984; Kirsch 1985). For example, Thai Muslim women, who are ethnically Malay for the most part, occupy similar positions in small business* notably as market women (Chavivun 1985). The same holds true for parts of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines which do not confess to Theravada Buddhism. The public presence of women, as suggested earlier, is a wider Southeast Asian cultural phenomenon although Thailand appears to present the observer with the starkest example. 2.1.2 Thai Femininity and the Image of Motherhood Maternal images have an important place in Thai iconography and point to the strong symbolic association between fernininity and the giving of life and sustenance. Some argue that this points to the strong position afforded to fernininity in the pre-Buddhist heritage. Feminist explorations of the study of emotionally charged concepts of home and motherhood are of direct relevance here because of the relationship between the constructions of femininity which are "built-in" to wider social processes. Doreeen 37 Massey describes one regionalization of British femininity, circa 1950, and its ideological spatialization: The occasional idealizations of home by the working-class lads... often constructed that view around "Mum," not as herself a living person engaged in the toils and troubles and pleasures of life, not actively engaged in her own and others' history, but a stable symbolic centre -functioning as an anchor for others (Massey 1994, 180). Thai society too has its idealizations of femininity which revolve around a central symbolic mother image (Keyes 1984). There is a sacred dimension to this association of all things nourishing and fertile, most notably food, with women. Linguistically, the mother prefix, or mae is used to refer to rivers (mae nam or "mother of waters") as well as women-dominated occupations, such as food vending (mae kha, literally "mother vendor").9 Femininity is symbolically and practically aligned with nurturing activities Tanging from tending rice fields to selling rice and curry in a food stall. This does not preclude men and boys from participating in similar activities. Chapter Four will explore the linkages between the ideology and practice of nurturing as it relates to the Thai food-system in general and urban public eating in particular. Thai gender relations are complex and one cannot argue firmly one way or another that women and men are considered "equal" or contrastingly, that femininity is subordinated outright to masculinity. Rather, women and men occupy contradictory positions depending on the circumstances. It is from this point of departure - one that views Thai gender relations as a paradox - that I engage Bangkok's foodscape. What is unique about gender relations in Thailand - compared to most other parts of the world -9 As Keyes (1996) kindly informed me, mae does not always refer to feminine occupations or things female. An example is mae thap which means general. 38 is the relative spatial freedom enjoyed by women. Women and girls walk the streets unchaperoned by men, work in services as well as construction and are involved in entrepreneurialism which takes them outside the home: for example, as restaurant and food stall owners. There are, however, more spatial restrictions placed on women relative to men due to the Thai sexual double-standard. "Virtuous" women do not consume alcohol nor frequent places where there might be prostitutes. The infamous commercial sex industry in Bangkok further complicates discussions of Thai women "in public". 2.2 GENDER, FOOD AND PLACE: "YOU ARE WHERE YOU ATE" 1 0 Although the literature contains disparate references to the interweaving of place and food (Cf. Konvitz 1987; Zukin 1991) as well as gender and food (Bowlby 1988; Charles and Kerr 1988; Curtin and Heldke 1992; Goodman and Redclift 1991; Klopfer 1993), a concise articulation of the conceptual and theoretical relevance of studying gender, food and place together has yet to be clearly stated. French-speaking geographers have addressed food issues but not specifically in relation to sex/gender systems (Peltre and Thouvenot 1989). Feminist geographers and others sensitive to these issues have only recently begun to formulate a discourse around the spatialization of foodways with respect to gender. Bowlby (1988), for instance, has discussed the importance of women in food retailing in Britain. Cook (1995) pays explicit attention to the entanglement of gender, class, and ethnicity in discussions of foodways and place. The lack of concise 1 0 The play on BnUlat-Savarin's (1970) often quoted "you are what you eat" is borrowed from Lantos (1987). 39 attention tp food is astounding given the enthusiasm with which feminists in the environmental disciplines have studied gender issues surrounding housing and urban design (Cf. Keller 1981; Klodawsky and Spector 1988; Peake and Moser 1987; Wekerle 1980; Wekerle 1988). We spend much of our lives growing food or 'winning our bread', or rice, through our labour and subsequently spend large amounts of time and energy shopping for, storing, preparing, serving and disposing of food. All these activities occur in space and recursively help constitute the places in which we live and work. 2.2.1 Eateries, Economics, Women and Men In Switzerdeutsch and certain southern German dialects, the word wirtschaft has two separate meanings. The more widely known and standard German.definition is that of 'economies'. A second connotation limited to the aforementioned dialects is an archaic usage meaning a pub or small restaurant. This is certainly not a coincidence. Inns and small eating establishments have been primary economic institutions since ancient times. The local innkeeper often acted as community banker, employer and local leader. The Stock Exchange of London is said to have begun in a coffee house (Kelly 1995). Inns and taverns have historically been important commercial institutions throughout human history catering to the needs of merchants, travellers and adventurers by providing a meal, drink and a place to sleep. As places for social interaction, restaurants and other eating or drinking establishments contribute tp the edification of 40 certain types of human relations be they related to gender, ethnicity or other aspects of group identity (Bell and Valentine 1995). Important social and economic roles are played by cafes and bistros in Parisian society where drinks, light meals and socializing can take place - the preferred haunt of the flaneur (Sennett 1974; ref). Feminist critiques of the masculinist experience of the flaneur, especially as represented in literature, abound (Pollock 1988; Wolf 1990). Statistics point to a swift transition in the French food-place matrix. Before the First World War, cafes numbered more than half a million. But by 1980, there were just 80,000; and today there are fewer than 50,000 left, including 10,000 in Paris. In 1994, more than 1,500 cafes closed in Paris alone (The Weekend Sun 1995).11 These neighbourhood institutions, like the British pub, are in swift decline demographically as larger-scale international capital comes to dominate the food-system to the detriment of local entrepreneurs (The Economist 1994). Ironically, pubs, cafes and diners are important social and economic institutions for the urban working class in the early days of industrialization but lose their foothold with further economic "development" (Walton 1989). Gendered identities are constructed and practised through and in specific places designed for the manifest purpose of consuming food and drink. Alcohol or other intoxicants seem to have a privileged cross-cultural relationship to institutions catering to men and include the business of prostitution. Urban Thai society houses plenty of such institutions - "cafes", hostess bars and the newer "private member clubs" - where 1 1 The article attributes me decline of the cafe to five factors: high taxes; expensive food and beverage prices; competition from fast food outlets and street vendors; the crusade against smoking and alcohol; and finally, American-style "cocooning" (staying home and watching television). 41 women employees are available for entertainment, conversation and "extra services" to a mostly male clientele. Even seemingly innocent foodshops are sometimes fronts for brothels and "freelance" prostitution.12 The Thai case provides further evidence of the longstanding relationship between food places - such as restaurants - and the evolution of culturally specific sex-gender systems and the power relations imbricated within such aspects of social organization.13 I will comment on this in detail in Chapter Four. "Eating and working are questions of survival, not taste" wrote Ginny Berson in "Slumming it in the middle-class" (1974). For those with more disposable income, however, matters of taste --as Bourdieu well explained — are central (Walker 1991). Contracts worth millions are often negotiated around the sharing of a meal; the choice of the restaurant, food and knowledge of table etiquette are all significant in the process (Visser 1991; Finkelstein 1989). Chinese business protocol requires one to partake a meal with potential partners: "It is here business begins and business is done. It is here silent language is read and a code of conduct is followed" (Wong 1995). Economic survival, by contrast, is the primary concern for the poorest strata of the population in matters of food provisioning and employment. Food gathering and preparation for 1 2 I first heard the term "freelance" applied to prostitution in Bangkok. It refers to sex workers who are not bonded to a brothel or massage parlour and consequently have a greater control over their income. Pimps, sometimes in the form of bar owners or even family members, often collect a portion of revenues. 1 3 Evidence from the Tang dynasty in China, to provide another example, points to the availability of 'exotic' female prostitutes for transient male customers on many of the Eurasian trade routes - many had light hair and blue eyes and were referred to as Western courtesans (Chang, 1977, 137). Hattox (1985) describes the construction of masculinity within Turkish coffee houses where men in the Ottoman empire gathered for leisure. Geisha and Kota houses have historically been institutions catering to men in Japan and South Asia respectively staffed largely by women and usually serving food and drink and, of course, various forms of "entertainment". 42 household subsistence has almost universally been defined as 'women's work' which points to the sexual division of labour, the gendering of knowledge and of spaces and places. Foodways of all types are simultaneously 'placed' and 'gendered'. Women, as we have seen, dominate the retailing of foodstuffs in Southeast Asia as a whole. There are significant distinctions, however, between the patterns of gendered micro-entrepreneurialism in the food sector in different regions and societies. The operation of a warung or warteg in Jakarta sharply contrasts with managing a paeng loy in Bangkok. Both are types of foodstalls but encompass different spaces and gender relations. Men are involved in these businesses as owners/workers or customers and sometimes dominate certain types of enterprises albeit in varying ways. This is an outcome of the ways in which femininity and masculinity are constructed in each local context. 2.2.2 Food-systems and Foodscapes The concept of food-system is a well-established research tool. A food-system is a heuristic device used to grapple with the complex sets of activities interrelated in the human quest for food: A food system is a dynamic and complex unity consisting of all the purposive, patterned (institutionalized), and interdependent symbolic and instrumental activities carried out by people in order to procure, process, distribute, store, prepare, consume, metabolize, and waste food (LaBianca 1991, 222).14 1 4 See Dyson-Hudson and Dyson-Hudson 1970; Pimentel and Pimentel 1979; Goody 1982; McGee 1971; McGee and Yeung 1977; MacLeod 1989, 1990. The food-systems concept may be part of a Western discourse (Ley 1993b). I argue that the food-system concept is simply a tool of value in many socio-cultural contexts. It enables the researcher to piece disparate parts of the food puzzle together. 43 A food-system is a type of representation which has definite cybernetic implications, like any "system" concept. By looking at inputs, agriculture produce, human labour, and capital for example, one can better understand processes at work which conclude with outputs of the food-system: that is, prepared meals, disposed food matter, proper nutrition and so on. The traditional concept of "landscape" in geography has been questioned and reworked in light of theoretical developments in the social sciences (Duncan and Ley 1993). I have proposed the term "foodscape" to describe a complementary representation of foodways and place.15 It is also intended to be used as a heuristic device; one which implies spectacle - a "show" and also an "aid to vision", like landscape (Cf. Daniels and Cosgrove 1993). "Viewing" and visuality, should be referred to with caution as they have played a key role in marginalizing women and persons subjected to colonial rule and thus acted at times as a rather violent "scopic regime" (Escobar 1995, 191). "Scopophilia" has been criticized by feminists and post-colonial tninkers (Haraway 1988; Jay 1992; Mohanty 1991; Trinh 1989). My attempt to represent Bangkok's foodscape tries to remain aware of the non-visual, particularly by citing at length the informants interviewed and refusing to see them as victims without agency. "Scape" words have become popular, no doubt due to the recognition of the cruciality of space and place in recent social theory and have an element of visual 1 5 I am not the first to use this term. While reading through a thesis at the Department of Geography at the National University of Singapore, I discovered a chapter title using the word foodscape (Lee 1992) but the author did not develop the concept in her dissertation. 44 display, or way of seeing connoting a text to be read (Lyotard 1989; Porteous 199016). Appadurai (1990), for example, proposes a framework of ethnoscapes, mediascapes, and other "scapes" to convey the disjunctures in the flows of people, objects, capital and ideas in the contemporary global cultural economy. I use terms with the common suffix scape to indicate first of all that these are not objectively given relations which look the same from every angle of vision, but rather that they are deeply perspectival constructs, inflected very much by the historical, linguistic and political situatedness of different sorts of actors (Appadurai 1990, 296 my emphasis). To use "scape" is tp imply that - like all abstraction T interpretation is a subjective process which comes necessarily from the viewer or author's perspective.17 The neologism "foodscape" is used to refer to a process of selective viewing of spatial and spatializing phenomena - a lens through which to view and understand place. Like landscape, a foodscape is a representation created by the viewer. Geographers have examined the creation of the landscape concept and its relation to the emergence of Archimedean perspective in the visual arts (Cosgrove 1986). Too often we tend to reify landscape without fully realizing that it is the product of a certain era of geographical thought. Unlike traditional views of landscape, however, I want to focus specifically on the social relations which are contained within, and help (re)create, the built environment rather than present a de-humanized portrait of a place (Cosgrove 1986)! The "social relations implicated in the creation of spatial forms have not been included 1 6 See in particular Porteous' chapter on "smellscape", an interesting concept which unfortunately does not get thoroughly explored. 1 7 The suffix "scape" comes from the Old Dutch skip meaning "to cut" Q3oad 1986; Shipley 1984). It therefore implies taking a "slice" of reality. Viewing should be seen as an active, rather than a passive process. Research in optics and human vision indicates that this is indeed the case (Sacks 1995). 45 in the research agenda" Ley explains in his discussion of the "moral landscape" of cooperative housing regarding mainstream studies of landscape (1993, 128-9). By appealing to the techniques built into complimentary food-systems and foodscape concepts, I hope to present the reader with a coherent description, analysis and synthesis of public eating in Bangkok. This ties in with very recent discussions of "public culture" by Breckenridge, Appadurai and their colleagues.18 The representation I construct in this thesis borrows from other people's views and voices. Indeed, it is my position that all knowledge is necessarily representational and that recent work which criticizes the subject position and the ostensible death of "authority" should be taken as a cue to improve the ways in which we choose to represent other people, places, times and - of course - ourselves (Cf. Spivak 1988). These critiques also pertain to the ways in which our academic canons are formed and refute the use of an "objective" authoritative voice by the researcher/writer. Non-representation is an ontological impossibility. This point, unfortunately, has been grossly misunderstood by those who* with the best intentions, wish to "let the sub-altern speak for themselves".19 The ways in which this dissertation experiments with feminist/post-colonial ethnographic practices is outlined in section 3.1. First, however, I 1 8 See, for example, their journal entitled Public Culture, where Appadurai's aforementioned essay initially appeared. Breckenridge recently edited a collection of papers on "public culture" in South Asia (1995). One of the most interesting pieces in the book is Frank Conlon's chapter entitled "Dining Out in Bombay" which paints a foodscape of that city from a historian's perspective. 1 9 Gayatri Chakvrorty Spivak's essay, "Can the Sub-Altern Speak?" (1988) may be one of the most widely misinterpreted pieces of the 1980s. Spivak was advancing that non-representation of the research object was impossible. She was not arguing for the researcher/critic to be "transparent" and to let the "voices" of the oppressed speak for themselves. The essay has, ironically, been taken to mean just that, leading to intellectuals denying that they create representations when "allowing others to speak" thereby absolving themselves of responsibility. 46 briefly overview the concept of public and private spheres which is a highly debated model within social theory. 2.3 WAYS OF DOING AND THE PUBLIC-PRIVATE CONTINUUM The theoretical orientation pf this thesis draws from recent developments in cultural and social geography. Theory should not be divorced from practice and the dichotomy between the conceptual and the empirical is a spurious one. It appears as though higher levels of abstraction are given precedence over what Geertz describes as "thick description" although even detailed description rooted in space and time is an abstraction. I want to move between ideas which are close to "the ground" and those which may shed light on larger scale processes. I find Dorothy Smith and Michel de Certeau's approaches to be the most engaging positions encountered (de Certeau 1990; Smith 1987). Smith's feminist position is the more radical but resembles de Certeau's body and space-centred approach to social theory. In L'invention du quotidien, Tome 1: Arts de faire20, de Certeau explains the point of departure of his research: "The research concerned itself primarily with spatial practices, the ways in which places are inhabited, on the complex process of the culinary arts., "(my translation) 2 1 2 0 An earlier edition of this volume was translated into English as The Practice of Everyday Life (1984). 2 1 "mais la recherche s'est surtout consacree aux pratiques de l'espace, aux manieres de frequenter, un lieu, aux proces complexes de l'art culinaire..." 47 De Certeau does not see human beings as "dupes" but as creative agents who make the best with what they have and employ various strategies, or ruses, to resist the forces of "the system". He deliberately rejects the "objective" stance of the Archimedean perspective, as do Smith and many feminist thinkers, and prefers to stay close to the ground where the optical illusion of the panopticon is less evident and the deeper meanings of action can be excavated. If it is true that the grid of "surveillance" is spread and articulated everywhere, it is even more important to discern how an entire society does not submit to it... These "ways of doing" constitute the thousand practices whereby the agents reappropriate the space organized by the techniques of socio-cultural production for themselves... These procedures and consumers' ruses create, in the end, a network of anti-discipline... (my translation)(de Certeau 1990, xxxix-xl emphasis mine).22 Here, the author is clearly making reference to the work of Foucault and intends to balance his contemporary's project by focussing on human resistance to social control. De Certeau and Foucault are often contrasted with one another offering complementary positions (Dubuis 1995). De Certeau, drawing from Lefebvre, employs a very geographical perspective by valorizing the small victories created by everyday activities and the diverse ways individuals appropriate space for their own ends (Lefebvre 1991). Smith, from an explicitly feminist position, points to the importance of paying. attention to the mundane exigencies of daily life: cooking, shopping and cleaning; tasks often performed by women and taken for granted by traditional male scholars. "The 22 S'il. est vrai que partout s'e'tend et se precise le quadrillage de la «surveillance», il est d'autant plus urgent de de'celer comment une socie'te entiere he s'y reduit pas... Ces «manieres de faire» constituent les mille pratiques par lesquelles des utilisateurs se reapproprient I'espace organise par les techniques de la production socioculturelle... Ces procedures et ruses de consommateurs composent a la limite, le re'seau d'une antidiscipline... 48 everyday world is that world we experience directly. It is the world in which we are located physically and socially" (Smith 1987, 89). Our lived realities are necessarily local and historical, argues Smith. By extension, our lives are geographical. However, "it is essential that the everyday world be seen as organized by social relations not observable within if (Smith 1987, 89, my emphasis).23 This is why a proper analysis of context and events not directly part of the research topic needs to be undertaken. Smith's position challenges the oppressive nature of the "relations of ruling." These relations, in many societies, relegate women to the ranks of those who perform bodily maintenance and routine tasks such as cooking, childcare and office tasks. Not only are these activities taken for granted, ill paid and undervalorized, but their performance is necessary for those in ruling positions to maintain their discursive and material privilege (Smith 1987, 81-83). I will identify a few of the ruling relations, some related to gender, which frame the daily lives of cooked-food sellers in Bangkok. This dissertation will - through the use pf "blurred genres" - convey the nature of my everyday interaction with various "informants" and piece together a puzzle explaining one aspect of the Thai urban food-system. I refer to a vast array of source materials ranging from direct citations, paraphrasing, quotations from fieldnotes and references to other sources. The "ways of doing" employed by foodshop owners and employees, their everyday activities and uses/appropriations of space are summarized and interpreted in this portrait of Bangkok's foodscape. The process of observation is problematized by both de Certeau and Smith. Some of these issues -will be addressed in Chapter Three. 49 Following Smith and de Certeau, the upcoming pages are deliberately embodied, that is, firmly contextualized at the site of social interaction (or "data" collection).. To stand "outside" the world of which I am writing risks the unwitting reproduction of oppressive representations (Smith 1987, 221). The conclusion of this thesis will identify the ideological and practical relations of ruling inherent in the gendering of public eating in Bangkok. 2.3.1 Private/Public Sphere Models The often-discussed problem of "the invisibility of women" has to be viewed in conjunction with the kind of visibility that they have. Women are often literally invisible - absent or unseen - on certain occasions, or in particular places, in many societies... But elsewhere, and at special times, the visibility of women may be very marked. - Shirley Ardener, "The Representation of Women in Academic Models." The classification of urban space into the realms of "public" and "private" is by now a classic element of much social theory.24 Constructs of private and public spheres which model the nature of social life are attributed to the work of a host of theorists (Elshtain 1981; Habermas 1989; Sennett 1974).25 Feminist conceptualizations of public and private are often drawn from the more general social theorists who have dealt with the subject, particularly Habermas as advanced in The structural transformation of the public sphere (1989).26 However, as recent critics have remarked, Habermas' 2 4 By public and private space I am not referring to the public versus private ownership of land (ie. state versus private property) but rather questions of access to various urban places. Access is defined as ability or permission to use and approach certain spaces. For example, a privately owned shopping centre may be accessible to the public, within limits, and is therefore a public place. 2 5 Gatens traces the public/private question in relation to gender to the debates between Rousseau, Wollstonecraft and others (Gatens 1991). 50 mediatized view of public and private may not be as useful as Arendt's more geographical depiction of private and public spaces (Benhabib 1992; Howell 1993). Arendt (1957; 1960) and others (Gregory 1994; Rose 1990) see the ideological construction of separate spheres as a longer standing phenomenon - one going back to the ancient Greeks and present in many non-European civilizations. Here the public is the province of the polis and the "private" represents the deprived and secluded realm of women and slaves. The meaning and specific formulations of public/private distinctions, however, is historically and geographically differentiated and it is with caution that I refer to its use in Western historical scholarship. It is only with the sustained feniinist critique of this formulation that a more spatialized definition of public/private sphere models was introduced; first by Michelle Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere in Woman, Culture and Society (1974) and expanded by others (Davidoff 1995; Elshtain 1981) including geographers (Cf. Rose 1993). "Rosaldo, a cultural anthropologist, argued that women's status is lowest where women are most separated from public life" (Hayden 1984, 50). These initial feminist formulations have been refined and recent work discards a fixed, empirical and dichotomous vision of private and public realms bearing in mind the culturally and class specific experience on which these models are based. Scholars also interrogate how we define and mark "status" - highlighting the dangers of applying foreign criteria which 2 6 The most pertinent member of the Frankfurt School - for the purpose of this project - is Plessner who concentrated on the changing weight of public and private and its relation to the character of the city (Sennett 1974, 32). 51 may not be appropriate to other regions, such as Southeast Asia (Atkinson and Errington 1990). The public sphere has habitually been used to refer to the world of paid employment in the factories, offices and streets of the city whereas the private realm was that of the home, family compound or neighbourhood. This model suggests that, traditionally - but especially subsequent to industrialization - men were associated with and had greater access to the public sphere whereas women inhabited the private sphere, performing unpaid "reproductive" work in the confines of domesticity. The public and private model of gendered urban space has been the subject of considerable debate with feminist revisionist historians offering plenty of examples of women's involvement in activities outside the home (Davidoff 1995; Hayden 1981; Ryan 1990). Other critiques emanating from a post-colonialist perspective assert that notions of public and private are based largely on the historical experiences of white, Western, middle-class society and the ideals which conditioned this experience (hooks 1984, 1990; Mohanty et. al. 1991). We need to distinguish between activities classified as either "public" or "private" and the spaces uncritically associated with these activities. Political organizing, for example, has often taken place in "private" kitchens, and nurturing activities, such as child-rearing, are often conducted in what are thought of as very public places (Staeheli 1996); Further weaknesses in this model have been identified because of the recent experiences of gentrification and economic restmcturing whereby the resurgence of cottage industries, home-working, and sweatshops results in the blurring of putative 52 "private" and "public" spaces (Mills 1989). Many authors have summarily dismissed the concept as a product of spurious dualistic thinking of little, if any, utility. "Postmodern" and "poststructuralist" positions question the validity of all binary models and suggest that we ought to find conceptual replacements for these and other enlightenment categorizations which is a laudable and challenging goal (see Davidoff 1995; Nicholson 1990). However, aspects of such binary models may still be useful. Public/private sphere models, as well as the productive/reproductive schisms need to be rejected empirically but not necessarily metaphorically (Moore-Milroy and Wismer 1994). In my opinion, as well as others', these dualisms need to be re-worked as ideological constructs of allegorical utility rather than categories of existence (Demerritt 1995). They are therefore, models literally-speaking. Public and private will be used in this sense throughout the dissertation to help categorize types of spaces encountered in Bangkok's foodscape. Feminist geographers have long argued that associations between women/the home/consumption/the private sphere on the one hand, and between men/work/production/the public sphere on the other hand, are ideological constructs rather than empirical descriptions (Bondi 1992, 99 my emphasis). Bondi describes how feminist geographers have sought to critique these stereotypes by describing the complexity of women and men's lives. She concludes by indicating that recent positions have examined and challenged the usefulness of these dichotomies "thereby disclosing more fully how our material and intellectual environments are gendered" (Bondi 1992, 99). 53 What is interesting about the case of Southeast Asia in general and Thailand in particular is the historical importance of women in what outsiders have defined as the public sphere. The stumbling block for foreigners has perhaps been the fact that gender markers and indicators of status are ascribed differently in Southeast Asia than in most Indo-European and East Asian societies (Atkinson and Errington 1990). Many have noticed the apparently more egalitarian relations between women and men in the putative 'domestic' sphere. Certainly, it has been my experience that Thai men are very capable child-rearers and sometimes play a househusband role while their wives mind a business such as a hairdressing salon or foodshop. It appears clear that Thai non-elite women occupy significant positions of power within their own socio-economic group (or class) due to their access to and use of material resources (ie. money, land, labour). However, these same women are often subordinated in the symbolic realm of Thai Buddhism and avenues to upward mobility are blocked. Women, as previously explained, are excluded from certain important positions of power which are mostly occupied by men in the bureaucratic, military, and religious spheres.27 These too are crucial aspects of the public sphere. From the point of view of urban feminist geography however, Thai men and women as producers and consumers of prepared food appear to have largely equal access to the streets and lanes of the city moderated somewhat, however, by neighbourhood, time of day and the socio-economic background of the person in question. Indeed, women dominate the retailing of all types of food, raw and cooked. 2 7 I thank Charles Keyes for indicating to me that Thai women now serve in the military and some are even generals! 54 Selling cooked-food is a profitable occupation but it is also a refuge for people who do not have the credentials to work in more formal employment. It is often an occupation which is used to supplement household income. I address these issues throughout the thesis while making reference to the debates in Thai studies surrounding the question of nurturing (Hang) as a gendered activity and larger questions of gender equality in the region. In recent years, what was considered innovative and liberatory feminist research in the 1970s and 1980s has been criticized as ethnocentric and suffering from a middle-class bias. It is standard academic practice now to question the ontological and epistemological foundations of our endeavours as social scientists and we are encouraged to experiment with new forms of representation which do more justice to the subjects/objects of our scrutiny and engage in a self-reflexive stance. This dissertation will not address these basic issues which have more adequately been discussed elsewhere (Clifford 1988; Haraway 1991; Harding 1986). I have, instead, outlined the specific conceptual bases of my enquiry which revolve around the defined notion of foodscape and interrogate private and public sphere models. The following chapter explains my methodological program while conducting research in Southeast Asia: my recording techniques, organization and interpretation of data, and how I generated the conclusions offered in this thesis. 55 it Chapter Three FEMINIST ETHNOGRAPHY AND FIELD RESEARCH This chapter introduces the ethnographic approach which has been the object of considerable scrutiny (Appadurai 1991; Marcus and Clifford 1986; Visweswaran 1994). I begin by interrogating the nature of "feminist ethnography" and the ways in which I have attempted to operationalise such a methodology. The following section describes the ways in which I organized the fieldwork and gathered the information. Specific attention is paid to my fieldwork diary, which I cite at length throughout the dissertation, interviews and transcripts, sketch maps and the quantitative survey. Finally, a justification of the case study site, the Victory Monument Area, forms the final part of the chapter. It is difficult to ascertain exactly when research begins on such a project. Is travel to the place of interest the only valid way of gathering information? I became interested in this topic in 1990 when I initially proposed the research. My ideas at the time were based on experiences I had in Thailand while on a study tour in 1985. Through library research, coursework and discussions with colleagues, some of them Thai, I slowly began to refine my crude perceptions of life in Bangkok. Further opportunity was presented in the summer of 1992 when I studied intensive Thai, as well as a course on Thai society, at the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute at the University of Washington, this was a precursor to formal fieldwork but was part of the 56 same process as it enabled me to strategise on how best to glean information once in Southeast Asia. The organizational techniques were developed through discussions with my advisor, committee members and more experienced colleagues. 3.1 METHODOLOGY A general ethnographic approach was deemed to be the most appropriate way to delve into the world of Thai urban "public" eating. During my two principal periods of fieldwork, I met and spoke with hundreds of people, some more or less formally than others.1 Everyday life experiences formed the basis of the dissertation and were recorded in detail in my diaries. This, combined with library research, reading of local publications and collection of statistics, gave me the needed background information to continue with phase two of the project. In 1994 I returned to conduct tape-recorded in-depth interviews with cooked-food sellers and restaurant owners in the Victory Monument area and supplemented this qualitative data with a quantitative survey of most cooked-food sellers in the district, mapping of eating-establishments and interviews with government officials and consumers as well as general participant-observation. I also visited other Southeast Asian cities to compare foodscapes - particularly Singapore where I interviewed government officials and examined theses/research reports on the emergence of 1 I conducted research from September 1992 to February 1993 while officially affiliated with the Asian Institute of Technology on a Canadian University Consortium travel grant. The second period of field work which began in July 1993 was truncated due to illness so I returned the following year in August and completed my work in December 1994. The second period of work was sponsored by the International Development Research Centre and I was hosted by the Chulalongkorn University Social Research Institute. 57 foodcentres which now largely dominate quotidian "public" eating. I kept a detailed research diary of my observations and conversations with people during the second phase of field work as well. My role as a researcher principally revolved around the recording of details that others - including Thais - take for granted. As Gayatri Chakrovorty Spivak remarked, one can see oneself as a type of bricoleuse - somewhere between a handyman and a craftswoman - in the creation and transmission of knowledge (see also Levi-Strauss 1973).2 Interpretations reflected in this dissertation contribute to more abstract debates on urbanization, food-systems and gender relations in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. By extension, policy can perhaps be influenced in the long run. 3.1.1 Feminist Ethnography Several authors have asked whether feminist ethnography is indeed possible (Visweswaran 1994). It appears that many of these queries and, by extension, critiques of "traditional" academic enquiry including ethnography echo earlier attempts by feminists and others to reformulate the social sciences (Haraway 1991; Harding 1986; hooks 1984, 1990; Smith 1987). There are three main points to be made regarding this vast body of literature. First, impartiality is an ontological impossibility and we should therefore - as much as possible - put our own views forward while aiming to be fair in our portrayal of others. 2 The verb bricoler means to perform a variety of tasks with whatever materials are available. A bricoleur (masculine) or bricoleuse (feminine) is a person who - either out of interest or necessity -conducts a variety of "odd jobs" - especially of a household nature (Petit Robert, 1993). The closest equivalent to this term in English is to "putter". 58 Second, we need to revise our understanding of experience and subcategories such as work to include the types of activities performed by women. Much of the work historically performed by subordinated social groups has been either ignored or devalorized. This has distorted the ethnographic record. Many of these omissions concern the care of the body, including cooking; work which constitutes the everyday lives of many women (Smith 1987). The third and perhaps most important point relates to the ways in which we perceive ourselves and our informants. Feminists have been guilty of making inappropriate generalizations about "sexist oppression" worldwide and have reified the category "woman" while leaving the important differences among women in the background; We need to better situate ourselves in the research context and more concisely articulate the variegated relations of power - with respect to gender, age, ethnicity or "class" - which are at play in any social setting. Escobar reminds us that "the concept of woman as the subject of liberal humanism may not be appropriate to many Third World contexts, and the refusal to separate women and men in some Third World feminisms needs to be entertained" (1995, 189).3 In the case of Thailand, many women appear to see themselves as nodes in a set of social relations rather than as "individuals" in the Western sense. This, however, has never been an obstacle for having discussions with Thais of various social "classes" about the "status of women". I spent many evenings in foodshops discussing the cross-cultural gender relations with women from Isan - Thailand's poorest region in the 3 Even though Escobar's purpose is to attack and deconstruct the creation of the Third World as a category of Western thought and discourse, he continues to use the term throughout his work. 59 Northeast - who were from farming backgrounds and typically had no formal education past the age of twelve or thirteen. The ethnographic encounter, especially in an obviously cross-cultural setting, has more often than not been framed within a set of neo-colonial economic relationships and delicate sensitivities to issues of power. This requires the ethnographer to probe deeply into her or his motivations, ideologies and perceptions; somefliing I have tried to do in this present work. My approach to feminist research combines a post-colonialist sensitivity to and critique of ethnocentrism and searches for empirical examples which challenge traditional Western conceptualization of foodways, gender and urban life. Theoretically, the research has a heuristic purpose, to propose a hew model for the study of urban social life and gender relations by looking at the "public culture" associated with cooked-food retailing. Though my approach is primarily materialist, I am aware of the poststructuralist4 problematization of "experience" and sensitivity to questions of subjectivity, language and power and try to incorporate some of these concerns into my work (Butler 1990; Weedon 1987). The writers I tend to look toward for inspiration, however, desire to communicate to an audience beyond the academy and therefore keep their texts focused on questions of survival as well as identity and discourse (Cf. Afshar and Agarwal 1989; hooks 1984, 1990; Mohanty 1991; Trinh 1989). The newer 4 Poststructuralist approaches trace their genealogy to a number of French social theorists such as Foucault and Lacan with their feminist counterparts (or critics?), Cixous, Irigaray and Kristeva. Ironically, there is no term used in French for "poststructuraUsm" except in works translated from English. 60 approaches to social theory sometimes lose sight of this. As bell hooks summarizes on the "new" feminism and ethnography: Words like other and difference are replacing less fashionable terms such as oppression, exploitation and domination (hooks 1990, 51). My feminist approach attempts to be "grounded" and stems from a desire to understand how everyday life is organized and experienced by individuals and groups of women and men. The feminist approach advocated in this thesis is one of understanding the foundations of everyday food habits in Bangkok including the subjectivities of those who play key roles in the system, that is, the cooked-food producers themselves. 3.2 FIELDNOTES, MAPS AND TRANSCRIPTS What is known as the ethnographic method is actually a diverse set of data gathering techniques which pay attention to what is often taken for granted (Eyles 1988; Hammersley and Atkinson 1983; Smith 1988). There is debate, however, as to what aspect of and how everyday life should be paid attention to, recorded and finally presented in finished form. There is disagreement as to whether ethnography's distinctive feature is the elicitation of cultural knowledge (Spradley 1980), the detailed investigation of patterns of social interaction (Gumperz 1981), or holistic analysis of societies. Sometimes ethnography is portrayed as essentially descriptive, or perhaps as a form of story-telling (Walker 1981); occasionally, by contrast, great emphasis is laid on the development and testing of theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Denzin 1978) (Hammersly and Atkinson 1983y 1). Critics of ethnographic methodology and other interpretative approaches in the social sciences dismiss qualitative and "soft" data gathering techniques as not representative of 61 the population as a whole and, rather, idiosyncratic to the case under study. To this, advocates of interpretative paradigms critique positivist conception of knowledge and, instead, promote the development of grounded theory "generated by a grounding in the data collected instead of arising from a priori constructs, and refined in the ongoing interaction of data and theory" (Smith 1988, 264). Smith calls for theory informed case studies which is what this dissertation attempts to achieve. Smith's position resembles Haraway's now widely cited call for situated knowledge which was previously articulated by other prominent scholars (Geertz 1983; Haraway 1991; Ley and Samuels 1978; Smith 1987). Ethnography involves observing what is around us (participant-observation), talking with people and asking them questions in formal or informal ways (interviewing) as well as more standard social science methods such as surveys and consulting secondary sources like reports, maps and statistics. I employed all these techniques in addition to drawing sketch maps of the study site. While conducting my two principal field visits, I kept a research diary. This entailed detailing my everyday experiences by listing the names and affiliations of the people I met, summaries of our discussions and general observations made about the people, places and things I encountered. In the first few months, my life was completely research oriented and the diary reflected this. Gradually, it became difficult to separate my research proper from general everyday life and entries began to cover a range of topics encompassing my forays and foibles into Thai society at large. This led 62 me to revise my strategy for the second instalment of fieldwork by including only reports on topics of direct relevance to the dissertation or future work. 3.2.1 The Diary as Research Tool The recording of my everyday life, impressions and interpretations was a first and crucial step in the research. Particularly during the first phase of fieldwork, I was a neophyte and took very little for granted. I recorded the way the food system appeared to work and - with time - was able to refine initial crude observations. Often, however, my interpretations were completely inaccurate and it was only with the later interviews that I was able to sort out key issues. This is obviously related to the fact that I was an outsider in Bangkok, a foreigner who was gradually trying to work her way "in". The need to learn the culture of those we are studying is most obvious in the case of societies other than our own. Here, not only may we not know why people do what they do, often we do not even know what they are doing (Hammersly and Atkinson 1983, 7). My being foreign was not a complete impediment. In fact, when explaining to Thais my choice of thesis topic the most common response was "that's fascinating, I would have never thought of that!" As an outsider, I did not take certain things, like the food system, for granted whereas many natives of Bangkok, particularly the younger generation, are completely accustomed to public eating and do not find it unusual in the least. Nevertheless, it would take a lifetime for me to achieve the complete knowledge of Thai foodways of average Thai people. This is where reliance on Thai colleagues and long-time scholars became indispensable. 63 Since I did not appear as a typical farang or "Westerner" but rather a khaek, or a person of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent, my experience as a Western researcher was somewhat different than many other researchers from North America.5 First, nearly every day I was thought to be a native Bangkok resident. I was routinely addressed in Thai and my foreign accent confused my interlocutors. Some thought I was luuk kreung or half Thai and/or else one of the many Thai citizens who trace their origins from South Asia or Iran. This afforded me certain privileges and a number of disadvantages. When I dressed in a way typical of a Thai woman of my age, class and educational level I was able to visibly blend in like an "insider". This disguise was illusory because of my lack of knowledge and experience in Thai society - a discrepancy which sometimes caused me problems due to the expectations of individual Thais encountered. I was also looked upon with a certain fascination by Thais who were very flattered and keen to participate in the study. Some people confided in me, knowing that I was not "really" a member of the neighbourhood and therefore a safe confidante. I established friendships with some informants which can lead to difficult situations such as jealousy when eating at another foodshop or the owner insisting that I not pay s Khaek is a term which has many meanings. It literally means "guest" and historically refers to some of the first foreigners in the Kingdom, namely, missionaries and emissaries from India as well as Arab merchants on Muslim trade routes. It is therefore used to refer to people who trace their origins as far away as Palestine and Lebanon (khaek khaaw or "white khaeks") and as close as Bangladesh. I have even heard the term applied to Malays and sub-Saharan Africans. The appellation is a bit archaic although still widely used. In polite educated society, it is considered slightly derogatory. 64 for my meal. One informant that I became quite close to after nearly two years6, Daeng, even accompanied me on a trip outside of the city: F IELDNOTES 3.1 O UT OF TOWN TRD? WITH D A E N G W ENT ON TRIP WITH DAENG. NOTICED THAT SHE IS VERY TIMID A N D UNUSED TO DEALING WITH MAKING ARRANGEMENTS FOR TRANSPORTATION ETC. PERHAPS THIS IS BECAUSE SHE KNEW I WAS PAYING. IT WAS AWKWARD AT TIMES. S H E ALSO WAS UNABLE TO PUT UP WITH HEAT AS MUCH AS M E WHICH I FOUND STRANGE SINCE I'M T H E ONE WHO LIVES IN AIR-CONDITIONING. I WAS DESCRIBED AS JAI RON A T ONE POINT.7 W E WENT TO T H E FLOATING MARKET IN DAMNOEN SADUAK FIRST.8 D A E N G WAS QUITE TALKATIVE WITH T H E WOMAN WHO ROWED T H E BOAT... SOMEONE WHO MAKES LESS MONEY THAN HER AND IS OF LOWER STATUS... I ASSUME THIS IS WHY SHE FELT COMFORTABLE TALKING. IT SEEMS AS THOUGH A T OTHER TIMES SHE WAS FEELING DISPLACED. S H E DOESN'T GET OUT M U C H AND IS NOT USED TO ACTING AS T H E ' CONSUMER-BOSS'. (THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 22,1994) This was the only experience I had interacting with an informant while not on their "turf". It was only when Daeng was displaced from her usual context that I was able to observe certain elements of behaviour that had not been evident before. It made an immense difference to our interactions and what I observed between Daeng and others. I was required to re-evaluate my usual interpretation of Thai women as mobile, forthright and confident - a trait I had perhaps wrongly associated with small foodshop owners who are most often at the bottom of the Thai social hierarchy. 6 Daeng and I corresponded by mail from 1993 to 1994. Contact with people in Thailand through letters, including the internet, has been a way to continue with fieldwork at a distance, 7 The expression jai ron is one of the many words using the root, jai or heart, which are difficult to translate. It literally means "hot hearted" and is taken to mean impatient or one who has difficulty controlling his or her emotional outbursts. Thais consider this behaviour rude and embarrassing. The ideal Thai state of mind is jai yen or "cool hearted". 8 Daeng had never been to a floating market and was quite thrilled at the prospect of participating in this formerly traditional activity which today is almost entirely staged for tourists. 65 My emotional responses to fieldwork have also helped me re-evaluate my own position on the Bangkok food system. For example, my position was influenced by a certain romanticism which depicts the foodscape as convenient, inexpensive as well as a source of employment for women. FLELDNOTES 3.2 T H E INCONVENIENCE OF PUBLIC EAT ING UNLESS ONE HAS A RICE-COOKER IN ONE'S ROOM SO THAT NOODLES AND SIMPLE COOKING CAN BE DONE, THIS BANGKOK FOOD-SYSTEM IS A BIT OF A PAIN I'VE DECIDED. M O S T PEOPLE H A V E RICE-COOKERS IN THEIR ROOMS A N D THEREFORE HAVE T H E OPTION OF STAYING HOME WHEN IT RAINS FOR EXAMPLE. I DON'T AND TTS GETTING ON M Y NERVES. ALSO, WHEN I WAS A T T A R A APARTMENT THERE WAS A FOODSHOP AS PART OF T H E COMPLEX A N D ONE COULD PHONE DOWN AND GET IT DELIVERED. M U C H MORE PRACTICAL A SITUATION THAN WHAT I H A V E NOW. PERHAPS I'LL GET A RICE-COOKER. T H E FAMILY SAID THAT I CAN USE THEIR "PANTRY" 9 IF I W A N T TO COOK SO M A Y B E I'LL GET SOME PACKAGED INSTANT NOODLES. I BELIEVE THIS IS T H E PRACTICE IN THESE TYPES OF PLACES... OR AT LEAST HERE . (SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 3,1994) Public eating has its disadvantages and inconveniences such as those described above. Kitchenless housing makes the occasional desire for simple home-cooked meals very difficult without at least a rice cooker. Eating on the street can also lead to serious cases of food poisoning. Recent studies have been devoted to the health risks associated with Thai streetfoods (Sunanthana and Sriparat 1993; Charinya 1994). I also had the habit of downplaying the extent to which cooking is still done at home in many suburban parts of the city; particularly where households are composed of extended families. 9 Walker (1991, 1996) defines the Thai concept of a "pantree" which is a room adjacent to the kitchen where food is sometimes prepared and dishes are kept. It is not a storage space for food, like a Western pantry. She defines the pantree as a transitional space between the traditional Thai kitchen and a modern Western kitchen. 66 FIELDNOTES 3.3 SUPPER AT ANGKHANA'S HOUSE KHUN ANGKHANA, A RESEARCH ASSISTANT IN THE OFFICE, INVITED ME TO HER HOUSE IN LADPRAO. WE TOOK A SPECIAL BUS FROM CHULA TO GET THERE... IT WASN'T AIR-CONDITIONED AND HAD A TELEVISION. THE TRIP TOOK ABOUT AN HOUR AND A HALF AND THEN WE WALKED. SHE LIVES ON LADPRAO SOI 56... YOU FOLLOW A VERY NARROW PEDESTRIAN PATH AND REACH A RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBOURHOOD FULL OF PRIVATE, SINGLE FAMILY HOUSES WITH GATES AND BROKEN GLASS ON THE TOPS OF THE SURROUNDING WALLS. WE HAD DINNER THERE... HER SISTER HAD MADE IT.. HARD-BOILED EGGS IN A SWEET SAUCE, ANGKANA STIR-FRIED SOME GREEN VEGGIES IN OYSTER SAUCE AND GARLIC.. TOM YUM PLAA AND RICE, IT WAS VERY GOOD... VERY DIFFERENT THAN RESTAURANT FOOD, (TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 6, 1994) Foodshop fare can become tiresome in addition to the attendant health risks. Although some of the best quality food can be found in the humblest eating establishments in the city as the Shell Chuan Chim10 guide to eating out indicates, many people agree that home cooking by a family member or a hired employee is considered by many to be the best quality. For the purpose of this dissertation, quotes from my research diary illustrate the concrete sites of knowledge acquisition and present my vision of events and contributions of others to my understanding of Thai society. It is impossible for me as a researcher to be invisible to the reader and to speak from a distanced, disembodied perspective. Fieldnotes were sifted through, indexed, used as a basis for further work and later re-evaluated in light of more formal research findings. 10 Shell Chuan Chim literally means "Shell invites you to taste" and is a system of restaurant endorsements sponsored by Shell Corporation. A guide, similar to the Michelin Guide is also published as a guide to the city's best eating spots. 67 3.2.2 Maps and Sketch Maps When I established a case study area, my first priority was to obtain existing maps to glean useful information. The most relevant maps were those produced by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration at the scale of 1:1000. These were initially traced and then my own personal blueprints were obtained in order to design a map of the neighbourhood (Figure 3.1). Despite being slightly outdated, since maps were based on site surveys in the mid-1980s, these provided a foundation for my own sketchmapping of stalls and restaurant agglomerations (see Figure 3.2). I ventured to the Victory Monument Area to map out the location of various types of food establishments, often with an assistant but sometimes solo.11 This was done at different points of the morning and afternoon due to the fact that mobile vendors and those without a fixed-pitch often work different shifts. The "nighttime" foodscape was not systematically surveyed, principally because this would be a thesis in itself because it includes may establishments connected to the sex industry. This reputation also made at least one of my potential assistants refuse to continue with employment! The data gathered are therefore relevant principally for daytime eating patterns. 1 1 While conducting the final phase of fieldwork, I employed two assistants and a small group of casual assistants for help with the more labour intensive quantitative survey. For the first half of this period, I employed Kamolrat Sa-Ngeam (known as Morn), an anthropologist by training. After this time, Kamolrat was no longer available and I was fortunate to meet a nurse/dietician by the name of Arporn Somjit (known as Kapook) who assisted me full time from October until mid-December, 1994. They will be referred to by the first initials of their nicknames in the interview transcripts (M and K respectively). The assistants hired on a casual basis were already employed as research assistants at CUSRI or were students at a local teacher's college and helped conduct surveys on weekends. 68 Figure 3.1 Victory Monument Area, Bangkok Location Map M. Y.-L. Wang 69 Figure 3.2 Soi 4 (Phranang) Robinson Cafe Curry/rice Soi 6 (Santisuk) Luukchin "Disco11 Inter-Suki a o » & '> o_ 'o Private Soi Curry/rice ana fish Computer College IWestern House Cafe Tom's Quick (Steak, Pizzo) KFC I Duck noodles, porkleg rn L S o d a P°P r machine 0-—(- Pineapples "Shakespeare" juice, coffee, milkshakes [3—|" Sweets Soi 8 c a> u -a o o Robinson's Department Store Foodcentre & Suki (upstairs) Food stalls and Restaurants Rajavitee Road (northside between Soi 4 and Victory Monument) September 1994 Legend • stall | | restaurant N L.S. Kwan 7 0 Nevertheless, I was able to keep track of the different "nightscape" of the site through my own personal meandering, with the help of friends, colleagues and research assistants, or as part of a group of acquaintances on an outing. A total of 71 food-establishment owners or employees were formally interviewed in 1994. These informants were divided into two groups: those who were questioned as part of a quantitative survey numbering 58 individuals and thirteen interviewed in-depth. Members of the former group were generally unknown to me prior to the interview except occasionally through casual contact whereas the latter group was established based on networks in the neighbourhood and the building of trust. 3.2.3 The Quantitative Survey Within the Victory Monument area a set of qualitative semi-directed interviews were conducted with a sample of cooked-food vendors, restaurant owners and foodcentre operators. A quantitative survey was conducted during the day with all types of cooked-food vendors in the area with the help of five assistants. Given the fact that most small foodshop owners work by themselves and have very little time, the survey form was kept quite short and required ten or fifteen minutes of their time. My role was that of supervisor and I rotated between the assistants to be certain that sections were not being skipped over. Indeed, quality control was a problem and some of the assistants omitted important parts of the questionnaire when I was not present. The 58 informants formally questioned as part of the quantitative survey provid basic socio-economic information related to age, place of birth, type of food sold, 71 customer flows and data on assistants/employees.12 A total of 23 questions were asked on a variety of general subjects concerning the nature of activities in the shop (see Appendix 4). Some potential informants - often the busiest "one-woman shops" refused to be questioned due to lack of time or suspicion and others declined answering certain parts of the survey. The results are therefore skewed by excluding the smallest micro-enterprises. The qualitative interviews described below were designed to fill these gaps and provide detailed information on the day to day lives of a range of foodshop owners. The results of the quantitative survey were coded and entered into a data base with the help of my assistant Kamolrat Sa-Ngeam. I then uploaded the data base into SPSSx after returning to Canada and was able to perform calculations and generate statistical tables and diagrams. The original questionnaire forms sometimes had to be double checked to clarify answers. The results of the survey are presented and interpreted in Chapter Five. 3.2.4 Qualitative Interviews In addition to the 58 informants formally interviewed as part of the quantitative survey, thirteen in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with individuals from nine foodshops.13 The manager of a large foodcentre was briefly interviewed but refused to 1 2 General information on Bangkok's foodscape was provided by hundreds of Bangkok residents (neighbours, students, academics, government officials etc.) that I talked to over the course of 1992-94. 1 3 The discrepancy between number of individuals questioned and total number of foodshops is because both members of a married couple were questioned in one. case (Samrit and Lek) and both mother and daughter in a another case were interviewed (Daeng and Ying). All names of informants 72 let us question shopkeepers in the centre. I have included some information on this foodcentre. For the qualitative interviews, I chose to engage the help of an assistant to help clarify meaning - mine and that of the respondents. We spent at least an hour with each informant collecting life trajectories, documenting the history of the foodshop, asking detailed questions about budgets (except for the larger businesses which were reticent to share this information) and inquired about employees, customers and relations with authorities. Particular attention was paid to how the selling space had been secured and what the future held for the area in terms of potential real estate development (and displacement) or changing state policies affecting the business. The interview guide (Appendix 2) varied slightly from interview to interview. Responses ranged from simple "yes," "no" or "I don't know" to long beautifully detailed treatises. F IELDNOTES 3.4 LUUNG'S INTERVIEW W E N T BACK TO THE KWAYTIAW PHET PLACE AND INTERVIEWED T H E OWNER WHO ENDED UP INTERVIEWING US. H E STARTED MAKING A SPEECH ABOUT HOW LAZY THAI PEOPLE ARE BEFORE I COULD TURN ON T H E TAPE RECORDER. A CUSTOMER WAS THERE T H E WHOLE TIME AT ANOTHER T A B L E A N D PUT IN HIS TWO CENTS WORTH. (TUESDAY OCTOBER 4, 1996) I decided to tape record interview sessions, despite warnings by two anthropologists stating that "Thais don't like to be tape recorded". I never had any problems and always explained that, as a foreigner who did not understand Thai like a native speaker, I needed to precisely record the words of interviewees. After each interview, my assistant and I would listen to the cassettes and simultaneously translate the responses of been changed to protect privacy. 73 informants directly into either English or French. As much as possible, translation was word for word with the Thai phrases sometimes transliterated into the text.14 I chose to deal with transcription in this manner rather than hire a local secretary or assistant to transcribe the cassettes into English or French and then work from those documents. I did not trust another individual to fully and accurately transcribe the words of informants and since I read Thai very slowly and with some difficulty, I preferred to listen to the cassettes with an assistant. Through this process I was able to gain a lot of supplementary information from my assistants about why an informant had chosen one mode of expression rather than another. Translation and transcription was an enriching socio-cultural learning process. After returning to Canada, I formatted the interview transcripts to be used with a software program called "The Ethnograph" which allows the organization of qualitative textual information by way of assigning rubrics, or coding schemes, to the text. I found this immensely useful. This process forced me to pay close attention to each and every part of the 201 pages of text and decide what types of themes and sub-themes best fit the data rather than vice-versa. While interviewing and conducting the survey I was asked many questions in return and exchanged information with those informants who were interested in my research. AH identifying characteristics of respondents were changed. Others did not appreciate me meddling into their affairs or asked me very pertinent questions such as 1 4 My first assistant, Kamolrat Sa-Ngeam, spoke English whereas the second, Arporn Somjit, was fluent in French. At the time of the interview I did not yet have the software enabling me to write the Thai alphabet on my computer. I therefore wrote in phonetics which, in any case, was more expedient. 74 • "how will this information help us in Thailand?" The answer to this query is more difficult and will be dealt with toward the end of this dissertation. 3.3 THE VICTORY MONUMENT AREA The Victory Monument Area (VMA) of Bangkok accents public eating and was selected for in-depth study using the above data gathering techniques. Many other parts of the city were visited regularly to initially decide which neighbourhood to select and later supplement information from the VMA. The site includes a range of eating establishments and is a mixed-income area with a variety of land-uses: commercial, residential and institutional (schools, hospitals, government offices). The area is a microcosm of the city as it includes nearly every type of commercial environment found in Bangkok. It is known for its abundance of stalls, restaurants and foodcentres due to a diversified population including many young people and migrant workers. The field site highlights many of the phenomena of interest. I decided to live in the VMA to better facilitate the research and experience its day to day rhythms. My transportation requirements were minimized as a result; an absolute necessity in a traffic-jammed city (Robinson 1992). Having been a resident of the neighbourhood for both periods of fieldwork, I know the site very well and have built trust with many foodshop owners. Building these relationships enhanced the quality of the interview results. I was able to trace developments in the neighbourhood over a two year period and capture the texture of some informants' lives. 75 3.3.1 Historical Geographical Description Although the VMA is quite central in relation to the expanse of contemporary Bangkok, thirty years ago it was an undeveloped suburb of the city. In the 1930s, the area was largely agricultural with rice paddies and guava orchards: The niece of the founders of one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in the city located in this area provides a description: There were gardens... guava orchards... and rice paddies, small streets, only one main road, very small. Sometimes, a vehicle passed by. There were bicycles, and samlors. So, to go and buy food we had to go to Sampeng (Chinatown) by samlor. Some families in the VMA have owned their parcels of land for a long time and have become quite wealthy as landlords of shophouses, and now apartment tenants. One informant, Wira, is a wealthy man who with his wife, Goy, manages family property containing shophouses, an apartment and a foodcentre. The land is in fact owned by Wira's mother. "My mother is the proprietor. We're the landowners in this neighbourhood... It's been our land for a long time," he explained. The family purchased the land 34 years before.15 3.3.2 The Victory Monument in the Mid-1990s Today, the VMA is a hub of the city (Figure 3.3). It is a mixed-income area with mostly residential and commercial uses and is an important transfer point for many of 1 5 Wira reports that his maternal grandmother, who is now well into her 90s, had initially bought the property, totalling three rax (approximately 0.5 hectares) when it was still agricultural land for a very low price (3000 baht). Wira described his grandmother as traditional by referring that, to this day, she refuses to wear shoes. She was clearly from a Thai farming background. She divided her property evenly among her three children, one of them being Wira's mother. 76 the bus routes in the city. The district is busy both day and night and there are several night markets in operation near the bus stops and along Rajavitee Road. These markets become quite crowded in the evening with people on the way home from work stopping to buy clothing, take-out food or stop by with friends to eat in a street restaurant. The new above-ground rapid-transit train is currently being built on the Phaholyothin - Phayathai Road axis cutting through the VMA. The area is simultaneously under massive real-estate redevelopment as shophouses are razed to make way for higher density housing in the form of rental apartments and condominiums. As evident in Figures 3.4 which depicts two photographs of the same street corner taken at a one and a half year interval, the VMA is in a rapid state of spatial flux. A major part of the study site has been under the process of redevelopment for quite some time and is depicted in Figure 3.5. The land, owned by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), contains demolished public housing rowhousing where - oddly enough - people continue to live and conduct business. Three food stall owners who operate their businesses on nearby streets live in the torn-down shophouses which even includes one foodshop! This site was meant to be transformed into a public park over a decade ago and the billboards continue to advertise this (Figure 3.6). The residents were financially compensated several years ago but some still refuse to move due to the stalling of redevelopment. "For rent" signs are sometimes seen in and around the area. 77 Figure 3.3 Bird's Eye View of the Victory Monument Area Figure 3.4 The Victory Monument Area's Southeast Corner Photos by Gisele Yasmeen 79 Figure 3.5 Site Under Redevelopment in the Victory Monument Area, 1993 • Figure 3.6 Proposed Park in the Victory Monument Area, 1993 i f 80 One rumour in the neighbourhood was that the proposed transit scheme might pass through the area which explains the BMA's reticence to move ahead with the park. The light rail system is under construction but does not pass directly through the demolished public housing area. 3.3.3 Omissions The quantitative data omit the activities of many late-night food stalls and bars-cum-restaurants which are important food and drink establishments in the area and all over the city. The omission is justified by three reasons. First, nightstalls play a primarily recreational function in Thai society rather than service the core dietary needs of urbanites. Nighttime eating is a world of its own in Southeast Asia and would require separate study. Second, some nighttime eating establishments are explicitly related to the commercial sex industry which is not the main focus of this study.16 Third, my mostly young women research assistants resisted the idea of conducting interviews at night in these types of locations which sell alcohol and are associated with prostitution. FffiLDNOTES 3.5 PROSTITUTION ON R A N G N A M R O A D W H E N I MENTIONED TO GEI THAT I WANTED TO RESEARCH SOI RANGNAM, SHE IMMEDIATELY MENTIONED THAT THERE ARE M A N Y PROSTITUTES THERE A N D THAT IT'S A "DIRTY" STREET... GEI EXPRESSED CONCERN ABOUT WALKING AROUND RANGNAM A T NIGHT... SHE SAID IT CAN B E 1 6 When colleagues ask me where I am doing my research and I answer Thailand, the most common query is "are you studying prostitution?" Though I recognize that it is pf utmost importance to understand this industry which is exploiting, and now killing, women and children (Foundation for Women 1995), I feel as though some of this work by foreign scholars is a bit voyeuristic (see Cohen 1982). It also has the unfortunate effect of stereotyping Thai culture as being somehow uniquely associated with the sex-industry. The problem is universal. I wanted to draw attention to another, perhaps more positive* aspect of the Thai urban way of life. 81 DANGEROUS IF WE LOOK LIKE WE'RE DOING RESEARCH. SHE SAID "DANGEROUS FOR A WOMAN LIKE ME"..'. RANGNAM IS WELL KNOWN FOR ITS BARS, CAFES AND PRIVATE MEMBER CLUBS. (MONDAY SEPTEMBER 5, 1994) A study of the foodscape at night would require different research methods. A n effort would have to be made to be less conspicuous. This methodological issue is an indication of spatial perceptions and gendered barriers surrounding urban space. The relationship between the sex industry and Bangkok's foodscape is a subject warranting separate study. This chapter has detailed the methodological approach used to conduct field research and analyze results. Ethnography, especially in its feminist varieties, was critically examined and I explained the ways in which this methodology was reworked to study Bangkok's foodscape. The Victory Monument Area was introduced and justified as the principal case study. The following chapters delve into the literature on Thai food praxis as ensconced in gender relations and urban socio-spatial change and then provide the reader with the empirical results of the research. 82 Chapter Four THAI AND SOUTHEAST ASIAN FOOD SYSTEMS Villagers in Thailand, as well as parts of Burma, Malaysia, Bali, and Vietnam, see themselves as physically and psychically made up of rice. The Christian God made man and woman in His own image; Southeast Asians think in the same general way, but their self-image is one of rice. For them, rice is literally 'the bones of the people'. - Jeremy MacClancy Consuming Culture This chapter begins by explaining the historical foundations of Thai and Southeast Asian food-systems and ends with a prospectus on the future of public eating. First (Section 4.1), the discussion focuses on the Thai diet and eating habits including the symbolic significance of food. Following this, Section 4.2 outlines how the food-system has been modified following the penetration of local and international capital into agricultural production and food processing. Attention is paid to patterns of food retailing in Bangkok, including the system of public markets, and the changes which have taken place in food distribution over the past 20 years. I also discuss the health and environmental consequences of changes in the food-system. Part 4.3 identifies the various reasons for the emergence of public eating in Bangkok. Subsequently, I look at household budget data, secondary sources and informants' reports to build a compendium of "everyday food strategies and contrast these patterns with a detailed description of the city's elite foodscape (Section 4.4). The chapter concludes with thoughts on the future of streetfoods in urban Thailand and the recent trend to "museumify" public eating in larger-scale developments. 83 4.1 RICE, FISH AND THE FOUNDATIONS OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN EATING One of the defining characteristics of Southeast Asia as a region is the fact that its diverse societies share a few basic characteristics related to diet. The primary factor is dependence on rice as a staple. Most Southeast Asian languages equate the word for rice with food and or eating.1 Indeed the region is considered home to the domestication of rice and its wet-rice agricultural system has been looked on with fascination because of its efficiency (Bray 1986), complex irrigation systems (Lansing 1991) and the ability to support high population densities (Geertz 1963). Historically, there were hundreds of varieties of rice in Southeast Asia but much of that diversity has been lost in the past 100 years - likely due to "modernization" and the standardization of production (McGee 1992). Several varieties of glutinous rice (white, red and black) are still cultivated and used extensively in Northeastern food and in sweets. In general, upland rice tends to be more diverse in both its variety and methods Of cultivation (McGee 1995). 4.1.1 The Thai Diet Rice is so important to Southeast Asians that it is an almost sacred substance associated with life essence (Thai=khwan). As explained by Jane Hanks, femininity - specifically women's bodies - is associated with rice and with this essence (Hanks 1960). Thus the khwan is sustained by, and its incarnation grows from, the physical nourishment of a woman's body. What is to sustain it after a woman's milk gives out? Rice, because rice, too, is nourishment from a 1 In Thai, khaaw means rice but also means to eat when combined with kin (kin khaaw, literally "eat rice"). 84 maternal figure. "Every grain is part of the body of Mother Rice (Mae Posop) and contains a bit of her khwan." When weaning is to rice, there is no break in female nurture for body and khwan (Hanks 1960, 299). Indeed, residual pre-Buddhist fertility rituals persist in the Thai countryside and principally involve women during rice planting. Based on research in central Thailand in the 1950s, Sharp and Hanks write: "In November, as the padi kernels begin to form, a woman goes info the fields with offerings for the Rice Mother. This deity is so beautiful in her pregnancy that a man, carried away by her charm, would frighten her with his advances. Consequently it must be a woman who brings the sour-tasting fruits that pregnant women prefer and invokes her..."(Sharp and Hanks 1978, 132). Aspects of these rituals are shared with neighbouring societies. Keyes has thus characterized the Southeast Asian region as subscribing to the cult of "women, earth and rice" (Keyes 1977, 132).2 Fish is also a substantial element in the Southeast Asian diet and a distinguishing characteristic of the region is the preparation of spicy fermented fish paste which is served as a condiment (Thai= namprik)? The Thai dependence on fish and rice is represented in the often quoted "In the fields there is rice; in the water, fish" which is a stone inscription in Sukhothai attributed to the 14th century monarch, Ramkamhaeng (Van Esterik 1992; Walker 1991). In addition to rice and fish in some form, the villagers of the region also eat a variety of vegetables, including cucumbers, squashes, certain types of aquatic 2 Others have referred to this regional characteristic as the "rice soul". 3 In Malay and Bahasa Indonesia, this pounded mixture is known as sambal or belachan (McGee 1995). Fermented fish paste has a few basic ingredients but prepared differently by every cook. 85 plants, cabbages, cauliflower, beans, and some root vegetables such as yams (Keyes 1977, 127). Thai cuisine also includes a great variety of vegetables, a number introduced by the Chinese, and the characteristic fragrant herbs and pungent spices. The familiar combination of fish sauce (a Chinese invention), garlic, lime juice and chilies introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century is considered the essence of Thai flavour although tamarind (sweet and sour varieties), palm sugar, lemon grass and galangal also play a prominent role. Insects are not overlooked as sources of food, especially in the impoverished Northeast (Isan) but also in central Thailand although this is in decline (Desai and Prapimporn 1995). Middle class Thai find insect eating aesthetically repugnant and prefer to use the bottled essence of water beetle (maeng da) to flavour some dishes. This replaces the necessity of pounding the large pregnant female bug in a mortar and pestle (Walker 1991). Fastidious Thai cooks prefer the authentic method of preparation. 4.1.2 Traditional Retailing Prior to the introduction of the automobile and other forms of land-based transport in central Thailand, food retailing most often took place on canals both for intra-urban distribution of food and to bring food from the rural areas to the city (Chira 1986, 9; McGee 1995). Upcountry markets were usually conducted on land (Keyes 1996). Floating markets (talad nam) were the dominant type of food market in the central plain and continue to operate today in parts of Thonburi and the more well known Damnoen Saduak in Ratchaburi province catering mostly to tourists. Land-based markets (talad 86 din) selling fresh produce, meat and fish have replaced the quintessential central Thai form of retailing (Chira 1986, 9). Land-based markets are considered by many to be originally a Chinese commercial form; "in those days the Chinese were the pioneers of street-living hence the talad or food markets usually resembled the fresh food market pattern in China (Chira 1986, 9 citing Crawfurd). Skinner (1957), however, details the involvements of Chinese merchants from water-based living and selling places to the eventual preponderance of land-based shophouses. Margaret Crawfurd identified and studied 203 fresh food (or "wet") markets in Bangkok-Thonburi in the period from 1969-70 (Crawfurd 1977a and b).4 At the time, 160 of these were registered with the municipal government while some of the remainder were pending registration. Most vendors in the markets sold fresh vegetables, groceries, fish and meat and Table 4.1 provides a statistical breakdown of the sellers studied. Crawfurd demonstrated that three-quarters of the markets were used directly by households to provide the family with daily food as opposed to restaurants and other food businesses. Two-thirds of the markets had fewer than 100 sellers and served a local clientele. Her work criticized the envisioned planning at the time which favoured the development of automobile-oriented shopping centres as opposed to the existing efficient pedestrian neighbourhood markets (1977a, 61). In the late 1950s, an American consulting firm designed the 1960 plan which proposed U.S. style Until the early 1970s, part of the area now under the jurisdiction pf the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) was known as Bangkok-Thonburi. Thonburi is the community facing Bangkok on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river. 87 decentralized integrated shopping complexes. These recommendations were adopted by the Bangkok-Thonburi adrninistration of the time. Table 4.1 DISTRIBUTION OF GOODS SOLD IN FOOD MARKETS Bangkok-Thonburi 1969-70 Type of food sold Percentage Fresh vegetables 39% Groceries (dry goods) 23% Fresh Fruit 13% Fish 11% Pork 8% Poultry 4% Beef 3% Source: Crawfurd 1977a, page 25. These data only pertain to sellers on paeng (selling platforms) and dp not include those selling unofficially adjacent to markets.5 Twenty years later, Chira (1986) counted 218 public retail markets in Bangkok but apparently did not consider unregistered markets. Of these registered markets, 204 were privately owned and managed while 15 were run under the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). As Chira and Crawfurd before him clearly explained, the local government is involved in the sanitary practices and design of privately owned markets. Inspections are conducted regularly. Again, most of the markets were located at the neighbourhood level and the author stated that at the time of data collection in 1982, "new supermarkets in the new department stores were hot yet established" (Chira 1986, Crawfurd did not consider the sale of flowers, cooked foods, desserts and sweets, restaurants and "others" (1977a, 25). 88 27). The number and diversity of food markets between 1969 and 1982 had proliferated due to Bangkok's rapidly growing population. Chira and his team identified the role of the private sector as crucial in providing Bangkok residents with locally produced inexpensive food. They also provide detailed socio-economic characteristics of market sellers. Today, Bangkok continues to have the same basic system of public markets but -as the next section argues - elite shopping practices now include regular trips to North American style supermarkets. Walker's Food Consumption Survey (FCS, 1990) indicated that 88% of Bangkok residents had shopped at supermarkets with 80% and 82% stating that they had frequented local markets and stores respectively. The city has one large wholesale market (pakklong talad) which supplies many of the smaller neighbourhood talad with fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers (Warren and Lloyd 1989, 48-9). Fish and meat are obtained from government controlled marketing boards whereas poultry is less regulated by the state, creating a window of opportunity for agri-business conglomerates to supply chickens and ducks (see Section 4.2). The following vignette of one of my experiences in a neighbourhood market describes the rhythm of transactions. I joined my informant, Daeng, who goes every morning to obtain supplies for the foodshop she operates with her aunt and adopted mother, Ying. F IELDNOTES 4.1: E ARLY MORNING AT SAY Y U T M A R K E T W O K E UP A T 4 AM, EVERYTHING WAS DARK AND I WAS EXHAUSTED. T H E STREET STALL NEAR M Y PLACE STILL HAD CUSTOMERS A T A FEW TABLES. 89 M OSTLY M E N DRINKING WHISKEY WITH THEIR FOOD BUT ALSO A FEW WOMEN. M A D E IT TO DAENG'S SHOP AT 5 A M SHARP. HER MOTHER WAS A L R E A D Y UP A N D HAD PREPARED A SHOPPING LIST WHICH I OBTAINED WHEN W E WERE THROUGH. THERE WERE A COUPLE OF MEN HANGING AROUND W H O M D A E N G EVIDENTLY KNEW. I ASKED ABOUT T H E M A N D APPARENTLY THEY WORK AS SECURITY GUARDS IN T H E APARTMENT ACROSS T H E STREET. T H E Y HELP LEFT HEAVY LOADS AND KEEP AN E Y E ON T H E SHOP A T NIGHT. T H E TWO OF US WALKED WITH HER BLUE SHOPPING BASKET AND WHEN W E ARRIVED A T T H E SMALL MARKET AREA M A N Y OF T H E VENDORS HAD NOT C O M E YET. W E WENT TO A VEGETABLE STAND WHICH D A E N G U S U A L L Y SHOPS A T AND I TOOK A PICTURE. I ASKED T H E WOMAN WHERE SHE GETS T H E VEGGIES A N D SHE ANSWERED "RANGSIT"...SHE ALSO LIVES THERE. I ASKED HER WHAT TIME SHE WAKES UP IN T H E MORNING - 1 A.M. WAS T H E ANSWER! S H E ASKED IF I'D EVER BEEN TO RANGSJT A N D WAS VERY FRIENDLY. I BOUGHT SOME SMALL BANANAS FROM HER. W E THEN W E N T A N D LEFT DAENG'S BASKET BEHIND ANOTHER STALL... SHE LEAVES IT THERE E V E N WHEN IT'S FULL OF PURCHASES... SHE SAYS NOBODY WILL T A K E ANYTHING. D A E N G KNOWS MOST OF T H E VENDORS SINCE SHE'S B E E N GOING THERE EVERY MORNING FOR FIVE YEARS. W E WENT TO A L L HER REGULAR STOPS. FOR EXAMPLE, A HUSBAND AND WIFE CHICKEN, VENDING T E A M (MAN LOOKS CHINESE AND WOMAN LOOKS LIKE KHON ISAN), A CURRY PASTE AND COCONUT MILK STALL IN A COVERED PART OF T H E M A R K E T (TWO MEN), VARIOUS FISH PLACES AND ANOTHER VEGGIE STAND. A L S O , A SPECIAL STALL THAT SELLS SPICES ETC. I TOOK ABOUT FOUR PICTURES A N D FELT RIDICULOUS BUT ALWAYS ASKED PEOPLE'S PERMISSION A N D THEY SMILED AND SEEMED AMUSED. I PROMISED TO GIVE T H E M PICTURES. T H E MONKS STARTED MAKING THEIR ROUNDS AROUND 6 AM... U S U A L L Y INTERSPERSED - M A N Y WITH ASSISTANTS WHO PUT T H E FOOD IN BUCKETS. I WANTED TO T A K E A PICTURE BUT WASN'T SURE IF IT WAS PROPER. D A E N G SAID "NO PROBLEM" AND OFFERED TO M A K E AN OFFERING SO I COULD T A K E A PICTURE MORE CONFIDENTLY. W E BOTH ENDED UP MAKING MERIT A N D A VENDOR TOOK T H E PICTURE. TH IS SPECIALIZED FOOD VENDING WOMAN SELLS "KITS" WHICH COST 15 B A H T CONTAINING ONE LOTUS FLOWER, ONE PACKAGE OF INCENSE, A CURRY A N D A SOUP (IN PLASTIC BAGS) AND A LITTLE CUP OF RICE WHICH ONE EMPTIES INTO T H E RICE BOWL... AS WELL AS A MINI BOTTLE OF DRINKING WATER. QUITE A N EXPERIENCE. I WAS AMAZED AT T H E NUMBER OF MEN WORKING IN T H E MARKET, I ALSO NOTICED A LOT OF SEMI-PREPARED ITEMS SUCH AS CURRY PASTES WHICH I FIGURED PEOPLE LIKE D A E N G MAKE THEMSELVES. D A E N G BUYS KHAAWTOM A T T H E MARKET EVERY DAY FOR HER NIECE'S BREAKFAST. (SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 11,1994) That morning, Ying had asked Daeng to purchase the following supplies: 90 Shopping List6 1 maeng da (giant water beetle) Frying chicken 3 kgs of fish for frying 10 pomfret (a small round fish) 10 baht worth of spices to make gaeng som 2 kgs of "ready to eat" fish (pla re) 10 baht worth of small green eggplants Vegetables to boil and make nam prik Pork for nam tok Sliced pork Pork ribs 1.5 kgs of lotus stems 1.5 kgs of coconut plastic bags, 6x1 lcm and 6x14cm small bags for sauce cauliflower, 1kg tofu, 3 blocks cinnamon, 2 packages oil, 1kg Daeng spent more than 1000 baht ($50) that morning at the market, not including the price of the hired tuk-tuk. Small foodshdps operate on a cost-recovery basis, most daily earnings go toward the purchase of raw materials and the support of family members. Food and the education of younger siblings are expensive. Daily incomes are therefore quite high but do not necessarily result in the producers accumulating wealth for themselves. This corresponds to Tinker's findings (1987). Detailed monthly budgets for Daeng and other food sellers are included in Chapter Six and Appendix Six. The above vignette clearly illustrates that neighbourhood markets involve both male and female entrepreneurs who work in the middle of the night to get the food ready for dawn. Relations between market vendors and customers are based on regular 6 Some items on the list did not specify quantity. Daeng knew through experience how much to buy for the day. 91 purchases and trust. The markets sell semi-prepared items such as curry pastes and coconut milk - labour saving devices for both housewives and foodshop owners. As the reference to the monks indicates, even making religious offerings has been commodified so that local residents can easily purchase "kits" to give alms and make merit. The creativity of Thai food micro-entrepreneurs incorporates traditional beliefs and religious practices. 4.1.3 Supply Linkages: Where the Food Comes From Crawfurd paid considerable attention to the ways in which Bangkok food markets obtained their supplies and the sources of this food. She remarked on the decline of water-based transport in favour of trucking (1977b, 108). There were great divergences in the patterns of supply depending on the commodity being studied. Fish, for example, must be delivered as quickly as possible from ports on the eastern seaboard in order to maintain its freshness. Fruit came from points all over the country and was highly dependent on seasonality. Market gardening of vegetables on the urban periphery was also supplemented by produce grown in more distant parts of the country. Recently, this has taken on even greater importance as agricultural land is rapidly swallowed up by land developers (Greenberg 1994). More recently, Korff described the supply linkages for Khlong Toey market which is in the city's largest slum district near the port. The market is known for its cheap goods. Table 4.2 chronologically summarizes activities of this large market. 92 Table 4.2 24 HOURS AT KHLONG TOEY MARKET Supply linkages TIME OF DAY ACTITITY 01:00 Transportation 02:00 Wholesale market 04:00 Retail market peak begins 07:00 Retail market peak ends 15:00 V v Retail market peak begins 18:00 Retail market peak ends 20:00 Night foodstalls begin sales 21:00 Trucks arrive with food 22:00 Unloading of truck contents Source: Korff (1989, 66-67). Many of the traders studied by Korff go to the central wholesale market (pakklong talad) between two and three in the morning to get fresh fruit and vegetables. They then sell these goods in the types of neighbourhood markets described in the previous section. Other suppliers make their deliveries by truck in the late evening after 9pm. The peak selling periods in this neighbourhood market, like most others in the city, is between 4 and 7 am and then late afternoon between 3 and 6pm. The city's poor tend to shop for their families in the afternoon because supplies are less expensive at this time. This is a generalized pattern. Korff adds that many vendors from Khlong Toey also go directly to the provinces (such as Nakorn Pathom) in the middle of the night to 93 obtain supplies (Korff 1989, 68). This is cheaper than going to the wholesale market because a system of intermediaries is bypassed. 4.2 THE (POST)INDUSTRIAL PALATE The term "industrial palate" refers to the growing share of value-added (often mass-produced) food products in the diet of the average consumer (Salih 1988, 4). Urbanites figure prominently in this shift from family-based food production to the commodification of "people's most basic requirement — food ~ from a part of their place to a placeless industrial commodity" (MacLeod 1989, 4). Following Goody (1982), it is clear that as a society industrializes and urbanizes it becomes up-rooted from its agricultural way-of-life and food becomes a commodity purchased from the market. With the involvement of both women and men in the paid labour force, an opportunity for the sale of value-added (ie. processed) food arises. This demand can be fulfilled in several ways - for example, through neighbourhood catering networks or the hiring of a cook. However, it is in the interests of large-scale business to direct the consumer's spending to a standardized range of value-added goods, usually those manufactured and packaged in order to extend shelf-life. The classic theatre for the sale of these goods is the supermarket where highly processed foods are the most vigorously promoted due to their profitability. 94 4.2.1 Social and Environmental Costs The shift in the composition of the consumer's shopping basket is closely integrated with the emergence of capital-intensive agriculture, agri-business and the edging out of the small farmer which results in lower overall production costs. It is said this also results in a decline in the quality of agricultural output, loss of species diversity and severe environmental damage (Cf. Santisuda 1990). To increase yields, for example, farmers in the provinces have been using massive quantities of pesticides and herbicides on their horticultural produce which have detrimental consequences on human health and the environment (Santisuda 1990). Suntaree Komin explains: Testing of pesticide residue in food has shown that in the vegetable samples tested, 40-90% of the sample contained detectable levels of pesticide. (Suntaree 1989, 113) Vegetable farmers in the north have been experiencing severe health problems due to the excessive use of a myriad of chemical pesticides (Santisuda 1993). The insidious aspect of this is that most consumers of these vegetables and fruit are unaware of the health risks involved. Testing has revealed that a high percentage contain more than maximum recommended levels of chemicals (Shankar 1992). However, a small group of informed consumers have begun to protest by demanding organically-grown produce. The raison d'etre of Tamada, an organic food store in Chiang Mai is an example of this. [M]ost customers are middle-class and well-educated people who are also concerned about the environment. They are willing to buy products that are a bit more expensive than those commonly sold in the market (Chanyaporn 1992). 95 The managers of the cooperatively-owned Tamada predict that prices will drop below those of non-organic produce in th% long-run if the food is mass produced. This is due to the fact that pesticides are not used. Instead, nets are used to keep vermin at bay. A more difficult problem to be dealt with concerns the issue of lead contamination of food due to exhaust fumes. Toxic emissions from vehicles in Bangkok make their way into the food chain. Babies in Bangkok are born with dangerously high levels of lead in their blood (Suntaree 1989, 108-9). This problem will not be resolved in the near future as Bangkok's development continues to be highly automobile-oriented. Local newspapers reported a few years ago that at least 900 new vehicles per day found their way onto Bangkok's roadways (Vespry 1993). 4.2.2 Profitable Palates: New Food Retailing Due to its spectacular levels of economic and demographic growth, "the Asian food market could be worth over $450 billion a year by the end of the century" (The Economist 1993, 15). "Asians" are also seen as a profitable target population by large food multi-nationals because of their brand consciousness: "At the luxury end of the market, especially, Asian consumers seem to be more conscious of the snob value of brands than their Western. counterparts."(77ie Economist 1993, 16). The appearance and diffusion of supermarkets, related retail outlets such as convenience stores and the newest addition, the mega-wholesale outlet (eg. Costco, Makro and/or Wal-Mart) is a burgeoning feature of the Asian urban landscape. In Taiwan the number of convenience stores, supermarkets and hypermarkets rose from 2,000 in 1986 to over 3,000 in 1991 as thousands 96 of mom-and-pop noodle shops disappeared. Supermarkets are setting up in China too. Hong Kong's Dah Chong Hong has recently opened stores in southern China, as has Dairy Farm's Wellcome. As retailing is still in its infancy in much of Asia, space on many supermarket shelves is up for grabs. The food groups that capture it can flaunt their brands (The Economist 1993, 16). The above remarks hold true for urban Thailand where convenience stores such as 7-11 have made impressive inroads in the past few years. It would be spurious, however, to associate these changes simply to the "convergence"7 of consumption habits or the infiltration of "Third World" economies by foreign, especially Western and Japanese, capital. More precisely in the case of Thailand, locally-owned conglomerates seem to control the largest share of the domestic industrial palate and have expanded their operations to China and other parts of Southeast Asia. The domination of local conglomerates is a general feature of the food industry in Asia (Korea Newsreview 1996; McGee 1995). Take Thailand's Charoen Pokphand, Asia's biggest animal-feed supplier and the country's largest conglomerate, with sales of about $5 billion. Boasting that "from the farmyard to the dinner table it's Charoen Pokphand all the way", the company, which was set up by Chinese emigrants, produces feed for and then raises and processes broiler chickens. It also handles prawns and pigs. One of its greatest assets is a network of feedmills and poultry-processing plants sprinkled across China. These and Charoen Pokphand's fast-food joint ventures with America's Kentucky Fried Chicken should allow it to cash in on the country's culinary revolution (The Economist 1993, 17). Charoen Pokphand (CP) not only owns the rights to most of the KFC's in Thailand, it also controls the 7-1 l's, numerous motorcycle and automobile manufacturing operations 7 Convergence refers to the "apparent gradual unification of global consumption norms towards an evolving global standard" (MacLeod 1989, 3). 97 and is the major shareholder of Telecom Asia. CP is one of the biggest foreign investors in China and is now apparently the biggest Asian multinational (Keyes 1996). Interestingly, however, it continues to supply small cooked-food vendors with ducks and chickens (see Chapter 6). Convenience stores are new institutions which have multiplied rapidly in the last ten years. They are generally open 24 hours and sell household products, Western and Thai fast-food and fountain drinks. Customers include school children, the increasing number of people working late and commuters (The Nation 1992, B1-B3). The near grid-lock traffic situation in Bangkok has been identified as contributing to the success of convenience stores which are located on major routes. Managers of some of these stores (such as 7-11 and Central Mini-Mart) claim that their clientele includes lower-income groups as well as wealthier urbanites.8 The expansion of the wealthier classes and accompanying automobile culture has resulted in the proliferation of scores of large shopping centres throughout the Bangkok Metropolitan Region. Last year, shopping centres posted Bt78 billion in revenue, representing about 30 per cent of the entire Bt264 billion retail industry. Of the Bt78 billion, department stores and supermarkets dominated and accounted for Bt50 million, while small retail stores took Bt20 billion and fast-food outlets and restaurants about Bt8 billion. (The Nation, 1993, B16) I was told by one of my informants of an incident concerning a 7-11 in the Victory Monument Area. Apparently, CP had threatened an entrepreneur in the neighbourhood who wanted to open up rival convenience store - "AM/PM" - which has a less expensive franchise and is cheaper to operate depending on the licensing agreements negotiated. The family in question was strong-armed into opening a 7-11 because otherwise CP would have opened in close proximity at its own expense to drive the competition out of business. 98 These new camedrals of commerce are expected to erode traditional retailing businesses and ultimately carve out 50 per cent of market share according to a Siam Retail Development executive quoted in the above article. Table 4.3 lists the principal shopping plazas of Bangkok in the 1980s. Since that time, many mega-malls have appeared - especially on the urban periphery (Asia Magazine 1992). F IELDNOTES 4.2 T H E M A L L , NONTHABURI W E N T TO " T H E M A L L " SHOPPING CENTRE IN NONTHABURI TO SEE T H E F A O EXPO WHICH WAS SO THOROUGHLY ADVERTISED ON RADIO THAILAND. GOT THERE AFTER TWO BUSES AND MUCH WALKING AND WAS QUITE DISAPPOINTED. THERE WERE KIOSK-TYPE DISPLAYS, A L L IN THAI, BUT SEEMINGLY NO REPRESENTATIVES FROM F A O - PATHETIC. I WALKED THROUGH THIS GIGANTIC M A L L (SIX OR SEVEN STORIES). THERE IS A HUGE AMUSEMENT PARK FOR CHILDREN ON T H E VERY TOP FLOOR. THERE IS ALSO A WATERSLIDE PARK AND SWIMMING POOL ON T H E TOP FLOOR . (SUNDAY OCTOBER 18,1992) Supaluck Umpujh, is Executive Vice-President of The Mall Group Co., Ltd. Her father began the company which is now the second largest department store operator in Thailand. There are eight locations in the city some spanning an area of 300,000 m2. The ninth is currently being designed. All "The Mall" complexes include amusement parks, waterparks, and ice-skating rinks (Licuanan 1995, 47). Some mega-malls, like the one described above, resemble the "West Edmonton Mall" which focus on leisure activities (Cf. Hopkins 1991a and b). Nearly all have extensive and elaborate foodcentres and food floors featuring a full range of Thai, Chinese and Western foods. To some, this may appear like a straight forward process of "Westernization". On closer examination, however, it seems as though Thai cultural 99 practices, including foodways, are being recontextualized and are far from being "mailed" out of existence. Rather, the context in which Thai and Sino-Thai foods have habitually been sold, such as small foodshops, is facing intense competition from new institutions such as foodcentres. Table 4.3 SHOPPING CENTRES AND DEPARTMENT STORES Bangkok 1970s and 1980s Name of shopping Founded Size of estab. (m2) Dep't store / other centre/dep't store (year) main enterprise Pathumwan Amarin Plaza 1984 14,300 Sogo Big Bell 1984 8,540 Big Bell Central Chidlom 1974 13,650 Central Galleries Lafayette 1985 Peninsula Hotel Mahboonkrong 1986 100,000 Tokyu Peninsula Plaza 1986 - Peninsula Hotel Ploenchit Arcade 1970 . -- Foodland Robinson Radamri 1981 10,800 Robinson Siam Centre 1972 28,000 -The Mall Radamri 1981 18,888 The Mall Radamri Arcade . 1972 28,785 Thai Daimaru Phranakorn Bangkok Co-op - -- --Banglamphu Centre - - -Central Burapha 1981 2,677 Central Danh Hua Saeng - -Garufa Plaza - - -Merry Kings 1979 4,876 Merry Kings New World 1984 20,000 New World Nightingale - -Ratprasong Centre — 100 Name of shopping Founded Size of estab. (m2) Dep't store / other centre/dep't store (year) main enterprise Phyathai City Plaza 1984 16,372 World Hollywood Mall 1991 — Pata Indra 1969 18,900 Indra Hotel Merry Kings 1980 8,000 Merry Kings Panthip Plaza 1984 1,823 Excel Robinson 1985 Robinson Metro 1981 22,100 Metro Phrakanong Asia Phrakanong 1980 3,887 • — Bangkok Co-op - — — City Landmark 1988 — Landmark Hotel Robinson 1990 -- Robinson Thai Daimaru 1980 3,312 Thai Daimaru Bang Rak Central Silom 1968 11,311 Central River City 1984 20,804 Royal Orchid Robinson 1984 14,000 Robinson Charn Issara 1985 14,000 -Samphanthawong Cathay Yaowarat 1981 3,186 Cathay Daifha — — Maeukham - • --Bang Kapi Central Ramkamhaeng 1985 - •• Central Ramkamhaeng Centre - -- — The Mall Ramkamhaeng 1983 14,000 the Mall . Bangkok Noi Bangkok Co-op - — • — Pata Pingklao 1980 16,000 Pata Klong San Bangkok Co-op - . — Central Ladja 1980 13,352 Central Bang Khen Central Plaza 1982 106,000 Central/Hotel Thonburi Cathay Wongwien - - Cathay The Mall Wongwien 1987 The Mall Source: Korff (1990, 222-23). 101 Much of Bangkok's retailing activity in the food-sector is clearly expanding from public places such as streets and streetfronts to privately owned and controlled indoor places, for example, shopping centres and new air-conditioned restaurants and in foodcentres and food floors. This reflects the tastes of the emerging well-heeled classes. The spatial shift in public eating - as street restaurants are forced to close to make way for more automobiles - has been bemoaned by one of the city's restaurant critics. He cites an example near Yaowaraj: it was one of the few parts of the city where a large number of people gathered spontaneously, met friends, and had a good time: the kind of thing that is always welcomed and cultivated by those who are adrninistering a properly-run city, and that gives the city a good name among visitors. (Bangkok Post 1993) Thai urban streetscapes are under threat by these developments. Public eating is increasingly taking place in privately-owned space which is more or less open to the public. On the other hand, shopping centre and department store owners argue that their food services are more hygienic and adhere to the labour code. Regarding food safety, recent articles have dismissed this claim, at least for "pre-prepared" food packages in supermarkets which are neatly presented on foam covered in plastic wrap (Matichon 1994). Information on the enforcement of labour standards is more difficult to obtain. Food-centre and shopping plaza managers reported that foodshop owners on their premises make their own arrangements for staffing and often hire family members. I would find it unlikely that family members were paid minimum wage or other benefits associated with the labour code. Evidence in this thesis suggests that as the gap continually widens between the rich and poor in Bangkok, we are witnessing the emergence of a dual food-system 102 resembling trends identified in neighbouring Malaysia (Salih 1988).9 The wealthy have a range of choices available to them in terms of eating arrangements. These consist of eating food prepared by servants at home, catering networks, neighbourhood foodshops and foodcentres, suburban 'food gardens' - large restaurants with a sala thai10 design - as well as expensive restaurants. The second system is for the poor, including those who actually transport, sell and prepare the food. Here, the range of eating establishments is limited. Their eating places include their humble living quarters and shops, streetfoods and, in some cases, meals provided by their employers. As summarized by Askew and Paritta: The shopping centres of the outer areas symbolize the development of a newer culture based on modem convenience, shopping and transportation by private motor vehicle. At the same time, the neighbourhood markets and the cheap street-side restaurants in the sois and more congested neighbourhoods point to the persistence of a less modernized life-style reflecting the continuing significance of public life in less formally regulated public spaces, especially for the urban poor (Askew and Paritta 1992, 164). The inhabitants pf these far from separate worlds often converge,, not only because of transactions between vendor and customer or maid and employer but in the many intermediary eating venues which cater to a wide range of income groups. The above representation, then, requires some qualification. The shift in retailing structure is intricately related with the growing availability of convenience and ready-to-eat foods. For Taiwan, this has been identified as related 9 Malaysia, however, has preserved and enhanced its streetfoods. 1 0 A sala thai is a traditional pavilion in which community activites customarily take place. Roofs are sloped in the manner of Thai architecture and the entire structure is usually made of wood. 103 to the high number of women in the workforce (Bangkok Post 1993, 20) and the same certainly holds true for Thailand. 4.3 WHY EAT OUT? The added contemporary impetus for buying prepared food in Thailand and Southeast Asia comes from rapid urbanization and industrialization and concomitant changes in family structure and the roles played by women. As Suntaree Komin explains, socio-economic change has completely altered the food-system: The decline of family functions is clearly visible in Bangkok. As there is an increase of women working outside households, this trend is almost inevitable. Family functions have been taken over by various specialized organizations. For example, working mothers leave their household chores to the servants. Meals preparation (sic) are taken care of either by servants, or by subscription to the meal-catering services (J'pinto/)," or by buying those ready-made foods each day on the way home (Suntaree 1989,86). Suntaree is primarily describing middle-class food habits as the poor in Bangkok can ill afford to hire servants. However, the general explanation for the growth of public eating is sound, that is, the changing roles and occupations of women. Also, with large numbers of men coming to the city to find employment - especially those who are separated from their families - there is an increased demand for prepared food emanating from the male population; a trend evidenced elsewhere (Klopfer 1993; Savara and Everett 1991). There are several other inter-related explanations for the general " Pinto is the Thai expression for a "tiffin" or tiered lunch kit which is commonly used throughout Asia. It has an agricultural origin and is referred to by Hauck etal. (1958). They describe how lunch was often transported to the fields in this three or four tiered metal container. 104 emergence of public eating in Bangkok, namely: the labour-intensivity of Thai cuisine; demographic change; kitchenless housing; and general "cultural" preferences. Labour-intensive cuisine: The preparation of Thai food involves a lot of chopping, grinding, pounding and thus takes a lot of time and effort to prepare. It also involves the combination of many ingredients. Paradoxically, however, noodles are easy to prepare yet noodle shops are the most ubiquitous and highly frequented eating establishments in Thai society. This may be because they were originally part of the "coolie food-system" catering to migrant Chinese labourers. People rarely cook noodles at home except for the packaged type, which - except for "Mama's" brand - are not considered very tasty. Nevertheless, the labour-intensivity of Thai food preparation is a determinant in the development of Bangkok's food-system. Demographic Change in Bangkok: Since World War II, migrant workers, students and others have come to Bangkok to earn a living or study. Many come on their own without their families. According to the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), a total of 892,000 people migrated to Bangkok or the five surrounding provinces of the Extended Bangkok Metropolitan Region between 1975 and 1990 (Table 4.4). Government figures grossly underestimate actual migration because temporary residents of Bangkok who return to their homes in the countryside for part of the year are not counted and number in the tens of thousands (Keyes 1996). These people either live in housing where it is impossible if not difficult to cook (see below) due to lack of space or find it inconvenient to cook for just one or two people. Most of these migrants are poor and in need of income which leads to the opening of a 105 small enterprise such as a foodshop. Vendors and their employees are willing to work long, hard, hours for very little in the way of financial compensation. Table 4.4 MIGRATION TO THE EXTENDED BANGKOK METROPOLITAN REGION 1975-1990 Years BMA Five surrounding provinces8 1975-80 190,000 96,000 1980-85 184,000 122,000 1985-90 149,000 151,000 a Refers to Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Pathum Thani, Nakhbn Pathom, and Samut Sakhon Source: cited in Greenberg (1994), p. 104. Kitchenless housing: Dolores Hayden in The Grand Domestic Revolution (1981) described how 19th century American apartment buildings were often kitchenless with a central cafeteria or dining room frequented by tenants during mealtimes. A similar trend has emerged in late 20th century Bangkok with many apartment blocks typically providing one-room suites (see Figure 4.1) that do not contain cooking facilities. In toto, more than 20% of Bangkok's housing stock is kitchenless - this can be inferred from the fact that 23.4% of the city's housing stock consists of rooms; the majority of which do not have cooking facilities (NSO 1990). This is attributed to the ease of purchasing meals but also because cooking is prohibited in apartments to prevent odours and hygienic problems. At the same time, people do not have the space to entertain at home. Thais do not usually invite guests to their homes unless they have lavish 106 furrushings and a beautiful home (Walker 1991). Since nearly a quarter of Bangkok's housing stock is comprised of rooms and 12.6% is classified as "other", it is possible that nearly half the population of the city does not have access to a full kitchen. Table 4.5 TYPE OF DWELLING (% OF HOUSING STOCK) Greater Bangkok Detached House 44.0% Room or rooms 23.4% Row house 20.0% All other types 12.6% NSO, Office of the Prime Minister. Preliminary report ofthe 1990 Household Socio-Economic Survey. "Luung (meaning "uncle"12), a 60 year old duck noodle shop owner, explains the relationship: People like to eat out because they can't cook in the apartments. There are only bedrooms so they have to buy already-prepared food. Therefore, as I explained earlier, there are many foodshops and vendors. At the beginning of this soi until the end there are at least-'ten businesses. Usually, a foodshop selling made-to-order food (ahaan tarn sang) is located on the ground floor of the apartment building. Tenants can phone the shop to place orders -usually for, noodles or fried rice - and sometimes can eat in the shop if it is large enough and provides tables and chairs, Typically however, the vendor and her or his family will live in the shop rather than use it as an eat-in establishment. It is more 1 2 Uncle and Aunt are polite terms of address when referring to an older person in an informal context. 107 common for tenants to have their food delivered direcdy to their rooms after placing an order by phone. Many landlords design the suites without kitchen facilities to prevent residents from preparing food in their rooms. The pungent odors of Thai cooking are considered inappropriate in high density housing.13 Despite these regulations, rented-room dwellers often use rice-cookers to steam rice and make other simple dishes. A hot-plate or kettle can also be used to make packaged-noodle soup. The wealthier increasingly own microwaves. A conversation between Luung and one of his customers illustrates one perception of the phenomenon. Customer: Now there are microwaves, people with money can buy them. Luung: But, microwaves can only rerheat the food, isn't that right? Customer: No, you can cook in that machine. When you put the food inside, it cooks! Ordinary people can't buy it because it's expensive. Only the rich can have it. Here, it is evident that Luung and his customer are conscious of the income stratification of Thai society and the limits it imposes and privileges it grants. The microwave oven, if purchased by or made available to a large enough group of people could radically transform the Thai urban food-system by making small foodshops partially obsolete. Lunchtime customers could purchase their food in supermarkets and "cook" it at the office, or else, cook food at home and re-heat it elsewhere. Consumerism: Thailand's rapid industrialization has led to growth in disposable income, especially in Bangkok. The society has moved from a subsistence to a cash economy in urban areas and to a certain extent in the rural parts of the country. 1 3 Traditionally, Thai kitchens are located out of doors for precisely this reason (Walker 1991). 108 Figure 4.1 Tara Apartment (typical room) w/c Balcony O J Dresser w/ mirror O lTable) O King-size Bed (sleeps 3) L.S. Kwan Floor Plan of a Kitchenless Apartment 109 People now have to buy the things they need to survive; even prepared food. In addition, eating and related activities - such as shopping - are important parts of the leisure habits of Thai urbanites. The infamous nightlife of Bangkok - which often involves prostitution - mostly for local men - includes drinking alcohol and eating meals in "cafes".14 This ties in with patterns of Thai gendering. "Cultural" preferences: Thais appear to be preoccupied with convenience and make great use of labour saving strategies and devices when they are affordable. For example, a maid I met from Isan would buy pineapple from the market for her employer to save him money but would purchase one already cut up for herself and her husband because it was more convenient. A Sino-Thai shopkeeper I met described the Thai preponderance for purchasing prepared food as evidence of a lack of "discipline". "They don't know how to budget their money, " he remarked. Luung made similar comments. Like other parts of Southeast Asia, Thailand is a snacking culture where several small meals per day are common rather than the "three square" requirement of Europeans.15 Perhaps this is the most logical eating pattern in a tropical environment. Thai are fond of repeating: khon thai kin khaaw talot wela, or "Thai people eat all the time"! It is a well-established cultural practice to eat out of doors which results in a lively street and soi life. Leisure habits of Thai urbanites focus very much around 1 4 Cafes and other eating venues will be typologized in Chapter Five. 1 5 A German woman I met while in Bangkok complained that her Thai maids fed her two-year old "constantly" which irritated her and her Swiss husband. She insisted that they stop this practice in order to retain the discipline of three meals per day. 110 commensality in public places. "Have you eaten yet?" (kin khaaw rue yang?) is a typical greeting upon meeting friends and co-workers.16 According to Walker's Food Consumption Survey, 11% of Bangkokians never cook at all. NSO figures are even higher at 27% (NSO 1990). The figure is no doubt even more impressive if one includes people who limit their "cooking" to using a rice-cooker or hot-plate for steaming/boiling rice and noodles. True cooking "from scratch" is becoming a rare occurrence in Bangkok. Furthermore, a growing number of markets are selling "semi-prepared" food which can be "cooked" in a microwave and eaten immediately with no added labour. This further complicates definitions of cooking and food-preparation. The following illustrates some of the arrangements made at the Asian Institute of Technology where I was affiliated for the first phase of my field work. FIELDNOTES 4.3: THE ASIAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY'S STUDENT FOOD-SYSTEM FOUND OUT THE SOUTH ASIAN STUDENTS HAVE A FOOD-SYSTEM OF THEIR OWN ON CAMPUS. MANY (MOST) HAVE THAI WOMEN HIRED AS COOKS -THESE WOMEN COOK INDIAN FOOD FOR THEM EITHER ON AN INDIVIDUAL HOUSEHOLD BASIS (FOR THOSE LIVING IN THE "VILLAGE" HOUSING COMPLEXES) OR ON A "MESS" BASIS. APPARENTLY THERE ARE SEVERAL MESSES WHICH ARE DIVIDED ON AN ETHNIC/REGION AND A GENDER BASIS. THE INDIAN STUDENTS REFER TO THEIR COOKS AS "THE KHUNS" AND REPORT THAT THEY MAKE DELICIOUS FOOD IN ALMOST ANY REGIONAL STYLE. I MET ONE OF THESE WOMEN AND ASKED HER WHERE SHE LEARNED TO COOK INDIAN FOOD... SHE SAID SHE JUST WATCHED SOMEONE AND LEARNED. SHE CLAIMED NOT TO LIKE THE FOOD HERSELF. 1 6 Another factor which was sometimes mentioned by informants was the question of traffic jams. Since people no longer know how long it will take to get home, it seems as though they often eat immediately after leaving work in the evening. I l l OTHERS HAVE A "CONTRACT" WITH T H E THAI-MUSLIM MANAGER OF T H E LITTLE SNACK BAR IN T H E CAFETERIA. T H E SNACK BAR PROVIDES SUBSCRIBERS WITH TWO MEALS PER DAY (OR WHATEVER ONE ARRANGES) FOR B T 20 PER MEAL. THIS INCLUDES A CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE CURRY, ONE DAHL, RICE, DESSERT, YOGHURT AND A DRTNK. SUBSCRIBERS GET SERVED BY T H E YOUNG THAI WOMEN AT THEIR TABLES OR HELP THEMSELVES CAFETERIA-STYLE. T H E Y PAY IN A D V A N C E FOR T H E TERM, Y O U CAN ALSO GET MEALS ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS IF THERE'S ENOUGH, A L L THESE ARRANGEMENTS ARE IN ADDITION TO T H E FORMAL CAFETERIAS A N D DINING ROOMS OF T H E UNIVERSITY... (WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 30, 1992) The practice of forming "messes" is quite common on a number of South Asian university campuses (Pendakur 1992). Students from China were known to do the same and to join a mess was to make a statement about one's ethnic allegiances.17 I am unsure to what extent the Thai students at AIT formed similar arrangements. The practice is no doubt less widespread due to the wide availability of Thai food and the fact that eating "a home-cooked meal" in a domestic setting does not appear to have the same cultural importance as it does in South Asia, or traditional Europe and North America. 4.3.1 Public Eating Thailand boasts the highest female labour force participation rates (FLFPR) in Southeast Asia - a region already known for the high economic activity levels of women. The curve in Figure 4.2 representing Thai FLFPR is consistendy the highest at 87% and demonstrates a "central peak" or plateau pattern indicating that women do not withdraw 1 7 Wang, a Chinese student at AIT, had been eating with the others in the cafeteria every day. He spoke a bit of Thai and was known to eat many types of food. When he no longer joined us, I inquired as to his whereabouts. "Wang joined a Chinese mess," lamented one of the Indian students. When I asked why she sounded disappointed, my acquaintance responded, "he was becoming very Thai". 112 i. from the labour force during their child-bearing/rearing years (Jones 1984, 28). This is characteristic of the Malay and T'ai cultural realms where women play an important economic role earning money for their families. 90 80 70 60 01 O l S 50 u a a. 40 30 20 10 Female Labour Force Participation (%) Southeast Asia 1990s Thailand 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 Age Figure 4.2 Source: International Labour Organisation, 1994. Although the poorest urbanites continue to cook for themselves when possible (de Wandeler 1990), most women and men have no time to cook and have income available for prepared food. As indicated in Table 4.6, 48% of the monthly food budget in Greater Bangkok is spent on already-cooked comestibles. The trend of purchasing prepared food to take home and eat began in the post-World War II period and has 113 grown significantly in the last twenty years with large numbers of women entering the remunerated urban workforce (Van Esterik 1992). Table 4.6 AVERAGE MONTHLY EXPENDITURES PER HOUSEHOLD BY TYPE OF FOOD CONSUMED Type of food consumed Whole Kingdom Greater BKK Food prepared at home 1.494B (76%) 1.616B (52.3%) Prepared food taken home 173B (8.8%) 457B (14.8%) Food eaten away from home 1 300B (15.2%) 1,014B (32.9%) NSO, Office of the Prime Minister. Preliminary Report ofthe 1990 Household Socio-Economic Survey. 1 Excludes alcoholic drinks away from home. The 1990 Household Survey of Greater Bangkok found that in a seven-day period, take-home food consisted mostly of rice and curry (khaaw gaeng) and noodle dishes. Table 4.7 provides a breakdown of expenditures for this time period. Fried rice, "meals" (referring to catered tiffin food), snacks and other prepared food total up to the remaining 12% of weekly take-home prepared food expenditures. On average, 116.42 Baht (nearly $6 CDN) per week is spent on take-home food. 114 Table 4.7 AVERAGE WEEKLY EXPENDITURES FOR PREPARED FOOD TAKEN HOME Greater Bangkok 1990 Type of Food Expenditure (Baht) Percentage of total Rice and Curry 85.93 73.8% Noodles 16.65 14.3% Fried Rice 4.97 . 4.3% Meals (pinto food) 4.03 3.5% Snacks 3.26 2,8% Other prep, food 1,58 1.3% Total 116.42 100.0% Source: National Statistical Office, Office of the Prime Minister, Report of the 1990 Socio-Economic Survey: Bangkok Metropolis, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan, 1994, page 17. The following table (Table 4.8) shows that most meals - especially breakfast and supper - are still eaten at home rather than in stalls or restaurants. Although much of this food may be purchased from an outside source, the domestic setting remains the preferred locus of commensality. Eighty-seven percent of respondents to the Food Consumption survey indicated that they eat supper at home "everyday or most days" with 65% answering the same for breakfast. Only lunch appears to be the meal taken most frequently outside the home with less than half (46%) indicating that they eat lunch at home "everyday or most days". i 115 Table 4.8 FREQUENCY OF EATING MEALS AT HOME Greater Bangkok 1990 Respondents' reply Breakfast Lunch Supper Everyday or most days 65% 46% 87% Occasionally / rarely 35% 54% 13% Source: Walker, Marilyn. Food Consumption Survey. 1990. The household survey confirms Walker's data and found that 63% (163.04 Baht) of the total expenditure on prepared food consumed outside the home is spent on lunch with breakfast coming in second place at 16.2% (41.97 Baht). 13.4% (34.56 Baht) was spent on the evening meal. Table 4.9 provides information on other expense categories for food eaten away from home. Walker's data confirm this trend and show that most respondents ate out at lunch and breakfast and for snacks; 87% still reported eating supper at home "everyday or most days". Concerns about the impact of eating away from home on family life need not be exaggerated because evenings are still reserved for family commensality. Prepared food is therefore a frequent substitute for home cooked meals whether or not the food is actually eaten at home or elsewhere. The following section defines and describes the various food strategies employed by Bangkok residents to obtain cooked-food outside the home. 116 Table 4.9 AVERAGE WEEKLY EXPENDITURES FOR PREPARED FOOD EATEN AWAY FROM HOME Greater Bangkok 1990 Expense Category Expenditure (Baht) Percentage of Total Breakfast 41.97 16.2% Lunch 163.04 63.0% Dinner 34.56 13.4% Snacks 3.01 1.16% Alcoholic Drinks 14.81 5.73% Other Food and Bvg. 1.30 0.5% Total 258.69 100.0% Source: National Statistical Office, Office of the Prime Minister, Report of the 1990 Socio-Economic Survey: Bangkok Metropolis, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan, 1994, page 17. 4.3.2 Everyday Food Strategies A 'traditional' strategy common throughout Southeast Asia is the subscription to neighbourhood catering networks where food - normally one soup, one vegetable and one dish (often a curry) - is delivered at a regular time every day in a tiffin (pinto) (Figure 4.3). The tiffin-network strategy is seemingly being eclipsed by the small foodshop sector where food is available anywhere, anytime - an important attribute in a city where traffic is grid-locked during rush hours. Women are seen stopping at a 117 foodshop in the evenings on their way home from work to pick up dinner for the family — main courses are placed in small plastic bags; the accompanying rice being prepared easily at home in a rice cooker. More recently, foam containers have been introduced; it is now common to hear people request say foam or "put it in a foam box". Bangkok residents hence refer to mae boon tung plastic or 'plastic bag housewives' (Van Esterik, 1992). Obviously, women consumers are rarely "housewives" as most engage in remunerative employment. The arrival of this newcomer in the foodscape signals the blurring of boundaries between public and private space. Foodshops act as semi-private or semi-public spaces where urbanites meet their daily food needs. What traditionally took place mostly within the home is now contracted out to micro-entrepreneurs. The owners of D'jit Pochana [Figure 4.4] - considered the first 'proper' Thai restaurant, started with a family-run tiffin network and later, a curry shop. This expensive establishment now has three locations in suburban parts of the city and is popular with military officers. D'jit Pochana is just one example of Bangkok's elite foodscape which includes both Thai and expensive "international" restaurants where businessmen, and a few businesswomen, woo customers (Cf. Walker 1991). Bangkok's contemporary foodscape, where cooking and/or eating quite often takes place outside the home, is a reminder of the haphazard way in which ostensibly public and private activities and spaces are grouped together. 118 4. Figure 4.3 Menu From a Tiffin Catering Network in Bangkok B-nmtiulu * ^ nrucia * nmcioa » m * 2 3 9 n .BuTnmr 16 sviBSfTJ rmirw«j Im. 2 7 0 - 0 3 3 9 jfiiiii) ntlfmeivmiweu UQUltJU 2536 • -| : l» It J " " 1*0. tj. I i*. •Mix •MUM •mixiaiminiriH fcf>U fanwTB HMm-ufctf (U&IUMIA JwntifimikfiiiB; fcrnirmpijiMi failUllTJO MsmiiMiriajti wrnt%«iajiaini< i^ fmntmiui lfcnfiitmiMimrin •aim stithy fere'imami it«i«Jn*iU Wiusinirw uiiimianfuivudBiJ •loinirnwij tftimiuimnnant mmlt •MBMiumtaVMM lnulnmnii BfimiaUlmj B«H:«B'H)J ... t . tmnv hftufc ui-.ns M« rusns M m . liiuw>i:i«ifmuling •Wimmvyniiv lMiiTmuiUqi 1»CU Vnamnuuni Mwluu«iimif nana mi : i* in. Wi«nr>t lifcV fi(u|iklu Uanandttuii fcuJtmirfiliiim W i l d lui)i:»iu *-3 mu n . i i . i o o in* D-umiilw 6 ein< uiilwiionwiuW 3 OUT . '- I,30D - 5 - 4 -' I - T.500 " S » « - 1.700 6 - 4 " ctumMiita: 700 um •TRiiai^muiiliiiiai a i a i i « t i u a « « m a au (-) a«uua0«iaiu1iifuiJisa 'nMiiBa; 119 The following summary description of one of my acquaintances provides an example of upper middle-class eating habits.18 Ajaan (Professor) Prinyathip teaches at a university in central Bangkok and is married to an engineer. She has no children and lives in a housing estate in a suburban area of the city. At lunch time, if she doesn't have time to go to the faculty cafeteria, she asks the janitor to bring lunch back to her office. Everyday, on her way home from work, she stops at a small roadside curry shop and picks up supper - usually a curry and a vegetable dish or a soup. Since she drives a car, she often frequents one of the shopping centres on the way home where she can park her car and purchase from a large selection of take-home food in small plastic bags -or foam containers - on the 'food floor'. When asked whether she ever sits down to eat in roadside foodshops or stalls she answers "Never, not with the heat, dust, and noise... it's so unpleasant". If she's going to spend time eating out, Ajaan Prinyathip would rather go to a nice restaurant with air-conditioning and beautiful surroundings. Eating in stalls is associated with unpleasant environmental conditions which can be avoided in an air-conditioned restaurant or a quiet middle-class home. For typically middle-class Bangkokians - particularly women who tend to be impeccably dressed -frequenting a cool, comfortable establishment is the most desirable option. Pollution and the noise of traffic makes the foodshop experience less aesthetically pleasing and a health hazard. Middle class men - such as government workers on Friday evenings - enjoy "slumming" in stalls and outdoor restaurants where they can sit at long tables and drink vast quantities of whiskey. Working-class men (eg. tuk-tuk drivers) do the same but in less expensive venues. Since "proper" Thai women do not drink alcohol, they engage in a slightly different pattern. Their habit is to go out with a group of friends (women 1 8 Note that this passage is not from my fieldnotes. 121 or mixed) to a suan ahaan, or "food garden" such as "Bua" - a chain of open air restaurants. Walker's Food Consumption Survey (FCS) (1990) clearly demonstrates that the ideal locus of everyday commensality is the home. Special occasions, however, merit an outing to a 'special' restaurant, funds permitting. The same holds true for entertaining guests as previously mentioned. Table 4.10 MOST HIGHLY PATRONIZED EATING ESTABLISHMENTS IN BANGKOK Type of establishment Respondents (%) Noodle shops 91% Thai restaurants 84% Garden restaurants 65% Regional Thai restaurants 63% Chinese restaurants 47% Western fast-food 44% Western restaurants 27% Others 3% Source: Walker, Marilyn. The Food Consumption Survey. (Designed by Walker and administered by Frank Small and Associates). 1990. The urban masses have, for the most part, very low incomes and either cook for themselves and/or purchase food on the streets and sois from vendors both mobile and stationary, and small foodshops specializing in noodles, curried dishes or other fare (Cf. 122 Yasmeen 1992)." The FCS confirms this observation - as indicated in Table 4.10 - by revealing that noodle shops and small Thai restaurants are the most highly patronized eating establishments in Bangkok with 91% and 84% of the 4198 respondents reporting that they frequent these places (Walker 1990, 6). Small restaurants are actually quite diverse in terms of the food that is sold, their access to clientele, and the types of functions they perform in the city and cannot, therefore, be classified in the manner of many studies which focus on the so-called 'informal sector' or 'street foods' (Cf. Amin 1991, F AO 1988, McGee 1971, Napat and Szanton 1986, Tinker 1987). I will concentrate on the differences between small eating-establishments in terms of ethnicity, income-ranges of the clientele and, perhaps most importantly for this thesis, their various locational environments in the city. The foodshop sector is now quite ethnically differentiated as result of migration from the provinces, especially from the Northeast (Isan) resulting in the emergence of various types of Isan food-vending establishments for migrant workers such as taxi drivers and construction workers (Cf. Van Esterik 1992). Considered the most 'macho' men of Thailand, male patrons of these places can be seen drinking whiskey and eating spicy dishes late into the night in various parts of the city where Isan men traditionally congregate, for example, the boxing stadium, gas stations and night-markets. Massive migration from the Northeast has resulted in most of the city having examples depicting this behaviour. For instance, between the hours of 6pm and 3am, a night-market (talat 1 9 It is difficult to ascertain how economically viable this system of 'contracting out' is at the household budget level. Certainly, it is clear that individuals are trading potential monetary savings for convenience and time (which can presumably be used to earn extra income). 123 to rung) off Sam Sen road in Banglamphu hums with activity as Isan taxi and tuk-tuk drivers snack and drink at food-stalls and shops which are run for the most part by women micro-entrepreneurs. It appears as though Central Thai men are beginning to participate in these rituals in stark contrast to the past when things Isan were more thoroughly denigrated by mainstream Thai society. Details for the Victory Monument Areas are illustrated in Chapters Five and Six. The majority of small foodshops are patronized by a wide range of income-groups and are therefore inexpensive. A number of extremely small restaurants in Bangkok are actually geared toward a wealthy consumer. An example of this is the 'one-woman' operation, Prik Yuak, where wholesome artistically presented Thai-food is served in a home-like setting (Puntana 1992). Small eating establishments can therefore be differentiated on the basis of the income-levels of entrepreneurs and their customers. Discussions of "foodshops with one to four employees" masks the fact that some may actually be expensive restaurants. Other examples are the small Tiealth food' restaurants in Bangkok and Chiang Mai which are beyond the budget of most Thais. A more important remark, however, concerns the diverse locations or operating i environments of small foodshops and the contractual opportunities to Which these micro-entrepreneurs can have access (Cf. Naruemol and Oudin 1992). First, many foodshops are now located indoors where they are integrated in settings as diverse as privately owned luxury shopping plazas [Figure 4.5], educational institutions such as universities and, even the United Nations building on Rajdamnern Road. Hence, small shops - by obtaining exclusive contracts with business or government - become directly 124 involved with political-economic structures at national, regional and even international scales. This is a clear example of what Gregory, following Giddens, has labelled as the 'local-global' dialectic (1990). It is considered "one of the most far-reaching consequences of modernity" and is defined as the simultaneous globalization of social life which is the result of "time-space" distanciation afforded by widespread travel, advances in communication and technology and the resulting disembedding of "traditional" life-worlds which were - for the most part - rooted in a restricted space. The reverse side of the local-global dialectic is thus what Harvey calls time-space compression. He sees this as the compulsion to "annihilate space by time" under capitalism... For Harvey, "the foreboding generated out of the sense of social space imploding in on us is wired to a crisis of identity: "to what space/place do we belong?"(Harvey 1990, 427 cited by Gregory 1994, 121) The most humble, simple arid vernacular foodshops in Bangkok are part of the local-global dialectic, not only through their purchasing patterns and locations, but also through the routine flows of customers that come in and out of their shops. Bangkok is an extremely cosmopolitan city and even the most "Thai" of neighbourhoods - such as the Victory Monument Area - contain long-term and short-term foreign residents. In Daeng's small shop, for example, I routinely encountered and interacted with people from all over the world. Whereas Daeng, her mother and their assistants (most of whom are relatives) had rarely ventured from Bangkok and their home province of Roi-Et, there were customers who came from Japan, Burma and Thais who had lived and travelled abroad. 125 Figure 4.5 Central Plaza Ladprao 126 The place was often filled with people from other parts of the world as the following vignette illustrates: FLELDNOTES 4.4: T H E "UNITED NATIONS" FOODSHOP TONIGHT, THERE WAS AN INTERESTING JAPANESE COUPLE THERE EATING ISAN FOOD A N D DRINKING WHISKEY. T H E WOMAN (WHO DOESN'T SPEAK MUCH ENGLISH) HAS BEEN HERE FOUR OR FIVE MONTHS AND IS LEARNING THAI SO WE COMMUNICATED IN THAI... T H E MAN HAS ONLY BEEN HERE FOR TWO WEEKS... H E SPEAKS ENGLISH. A T ONE POINT, AN OLDER (50LSH) FARANG MAN C A M E BY (TAKE-OUT) AND SPOKE THAI. A T ANOTHER POINT, A THAI LOOKING MAN C A M E IN BUT D A E N G SAID THAT H E WAS FROM INDIA (?). I SAID THAT T H E FOODSHOP IS LIKE T H E U.N.! (TUESDAY DECEMBER 15,1992) Clearly then, the Thai example of a mass-based daily strategy which relies extensively on the small foodshop is not a simple, standard phenomenon. The preceding discussion has attempted to elucidate the complexity of the system by pointing to the differences in the types of eating establishments frequented by most Thai urbanites every day. Terms such as 'streetfoods' and 'informal sector' are not appropriate for the description of this sector because many shops are no longer located on the street and do, in fact, comply with licensing regulations making them technically, 'formal'. Bangkok houses many small ubiquitous foodshops which act as a life-support system for many urbanites. Small restaurants serve a number of latent social functions in addition to providing meals. For example, children are often cared for in these environments, young people spend time and 'help' thereby learning skills and meeting 127 others. Foodshops are also a source of information on local affairs for customers and helpers; some learn of jobs or read the newspaper in these spaces.20 FlELDNOTES 4.5 FOODSHOP-BASED CfflLDCARE WENT OUT TO RUN ERRANDS. LUNCH TIME APPROXIMATELY. WENT INTO A POOR RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBOURHOOD WITH LOWER DENSITY HOUSING ; NEXR MY PLACE BETWEEN RAJVITEE AND RANGNAM.21 HAD FRIED RICE IN THIS WOMAN'S SMALL STAND WHICH HAS A FEW TABLES AND CHAIRS. THERE WERE CHICKENS AND ROOSTERS ALL AROUND ME. I HAD FRIED RICE WITH EGG AND VEGGIES AND A COKE. HER DAUGHTER (OR PERHAPS YOUNGER SISTER) WAS WORKING THERE ALSO. HER BABY BOY (OR SOMEONE'S BABY) WAS SCAMPERING AROUND THE PLACE AND HIS GRANDFATHER WAS KEEPING AN EYE ON HIM. THEIR HOUSE SEEMED TO BE ATTACHED. THE GRANDPA WOULD SOMETIMES BRING STUFF FROM THE HOUSE TO THE FOOD STALL. THE FOOD WAS GOOD. I DIDN'T CHAT - I WILL NEXT TIME. (SUNDAY OCTOBER 11,1992) Unfortunately, there was no "next time". Upon my return a few weeks later, the stall was no longer there. Many of the families in this zone had moved following the awarding of a relocation allowance by the BMA. The row houses were in the process of being demolished to make way for a public park which has been "in process" for at least twelve years (Vespry 1994). There are numerous other examples of children - from babies to school age youngsters - being cared for in foodshops. This is not only the case in small informal stalls of the type described above but also applies to more expensive, air-conditioned restaurants. Childcare in foodshops is an example of the multifunctionality of these spaces. 2 0 The distinction between children/young people "helping" and the delicate issue of child labour is often hard to distinguish. 2 1 The area being referred to is the zone of demolished housing. At the time of this journal entry in 1992 the houses were not yet torn down. 128 Small eatingrestablishments can be interpreted as realms of fernininity where women are employed, and to a great degree, remain in control of their micro-enterprises. This topic requires further exploration. Small foodshops are unique 'everyday' spaces for the majority of urbanites whereas larger establishments cater to the 'occasion' and are, at times, idiosyncratic or else fit a pattern which can be more easily typologized. The smallest food-establishments can be classified as semi-public/private spaces. Here, behaviour associated with the home is relocated to commercial spaces. Local residents are sometimes seen sitting in foodshops near their homes in their pyjamas having breakfast. This resembles the observations of de Certeau's students in Lyon, France (Giard and Mayol 1980). Housewives in the Croix-Rousses quarter were seen emerging into the neighbourhood bakeries in the early morning clad in housecoats, slippers and curling rods. The bakery was seen as an extension of the.home and the private sphere and gendered patterns of activity were commensurate with this view. In many foodshops, regular customers sometimes prepare food themselves, wash their own dishes and even help serve the clientele. Regular customers are sometimes originally from the same village as the shop owner or may be kin. The foodshop, then, is both a private honiespace and a public commercial place. These neighbourhood eateries blurr the socio-spatial boundaries of public and private, and are extensions of the home sphere. This leads to the partial domestication of public space where home becomes part of the neighbourhood. Traditional cooking activities and kinship networks are recreated within a commercial establishment. Bangkok's small foodshops are 129 instrumental in establishing contemporary Thai public life similar to the roles played by pubs and coffee houses in industrializing Europe. Habermas argues was the growth of an urban culture - of meeting houses, concert halls, opera houses, press and publishing ventures, coffee houses, taverns and clubs, and the like -... which represents the expansion of the public sphere (Howell 1993, 310). Small foodshops are products of urbanization and industrialization and concomitant social change but, at the same time, reproduce traditional social relations. As such, they represent the simultaneous modernization and postmodernization of Thai urban society. Similarly, foodshops which locate in "modern" environments such as shopping centre foodcourts, office buildings and educational institutions are instrumental in re-orchestrating spatial relations. Again, mostly women micro-entrepreneurs and small restaurant owners enter into a contract with larger scale commerce but often continue to rely on unpaid family labour and cook the same types of food. Differences with the i • • . -informal pattern of organization revolve around price, payment arrangements, which sometimes involve the use of a coupon-system, and more formalized relations with customers who are not "regulars" making themselves "at home" as is the case in many soi-based foodshops. Eating in a food centre is a more expensive proposition than eating on the street and takes place in a highly controlled environment replete with security cameras, air-conditioning and music. Whereas street and soi-based foodshop owners are constrained by property owners and the police who condition access to space, those who locate in privately owned indoor environments are subject to the rules and regulations of the authorities who own the property. Both are operating in a competitive environment where market shifts play a decisive role. Micro-entrepreneurs 130 and small restaurant owners, much like their counterparts elsewhere, are relatively powerless actors compared to the agency exercised by state officials, property owners and large-scale commerce (Jellinek 1991). This is certainly not to imply that they are without power but that their agency is limited by the lack of economic and political resources. Foodshop outlets in shopping centres represent a transitional space between the "mass-based" strategy associated with the small neighbourhood stall and larger formal restaurants which cater to the wealthier middle-classes. The next part of this chapter will profile elite eating establishments and contrast them with female dominated small foodshops. 4.3.3 Bangkok's Elite Foodscape Southeast Asia's 'City of Angels'22 has an astounding array of unusual restaurants such as 'Cabbages and Condoms' (C&C) [Figure 4.6] - owned by the Population and Development Association - which has the mandate to promote condom use in the Kingdom.23 The restaurant is a well-known venue catering to Thai families as well as foreigners. A recent newspaper article indicates how "C&C" now has a branch in China.24 The founder of the Population and Development Association (PDA), Meechai 2 2 Bangkok's appellation in Thai (in shortened form) is Krungthepmahanakorn which translates as 'the great city of angels'. Most Thai refer to the capital simply as Krungthep. 2 3 This was initially for population control and more recently in response to the AIDS epidemic 2 4 The article states that the female waitresses are scantily-clad and that more than just food may be 'served'. This is certainly not the way Cabbages and Condoms operates in Bangkok where a fun, family-friendly atmosphere is promoted. 131 Veeravaidya developed the idea of a restaurant as a fund-raising and educational venture and is a well-respected Thai politician and activist. The example of C&C points to the latent social function of the expensive, elite restaurant. A.standard typology of expensive eating-establishments (as opposed to the ubiquitous foodshop) will simplify the complexity of this arm of the food-system. In a personal communication, Thai economist Pasuk Pongpaichit recalled growing up in Bangkok in the late sixties when there were only a handful of 'proper* restaurants; where families would dine on a special occasion. Most of these were Chinese and some, such as Somboon Pattakarn and See Faa remain successful in operation today." Van Esterik (1992) completes the picture by identifying the four or five hotels where the only 'proper' formal restaurants were found in the city until the mid-seventies. Since that time, formal establishments modelled on the Chinese and Western traditions of restaurants catering to special occasions have emerged and specialize in Thai cuisine as well as other culinary traditions. As documented by Van Esterik and Walker there is the fairly recent development of hundreds of open-air mega-restaurants located in the suburbs referred to as "food gardens" (suan ahaan). These are often designed in a sala thai, or open pavilion style. The use of this style is reminiscent of Thai traditional architecture yet, as a recent invention, encloses "untraditional" activities. The world's largest restaurant, Turn Nuk Thai [Figure 4.7] which has a staff of 1000, many on roller-skates, 2 5 Somboon Pattakarn is a famous Chinese restaurant near the boxing stadium. See Faa (meaning 'light blue') is now a chain with locations all over the city. It is famous for its bami - "a thick Chinese noodle" (Van Esterik 1992). These restaurants are popular with university professors. 132 Figure 4.6 "Cabbages and Condoms": A Family Restaurant with a Familv Planning Theme l i i i isiflvifiltiy'i R OIIMV. nnsf^na^nigfiijiffijaa"inncu ENJOY A VARlETYIOFamiiDISHES M :A fCOMFORTABLE,8RELkxED ATMOSPHERE. W E C A T E R F O R A L L Y O U R R E Q U I R E M E N T S . (publicity materials) 133 is the most extreme example of Thai restaurant giantism. The restaurant grounds include khlongs, replete with fish which can be fed by customers who purchase bread from a vendor. Thai classical and folk dances are staged at regular intervals to taped music and there are souvenir shops located at the exit. Most food gardens are slightly less spectacular and cater to Thai middle-class families and groups rather than tourists. They are generally decorated with bright lights and many plants or trees. Fresh fish and seafood are on display in cases at the entrance for customers to examine and choose. Discussions of postmodern architecture and design cite the use of vaguely traditional architectural and lifestyle references as a key element often resulting in the production of "depthless images", or simulacra (Baudrillard 1981; Jameson 1983; Dear 1993). Simulacra are fanciful "re-creations" of the past that never, really existed, much like "Main Street USA" in Disneyland or "Europa Boulevard" in the West Edmonton Mall (Warren 1994; Hopkins 1990). The postmodern experience is also framed by the use of pastiche or exaggerated representations which mock the original form being alluded to. Postmodern design aims explicitly at expressing specific localities and their history and tradition... This use of past styles, which is simultaneous with a tendency to erase style as a consistent and distinctive set of features, incorporates a certain nostalgia andleads to a kind of pastiche, revealing, maybe, innovative and unexpected combinations... It goes without saying that all these aspects of postmodern design point to some different conception and experience of space on the part of its producers, while also calling its consumers to participate in this new experience" (Lagopoulos 1993, 260). Patrons of suburban garden restaurants are participating in a new experience of place inspired by. traditional Thai spatial design. This phenomenon is reproduced elsewhere 135 as well. For example, a well-known housing development in central Bangkok, Suan Parichat, is designed in a "traditional" Thai style with all the modern conveniences of air-conditioning and indoor plumbing. The houses have sloping roofs and floors made of polished teakwood. Mini-canals are found throughout the walled and guarded compound for the aesthetic enjoyment of residents and guests but are not used for obtaining water, transportation, fishing or dumping waste, which are the practical uses of canals in Central Thailand. Traditional images, void of function and content, are therefore used to add symbolic capital to both restaurants and other new spaces in Thai society. The development of suburban mega-restaurants also closely parallels Bangkok's pattern of mega-urbanization - a theme which has drawn considerable attention over the last decade (McGee and Robinson 1995; Greenberg 1994). Elite restaurants cater to the social and cultural needs of elites as well as their gastronomic preferences. The FCS indicated that 65% of respondents thought that "Eating out provides a more pleasant atmosphere" and 80% believed that the practice "gives you more variety". Other relevant responses are summarized in Table 4.11. It appears that eating out is a family activity, allowing one to spend more time with spouse and children, and that it is a suitable activity for special occasions. Expensive restaurants, and other forms of conspicuous consumption, contribute to the construction of an elite identity (Walker 1990). These spaces are instrumental in the creation of a new Thai middle-class aesthetic and lifestyle. This identity revolves around the accumulation of wealth and status, worldliness and a reconstruction of Thainess which emphasizes the traditional arts such as cooking, classical dancing and 136 certain religious images, for example, spirit houses (cf. Askew 1994; Walker 1991). This is part of the pluralistic value-system in Siamese society. A Buddhist-based secular tolerance of what are considered to be matters of individual moral choice has contributed to the development of plural value-systems among the Thai. At one end of the spectrum, there is a subculture made up of those who have not internalized any of Buddhism's emphasis on temperate behaviour and who pursue the hedonistic pleasures of drink, drugs, and sex. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the subculture of those ascetic monks who have turned their backs on all worldly temptations. Of particular interest are those subcultures— found especially among the Sino-Thai, the Lao of northeastern Thailand, and perhaps among other groups as well — that emphasize tempering desires for immediate gratification in order to accumulate capital to be invested for a future goal." This latter view has been instrumental in promoting economic growth (Keyes 1987 P. 207-8). The middle-classes - following rapid industrialization and resulting disposable income -engage in conspicuous consumption to purchase, partly, the gamut of "modern conveniences" which make life more comfortable and to display new wealth and status. A case in point are elite eating establishments. There is a contradiction in the responses summarized in Table 4.11. On the one hand, it is considered 'better' to eat at home where food is higher quality. On the other hand, pleasant atmosphere, variety and special occasions are associated with eating out as well as convenience. For this set of questions, no distinction was made between the types of restaurants under scrutiny - foodshops (raan ahaan) br formal restaurants (pattakarn). Certainly, pleasant atmosphere and special occasions are to be associated with the grander establishments described in this section as opposed to the humble foodshop. 137 Table 4.11 ATTITUDES TOWARDS EATING OUT All of Thailand Statement Eating at home is better than eating out Agree 88% Indifferent 8% Disagree 4% Eating out provides a more pleasant atmosphere 65% 23% 13% Eating out allows me to spend more time with family 94% 4% 1% Eating out gives you more variety 80% 12% 8% Home food is higher quality 94% 13% 3% On special occasions, I like to eat out 69% 15% 17% Source: Walker, Marilyn. The Food Consumption Survey. 1990. One conclusion which can be drawn from these data is that elite restaurants are spaces where special events are marked, clients are entertained and guests are invited. Small foodshops and stalls, on the other hand, are associated with quotidian experiences of home and family. Many other restaurant types, however, are located somewhere between these two characterisations. 4.4 THE FUTURE OF STREETFOODS The worst thing that could happen in the future, in my opinion, would be the disappearance of working-class street food. The street stalls and tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants that used to make noodles, won ton, pao, congee, stuffed dumplings, steamed meatballs, fried pastries, and thousands of other snack items could be at risk in the new, affluent world of the future. They are in no danger of disappearing, but they are becoming rarer and are being influenced by the big restaurants' corner-US cutting and sodium loving ways. Much interest has belatedly been devoted to these wonderful foods, among the high points of Chinese cooking. Yet people seem less than aware of the foods in question. Chinese are apt to write them off as poverty food, and Westerners often are never introduced to them. Countless tourists have complained to me about the quality of food in the People's Republic; all of them, it turned out, had dutifully eaten only in the big West-oriented hotels and restaurants, which have altered their food to please the Western palate and which feed hundreds at a meal. I even heard that the old food stalls are gone and one can no longer get 'small eats' in China. But on my travels, I found that small eats existed in every form. Street pushcarts, small cafes, workers' dining halls, and snack bars sold them, as good as anything comparable in Hong Kong or Taiwan -- certainly the best food I ate in China outside a few private homes. - E.N. Anderson The Food of China Anderson wrote this alarming comment as a critique of the emerging industrial palate in 1980s Hong Kong. Nevertheless, there is a message of hope in the final two lines of the passages which provide evidence of the persistence of "hawker food". Bangkok's foodscape is being threatened in similar ways due to the emerging middle-class and its tastes. To aggravate the situation, the food served in more expensive Thai/Chinese sometimes of much poorer quality than the comestibles in the humblest foodshop! However, I do not believe that the types of food sold on the streets and lanes of the city are under threat per se. Rather the informal context in which the food is usually sold is apparently being eclipsed by indoor food-centres and highly capitalized restaurants. The comfort and convenience associated with air-conditioned restaurants and food-centres is beginning to drive demand. For this trend to continue, however, the indoor formalized environments will be required to provide equal or better quality food than the road-side stalls and eating establishments. The continuum 139 between the informality and formality of eating establishments in the Victory Monument Area will be scrutinized in the following chapters. In keeping with the final two lines of the opening quote, there appears to be a renewed interest in streetfoods and the heritage of the hawker tradition. Scanning the local newspapers suggests that people have taken an interest in discovering streetfoods where up-scale hotels hold "streetfood festivals" in fully controlled situations. For example, the Stable Lodge Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 8 holds a "traditional" Thai streetfood buffet every Saturday evening "but with the Stable's special flair (Bangkok Post n.d.)., The Martino Coffee Lounge, located in The Mandarin Hotel, advertised its addition of "Authentic Thai coffee prepared from our coffee cart as you watch" (Bangkok Post 1992). Figure 4.8 reproduces the advertisement containing the "quaint" drawing of a traditional coffee cart. Ironically, Thais increasingly Consume Nescafe as a status symbol following years of vigorous advertising. Gastronomes who pride themselves on their good taste, however, reject instant coffee and look to either Thai "traditional" filtered coffee or quality coffee from abroad. The interest in streetfoods is also borne out by the recent publication of handbooks for foreigners such as Thai Hawker Food where "authentic" streetfood is the •object of interest (Pranbm 1993). The guidebook contains colourful drawings of the different types of streetvendors, their goods and Thai phrases designed to aid the foreigner through Bangkok's foodscape., The concluding chapter of this dissertation further scrutinizes this question after unpacking the complex factors which influence the informants' ability to sell cooked 140 food. The following chapter delves in greater detail into the lives of urban cooked-food vendors in Thailand. 141 Figure 4.8 An "Authentic" Thai Coffee Cart •w Authentic Thai Cotfee $ at C O F F E E L O U N G E Martino Coffee Lounge has long been renown for it's wide selection of international coffees and teas, but now something new has been added. Authentic Thai coffee prepared from our coffee cart as you watch. . Delightfully refreshing iced, or stimulating steaming hot. To further this authentic taste ^ ^ > ^ ^ ^ experience, try Thai custard / on a steamed roll. Of course the tempting array of Thai, and international snacks are awaiting you too. Perk up your day at Martino Coffee Lounge. "^EfS^fif/P V. SIMANDARIN •JBANQKOH 6 6 2 R a m a IV R o a t l . R a n q k o k 1 0 5 0 0 Tfjl. 2 3 8 0 2 3 0 - 5 0 Advertisement for the Martino Coffee Lounge of the Mandarin Hotel (Bangkok Post, November 11, 1992, p. 1). 142 Chapter Five FOOD MICROENTREPRENEURS AND EATING ESTABLISHMENTS The anthropological study of food in Thai society has resulted in fascinating theses (Cf. Bhavivarn 1993; Formoso 1989; Walker 1991), books (Krowolski and Simon-Barouh 1993) as well as scholarly articles (Van Esterik 1986, 1992). Those in the field of public health as well as the more traditionally situated "informal sector" studies have also begun to pay attention to the importance of public food distribution systems and the practices associated with the sale of prepared food (Naruemol and Oudin 1992; Napat and Szantoh 1986; Sunanthana and Sriprat 1993). This complements what is a rather voluminous literature on similar themes in the rest of Southeast Asia (Guerrero 1975; Jellinek 1977 and 1991; Klopfer 1993; McGee and Yeung 1977; Murray 1991). What do we know about Thai food-sellers and their regional counterparts? The stereotype of the self-employed woman does not apply in certain situations, even in Thailand. Men are involved as well. The complexity of both women's and men's positions in the food system as cooked-food vendors is conditioned by the ethnicity of entrepreneurs and their customers, the size and type of enterprise, class (or income group), and the nature of the goods sold. This chapter combines an examination of the existing literature on Thai food-sellers with my own quantitative survey of food-vendors and restaurant owners in the VMA. The socio-economic characteristics of this occupational group will be compared and contrasted with the situation found in other cities of the country and region. A typology of eating establishments is a necessary part 143 of the description of this mcome-earning activity. Last, and certainly not least, the gendering of this type of (self) employment will be discussed with reference to the emergence of new eating patterns in the city. A discussion of debates on Thai and Southeast Asian sex/gender systems informs the entire chapter, particularly with respect to the concept of nurturing (liang). ******************************** THREE THAI FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS Daeng and Ying's Shop Aunt Ying is 49 years old and originally from Isan where her family is engaged in farming. She never married but raised one of her nieces, Daeng, since babyhood. Ying moved to Bangkok in her early twenties when she was recruited to work as a maid for a Thai woman married to an Italian man. Then, she had various positions as a cook and nanny for several other families, including a Thai aristocrat living on the prestigious Soi Ratchakruii. It is through these occupations that she really learned how to cook a great variety of dishes. Soon, however, it became clear that she could no longer support her extended family in the countryside with her meagre salary so she opened a pushcart on the soi next to her employer's house and quit her job with her patron's blessing. Ying was forced to relocate following complaints from her former employer's daughter who saw customers as having too great a view of the family property. Daeng, her adopted daughter, began working as her assistant and they were fortunate to find a new location in a newly constructed building on the same soi where they have been for the past five years. She and Daeng operate a foodshop which sells curry and rice as well as stir-fried and other made to order dishes on a soi in the VMA. Ying's relatives and friends who live nearby come to help on a regular basis. Daeng's younger brother is enrolled in a local business college and tends to spend his sister's and aunt's hard-earned money in snooker halls rather than on his studies. Still, Ying continues to give him money hoping he will use it for tuition as he always promises to do. Daeng is now 30 years old, unmarried and lives with Ying in a small room adjacent to the shop. The rent for their shop and sleeping room is very expensive compared tp competitors in the neighbourhood. Ying and Daeng may now be forced to move because of the proposed redevelopment of their building into a highrise apartment building. To make ends meet, Daeng has been working at a series of jobs as a cafeteria cook and helps Ying, in the evenings. Most recently, she was employed at the headquarters of the huge agri-food conglomerate, Charoen Pokphand. "I'm tired of 144 working and discouraged;. Sometimes I sit down and cry," Daeng confided. Her adoptive mother is having difficulty keeping up with the demands of the foodshop as she suffers from diabetes, hypertension and backaches. "Some days, I don't Want to sell... it's difficult," Ying laments, "I'm tired. After I wake up in the morning and open the shop I ask the security guards (from the apartment next door) to help me carry the cooker and the water." Daeng, though often depressed, still has hope for the future. She likes cooking and would like to own a shophouse restaurant one day. Luung's Restaurant Luung, meaning "uncle", is 60 years old and was born in Bangkok of Chinese parents. He spent many years as a travelling salesman in the provinces where he sold natural foods such as wild corn and nuts. His first wife died suddenly when their five children were still young so Luung decided to change occupations. Seventeen years ago he bought the restaurant where he still sells bami noodle and rice dishes with duck and Chinese-style red pork. He remarried and has a ten year old daughter. Most of the adult children have gone to the country's most prestigious universities and studied fields such as engineering, sciences and medical technology. Four have good jobs and one adult daughter still lives at home in their leased three storey shop-house where the restaurant is located. Luung's small restaurant which can seat 20-25 customers was once very busy and successful. He had several young employees and was able to produce a greater variety of dishes. Ten years ago, Luung even appeared on television cooking shows to demonstrate his skills! Today, however, business is very slow. He wakes up to go to the market at six a.m. and closes at five p.m. "In the old days there weren't any shopping centres, " where people now spend time shopping and eating, explains Luung. Labour is more expensive and he complains that young people these days don't want to work hard. Luung's wife helps him at lunchtime which is the only busy part of the day. The shop closes before suppertime. Luung considers himself to be quite poor. He doesn't keep a bank account. "I don't have enough money to deposit! I earn money and then it gets spent. I have many children. They have to be taken care of. Four have finished their studies. Expenses are very high and I only have a small business" he laments. At the age of sixty, Luung no longer enjoys his business and would like to retire. Mister Donut Although this internationally known franchise chain of doughnut shops is now Japanese-controlled, the Thai operations are owned and operated by the Central Pattana Group. This Sino-Thai family-controlled corporation owns the chain of Central department stores and has controlling interest in Thai Baskin-Robbins, half of the KFC outlets and Burger King. The first Mister Donut in Thailand was opened at Siam Square fifteen 145 years ago and the Victory Monument branch was the second and is thirteen years old. There are now close to forty branches all over the kingdom with 33 of these in the BMA. Mister Donut sells sandwiches and pastries other than donuts as well as a wide selection of cold and hot beverages. Its main competitor is the "Dunkin Donuts" chain. Both companies are involved in extensive marketing campaigns on television, radio and in the print media. The Victory Monument shop has recently been renovated and occupies two floors in a prime location on long-term lease near the main bus stop near the monument.1 It opens at 5:45 a.m. and closes at midnight. The renovated location seats close to 130 customers. The shop manager, Khun Wisanu, explained that employees are generally in their twenties and work full or part-time and receive the minimum wage. The VMA store has 14 employees, two of these part-time. The store is busy and receives approximately 600 customers per day including a large number of students (approximately one quarter of all customers by Wisanu's estimate). Only the most successful Mister Donut locations have their own kitchens. Others, like the VMA branch, have their doughnuts delivered twice a day. The first delivery is at 4 a.m. and is received by the cleaning staff. The manager of the VMA store has a degree in Political Science from Ramkamhaeng University and is 29 years old. He has worked two years for the company but doesn't expect to be promoted to a high rank. "Here, the system is family-based. Thai people know about this!." Non-family members have difficulty making their way through the ranks of the Chiratiwat family's operations. "It's better to work as a government official", concludes Khun Wisanu. ****************************** 5.1 THAI HAWKERS AND COOKED-FOOD SELLERS The lone hawker, either itinerant or stationary, has long been the subject of fascination for researchers of Southeast Asian cities (Geertz 1963). Foreigners romantically delve into the world of the peddlar of cooked-food and label this type of entrepreneur as a proud, independent and quintessential inhabitant of the Southeast Asian city. Certainly, night markets are distmguishing features of life in urban Southeast Asia and the cooked-food seller finds a prominent place in this locale. Fixed-pitch stalls and small 1 Our interview took place while the store was under renovation. 146 restaurants such as noodle houses and curry shops have also been looked at as "charming" features of everyday life in this part of the world. It is important, however, to try and sort out what the salient features of life as a cooked-food seller and small restauranteur are in historical and contemporary Southeast Asia before making generalizations about the profession in Thailand. 5.1.1 Typical Southeast Asian Food Entrepreneurs Even though the region of Southeast Asia is often characterized as one where female entrepreneurialism far surpasses that of women in other parts of the world, particularly in cooked-food retailing, there is a great degree of variation with regard to the ways and degrees in which women versus men occupy public space. There is a stark contrast between the Chinese man selling yong tao-foo in Singapore and a woman from Minangkabau operating a warteg2 which sells Tegal style food in migrant kampung in Jakarta (Murray 1991, 58-9). Studies of hawking, food vending and restaurants in Chinese societies, including Singapore and Malaysian cities have concluded that selling on the street is ideally a male occupation: A possible cultural explanation is perhaps rooted in the Chinese aversion to letting their women into situations which involve frequent interaction with strangers... While this cultural aversion must have moderated greatly as increasing labour participation is being utilized in various capitalist 2 In Bahasa Indonesia, small food-stalls are normally known as warung (street stall). A warteg (actually a Tegal expression) is slightly larger than a warung and involves the rental of a room and employees (Murray 1991, 58). McGee and Yeung (1977, 23) defined a warung as "more like a store" and argued that, at least hawker stalls, were referred to as "kiosks". This is similar to the Filipino sari-sari or "mixed" store (Laquian 1993). 147 enterprises, it remains true today that some jobs are less desirable than others because of this factor of what is known as (sic) paau tau lo min (showing one's face in public). Street hawking is considered an unsuitable vocation for women (Smart 1989, 25). Women in Chinese societies still play an important role as cooked-fpod vendors and restaurant co-owners as part of family-run businesses. In Taiwan, for example, they still dominate informal markets (Keyes 1996). Their contributions are therefore difficult to generalize across the very diverse landscape of Chinese influence. Indeed, Anderson (1991) argues that it is essentialistic and empirically inaccurate to categorize a group of people as "Chinese''. Chineseness has very much been a construction developed by Westerners and others who do not trace their ancestry to mainland China. In Vietnam, the situation is slightly different despite the common Confucian heritage. Nguyen Xuan Linh explains why even restaurant cooking is typically performed by women in Vietnamese restaurants: Vietnamese cuisine, be it within Vietnam or abroad, served at home or in a public place such as a restaurant, cannot be prepared without women who control the entire gastronomic heritage" (Nguyen 1993, 190 My translation).3 Men refuse to have anything to do with "women's work" which is denigrated. Women are the only ones who know how to cook. In the same volume, Krowolski demonstrates that men tend to be considered less financially responsible than women. Indeed, women's income tends to assure family survival (Krowolski ,1993, 162). As Drummond's study clearly shows, since doi moi, much of this crucial income arises 3 "L'alimentation vietnamienne, qu'elle soit a Vinterieur du pays ou a I'exte'rieur, servie au sein de la famille ou dans un lieu public comme le restaurant, ne petit se faire qu'avec les femmes, detentrices de tout le patrimoine gastronomique traditionnel." 148 from women's small enterprises - notably in the domain of prepared food (Drummond 1993). In the indigenous societies of Southeast Asia - among the various Malay speakers, Tai-Lao groups, Khmer and Burmese for example - the idea pertaining to the seclusion of women has had far less currency, except among elites. Women play far greater roles as independent vendors. However, they often occupy specific niches in the local foodscape. Jakarta's restaurant culture provides interesting examples of the specialization of roles in prepared food vending according to gender. Warteg are often run by women, but also by men, and are typically frequented by male migrant workers in larger Indonesian cities; "women are almost never seen sitting in them" but are important take-out customers (Murray 1991, 59). In addition, Murray remarks that kampung stalls are a women's domain whereas those on main thoroughfares tend to be male owned and operated. The mix of factors which lead to specific types of micro-entrepreneurialism in the prepared-food sector are based on a mix of cultural, class, and gender relations of the locality being studied. Age and the family-situation of individual sellers are also of consequence as they indicate prior business experience and access to labour. 5.1.2 Thai Food Sellers The socio-economic attributes of Thai food-sellers vary somewhat depending on the type and size of establishment in question and the nature of the food sold. This section 149 constructs a typology of prepared food sellers ranging from the mobile hab re (shoulder pole vendors) and paeng loy (street stall) entrepreneurs to eating establishments with a fixed-pitch. Studies conducted outside of Greater Bangkok will be summarized. The city's raan ahaan or "foodshops" are dealt with in greater detail in section 5.2. Most recently Renu's (1994) thesis dealt with women hab re and paeng loy vendors in Bangkok. Her principal conclusion was that 84% of the women studied were earning money for the needs of their children or parents. Renu found that nearly i • 47% of those engaged in this occupation were originally from the Northeast (Isan) and were from farming backgrounds. Most of the operations surveyed (62%) were managed by one or two people. The recent study of sanitation conditions of streetfoods in Prabuddha-bath municipality actually provides much broader information than the main objective of the research (Sunanthana and Sriprat 1993).4 The researchers discovered that 88% of the enterprises selling cooked-food surveyed were owned and operated by women who earn (often extra) income for the family. Owner's husbands tend to be employed in permanent white or blue collar occupations. The average age of the vendor's studied was 43 with 75% between the ages of 30 and 60. Nearly half of the informants had received formal education up to Prathom (primary) Four. Most of the food-sellers came 4 Prabuddha-bath municipality is a town in Central Thailand north of Bangkok. The study had shocking conclusions. Water and ice showed high bacterial contamination levels 80% of the time. Nearly all utensils were similarly contaminated (99%). 96.2% of vendor's hands were contaminated with 100 bacterial colonies per square centimeter. In a Bangkok study conducted by the Medical Science Department and the Ministry of Public Health, unacceptably high incidences of e-coli and salmonella were found in food containing raw fish or seafood such as somtam lao - a salad made of green papaya, vegetables and small raw crabs - as well as other fresh and cooked foods (Bangkok Post, 1994). 150 from outside the municipality with the majority (78%) from the North. 43% reported being in the business less than five years and 36% for more than 10. An important piece of research for the objectives of this dissertation is the EPOC and CUSRI sponsored study of streetfoods in the once provincial town of Chonburi5 (Napat and Szanton 1986). This survey of "traditional fast foods" portrayed the gendered nature of production and consumption of streetfoods. The research team found that, consistent with the studies summarized above, around 80% of the vendors selling processed (ie. cooked) food were women. Men specialized in the selling of traditional Chinese snacks or light meals (moo daeng, kha moo, khaaw man gai see section 5.3.4) and were themselves of Chinese background. Ethnically Thai men were "almost completely absent"(Napat and Szanton 1986, 23). 64% of the female vendors were between the ages of 26 and 45, some younger women sold sweets and the male vendors were often older than the women. "Over 20% of all women were the main household supporters at the time, another 21% were unmarried and earning their own subsistence or sustaining older parents and young siblings" (Napat and Szanton 1986, 23). This income earning role and sense of responsibility for the family's well-being appears to be one of the critical factors explaining Thai women's high level of rnicro-entrepreneurialism in the prepared-food system. This phenomenon is examined in greater detail in the next section. 5 Chonburi is a town on the rapidly developing (or developed?) Eastern Seaboard which is certainly part of the Extended Bangkok Metropolitan Region described by Greenberg (1994). At the time of the CUSRI study, however, it still had a provincial quality. I suspect that the food-system found there now resembles the situation I will describe for Bangkok. , 151 5.1.3 Food Vending and Thai Women's Sense of Responsibility Thai women have long played an important income-generating role in the family and have a history of micrb-entrepreneurialism. This trend is shared with other societies of the region. The selling of raw and prepared food by market women is a long standing tradition in Southeast Asia and is particularly highlighted in Thailand. Women in Kelantan (Jamilah 1994), parts of Indonesia (Manderson 1983) and Burma (Spiro 1977) also exhibit this pattern of activity. This behaviour has typically been interpreted by foreigners as a sign of Thai women's strength and independence and that of Southeast Asian women generally. It is often cited alongside an impressive list of other factors which lead one to believe in the equality of the sexes in this region: Chiangmai women are impressive. They have the strength of character, independence, and self-assurance of women who live in a society where they are in a strong position. Residence here is matrilocal. The daughters stay at home and their husbands come in to live with them. Inheritance is bilateral, and the women share equally with the men; daughters inherit the parental home and matrilineal ancestors. In case of divorce, it is the man who leaves and the woman who stays home. Women work in the fields, rear the children, keep house; they are also the merchants who earn money for the family selling in the markets. They are the ones who keep the money, for fear that their men will waste it on gambling or drinking, or on other women. There are many strong men in Chiangmai village, but what impresses a Western outsider is the strength of the women." (Potter 1976, 24 my emphasis) In this quote, we see that Thai women are considered more financially responsible than men. They are trusted with the family wealth. This a stereotype and there are plenty of i . -examples, including some drawn from my field research, which challenge this gender ideology. It is generally true, however, that women tend to earn and keep money for the family, especially for food and school fees. A married man is expected to provide the house. Men, particularly in their younger years, tend to squander money for 152 recreational purposes: examples being gambling, drinking, and prostitutes (including mistresses for the more powerful). Sometimes women are well aware of this problem but continue to provide sons and husbands with money, hoping they will spend it responsibly. However, as I evaluate toward the end of this dissertation following presentation of research results, this general situation may be changing for both women and men. Foreigners may have exaggerated and misinterpreted the meaning associated with the income earning abilities and public presence of Thai women. Kirsch, for example, argues that in the Thai Buddhist ascetic value system, the handling of money and other "worldly" occupations are denigrated. Westerners tend to equate economic prowess with social power which is an erroneous assumption in several cultural contexts. Thai writers tend to be more sober when commenting on the position of women in their society. Pasuk Pongpaichit, a well-respected woman economist, observed: the easiest way to describe the Thai rural household is as a corporation of kinswomen who induct males through marriage. The rural family is built around its women, and this central role imposes rights and duties. Women traditionally manage the finances of the household, take (or help take) many of the most important decisions about household expenditures, and have a great degree of personal responsibility for managing and maintaining the family's wealth. As we have noted above, it is that sense of responsibility to the family which propels many of the girls to migrate in search of income (Pasuk 1984, 256 my emphasis). It is this social structure and female responsibility that drives women to Bangkok to sell prepared food. The gender relations present in the urban milieu with which these rural migrants are faced presents a sharp contrast to their home environments: Within this urban culture men have many more privileges and pre-emptive rights, often at the expense of women. Taking courtesans or i . • 153 minor wives or simply just going out on the town is not only legitimate but somehow rather admirable - a mark of status. The ability to dominate women, many women, becomes inextricably bound up with concepts of commercial and political power and success. (Pasuk 1984, 256) There is therefore a significant urban/rural divide which distinguishes the ways in which femininity and masculinity are constructed and practiced. This hinges on issues of responsibility towards one's family and the ways in which power is used to dominate others as illustrated in the case of urban men displaying status through philandering. Thai urban women are certainly not socially nor economically equal to urban men. One conclusion that can be made is that both femininity and masculinity are differentiated in rural and urban areas with the "modernized" city centres actually showcasing regressive gender relations. The traditional Thai sex-gender system which persists in rural areas is more or less complementary whereas the urban situation is more hierarchical. Keyes (1987) attributes the predominance of women in "care-giving" activities such as cooking, working as market-women (and, by extension, food vendors) as a result of the symbolic association between femininity and nurturing (Hang). Indeed, he argues that the essence of femaleness in Thai society is nurturing whereas the essence of masculinity is "potency"(Keyes 1987, 123). He qualifies this by referring to the various images in Thai and Buddhist folklore which typologize women as nurturers, ideally, while also symbolizing "foil" - or opposite - characters such as the "passionate/suffering woman" and the "demanding mistress" (Keyes 1984). This indicates there are indeed a range of options in Thai culture for definitions of and practices associated with fernininity (see also Keyes 1987, 124; Van Esterik 1994). 154 Certainly, the Thai language, folktales and epics abound with images of "mother nurturers" and include metaphorical uses of the term to refer to water, rice, fertility and elements in the natural world. I have difficulty, however, with attempts to discover "essences" of femininity and masculinity in any society. Gender systems are in a constant state of negotiation and redefinition and essentialistic approaches - like those toward "culture" or "race" - are heavily criticized (Fuss 1992; hooks 1990). Searching out stereotypes and archetypes has metaphorical utility nevertheless. "Nurturing" does not seem to be exclusively female. Van Esterik (1992) clearly explains the gender neutral use of the term and plenty of examples of men engaging in behaviour where the term Hang is used. The term has a wide range of meanings besides the literal connotation, "to feed" and cannot be associated with the English term "nurture" with its attendant notions of femininity, duty and domesticity (Mies 1986). In Thai, Hang also means "to treat" (invite guests for a meal or sponsor a banquet) and to "foster"; such as when adopting a child. One can Hang orchids, for example, whether male or female. Liang carries a sense of power; those who want to be influential treat others to build debts of gratitude. Powerful politicians and officials, for example, guarantee the loyalty of their entourage by hosting elaborate meals/festivities. To raise a child (Hang luuk, Hang dek) - and by extension feed it - involves reciprocity as part of the bargain whereby a child owes something to its parents: particularly its mother. Hence the Thai practice of the bridegroom paying "milk money" (what anthropologists have called 155 "bride price") is meant to compensate a bride's mother for breastfeeding the daughter during infancy (Sharp and Hanks 1978). Thai men - like their counterparts in the rest of the region - participate a great deal in child-rearing (Cf. Van Esterik 1992). Men are often good cooks and participate in food-preparation tasks, even those from Isan who are considered the most "macho" of Thailand. The cooking of meat outdoors, in keeping with what appears to be a world wide trend, is defined as men's work (Keyes 1996). When describing cooking as women's work, Formoso qualifies the extent of the gender division of labour in the kitchen: However, among the Isan, these types of activities are not exclusively part of the ferninine sphere and it is admitted that men can take over the daily tasks of preparing rice and side dishes whenever the female labour force is insufficient or temporarily absent. (Formoso 1993, 109 My translation).6 In addition to the activities listed above, there is certainly a case to be made for the presence of nurturing men and boys as evidenced in the following chapters. Van Esterik lists the many symbolic images of masculine nurturers, notably the King who is a supreme example of the pau Hang archetype (Cf. Wijeyewardena 1971). We cannot turn to Theravada Buddhism to explain the fundamentals of the Thai sex-gender system; in some ways the patterns resemble those found in the region as a whole, including among Thai Muslims in the South (Chavivun 1986) and in Malay society (Firth 1966). The importance of religion has been a "stumbling block" for those * "Cependant, chez les Isan ce type d'activite's ne relive pas exclusivement de la sphere feminine et it est admis que les hommes prennent en charge dans la vie courante la cuisson du riz ou la confection de plats d'accompagnement, des tors que la main d'oeuvre feminine est insuffisante ou temporairement absente." 156 studying women in Southeast Asia (Manderson 1983, 3). Manderson states that scholars assume the regions "have adopted foreign religions wholesale" and this "ignores how religion has been integrated with local beliefs". She suggests that the predominance of matrilineality in Southeast Asia is a more powerful explanatory factor than official religion. I do not think we can or should be looking for the 'one great cause' to explain gender relations in the region. My position is that Thai gender-relations on a mainstream, basic level, tend to be idealized and practiced dichotomously in Thailand with femininity quite sharply distinguished from masculinity. Here, appearances and "surfaces" seem to be of greater importance than "essences". For example, in same-sex relationships which are well tolerated in Thailand, one partner always cross-dresses. Keyes reports even attending a lesbian wedding in rural Thailand where this was the case and Buddhist monks officiated at the ceremony (Keyes 1992)! There are, however plenty of other options which allow an individual to be "butch", "feminine" or adopt a range of identities in-between. Femininity is considered inferior to masculinity in general prohibiting women from achieving significant power on the national scale (Vitit 1985). Erosions of traditional female equality began hundreds of years ago. Vitit argues that, in the Sukhothai period, women's status was quite high compared to the subsequent Ayutthayan period (14th-17th century a.d.) where a series of laws were introduced which eroded women's rights (for example, allowing polygamy and permitting beating of wives). Thai women today certainly do not see themselves as "equal" to men in 157 their own society and are organized in a struggle to change their material and legal positions (Decade 1992). In sum, women's income earning responsibilities toward their families, in addition to the fact that they are more trusted with money, combined with women's childrearing responsibilities and a huge demand for prepared food leads many Thai women to open foodshops. 5.2 FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS IN BANGKOK In a recent thesis, Bhavivarn (1993) describes the small businesses selling cooked food in the distinctive riverside market at Tha Prachan (Moon Pier) near Thammasat university. She notes that places selling Thai food were generally run by women whom she viewed as knowledgeable and skilled agents specializing in the production of a range of ordinary as well as unusual Thai foods.7 Thais, she notes, traditionally view this type of occupation as women's work. Shopkeepers tended to be longstanding figures in the market culture of Tha Prachan. Hah re and Paeng loy vendors tend to come from outside the district and do not consider themselves part of the community. She also describes how made-to-order and take-out food is now in greater demand for nearby university employees and students. As far as foodshops are concerned, daughters and sons of vendors are not interested in taking over their mother's (and sometimes father's) businesses (Bhavivarn 1993, 125). This is a serious problem and will likely lead to the decline of small 7 Indeed, Tha Prachan is known as an area where authentically prepared traditional foods which have largely disappeared in mainstream Thai society are available. 158 foodshops in Tha Prachan. Bhavivarn noted the recent encroachment of Thai-owned fast-food chains and convenience stores such as 7-11 as well as foreign food. Naruemol and Oudin's study of "restaurants" as part of a larger study of the informal sector in Bangkok provides detailed information about the operations, income-levels and concerns of small foodshop owners. They found that three quarters of the "restaurant" owners surveyed were women.8 Their average age was 39 years old; relatively older than the entrepreneurs in other domains of the "informal sector". The average number of employees in restaurants was 0.9 - in other words- entrepreneurs tended to be self-employed and worked on their own or with one other person. Only 16% of businesses selling food had employees. 5.2.1 Typology of Eating Places Eating establishments in Bangkok can be distinguished on the basis of size (floor area br number of seating places), number of employees, type of food sold or according to the linguistic categories used by Thais to speak of foodshops and restaurants. I prefer the latter method but also deal with the other criteria in this section and the following parts of the chapter. It is clear when examining Table 5.1 that small foodshops with one to four employees form the majority of cooked-food enterprises in the whole kingdom. They form 70% of all establishments in the country and 67% in the Bangkok metropolis. 8 Restaurants were defined as places preparing full meals. The nature of the "informality" of establishments surveyed was based on the non-registration of activities, the use (but not exclusive) of unpaid (usually family) labour. The study focused on small-scale enterprises (less than 20 employees) for all three sectors surveyed (garments, metal work and restaurants). 159 Table 5.1 NUMBER OF EATING AND DRINKING ESTABLISHMENTS ACCORDING TO LOCATION AND NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES Thailand 1990 Number of Employees Bangkok Metropolis 5 Provinces around Bangkok Whole Kingdom 1-4 4387 393 11 808 5-9 930 115 2 648 10-19 625 53 1 417 20-49 426 35 815 50-99 111 6 150 100-299 41 2 53 300-499 4 0 4 All establishments 6 524 604 16 895 Thailand Ministry of Labour. Labour force survey 1990. The second largest category of restaurants - those with 5-9 employees - form only 16% and 14% of all establishments in the Kingdom and Greater Bangkok respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, mega-restaurants with more than 300 employees are limited to the primate city, Bangkok, where there were only four as of the early 1990s. The number of mega-restaurants has certainly increased since then. The smallest and most ubiquitous food establishments of Bangkok and the rest of Thailand are by no means uniform as argued previously. In addition to the locational, ethnic and economic differentiations previously identified, the Thai language can be a tool for defining how Thais themselves typologize foodshops. 160 Stalls, known in Thai as paeng loy, are defined as eating establishments located outside a fixed building, such as on a sidewalk or in a lane. A stall usually has tables and chairs which are set up at the beginning of the selling period and taken down and put away at night. Quite often, a stall will include a pushcart - in addition to tables, chairs and other furniture - as part of its basic equipment. Pushcarts, or rot khen, are a crucial piece of equipment which are either part of a stall or exist independently to serve take-out customers only. Pushcarts are at times itinerant but, more often, set up at a fixed location every day. Sometimes, a number of stalls will group together in one place and share tables and chairs creating an outdoor, informal food-centre. McGee referred to this as a bazaar type agglomeration, a variation of which is the night market (McGee 1973, 84-85). Smart writes: Of all the different types of hawking agglomerations, the night markets or night bazaars are the most colourful. There is always an air of festivity at these night markets, also known as the 'poor man's nightclub' (ping mun ye jung wooi in Cantonese. (Smart 1989, 49) There are several lively night markets in the VMA where the sale of prepared food in street restaurants plays a dominant role (see Figure 5.1). When a pushcart has tables and chairs it becomes a stall and can therefore be considered a small foodshop. Likewise, pheung. is a term referring to an awning-covered or loosely built semi-permanent structure. It is a type of stall with a distinctive design, sometimes including features of other establishments such as a pushcart. Pheung are most often located on vacant lots where they are not required to completely set up and set down the foodshop every day or night. 161 Figure 5.1 Victory Monument Area, Bangkok Location of Night Markets Map Legend H Night markets R Robinson' s Department Store H Happy Home Cafe 162 As such, they usually squat on someone else's property with or without the owners consent. Establishments such as this were referred to by one scholar as "interim land-use restaurants" (Archer 1992). Shophouses (deuk taow) are distinctive features of cities with a strong Chinese influence such as Bangkok. These two to five storey structures typically have a business located on the ground floor and housing for the merchants on the upper levels. There are many variations on the use of floor space, however. Many older restaurants in Bangkok are located in shophouses. These structures are, for the most part, about 50-60 years old in the VMA. Many are being cleared for the construction of higher density office or residential buildings. In Singapore, however, many old shophouses have been renovated in the past 10 years as part of inner-city revitalization schemes; a type of Asian gentrification. This renovation trend may be formcorning in Bangkok but is not yet evident in my study site. Foodshops in apartment buildings or in foodcentres are examples pf the newer additions to Bangkok's foodscape as previously outlined. Shops either have facilities for customers to eat inside the restaurant, or outside "cafe style," while the vendors sleep inside the premises, or the "restaurant" may be strictly for take-out or phone in/delivery. As explained in Chapter Four, most rental apartments, rooms for the most part, lack proper cooking facilities stimulating demand for prepared food. Figures 5.2 and 5.3 reproduce a floor plan and menu from an apartment foodshop. A franchise, is an enterprise with a recognized brand name such as KFC or the local "Isan Classic". Strictly speaking, a franchise is an operation whereby the owner 163 pays for the rights to use a trade name and agrees to employ standardized production techniques. I use the term to refer to established chain restaurants regardless whether the individual operation is a franchise outlet or a part of a centrally-owned chain. In the case of KFC, some locations are franchised to a third party whereas others are owned directly by either Central group or Charoen Pokhpand which divide up the franchise rights. Finally, pattakarn. are expensive restaurants with formal menus, full service and decorated, comfortable surroundings. The term refers to establishments which specialize in catering to "grander occasions". Many of these places have conveniences such as air-conditioning, a large staff, and a division of labour for employees. Examples of pattakarn are discussed in the following section. It is not linguistically improper to refer to grand establishments as raan ahaan but, for the sake of clarity, I will call them pattakarn. The typology described is by no means exhaustive and categories used are certainly not discrete. There is often overlap and confusion when it comes to defining the nature of a specific enterprise. These categories are used in the quantitative survey analysed in Section 5.3 and are presented in order to clarify the meaning of terms rather than present the entire range of eating establishments available in Thai society. 164 C ' 3 -2 J 3 O S £ -2 E < ^ & p i_ "~ o ° (2 o o =5= 2 C 'E o T J 2 v > o o c 'S: o o O E D C c o a o a : «D -O - "J2 o T J - £ _C v O 0 v> a o _c CA x j -c "= 2-3 o « c _o » 0 J= 1 I-2 O > M ig 1.E ! 8. o to 0) > . . — £ £ a O \ J . CO IS ::<£ IT) o o S o ' a V) ~G CD o C CD > U O a to UDSU|L|d40S io$ a> a> Figure 5.3 MENU FROM AN APARTMENT FOODSHOP Breakfast Price in Baht Coffee, Soft boiled egg 20 Set breakfast (coffee, fried egg, bread) 25 Large breakfast (coffee, fried egg, sausage, jam) 45 Bread, Canned orange juice 20 Rice porridge with chicken or pork 20 Rice porridge with prawns or squid 25 Chok moo with egg 25 One dish meals Fried rice with salty beef and fried egg 25 Rice with scrambled egg and chopped pork 20 Rice khlukapii 25 Fried rice with namprik langreua 25 Fried rice with pork or chicken 20 Fried rice with catfish 20 Khun Siang's fried rice 25 Fried rice with naem sausage 20 Fried rice with basil and chicken, pork or beef 20 Fried rice with basil with prawn or squid 25 Fried rice poh kaek 25 Spicy stir fry pa laaw with rice 25 Spicy fried rice with fresh pork, chicken or beef 20 Rice with rad beef and oyster sauce 20 Fried Rice with crab or prawn 25 N.B. Translated by Gisele Yasmeen. This only represents half the menu, the other half consists of soups, salads, fried fish and chicken and some curries and Isan dishes ranging in price from 25-60 Baht. Most apartment foodshops have far simpler menus serving only noodles and fried rice. 166 5.2.2 Large Versus Small Establishments Department of Labour statistics indicate that as an eating establishment - or restaurant -becomes larger and more lucrative, men get involved in greater proportions (Table 5.2).9 In the smallest foodshops with one to four employees, women account for 83% of employees whereas in those with more than 10 employees, women account for only 51-58% of all workers. A closer examination reveals that a gender division-of-labour emerges in the larger establishments whereby men or boys, and sometimes girls, work as waiters and women work as cooks, or, in expensive establishments as hostesses and entertainers. Two good examples are Bussaracum [Figure 5.4]10 and Than Ying, located in the new World Trade Center. Note that these restaurants specialize in Thai cuisine. Large expensive Chinese restaurants, like their smaller and more humble counterparts, tend to employ men as chefs and cooks. An extreme example of the specialized role of women in food-establishments are the 'no hands' restaurants where young women employees spoon and hand-feed adult male-customers. This introduces the relationship between the commercial sex industry and Bangkok's restaurant sector. 9 A question which needs to be addressed is the reliability of Thai government statistics, particularly those collected by the Department of Labour. First, the household surveys I believe are quite reliable as they are based on a weighted sample of a cross-section of the population. The Labour Force Survey, however, suffers from underenumeration. I suspect that surveyers did not count the stalls and shops in the sois and/or, neglected to account for stalls which open only in the evening. 10 Bussaracum markets itself as a venue serving authentic Thai food prepared in the royal style. Marilyn Walker's (1991) thesis outlines the debates surrounding this claim. She concludes that the restaurant is primarily geared towards a Western clientele because the menu breaks with the conventions of Thai gastronomy. 167 "Respectable" Thai women (phuying dii, "good women") do not participate in "bar culture" and other activities associated with the consumption of alcohol as this is relegated to prostitutes (phuying mai dii, "bad women")(Cf. Mills 1990). I comment on these night time institutions based on information gleaned from discussions with Thai urbanites and instances of participant-observation. A first example is the contrast provided by lunchtime versus evening dining experiences in one of the Victory Monument's former Isan entertainment restaurants.11 FLELDNOTES 5.1 A N ISAN RESTAURANT ON RAJAVITEE ROAD FRIDAY OCTOBER 9,1992 - LUNCH W E WENT TO AN AIR-CONDITIONED PLACE ACROSS THE STREET FROM ROBINSON'S. IT WAS A LARGE RESTAURANT WITH SPACE FOR A BAND. I THINK THE OWNERS ARE FROM ISAN BECAUSE THE FOOD IS NORTHEASTERN AND THE WAITRESSES ARE DRESSED IN A STYLE REMINISCENT OF THE REGION. IT WAS GOOD. A BIT MORE EXPENSIVE THAN ON THE STREET. THERE WAS A GROUP OF THAI MEN BEHIND US WHO WERE CONSUMING MASSIVE QUANTITIES OF BEER WITH THEIR MEAL. THEIR FACES WERE VERY RED! I'D LIKE TO RETURN THERE IN THE EVENING WHEN THERE'S MUSIC. WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 21,1992 - SUPPER JEAN, MEERA AND LEKHA ARRIVED AROUND 7PM. W E WENT TO EAT AT THE ISAN RESTAURANT ACROSS FROM ROBINSON'S. IT WAS NOISY. THERE WAS A BAND PLAYING HORRIBLE MUSIC AND THE DRUNKEN MALE CUSTOMERS WERE TALKING LOUDLY AND SINGING TERRIBLE KARAOKE. T H E FOOD WASN'T EXTRAORDINARY. This vignette describes encounters between our international group and a "modernized" provincial culture, replete with state-of-the art sound systems. We also entered a male space, one oriented towards consumption of whiskey and mind-numbingly loud " The restaurant operated until some time in late 1993 or early 1994 at which point it was converted into a bookstore cafe. Comparative photos of the site are found in Figure 3.4. 169 entertainment. The establishment was not the preferred haunt of "good" women but neither was it a place, such as a cafe, featuring young women entertaining male customers. Rangnam Road (Figure 5.5), a part of the research site, is well known for its cafes - which for Thais is a specific type of establishment usually featuring young women singers dressed in flashy (usually gaudy) costumes. Women act as "hostesses" or "partners". These types of venues are the descendants of "hostess bars" which made their appearance in Thailand many decades ago.12 Still another manifestation of the Thai way is found in cabaret life. In Singapore the Chinese have organized cabarets so that there is no dancing with the taxi dance-girls without tickets, and the whole procedure is well organized to give a steady financial profit to the management. Bangkok also has cabarets — but no manager has succeeded in running one Singapore style. Each girl (sic) comes or does not come on a given night as she pleases; she may or may not require a guest to buy a dance ticket; and if she goes home with him afterward she may or may not be mercenary about it, depending on how she feels. A man from Singapore with some experience in cabaret management commented unfavorably to me on the casual way in which these things are done in Bangkok. Cabarets are, of course, an innovation in Bangkok from the West, but the permissive behaviour pattern of managers and the individual behavior of the girls are characteristically Thai. Even if the manager is Chinese or European he finds it necessary to adjust his management to the Thai way (Embree 1950, 8). In a Thai-style "cafe", the customers give garlands of flowers pinned with money (Bt 500 and up) to the singers of their choice in return for their company after the solo. 1 2 A series of debates ensued after Embree published this article on Thai society as a "loosely structured social system". The debates either refuted or asserted Embree's thesis of Thai society being "loosely structured". What critics sometimes failed to note was that Embree was making his comments about Thailand in contrast to Japanese society. 170 Figure 5 . 5 Store • Red Pork iConvsniencsl flora | r~L_ n Hotel with foodshop Foodstalls & Restaurants Rangnam Road September 1994 Legend • I I shop in permanent building stall or pushcart (most with tables and stools) N Rajprarop Road • Fruit • Drinkj [] Dessert 0 Peanuts 3 5omtom vendor in grocery store Chicken Rice I Red naa Fad thai J Beef noodles • Fruit • Luukchin brochettes Soi Ruamjrt • Fried banana BW„| Iw/ foodshop Krungthep Apt. Foodshop Soi Sri Ayutthayo • Somtam, Fried chicken Soi Thep Hatsadin ^ order food ^ fne3 chicken • Chicken Noodles • Soirrtam/Fried chicken • Beef noddles • Fork noodles • fork leg 'Thai Farmer's Bank • Somtam/Fried Chicken • Khuo tod/mantod • Chicken Rice Isan Restaurant The Express Transportation Organization Workshop (government office complex) Grocery | KrungThai (indudes faodshop) Soi loot Panya L.S. Kwan 171 In transvestite cabarets and gay men's bars, "partners" are usually young men who may or may not cross-dress (see Fieldnotes 5.2). Hosts/hostesses are required to entertain (mostly Thai male) customers by providing them with pleasant conversation, singing and perhaps dancing. Mostly, their function is to encourage customers to buy expensive alcoholic drinks for themselves and the partners.13 Cafes are a fascinating aspect of Bangkok's foodscape and encompass very specific gender relations related to the city's commercial sex industry. I had the opportunity to frequent a cafe only twice. I did, nevertheless, collect as much information as possible about these establishments by talking to people about them. FIELDNOTES 5.2 T W O CAFES IN BANGKOK #1: W E DECIDED TO GO TO T H E LITTLE DRAG CABARET ON RAJPRAROP R OAD. 1 4 T H E SHOWS WERE SCHEDULED TO START A T 1 1PM AND 1AM. W E ARRIVED ABOUT 10-15 MINUTES BEFORE T H E 11 O'CLOCK PERFORMANCE. W E WERE THE ONLY NON-THAI IN T H E AUDIENCE. A L A R G E BOTTLE OF THAI BEER WAS 200 BAHT... VERY EXPENSIVE . 95% OF T H E CUSTOMERS WERE YOUNG MEN. THERE WERE YOUNG M A L E "WAITERS" [PARTNERS] WEARING RED JACKETS, SMALL BOW-TIES A N D B L A C K TROUSERS - NORMALLY THEY SAT WITH T H E CUSTOMERS (BUT NOT us). V ERY SOON AFTER WE ENTERED A CROSSDRESSER WHO LOOKED LUUK KREUNG - VERY BEAUTIFUL AND NICE (SINCERE) - C A M E TO SPEAK TO US IN ENGLISH (SHE SPOKE VERY WELL). IT APPEARS SHE WAS A CUSTOMER W H O KNEW T H E STAFF. SHE SAID THAT WE COULD C A L L ON HER IF WE NEEDED ANYTHING. SHE WAS DRESSED LIKE A CASUAL "CHIC" YOUNG W O M A N IN WHITE TROUSERS AND A BLOUSE... NOT TOO MUCH MAKE-UP EITHER. 1 3 "Johnny Walker Black Label" is the drink of choice among wealthy Thai men, or those who want to appear so. Second choice is Red Label and the masses drink Mekong or another brand of Thai whiskey. 1 4 A feature article from The Nation newspaper in Bangkok, describes this cabaret culture where male cross-dressers, or "women of the second type" (phuying praphet sorng, more often referred to as kathoey) perform. 172 T H E SHOW WAS VERY GOOD - CHOREOGRAPHED WITH MANY PEOPLE (MOSTLY LIP-SYNC). EXCEPT THERE WAS ONE ACT CONSISTING OF TWO OVERWEIGHT GUYS DRESSED (MOCKINGLY) LIKE WOMEN FROM IS AN... IT WAS DISGUSTING. THEY WORE SKIRTS UNDER WHICH THEY HAD PINNED FAKE MALE GENITALS (FLASHED ON OCCASION)... IMPLYING THAT THE WOMEN THEY PORTRAYED WERE REALLY MEN. THEY HARASSED US IN VARIOUS WAYS AS THE "ODD TRIO" IN THE AUDIENCE. APPARENTLY THERE WERE THREE DIFFERENT SHOWS. W E LEFT AFTER THE FIRST. DURING THE BREAK, THE "WAITER-BOYS" DANCED IN COUPLES - EACH DID THE SAME SLOW "JIVE" ROUTINE. (WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 14,1992) #2: W E DROVE AROUND AND WENT INTO THIS PLACE NEAR THE DEMOCRACY MONUMENT WHICH WE THOUGHT WAS CALLED "JAZZ CLUB" BUT IT WAS ACTUALLY "LOLITA'S". THERE WERE YOUNG THAI WOMEN SINGING POPULAR THAI SONGS WITH A BAND. PEOPLE WOULD GIVE THEM GARLANDS WITH TWO BT500 NOTES PINNED ON TO SHOW APPRECIATION, AJAAN P TOLD M E THAT THESE WERE MEN WHO WANTED THE SINGERS TO GO AND SIT WITH THEM AFTER. H E ALSO SAID THE THAI BARS HIRE YOUNG WOMEN - CALLED "PARTNERS" - TO CHAT WITH CUSTOMERS AND MAKE SURE THEY HAVE A GOOD TIME. THEY CHARGE BY THE HOUR AND THE CLIENT MUST BUY DRINKS AND FOOD FOR THE PARTNER-APPARENTLY, A COMEDY SHOW AND DRAG ACT WERE SCHEDULED FOR LATER ON (1 AM) BUT WE COULDN'T STAY SO LATE. T H E DRAG ACT WAS A LIP-SYNC AND A SPECIAL SHOW FROM PATTAYA WHERE THAT SORT OF ENTERTAINMENT IS VERY POPULAR. AJAAN P SAID THAT ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE GO TO SEE DRAG SHOWS - WOMEN, CHILDREN, COUPLES, ETC. IT'S A VERY POPULAR FORM OF ENTERTAINMENT IN THAILAND. O N THE WAY OUT WE NOTICED THAT THE LOUNGE UPSTAIRS HAD AN ELVIS IMPERSONATION SHOW THAT EVENING. (THURSDAY OCTOBER 29, 1992) The first passage describing the transvestite cabaret gives yet another example of the subordination of khon Isan by mainstream Central Thai society. It is a type of 'symbolic violence,' drawing from Bourdieu, and a form of cultural imperialism (Chai-anan 1991). The moments described point to the socially constructed nature of gender as something which is, above all-else "performed" (Butler 1990). This is not specific to Thai society but is a generalized transcultural process. Rather than concluding, from 173 this passage, that masculinity is somehow "ambiguous" in Thai society, it alludes to the ambiguity of both masculinity and fernininity ideologically and in practice (Keyes 1986). The second passage puts forth examples of interaction between the sexes as ferninized and masculinized individuals. Here, economic re~tions are interwoven with gender relations in that men buy the rime of aestheticized women. The widespread existence of "partners" points to the sexual and spatial unavailability of rnainstream Thai women to men; "respectable" women do not usually frequent the types of places described in the vignette for fear of being construed as bold, their reputations therefore sullied (Kamolrat 1994; Mills 1990). Food, but especially alcohol, sets the stage for the encounters and mediates the relationship. The first image of the drag cabaret gets replayed in the second scene where it becomes clear that cross-dressing, rather than being relegated to the margins of society, is something in which mainstream Thais participate, mostly as spectators. Male cross-dressers are known as "women of the second type" (Phuuying prapet song) (Bangkok Post 1994). In the West, drag cabaret is an underground phenomenon. Preoccupation with surface appearances and aesthetic images again comes to the fore in the representation and experiences of gender in Thai society. It appears that women, in the larger establishments which serve a latent leisure function (as well as sites of the business lunch or dinner) are being more firmly recast as nuTturers and pleasure-giving objects and that their historical capacity as entrepreneurs is being overlooked. However, there are a number of very prorninent Thai women in the restaurant business, for example, Patara Sila-On, owner of the 1 7 4 successful "S&P" chain and also the wife of a prominent military general. A Thai-Philippina owns the chain "Little Home Bakery". Several others could be named. This is in keeping with the generally high proportion of Thai women in business, government and academe compared to their counterparts in other parts of the world including North America and Europe (cf. Licuanan 1992, 199). Table 5.2 NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES IN EATING/DRINKING ESTABLISHMENTS BY SEX AND SIZE OF ESTABLISHMENT Bangkok Metropolis Size of establishment Female employees Male employees 1-4 employees 7 319 (83%) 1 542 5-9 employees 3 858 (64%) 2 131 10-19 employees 4 741 (57%) 3 552 20-49 employees 7 016 (58%) 5 159 50-99 employees 3 676 (52%) 3 353 100-299 employees 2 975 (51%) 2 916 300-499 employees 736 (56%) 586 Total 30 321 (61%) 19 239 Thailand Ministry of Labour. Labour force survey 1990. It is difficult to make generalizations about women in the food-system owing to their complex posititons in the restaurant and foodshop sector. Women tend to dominate 175 micro, small and medium enterprises yet are not absent from the upper echelons of the restaurant industry where they often play leadership roles. Likewise, Thai men's greater involvement in the restaurant-sector, particularly in large, lucrative eating establishments might superficially appear to be a shift from the ascetic ideals of masculinity outlined by anthropologists Keyes (1984; 1986) and Kirsch (1982; 1985). Thai men, as opposed to Chinese or Sino-Thai men have not, until recently, played important roles in commerce presumably due to the low-status of such 'worldly' occupations in the Theravada Buddhist value-system (cf. Khin\1980). Keyes' recent position is that middle-class culture in Thailand is largely Sino-Thai in character (Keyes 1995); in other words, a cultural hybrid. Further scrutiny suggests that the changing situation of masculinity can be interpreted as contradictory whereby the law of Karma stipulates that one is born into a higher station in subsequent lives following acts of merit and vice-versa. Theravada Buddhism's asceticism is not absolute and material wealth can even be admired in certain circumstances. Walker's thesis (1991) indicates clearly the desire of middle-class Thai to acquire the trappings of aristocracy and this could, in fact be related to a Buddhist influence rather than solely to 'materialism' and 'Westernization'. Kirsch's argument on the links between Buddhism and the Thai culture of gender may need to be revisited yet again. 176 5.2.3 Distribution of Eating Establishments Table 5.1 indicates that small foodshops with one to four employees are the most ubiquitous eating establishments in Bangkok and the five surrounding provinces of the Extended Bangkok Metropolitan Region (EBMR) where they represent 65-67% of total restaurants. The statistics likely exclude the smallest and least formal foodshops which can easily escape government canvassers. Realistically, then, the proportion of small foodshops is certainly much higher than 65-67% of total eating establishments/Figures 5.6 and 5.7 are maps depicting the percent distribution of small foodshops with one to four employees within the EBMR. Concentrations of 80% or more are found in the districts of Bangkok Noi, Bangkok Yai, Min Buri, Lat Kra Bang, Phasi Charoen, Nong Khaem and Nong Chok. These are generally wealthier suburban areas of the city where middle-class housing estates have been constructed over the past 20 years. The findings run contrary to my assumptions which were that the oldest, central quarters of the city would have the highest proportion of small foodshops compared to larger establishments. For example, the infamous slum of Klong Toey located near the port has one of the lowest relative concentrations of small foodshops. As noted by de Wandeler (1990), it may be that the poorest families in Bangkok cannot afford to purchase prepared food and therefore do most of their cooking themselves. Older central parts of the city have a greater diversity of foodshop types, perhaps in keeping with the diverse landuse compared to large tracks of lands converted to standardized housing estates in the suburbs. The report of the 1990 Household Socio-Economic Survey indicates that 18.6% of all households in Greater Bangkok do not cook at home. 177 Figure 5.6 Percent of Eating Establishments with O n e to Four Employees I Extended Bangkok Metropolitan Area Legend I I No Data • 50-59% 1 3 60-69% • 70-79% • 80-89% • 90% and above Source: Thailand Labour Force Survey, 1991 178 Figure 5.7 Percent of Eating Establishments with O n e to Four Employees II Bangkok Inner City Legend 40-49% • 50-59% • 60-69% m 7 0 - 7 9 % m 80-89% m 1 Bang Sue 2 Bang Plad 3 Bangkok Noi 4 Bangkok Yai 5 Thonburi 6 Khlong San 7 Bang Kolaem 8 Yan Nawa 9 Sathorn 10 Bangrak 11 Pathumwan 12 Ratchathevi 13 Phayathai 14 Dusit 15 Phranakorn 16 PomPrapSattruPhai 17 Samphan Source: Thailand Labour Force Survey, 1991 179 Table 5.3 HOUSEHOLDS WHERE NO COOKING IS DONE (% of total respondents in the Household Survey) Greater Bangkok 1990 Farm Operators Owning Land 5.8% Renting Land ~ Own-Account, Non-Farm Entrepreneursa 12.5 % Professional15 55.6% Employees Professional 10.9% Farm workers 1.9% General workers 39.3% Clerical 22.3% Production workers 22.2 % Economically Inactive Economically inactive 16.6% " This category is defined as "Entrepreneurs, Trade and Industry" and is the occupation of the household head (as defined by family members). b "Own account" refers to those who operate enterprises on their own and hired no employees. Prefatory remarks in the survey explain (rather unclearly) that worker categories were divided into sub-classes. In the case of own account workers this resulted in three categories: professional, technical and administrative enterprises. Source: National Statistical Office, Office of the Prime Minister. 1994. Report of the 1990 Household Socio-Economic Survey: Bangkok metropolis, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan. Table 5.3 indicates the percentage of total households that do not cook according to household type as revealed in the 1990 Household Socio-economic Survey. 180 Own-account entrepreneurs in trade and industry report not doing any cooking at all at an astounding rate of 55.6%. Employees in all categories are the second most highly represented occupational groups that do not cook. Even the "economically inactive" which includes "housewives,"15 students and others report that 16.5% never cook at home. Finally, it is clear that the few farmers remaining within Greater Bangkok continue to cook at home with only 5.8% reporting that they do not cook for themselves. 5.3 RESULTS OF THE QUANTITATIVE SURVEY The remainder of this chapter summarizes the results of the quantitative survey of 58 foodshops in the VMA. The findings echo other research on the prepared-food delivery system. The case study site therefore resembles the rest of Thailand with respect to the socio-economic characteristics of cooked-food vendors and restaurant owners. 5.3.1 Socio-Demographic Characteristics Consistent with results of other studies outlined earlier in this chapter, two-thirds of the cooked-food sellers in the study area are women. I suspect that my omission of night stalls and establishments specializing in the sale of alcohol excluded more male respondents. Likewise, most of the informants are individuals between the ages of 26 and 44 with an average age of 39 (median and modal age is 30) (see Figure 5.8). In 1 5 One of the problems with Thai data is that women often refer to themselves as housewives even though they may own a small business such as a foodshop. This is particularly true in rural areas where, in addition, women are highly active in farming. 181 total, 69 percent of the informants reported being married and are assisted on a volunteer basis by immediate family members (38%) or, less frequently, by relatives from the extended family (21 %).16 The remainder either have employees (41.4%) or report working alone. There is sometimes a combination of the two phenomena with both paid employees and volunteer helpers. Indeed the conceptual distinction between "helper" and "employee" is difficult to ascertain. Household income. Half of respondents claimed to be the sole income earners in their households (52%), and performing solely this occupation (93%).17 Nineteen percent responded that another family member worked in trading as well (selling clothing, for example) and another group (21%) had households with another person working as a company employee or a civil servant.18 Length of time. There are two patterns visible when considering the length of time an establishment has been open. First, there are the long standing cooked-food sellers and small restaurant owners who have been in business 10 or more years. The second group consists of those who have operated two years or less. Indeed, 9% of respondents reported opening less than half a year prior to the survey. One small foodshop owner was unable to answer our questions because we arrived for the survey on his opening day! 1 6 Due to the overlapping of practices, totals do not add up to 100%. 1 7 Four respondents (7%) told us that they worked at other jobs. There was one housekeeper, a company employee, one worker for an electrical company and a civil servant. For this minority, selling prepared food was a part-time occupation. 1 8 We attempted to collect data on as many family/household members as possible. Unfortunately some of my assistants did not pursue this line of questioning thoroughly enough. Hence, the only reliable information concerns the occupation of the other main adult in the family/household. , • • 182 Figure 5.8 Age Distribution of Food Sellers Victory Monument Area 7H 6 5H - 4 H 3 O U 3 H 2 -1-0 ft 15 22 26 28 30 32 35 38 40 43 45 48 . 50 55 Age Source: Fieldwork, 1994 Figure 5.9 Education Levels of Food Sellers Victory Monument Area P. 1-7 M. 1-3 M.4-6 Voc. College Did School not study Educational Level Source: Fieldwork, 1994 183 The recent mushrooming of cooked-food enterprises appears to be related to the real estate boom in the area which has created opportunities for vendors and small restaurant owners. Higher density construetion of kitchenless apartments for young, single people has resulted in a higher resident population and thus has accentuated the demand for prepared food. On the other hand - as the next chapter explains - small foodshop owners are, at the same time, being displaced by massive real estate development. Educational levels. Figure 5.9 represents the educational level of respondents. The majority (53%) of cooked-food sellers have received some primary education.19 Nineteen percent attended secondary school with 21% of respondents having post-secondary training either at the college level or in a vocational program. This runs contrary to the findings of other studies. The main reason for the high level of. education is due to my inclusion of indoor, "formal" restaurants such as KFC and the Noodle Garden complex. In these establishments, managers typically obtain a bachelor's degree or a diploma from a technical or business school. Results were also biased by family helpers, especially teenagers, who were sometimes interviewed. Generally speaking, the children of informants are better educated than their parents. Place of birth. The majority of respondents were born in Bangkok (53.4%). Figure 5.10 is a map depicting the birth places of cooked-food sellers surveyed. In total, 34.2% were born in the provinces of the Northeast (Isan) with the remainder from 1 9 The primary level is known as prathom and is composed today of levels one to six, the 7th level having been phased out. The secondary level (jnathayom) also has six levels. 184 me Southern and Northern regions (6.9%).20 Like the migrant workers in other sectors of the economy such as constmction, domestic employment and light industry, people from Isan migrate to the city in order to sell prepared food. People from Isan are the butt of ethnic jokes in Central Thailand and are stereotyped as stupid, unsophisticated and even lazy. A discussion between a food vendor (Daeng) from Roi-Et province in the Northeast, one of my assistants and myself illustrates these stereotypical views. Daeng: Many people from Isan come to find jobs in Bangkok. People from Isan are looked down upon [we laugh amongst ourselves]. Morn: At first, many people think Isan people are lazy. Daeng: Not lazy. Gisele: Not lazy at all. Daeng: Northerners are lazy. They like comfort. Gisele: Notherners? [laughter] What about Southerners? Daeng: Southerners are rich... good economic status. Southerners don't work very hard. Although Daeng is a victim of prejudice against Northeasterners, she also perpetuates generalizations about Thais from other regions. People from Isan form Thailand's largest ethnic minority and are systematically discriminated against and negatively stereotyped by mainstream Thai society. They, and their region, are considered culturally and economically "backward" although their status is improving somewhat (Cohen 1991). Nevertheless, jokes are continually made about their supposedly "vulgar" ways, darker skin (considered unattractive) and "lesser intelligence". Khon Isan form the underclass in Bangkok society partly because of this prejudice.21 2 0 The remaining 5% of respondents did not declare their place of birth. Some interviewees simply stated they were from Isan rather than name their specific home province. 2 1 Thailand - like most parts of Asia, Africa and the world in general - is a racist and colour conscious society. Dark skin is considered unattractive, especially for women. 185 Figure 5.10 5.3.3 Shop Types and Food Specialties A breakdown of shop types is found in Table 5.4.22 The majority of respondents own or are employed in establishments located in a shophouse (deuk taow) (n=18), or own pushcarts (rot khen) (n=15), stalls (paeng loy) (n=8), foodshops located in apartments (n=6) or those located in foodcentres (n=5).23 "Other" types of shops include stalls using awnings {pheung) (n=3), one foodshop in a hotel, one expensive restaurant (pattakarn) and two franchises (KFC and Noodle Garden). Twelve percent (n=7) of the establishments studied have branches at other locations or the proprietor owns other restaurants. These branches are examples of medium-scale Thai businesses. Distinctions between these types of enterprises are sometimes difficult to ascertain for a shophouse restaurant may actually contain a pushcart and a stall may also have a pushcart as part of its equipment. Classification involves deciding which feature is to be given precedence. Through consultations with Napat Sirisambhand-Gordon - author of a previous study on Thai food establishments - and research assistants, it was found that the above categories coincided with Thai categorizations of eating places. 2 1 The categories used were borrowed for the most part by those employed in the Chonburi study of streetfoods (Napat and Szanton 1986) with the addition of the following categories: shophouses, expensive restaurants, hotel foodshops, franchises and establishments located in apartments and foodcentres. 2 3 Only one foodcentre in the area agreed to be studied and its name, like that of individual informants, shall remain anonymous. Another hew centre owned by a large Thai company did not grant me permission to interview vendors. I did, however, sketch map the premises and counted the number of employees and customers. The manager was briefly and informally interviewed^ These results will be discussed in the next two chapters. 187 Table 5.4 SHOP TYPES IN THE VICTORY MONUMENT AREA Bangkok 1994 Shop Type Percent Shophouse 31.0 Pushcart 25.9 Stall 13.8 Foodshop in apartment 10.3 Foodshop in foodcentre 8.6 Other 10.3 Source: Field Survey 1994. As seen in Figure 5.11, most enterprises specialize in the sale of certain types of food. The largest category is that of noodle shops (18 cases)24 which are either located in shophouses (n=8) or on the street in stalls (n=5) or sold in hotels, foodcentres or apartment foodshops (n=5). Noodles are especially popular at lunchtime with office workers and students. There are several varieties of noodle dishes both in soup and stir-fried. According to the survey, noodle shops are no longer the exclusive domain of the Sino-Thai. Many are run by people bom in Isan who are ethnically Lao. 2 4 The number of cases will be abbreviated as "n". 188 Figure 5.11 Principal Type of Food Sold, Victory Monument Area Red Pork 1.7%v Others 6.9% Pork/ Chicken Rice' 6.9% Noodle; 31.0% Isan Food 12.1% Made to "order food 25.9% jCurry and Rice 15.5% Source: Fieldwork. 1994 Number of Customers per Day, Victory Monument Area Less than 50" u E I 50- 100H u More than 100' 50 31 10 30 —r— 40 60 Source: Fieldwork, 1994 Percent Figure 5.12 Figure 5.13 Busy Food Selling Periods, Victory Monument 8CH 60-c & 40' 204 72 6-9:00 11-14:00 17-19:00 19-23:00 after 23:00 Time Period Source: Fieldwork, 1994 189 The second major group sell "made-to-order" food (ahaan tarn sang) which includes specialties such as fried rice (khaaw pad), fried noodle dishes (pad si ieuw, kwatiauw rod naa), varieties of salads (yam), fried eggs and omelettes (khay dao, khay jieaw) and borrow highly popular additions to the Thai menu such as Thai-style sukiyaki.25 Food "made to order" is therefore prepared according to the specifications of the customer and served piping hot. According to some tarn sang is becoming the preferred fast-food of the area. Wira: Thai people don't like food like this... they prefer fried dishes. Wira and Goy: Very Hot. GY: tarn sang Wira: We've lost a lot of customers because they go to the tarn sang. Wira and Goy - a husband and wife team managing a student residence and food centre - are commenting on the decline in popularity of lukewarm pre-prepared food such as curries, soups and vegetable dishes. According to Walker, however, Thais are not fussy about food temperature and are willing to eat lukewarm or even cold food.26 My observations coincide with Walker's given the popularity of room-temperature curries. This is rooted in the ways in which meal taking is informal and less ritualized than in other cultural traditions: Because a Thai cook knows that while the food may be ready at a certain time, not everybody will be there to eat it. The husband might be in the bathroom, the wife talking on the phone, the children watching television, unlike the Chinese who seat everybody at the table and then bring the 2 5 Among the Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore this is known as "hot pot". 2 6 Refer to pages 105-6, section entitled "Cold stews! Cold hot dogs! We don't care!". With the exception of Tom Yum Gung (a hot and sour prawn soup), most Thai food can and often is served at room temperature. Foreign food is also commonly served lukewarm if it has not been prepared immediately beforehand. 190 food... Thai food can be eaten whenever you're ready. (Walker 1991 citing informant "PN", 105) Middle class Thais exhibit cultural traits borrowed from Chinese foodways. The more disciplined Chinese eating tradition leads to greater degrees of commensality. The general situation in Bangkok is flexible and families may or may not eat together at the same time depending on circumstances or family custom.27 The informal Thai meal system may be a factor explaining the popularity of purchasing prepared foods and is also related to the ways in which Thais perceive and use domestic space in a more flexible manner (see Walker 1995). Curries and rice (khaaw gaeng) are the third most important type of food sold in the VMA. Curry/Rice shopkeepers prepare dishes in the morning and place the curries, soups and vegetable dishes in big aluminum pots on a table for sale throughout the day. Customers look and see what is available and choose items. If they are friendly with the shop owner they may serve themselves. This is also the case with shops specializing in other types of food, such as made-to-order dishes. I would often enter Daeng's shop, make my own som tarn, serve it to myself in a dish, rinse the dish, and then place the money owed in the small basket on the counter. Daeng teasingly referred to this as "self-service"! Food from Northeastern Thailand, or Isan, is a very important type of food sold in the neighbourhood. 12.1% of shops enumerated specialize in this type of food which includes green papaya salad (som torn), various other types of salads with ground meat, 2 7 Commensality promotes community and ki^hip bonds but also leacte to me frustration of many women who are responsible for rounding up family members in addition to food preparation (Ci. Charles and Kerr 1988; Giard and Mayol 1980). 191 herbs and spices (lab), grilled chicken (gai yang) and the ubiquitous "sticky rice" (khaaw niew) of the Northeast and Laos. The range of establishments serving Isan food span from the mobile vendor with a shoulder pole and baskets (hab re) catering to construction workers and passers-by to the large restaurants on Rangnam Road. The latter are often decorated with small white lights and are open late at night serving whiskey to male office workers in the evening. The combination of meat, alcohol and male patrons lends a particularly ludic quality to these restaurants (Formoso 1993, 99). Perhaps this is because the food served, consisting of meat dishes for the most part, are symbolically related to both masculinity and festival foods (Keyes 1996). The last Friday of each month - immediately after pay day - is the most popular time for many Thai men to frequent restaurants as a group. FLELDNOTES 5.3: ISAN "EVENING" RESTAURANTS WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 14,1992: WE WENT FOR SUPPER IN A SUPER ISAN RESTAURANT ON RANGNAM ROAD, CLOSE TO MY PLACE. IT GOT VERY BUSY ABOUT AN HOUR AFTER WE ARRIVED... THERE WAS A SUPERB AMBIENCE. ON THAT END OF RANGNAM THERE ARE PLENTY OF INTERESTING FOODSHOPS/RESTAURANTS WHICH ARE FREQUENTED MOSTLY IN THE EVENING. THEY ARE "OPEN AIR" AND ARE DECORATED WITH STRINGS OF LITTLE WHITE LIGHTS. TYPICALLY, THE SERVING STAFF CONSISTS OF YOUNG WOMEN (MID TO LATE TEENS) DRESSED IN ISAN COSTUMES (THE BAGGY INDIGO PYJAMA-TYPE OUTFITS). FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30,1994: I INVITED A GROUP FROM THE CHULALONGKORN UNIVERSITY SOCIAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE (CUSRI) FOR SUPPER AT SAAP ILIE RESTO ON RANGNAM. SINCE IT WAS FRIDAY AND THE END OF THE MONTH (IE. PAYDAY)... THE PLACE WAS JAM-PACKED WITH MEN EATING AND DRINKING WHISKY SITTING AT LONG TABLES. THERE WERE VERY FEW WOMEN PRESENT. THEY WERE VERY LOUD. TWO OF THE PEOPLE SERVING WERE OBVIOUS TRANSVESTITES (MEN DRESSED AS WOMEN). W E ORDERED A LOT OF STICKY-RICE, SOM TAM, GAI YANG, LAP GAI, AND PLAA TOD MAMUANG. IT WAS VERY INEXPENSIVE. 192 The behaviour of patrons exhibited in these establishments contrasts the sober, polite and soft-spoken middle class Thai male idealized in romantic movies, television shows and encountered routinely in Bangkok. Instead, male customers are drunk, loud, and lewd. In 8.6 percent of cases surveyed, Chinese specialties such as chicken rice (khao man gai),2S pork leg and barbecued red pork (both with rice) are the house specialties. Other categories of food (6.9%) include foreign food, deep fried chicken, sweets, grilled meat or fish-ball brochettes (luuk chin ping) and stalls selling drinks only. 5.3.3 Clientele and Daily Selling Patterns Half of the respondents estimate receiving 50-100 customers per day and one-third (31%) serve more than 100 (see Figure 5.12). For the vast majority, customers come at lunchtime between 11:00 and 14:00 (72%) (Figure 5.13). By cross-tabulating food type and time of day (Figure 5.14), it is evident that noodles are the most popular lunchtime food. The majority of curry/rice shops and establishments selling food made-to-order also report 11am to 2pm as their peak selling time. In general, public eating is a lunchtime phenomenon though a study of night stalls and restaurants might reveal a different pattern. I am told, however, that Thais who have kitchens still tend to eat supper at home whenever possible. Chicken rice, as it is known in Malaysia and Singapore, is a delicious Hainanese specialty in which boiled chicken is served with rice cooked in chicken broth. Chicken bouillon is usually served as well. Condiments such as ginger sauce, thick soya and chili dip are included. 193 Figure 5.14 Food Type Sold According to Peak Selling Time 5.3.6" Locational Patterns It has been observed by others studying hawkers and shophouse restaurant owners that people in these occupations tend to live close to their place of work. Indeed, 48% of my interviewees live adjacent to their shops. In some cases, cooked-food sellers actually live in their shops and simply roll out a mat for sleeping in the evening. Other small shop-keepers, such as hairdressers, often do the same. Most of those who live adjacent to their businesses dwell in shophouses (n= 14). Seven stall and pushcart owners live near their shops and all of the apartment foodshop owners reside in their place of work. Three respondents from a hotel, foodcentre and expensive restaurant also live adjacent to their workplaces. Many stall owners also (n=6) dwell in the VMA and therefore walk to their place of work avoiding the city's legendary traffic jams. The inexpensive area of Asoke-Din Daeng-Huay Kwang, which is a short bus or tuk-tuk ride to the VMA was the second most popular place of residence for micro-entrepreneurs. The others travel fairly long distances to reach their businesses. They either use motorcycle or public transit to reach their shops. The contiguousness of home and workplace has been remarked as something beneficial as it enables people to work more efficiently and combine domestic tasks with income earning activities. On the other hand, as explored in Chapter Six, the integration of home and work place can also make some people feel trapped, especially women who tend to have greater domestic responsibilities. Initially, I speculated that women micro-entrepreneurs in the prepared-food sector are ghettoized in the lanes or sois in small home-based foodshops as opposed to 195 the main thoroughfares where men would supposedly have a greater presence. This is the case in certain Indonesian cities (Ktopfer 1993, 301; Murray 1991, 39). After having cross-tabulated sex of iriformant with location, however, this does not appear to be the situation in my study site (Figure 5.15). Women are the majority of business owners at all locations (main streets, minor streets, lanes and a housing project under re-development). Proportionately, women consistently accounted for between 58 to 77% of entrepreneurs in all locations. Since I suspect that the Labour Force Survey underenumerated the number of foodshops in the sois which are nearly always owned/operated by women, the proportion of women micro-entrepreneurs (82%) should likely be even higher in the government data. On the formal/informal axis, women dominate all types of enterprises - even at the helm of larger more formalized establishments in the VMA. Women are the majority of managers (or "head of food sector") as well as renters of spaces in the Rattana Foodcentre. Women employees and family helpers also oumumber their male counterparts. 5.4 CONCLUSION This chapter reviewed the literature on Thai and Southeast Asian cooked-foOd entrepreneurs and small restaurant owners and related it to my research. It is argued that Thai women's sense of responsibility for the economic well-being of their families pushes them to open businesses such as foodshops. This sense of responsibility is enmeshed within wider associations between femininity and nurturing and is also related 196 to perceptions pf men being less capable of handling money and household budgets. To characterize Thai men as "irresponsible," however, is innaccurate and examplds of masculme nurturing archetypes were illustrated. The significance of the urban/rural divide for gender relations was also elaborated. Rural gender relations reflect more egalitarian traditions where fernininity and masculinity are generally complementary. Urban Thailand, unfortunately, is associated with assymmetrical gender relations where women are more subordinated. This is reflected in the practice of urban men taking "minor wives", frequenting prostitutes, drinking and spending money irresponsibly. Thai urban middle class women, in some ways, are more subordinated than their rural sisters due to the male behaviour described above and the more conservative gender ideologies borrowed from India and China which seclude women in the home. The combinations and permutations of gender according to domicile (urban or rural), class, ethnicity, education and age result in a rather contradictory position for women in Thai society where they are both independent, mobile money earners and subordinated within the social system. These characterizations are, nevertheless, abstractions and Thai women and men in reality are presented with a range of ideological and practical options for their identities and behaviours. The results of the quantitative survey in the VMA resemble the findings of other researchers with respect to the socio-economic characteristics of cooked-food sellers. One exception, however, is the high level of education of small-scale food vendors due to the inclusion of formalized eating establishments. Another interesting contribution of 197 the survey is the flexible ethnic differentiation of microentrepreneurs with respect to food type, particularly noodles. Whereas noodle shops were traditionally a Chinese domain, many of the noodle vendors in the VMA are originally from Isan and ethnically Lao. The next chapter explores the daily lives and spaces of the qualitatively interviewed informants. The voices of informants interviewed in-depth provides the detail necessary to contextualize the more statistical profile presented in this chapter. Operating budgets for a sample of foodshop owners frame part of the discussion and shed light on the crucial economic dimension of micro versus meso and macro-entrepreneurialism in the food-system. 198 Chapter Six LIVES AND VOICES OF FOODSHOP OWNERS This chapter traces the life histories and daily activities of foodshop owners interviewed in-depth. Self-employed microentrepreneurs are compared and contrasted with managers/owners and employees of larger-scale establishments. I begin by profiling the 13 informants interviewed at nine separate establishments. Observations were also made for a tenth business - a foodcentre - where official permission to study the premises was denied, though the manager was briefly interviewed. 6.1 PROFILES OF KEY INFORMANTS The qualitatively interviewed informants fall loosely into two categories based on the nature of the business: microentrepreneurs and owners or managers of more "formal" establishments. A firm definition of "formal and informal" is difficult and resembles the problems associated with identifying "traditional" and "modern" economic sectors. As a model, the "two-circuit" system is conceptualized as a continuum with informal or traditional enterprises and formal sector activities at opposite ends and helps sort out the types of eating establishments found in the Thai food-system. The conceptual divide between putative formal and informal sectors has been sharply criticized as a spurious dichotomy based on Western systems of national accounts (Laquian 1993). Many activities do not conform to the two "sectors." The 199 boundaries are fuzzy and examples of semi-formal or informal activities abound. Furthermore, there are links between the two circuits (Salih, 1988). Like the public/private sphere framework, the informal/formal distinction is a useful conceptual tool for the purposes of grouping the types of foodshops and restaurants under study. I use this division metaphorically - as a type of shorthand -because of general distinctions between the two types of food enterprises. The purpose of using this conceptual framework is to point out the many examples of businesses which are not only roughly formal or informal but rather at some point between the two poles of the continuum. McGee and Yeung proposed semi-formal/informal enterprises as a salient feature of the Southeast Asian urban "bazaar" economy in the 1970s. Between these two polar types many Southeast Asian cities have intermediate forms of economic organization that are owned and operated largely by local Chinese or Indians (McGee and Yeung 1977, 20). One of their conclusions was that the "traditional and modem sectors make conflicting demands on urban space" (McGee and Yeung 1977, 20). The study did not focus, however, on the types of spatial demands made by the hybrid enterprises. My discussion of foodcentres and other intermediate forms of eating establishments contributes something to the discussion. Micro-enterprise refers to a business generally Operated by one or two people where owners/operators fall into the category of the self-employed. Micro-enterprises are generally "informal" as they are more often than not unregistered and do not pay taxes or follow regulations specified by the local state. Many also depend to a great extent on unpaid family labour. Sethuraman provides the standard definition of the 200 informal sector characterized by ease of entry, small-enterprises, status not recognized by the state and dependence on family labour among other factors (Sethuraman 1981).1 "Formal" eating-establishments tend to be located within a proper building and comply with some of the licensing and inspection regulations of the local municipality. They are larger in scale and may have several paid employees. A more complex division of labour appears in these types of establishments. An interesting hybrid, though, is the apparition of the foodcentre in which "semi-informal" shops are located within more formalized structures such as shopping centres, educational institutions or office buildings. They are semi-formal as they are registered with local authorities yet continue to rely on unpaid family labour and sometimes prepare food at home for later sale. This blurs the boundaries between "informal" versus "formal," "private" and "public". The following passage describes Central Plaza Lardprao where I interviewed both the director of the centre and property manager. F IELDNOTES 6.1: CENTRAL PLAZA LARDPRAO'S FOOD PARK & FOODCENTRE W E HAD A DRINK IN T H E "FOOD PARK" WHICH ONLY HAS ELEVEN SHOPS -A L L INDEPENDENTLY OWNED. M A I N DISHES ARE PRICED FROM 20-25 BAHT. T H E COUPON SYSTEM IS DM OPERATION WHEREBY CENTRAL PLAZA RETAINS 30% OF A L L SALES FOR USE OF DISHES, SERVICE AND RENT, APPARENTLY T H E M A L L HAS A T E A M WHICH DOES MARKET RESEARCH TO MONITOR T H E TASTES OF POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS AND DECIDES, BASED ON THAT INFORMATION, WHAT TYPES OF SHOPS THEY SHOULD HAVE. T H E Y THEN SEND AGENTS TO VARIOUS CITIES IN THAILAND TO SAMPLE (TRADITIONAL) INDIGENOUS FOODSHOPS AND, IF THEY ARE GOOD, INVITE T H E M TO SET UP A STALL IN T H E FOOD PARK OR FOODCENTRE. K H U N 1 Other factorslisted by the International Labour Organization 0LO) include: i) family ownership; ii) reliance on indigenous resources; iii) labour intensive and adapted technology; iv) skills acquired outside formal system; and finally v) unregulated competitive markets QVIcGee and Yeung 1977, 21). 201 PORNCHALEE, T H E FIRST PERSON I INTERVIEWED, SAID T H E STALLS ARE OWNED, OPERATED AND STAFFED MOSTLY BY WOMEN AND USUALLY H A V E 3-5 EMPLOYEES. O N E "FAMOUS" NOODLE VENDOR FROM K H O N K A E N SET UP HER STALL IN T H E FOOD PARK. SEVERAL PLACES H A V E T H E SHELL CHUAN CHIM ENDORSEMENT. I DIDN'T COUNT T H E NUMBER OF FOOD SHOPS IN T H E LARGER FOOD CENTRE BUT THERE WERE APPROXIMATELY 30. PORNCHALEE POINTED OUT T H E GREAT NUMBER OF "TRADITIONAL" DESSERT VENDORS IN T H E FOODCENTRE. A SHOULDER POLE WITH BASKETS (HAB RE) WAS ONE OF T H E PROPS USED TO MARKET T H E SWEETS (TUESDAY JANUARY 12,1993) The manager of Central Plaza stipulates that the foodshops must adhere to regulations of the state, such as cleanliness standards and the labour code (Chongrak 1993). It is claimed that Central Plaza Lardprao's Foodcentre was the first of its kind in Bangkok, but this is disputed by other shopping plazas such as the gigantic Mah Boon Krong (MBK) complex.2 Opening the foodcentre was risky because Thais were unaccustomed to the concept of self-service and preferred to be served by waiters.3 Chongrak Tripakvasin, the manager of the Plaza, explains that Central Plaza's foodcentre is a success because many of the comestibles are on display - encouraging customers to "take a look" and try the food.4 The foodcentre has shops representing all the culinary traditions of the kingdom, including Muslim (halal) and vegetarian counters. Chongrak asserted that other foodcentres in the city have copied the prototype of Central Plaza. Design of foodcentres is jealously guarded and taking pictures is strictly prohibited 2 MBK is a seven storey labyrinth filled mostly with small shops and vendors but also including the giant Tokyu department store.. It is truly a sight to behold, a rather daunting labyrinth, and I have never come across anything like it elsewhere. 3 Many foodcentres in Kuala Lumpur continue to have service at the table and have avoided or else abandoned the use of coupons. 4 See Walker 1991 for a discussion of the importance of food appearances and display. 202 (Pitch 1994). Some even include a pictogram interdicting photography in the shopping plaza and foodcentre. ***************************** THREE MORE THAI FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS Samrit and Lek's Chicken Noodle Soup Business Samrit and Lek, a young married couple, operate a stall selling chicken noodle soup on a busy street in the Victory Monument Area. A t the time of the interview in late 1994, they had been operating the stall for a year already. Lek and her husband had tried operating a restaurant before, though unsuccessfully. They rented a shop in Bang Pho for 4000 Baht per month but eventually gave up because they were not selling to enough customers. At the time, they sold noodles and had invested quite a bit of money in a pushcart, dishes, tables and chairs... a total of approximately 15-16 thousand baht which they obtained from their savings. "I lost more than 20 000 baht," lamented Samrit. "We couldn't sell, we were losing money. We changed our selling location just on time," he explained. Now, their sales are enough to build up their savings again. Previously Lek worked as a seamstress for three years in a factory in Din Daeng that fabricated clothing for export. Prior to that, she worked at various jobs including having to return to her home in Kalasin province (Isan) to help her parents on the family farm. Lek and Samrit met as children since they were neighbours. After completing his military service, they got married and Samrit worked as a tuk-tuk driver but was having difficulty making ends meet due to the constant traffic jams. His friend was doing well in the foodshop business so Samrit decided to change occupations. He worked as an apprentice for a while to learn how to manage a similar operation. Despite the misfortune in the earlier foodshop venture, Samrit remained motivated to earn money to send his children to school. Their daughter was bom in 1991, and at the time of the interview they had a four-month old son. Their mothers take turns corning to Bangkok to help take care of the children. Samrit and Lek keep a bank account but their funds have depleted after experiencing financial trouble and because of their families' debts in the countryside. They lend family members and friends money when it is available. They also give free meals to beggars and those who are too poor to buy food. The two do not participate in rotating credit circles (len share). "Others can leave with your money... it's enough to drive you crazy. I don't want to have to think about such things," said Samrit. Both are interested in locating in a foodcentre or bidding for a contract in a school or other institution but missed at least one opportunity due to the tirning of their son's birth. Their long term goal, though, is to eventually own a shophouse with a restaurant on the ground floor. A more immediate concern in late 1994, however, was to find a new place to live as the house where they rented a room was scheduled for demolition some time in 1995 to make room for a high-rise apartment building. 203 Tip's Stall Tip is originally from Ghiahg Mai province where her family used to farm. She lived there until 1972 at which point she moved to Bangkok. She is in her mid-forties and finished her schooling in grade four. After moving to Bangkok, she stayed with an Aunt and Uncle in a small hotel and got a job in a foodshop on the premises. This is where she learned about the business and learned to cook. Her family eventually sold the firm and Tip's widowed mother came to live with her. She is married and has one daughter who was 13 at the time of the interview. Her husband and daughter help her with the business along with one paid employee, Oy. Once in a while, a nephew who was attending Ramkamhaeng university at the time, would come to lend a hand. Tip's shop sells all typesof "made to order"food such as rad naa, pad si iew, torn yum, fried rice dishes, macaroni and several types of soup. Most dishes are 15 baht each. She has extended credit in the past but discourages the practice. "One person who lives in a nearby apartment borrowed money from me then moved away," she warned. Tip does not play len share (rotating credit) because she cannot afford to contribute regularly. Instead, her daughter deposits savings in a bank account. She has /eight brothers and sisters who still live in Chiang Mai: "My younger sister is married and stays with her husband, my younger brother works and one brother is unemployed. Another sibling is still single," she explained. The unemployed brother is disabled so Tip provides him with 300 Baht per month. "He can't use his legs because of a car accident. He stays in a government nursing home." Tip is interested in bidding on a contract in an institution. "I've never been but my younger sister-in-law offered to take me to a school to ask for information about cooking food there. But I found out that the bidding was over so I couldn't get the space." She's never thought about locating in a foodcentre. Her goal, like Samrit and Lek, would be to Own a shophouse with a foodshop on the ground floor. "Shortly, this place will be torn down," she told us pointing to a more pressing concern. "If the owner is offered 25 million baht he will sell." Fong Kee Fong Kee is one of the oldest restaurants in Bangkok and is already 60 years old. The present location is its fourth. The original owner came from Hainan province and his children operate the establishment today. Chinese food in the Hainahese style is the specialty of the house. "Hainanese food resembles Thai food because Hainan is quite close, in Southern China... it's a strong taste," explained Viwan with the clear pronunciation of a school teacher. She is the niece of the original owner and studied languages in university. Viwan has been involved with the restaurant since her childhood but worked elsewhere for ten years after finishing her studies. After her father died she quit her job and went to work at Fong Kee. That was in the year 2518 B.E. (1975 a.d.). 204 The first location of Fong Kee 60 years ago was in a medical school for the military, After six or seven years they were forced to change location when the hospital decided to expand. The second location lasted only five or six years due to the construction of the Victory Monument which displaced the restaurant. Finally, a third location was secured for the next forty years next door to their present location. Viwan's aunt, the wife of the original owner, suggested a final change of location after consulting a geomancer. Their fourth and present location is intended to be the permanent home of the restaurant. The family owns the property outright. In the old days, Fong Kee was surrounded by guava orchards, some rice paddies and many royal palaces. The clientele consisted mainly of military officers and government officials, men for the most part. Today, it is a family restaurant for middle-class Thais and is a preferred venue for small wedding banquets of 50-80 people. Those who work nearby continue to frequent the restaurant at lunch. There are 20 full-time employees and family members who work in the restaurant receive a salary. "Regular" employees are provided with housing, transportation, three meals a day and a uniform. The two chefs are Sino-Thai men. Operations in the kitchen are very modernized and include a dishwasher and dryer. Fong Kee is a legally, formalized operation which has obtained all necessary permits from the district office, gets regular. inspections and has the mandatory "grease trap" to prevent sewage water pollution. ************************************* 6.1.1 Microentrepreneurs The owners and operators of the smallest food-shops studied opened their businesses in order to earn the principal source of household income. They not only support their immediate families but also contribute to the welfare of parents, siblings and more distant relatives. The microentrepreneurs engage in two types of nurturing, or liang, behaviour: first, they are literally feeding urbanites through a transactional medium; second, they are nurturing their own families financially - nuclear and extended - and contributing economically to the poorest regions of the country, particularly the Northeast. Selling prepared-food is the most feasible way for vendors to earn daily revenue. "I came [to Bangkok] to help care for my family" explains Ying. She worked as a cook 205 and maid for nearly 1,7 years before finally opening her first micro-enterprise. "My employer said to me, 'If you want to open a shop here I don't mind. If you stay with me your salary will not be as high'," Ying revealed. She explains that her salary as a domestic employee was not high enough to support her family any longer.5 Daeng adds, "It's an independent occupation. Also, you can get money everyday." Ying's first push-cart operation was forced to close because of a conflict with the adjacent land-owner. She then opened a bigger foodshop with her niece. For Ying and Daeng, however, what used to be a successful micro-enterprise is now suffering due to increased competition from new neighbouring shops and what they perceive to be a poor economic situation. Another small vendor, Nbo, operates a pork noodle stall with her father (Figure 6.1). Slightly wealthier than Ying and Daeng, they own a small dry goods store -managed by Noo's mother and siblings - in a market town in Isan. Noo and her father came to Bangkok for the youngest sister to get a better education. Noo, aided by her father, looks after her sister and sends money home regularly. 6.1.2 Formal Establishments The formal establishments studied indicate a range of reasons why the shops were initially opened. 5 A contrasting example was provided by 30 year old Lamun from Isan who formerly operated a pushcart selling luuk chin (a type of meatball brochette). She gave up this work because it was so physically demanding.' Lamun was presented with an opportunity to work for a foreign professional who lived alone in a large comfortable home and took it up immediately. 206 Figure 6.1 Noo's Pork Noodle Stall (photo by Gisele Yasmeen) 207 Fong Kee - a very old and respected establishment - began as a small foodshop in a medical school for the military. It is now a large formal restaurant. The cashier explained how her Hainan-bom uncle decided to open a small restaurant. GY: Why did the owner open a restaurant? Viwan: I think that in the old days, for the Chinese who came to Thailand, it was me easiest thing to do...cook. They had the knowledge. According to G.W. Skinner, the Hainanese were at the bottom of the hierarchy among the Chinese in old Siam. The most successful and powerful speech groups were the Teochius followed by the Cantonese and then the Hakka and Hainanese who worked as manual labourers and hawkers (Skinner 1957). The Teochiu-speakers came to own prosperous rice-mills and controlled the rice export trade in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Pannee 1995). Siam's wealthiest families who developed and still control transnational corporations such as Central Pattana Group and Charoen Pokphand are of Sino-Thai, Teochiu origin. In fact, Teochiu is still one of the important business languages in the Kingdom. Hakkas and Hainanese, on the other hand, were almost entirely unrepresented in the occupations of higher standing. Hakkas in particular were the petty tradesmen, especially those dealing in sundry goods; the lesser artisans, including silversmiths, leatherworkers, and tailors; manual laborers, hawkers, and barbers. Hainanese were the hand sawyers, market gardeners, fishermen, domestic servants, waiters, tea-shop operators, and, not infrequently, "coolies," miners, and peddlers. They were the poorest of all the speech groups, and their general low social standing was undisputed (Skinner 1957, 136 emphasis mine). Skinner explains that Hainanese were sometimes hotel and coffee-shop proprietors and employees. The owners of Fong Kee were examples of these types of entrepreneurs when their small foodshop opened 60 years ago. They now operate one of the most 208 well-known restaurants in the city . Fong Kee's owners have, within a few generations, experienced a great deal of upward mobility. Though the owners readily admit they are of Chinese ancestry, they see themselves as Thai. Viwan: We trained the chefs. They are the grandsons of the first chef, luuk ciin, children of Chinese. They were bom here. GY: You don't have any Thai chefs? I mean, a chef that only looks after the Thai dishes? Viwan: They are both Thai. Both are men.6 Thailand is often characterized as a country where the Chinese rapidly assimilated into mainstream society partly by force, but mostly due to the fact that the country was not colonized. Pannee, citing a study from the 1970s explains the dynamics of Chinese assimilation in Thailand: It is the characteristic of the Chinese in non-colonial Thailand to look up to and not down on the "foreigners" among whom they live in contrast to the behaviour of their congeners in colonial Southeast Asia. In Thailand the Chinese have been attracted to their hosts who being masters in their own house, have not laboured under the disadvantages of Malays or Indonesians as subject peoples (Freedman 1978, 48 cited by Pannee 1995, 35). Compared to neighbouring "plural" societies, Chinese immigrants in Thailand practiced a great deal of intermarriage and adopted the Thai language and Theravada Buddhism. Nonetheless, a strong Thai-Chinese identity conditioned by speech-group affiliation and 6 Here, Viwan misunderstood my question which was not very well phrased to begin with. In other restaurants, such as the Professor's Pub, there is a chef who looks after the Chinese food - usually a man of Chinese background - and a chef who is responsible for Thai dishes - often a woman who is ethnically Thai. At Fong Kee, the two Sino-Thai male chefs are responsible for all types of food prepared. 209 income grouping, persists and is being resurrected in 1990s Bangkok.7 G.W. Skinner's classic position on the Chinese in Thailand (and Sino-Thai) has been critiqued and refined by more recent scholars on the subject (Chan and Tong 1995; Szanton i983). Fong Kee serves Hainanese specialties as well as Thai food. It is frequented by government officials - as in the old days - and physicians from the nearby hospitals at lunchtime and families in the evening. Retired functionaries are another main group of customers. Because the elderly patrons represent an earlier generation of government officials, these customers are mostly men. Viwan nuances the composition of the clientele: Viwan: In the old days, there weren't many women. Now, we have all types. At lunch, it's workers and in the evening primarily families. On weekends, there are many families. Nowadays, toward the end of the afternoon, we get young teenagers who eat while waiting for their parents in order to go home with them. Fong Kee now caters to a wide range of middle-class Bangkok residents. It is, for the most part, a family restaurant which is a safe space for women and children. An example which provides a contrast to Fong Kee is the Professor's Pub. The owners are of Sino-Thai background. Professor Chaichana and his young wife Vipawan - as interior designers -' decided to start a restaurant as an experiment in aesthetics. Vipawan: First time, we never thought about the investment but we want to do our own restaurant because I design many restaurant for my 7 For example, a number of serial dramas on Thai television have begun to explore the Sino-Thai heritage. One program was written up as a three or four volume set of books which are best-sellers in the Kingdom. My assistant, Arporn Somjit, explained that many Thais believed that the books contain an esoteric message which, if discovered and understood, lead the reader to greater material prosperity. Another example of the Sino-Thai renaissance is the exponential growth of the annual Chinese New Year parade which was a low-key event several years ago but is now one of the biggest events in the city. 210 customers but sometime I want to design this, this, this but by customer "no, no" so we want to do our own.8 . The restaurant is meant to be in a style reminiscent of an English pub although its bright tidy interior fails to meet the objective! The restaurant has won numerous design awards and has been featured in a number of Thai home decorating and women's magazines. A home-like decor is evident with the restaurant cabinets displaying personal curios and family photos (see Figure 6.2). The couple, their children and some of their employees live upstairs in the five-storey shop-house. Their children are often cared for by restaurant staff. An informality pervades the restaurant when it is not too busy where me two young boys play m the dining room. "Our parents are rich" explained Vipawan - the professor's wife and former student. No need ever existed for this couple to worry about providing for their parents, themselves or their two young sons. Professional and artistic interest dominated the reasons for launching the business. Vipawan herself has appeared on television to demonstrate cooking techniques. Specialties of the house are of Thai and Chinese origin. Service is polished and professional and prices are expensive by Thai standards. The ambience.resembles that of a Western formal restaurant. Vipawan and her husband were interviewed together. This was the only interview which was conducted in English. • All citations from these two informants are direct quotes. 211 212 The large-scale, multirrnillion dollar chain operation like Mister Donut is controlled by the Chirathivat family who own the Central Pattana Group. These operate under a paternalistic "family-system" which is considered typical of overseas Chinese conglomerates (Hamilton 1996; Redding 1995). It is difficult to ascertain if this family dominated business system is distinctive to me overseas Chinese. Canada's McCain and Bronfman families can be argued to manage their corporations in a similar fashion. The small "Rattana Foodcentre" located on a narrow soi further straddles the "traditional/modern" or "formal/informal" division. It is managed by Wira and Goy, a married couple in their 30s. The centre was created following the renovation of old shophouses which were redesigned as student residences. The small foodcentre houses eight independent foodshops which used to sell in the shophouses prior to renovation. "We're like a family," Wira explained when describing the management practices of the foodcentre which include paying medical expenses for employees and hiring members of the same family. Young people are hired to clear tables, clean up and sell cold drinks. This centre is explored in greater detail later in this and the following chapter. 6.2 EVERYDAY LIVES AND SPACES The quintessential "one-woman-shop" selling prepared food occupies a vastly different social space than the person owning/managing or employed in a more formal eating establishment. The cooked-food micro-enterprise involves the hard, strenuous work of one or two people. Even more formal establishments demand 12 hour shifts of employees with few, if any, days off. This pace makes it difficult for small and 213 medium-sized foodshop owners to find employees who are willing to work hard. In the past, the limited economic opportunities made finding employees easier. Times have changed considerably as remarked by Luung, a Sino-Thai foodshop owner of 60. Luung: Before, I cooked a lot of things. For example, salapao, khanom jeep, khapo paa, (steamed buns, Chinese dumplings and fish stomach), I made a lot of things. I had many assistants. Now, I don't have any assistants. Young people don't like working that way. They prefer a more comfortable job; in a factory where you get a day off. So, they get a day to go out. Here, there wasn't any. In the old days, Luung's employees lived with him on the premises of his shophouse restaurant (Figure 6.3). "The salaries were very low" he explains. If he sold well, he was able to hire four or five people. "But today I can't find any. Even if I could find some they wouldn't want to work", he concludes. It is ironic that factory work is considered by Luung to be ah easier way-of-life given recent depictions of highly disciplined industrial labour, especially by feminist authors (Enloe 1989; Heyzer 1986; Ong 1987; Wolf 1992). Again, the typical scholarly response to the booming economy of Southeast Asia is to .focus on industrial labour at the expense of the service sector. As Peter Bell argues, the two sectors are intimately related and depend on low-paid female labour. In 1988 14.3 percent of women in Thailand worked in services, and another 14.5 percent in commerce. "Women's work" includes employment as maids, secretaries, nurses, school teachers, waitresses, shop assistants, and street peddlers. Also much of the subsistence work of poor women consists of this type of "women's work" as it is essential to subsidize low wages paid in factories (Bell 1992, 66). 214 Figure 6.3 Flodrplan of Luung's shop O O O o O O O O O O o o "Roll down" doorway "Roll down" doorway Main Road o o o o o o o o o o o o Pushcart 215 Despite Luung's comments implying that working in a factory is an "easy living", service sector employment (and self-employment) may be a greater site of exploitation than industrial factory employment. The image of Dicken's Bob Cratchett comes to mind as an example of service-sector drudgery (Ley 1996). For other small foodshops, where gratuitous family labour is unavailable, finding and paying for employees is difficult. The smallest stalls cannot possibly afford to pay the legal minimum wage of 135 baht per day and instead provide their employees with room and board or other payments in kind. Wealthier establishments are able to hire many employees who are often tied to the firm through bonds of patron-client. Fast-food restaurants tend to hire teenagers for low wages, keeping in line with the Western practice. The question of employees and helpers and patron-client relations are dealt with in detail in the next chapter. 6.2.1 Daily Routines In order to prepare fresh food in the morning, someone must go to the market between five and six a.m. Usually, the owner of the shop will go and must wake up between 4 and 4:30 am to have time for bathing, dressing and walking to the local market. The daily routines of Daeng/Ying, Tip, Noo and her father, Luung, Samrit and Lek are summarized in Figure 6.4. Those who wake up later than six usually have someone else go to the market or own foodshops that sell simple meals such as noodles which require fewer fresh ingredients. 216 Figure 6.4 Daily Activities in Five Small Foodshops Time Daeng/ Luung Ying Samrit/Lek Tip Nona and her father 4 a.m. Wake up Wake up 5 . Wake up Market Market 6 7 Preparation of food (goes on all day, with Mother Ying) Set up and. preparation of food Market Preparation of food (ongoing through day) Opening of shop 8 9 Opening of shop 10 11 Opening of shop 12 noon 1 2 3 4 Shop closing 5 Shop closing Set down and cleanup Set down and cleanup 6 7 8 Bathe, supper, watch t.v. (news) Supper, put children to sleep 9 Shop closing Bedtime Bedtime 10 Set down and cleanup 11 Bedtime Wake up Market Preparation of food Opening of shop (daughter helps) Shop closing Set down and cleanup. Has supper too. Bedtime Father wakes up at 6, goes to market til 7. Nong wakes up at 7. Preparation of food Opening of shop Shop closing Set down and cleanup Bedtime L.S. Kwan 217 The formal restaurants delegate the task of going to the market to a specific employee. Some - such as Fong Kee - have modified the practice by faxing in orders to Yaowaraj (Chinatown) and having their assembled order picked-up. One of the oldest restaurants in the country has entered the era of high-speed communication and enjoys the conveniences of space-time altering devices such as fax machines. Viwan: We order by fax at night. Afterward, we go and pick it up. The drivers check the list to make sure if it is correct or not. After, we have another person who verifies again at the restaurant. Professor Chaichana and his wife Vipawan provide another example of the reformulation of relations between the restaurant owner and the places selling food supplies. They shop at a mega-store called Makro, the Thai equivalent to Costco or Price Club. GY: So, can you please explain where you get your dry goods like rice, oil and all those things you don't need everyday. Vipawan: Some at the market and some Makro. GY: Oh, you go to Makro? But that's a new store isn't it? So before that you went to another wholesaler? Vipawan: Yeah. Chaichana: First [before] we go to Yaowaraj. Makro is a self-serve wholesaling warehouse in the suburbs serving a growing clientele. It is owned by the mammoth Charoen Pokphand (CP) conglomerate. The "Wal-Mart" phenomenon is happening to the detriment of older traditional wholesalers - many of whom are in Chinatown (Yaowaraj). The interior design couple send their employees to 218 a well-known, but expensive, food-market near Chulalongkorn University daily for fresh produce, meat and fish. The preparation, of ingredients is a time-consuming task in every business studied. It involves chopping meat and vegetables and preparing items which are on sale throughout the day such as curries, fried fish and deep-fried chicken. Much of the work is done before the shop opens although it may be conducted on and off whenever there is a spare moment. Tip explains how her daughter helps the occasional customer first thing in the morning before going to school while Tip is preparing ingredients. Tip: Usually I open at 8:30 a.m. but people come as early as 7 to buy food and my daughter sells. Phi Oy comes to help but I'm still preparing in the house. . Mom: So, really your shop opens earlier than 8:30. Your daughter is really great, she can do it. Tip: She can do it. Similar to the quantitative survey data presented in Chapter Five, informants report experiencing peak periods at lunch and supper times. Many state that their primary customers are women who work at night time. Daeng was too polite to bring up the issue directly but her implication is clear when she states: "I don't know what they do but they work at night [giggles]". Thai-style cafes and bars are popular in the area and are places where many young women work as "entertainers" or "hostesses". Many are no doubt involved in the sex industry and/or are mia noi (minor-wives or mistresses) for wealthier men who pay for their apartments and living expenses. There was much gossip in the neighbourhood and among food vendors about the extent to which certain women were subsidized by their lovers or customers. 219 ' •.. Closing time for the establishments vary from Luung's duck noodle shop which closes early at 5pm to those who wait until the supper rush is over and put away their materials starting at 9pm. Sometimes, set-down can take one or two hours. Tip explains that she begins to put everything away at 9pm but sometimes is not finished until 11 when she promptly goes to bed.9 Many of the microentrepreneurs interviewed sleep four to five hours per night. Paeng is exhausted as a result of chronic sleep deprivation. Most do not complain but are clearly suffering physically from the pace of their schedules. The long-term health of small foodshop owners due to lack of sleep combined with the effects of air-pollution and other environmental factors are a matter for concern. The pace for managers of more formalized establishments is less strenuous than that of microentrepreneurs. Viwan of Fong Kee Works a set shift and only does overtime when the restaurant is very busy. The same can be said for the manager of Mister Donut. Professor Chaichana and VipaWan work long hours because they not only manage a restaurant in their shophouse, but also have a consulting business and a furniture factory in the suburbs. This, along with the raising of two children, is a result of ambition rather than economic necessity. In the case of formal establishments it is the employees who put in the longest shifts by going to the early morning markets, receiving deliveries before dawn and closing the restaurants in the evenings.10 9 Her employee, Phi Oy, contradicted this and said that set-down begins at 6pm and sometimes does not finish until 9pm. 1 0 At Mister Donut for example, the janitors receive the first delivery of doughnuts at 4:45 am, The shop closes at midnight. Cashing out in the evening, however, is a crucial function requiring management supervision. 220 6.2.2 Operating Budgets The microentrepreneurs - being principally responsible for most of the operations of the business - know exactly how much is spent for supplies on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The larger enterprises work differently and owners/managers are more secretive about revenue and expenditures. When interviewing the owners or managers about regular expenses, typical answers only generalized total figures. They were also less willing to provide financial data so these questions were not asked of them in detail. This section begins by profiling the monthly budgets provided by two microentrepreneurs. The remaining budgets collected are in the Appendix. The first foodshop is a street-stall and the second is located in a building. I conclude by making general comparisons with the limited budget information provided by larger scale restaurants. Tip, has a paeng loy in a lane near her rented room where she lives with her husband, mother and teenaged daughter (see Figure 6.5). The stall includes a push-cart, a table and a parasol in the area where food is prepared and sold to take-out customers. The seating area is a small walkaway between two buildings and is covered by an awning. The tables are kept very clean and the service is professional. This is attributed to Tip's 15 year experience working as a waitress and later a cook in a local small hotel." "•' Tip worked in a hotel which is walking distance from her present home and business. It is a traditional Chinese hotel catering to a local clientele for the most part. The hotel is also a "temporary" hotel associated with Thai-oriented prostitution. These types of establishments can be identified by the draped car-parks which protect the identities of customers by shielding their license plates. The sheltered parking spaces can also be rented for short periods of time, like the hotel rooms. 221 Figure 6.5 Tip's Stall (photo by Gisele Yasmeen) 222 Tip's expenses are representative of the lowest costs associated with rurining a stall because no rent is paid for her place of business. In addition, the rent for the room where she stays with her family is only 1500 baht (75 Canadian dollars) per month because she has lived there for 16 years and knows the landlady very well. Like the other vendors on the soi, Tip has never had to pay fines or bribes to the municipal police. The relationship between foodshop owners and the local state is explored in greater detail in Chapter 7. Table 6.1 details expenses for all the supplies needed to run Tip's shop. Her total outlays per month, including the rent of her room, are 41,000 baht (or 2000 Canadian dollars). The highest expense category is meat for which approximately 700 baht (35 dollars) per day is disbursed resulting in 21,000 baht monthly (over 1000 dollars). Vegetables only account for 6000 baht per month followed by spices, seasonings and curry pastes (altogether 4500/month). Soft drinks and rice are also large budgetary items accounting for 2576 and 1650 baht respectively. Fuel in the form of gas and charcoal was reported as costing a little over 1300 baht monthly. A crucial additional expense incurred by Tip is the 2,100 baht per month salary of one employee, Oy. Tip estimates receiving 60-80 customers per day. Most spend about 21 baht each, the cost of a meal and softdrink. 223 Table 6.1 TIP MONTHLY EXPENSES ITEM PRICE TIMES/MONTH FROM WHERE Rent 1500 1 For housing Salary (Oy) 2100 1 n/a Utilities - water 120 1 House - electricity 300 1 House - telephone -- garbage -Fuel -gas 161/tank 10 delivered -charcoal 110/bag 4 Rice 5kg/day lib/kg 30 pushcart Noodles 2kg/day 8b/kg 30 Say Yut oil/fat 300bt/vat 1 delivered Meat/fish 700bt/day 30 Say Yut Spices/season- 150bt/day 30 ing/curry paste Vegetables 200bt/day 30 Say Yut - papaya (st) -Ice 25/sack..2/day 30 delivered Drinks (water) 7jugs/wk 12b/j 4 delivered - soft drinks 7dz/day.92bt 4 delivered Other? Eggs 450bt/week 4 delivered Source: Field Survey 1994. Soon after the interview with Tip, Oy decided to quit. She found a job working in the cafeteria of the American University Alumnae bussing tables where, as far as I know, she is still employed. At the same time, Daeng obtained a job there as well working as a cook. She could not tolerate the horrid working conditions and later shifted to the cafeteria at Charoen Pokphand headquarters. These changes are elaborated upon in the 224 following chapter. Oy was formerly employed by Daeng whose budget will be described next. Daeng's financial situation is much more precarious than the one described for Tip (see Table 6.2). Daeng and her mother operate the shop together and rent the shop and the room behind it from the land-lady who lives next door. The rent for both is a hefty 5000 baht per month (250 Canadian dollars) not including utilities. Like Tip, Daeng's largest expense category is for meat and fish. She purchases chicken, pork, squid, prawns, and fish for approximately 18,000 baht/month. Beef is not sold because of her mother's religious devotion to the Goddess of Mercy. The Goddess of Mercy is known in Thailand as Chao Mae Guan Im (Holy Mother Guan Im) and in Mandarin as Guan Yin. Thais think of Guan Im as a Chinese princess who became a devout Buddhist and vegetarian. Those who respect her either become vegan (excluding eggs and dairy as well as meat/fish) or - more commonly - exclude beef, lamb and goat from their diet.12 Vegetables generally account for 4,500 baht per month. The price of green papaya -the key ingredient in the popular somtam - varies depending on the season from 4-10 baht per kilo though the price for somtam remains constant in the city's foodshops. 1 2 The cult of Guan Im is becoming very popular in Southeast Asia - even among the non-Chinese. This may be due to the fact that she is associated with material prosperity. It may also be an indication of the feminization of Buddhist icons. Keyes (1996) explains that Guan Yin was a male Boddhisattva named Prajunaparamita who, through the course of history became a feminized deity. 225 Table 6.2 DAENG MONTHLY EXPENSES ITEM PRICE TIMES/MONTH FROM WHERE Rent 5000 1 landlady Utilities - water 300 1 from city - electricity 400 1 from city - telephone 5b/call(maew) - • Maew*s shop Fuel - gas 161 4 delivered - charcoal 110 15 delivered Rice lOkg/day 30 delivered Noodles lkg/day (8b/k) 30 Say Yut market oil/fat 300b/vat 3 Meat/fish 600b/day 30 Spices/season- 50b/day 30 Shop and market ' ing/curry paste Say Yut Market Vegetables 150b/day 30 - papaya (st) 5kg/day 4-10b 30 delivered Ice 32b/day 30 delivered Drinks (water) 5 bottles (8b) 8 delivered - soft drinks 92 baht 2 Source: Field Survey 1994. Daeng and her mother report purchasing approximately 5 kilograms of papaya per day. This is a sharp drop from a few years ago when business was good. Daeng: I used to sell ten kilos of chicken but those days are over. Another example is papaya... I used to sell ten kilos per day but now it's usually five kilos, sometimes four. Tip's shop is new in the neighbourhood and is experiencing great success compared to Daeng's older and more established business. This may be due to the cleanliness and more professional service found at Tip's. Tip's location closer to Rangnam Road, where 226 many local residents work, is also an advantage. Daeng's shop, on the other hand, is shabby, unorganized and does not appear as hygienic. Flies abound arid stray cats which Daeng and her relatives feed climb in and out of the supplies. Detailed budget information was not requested of formal establishments as they are reticent to share this type of information. Instead, questions such as "how many customers do you receive per day" combined with estimates of charges per customer enable me to estimate gross revenue and expenditures on a monthly basis. The Professor's restaurant serves as a case in point. Chaichana and Vipawan state receiving about 100 customers for lunch on weekdays and 50-80 for supper every night. With estimates of 90 and 200 baht being spent for lunch and supper respectively, daily revenues before costs are 25 000 baht, or 750 000 baht per month. I asked Chaichana and Vipawan to estimate how much they spend on food and non-alcohol supplies per week. A profit of 200 000 baht per month (the equivalent of 10 000 Canadian dollars) does not include the large outlay for beer and spirits which is certainly a very large expense category. Mister Donut's VMA branch manager reports that the store receives approximately 600 customers per day who spend 60 baht each on average. This •translates to gross daily revenue of 36,000 baht for this location totalling to over one million baht per month, before expenses, with profit, then, slightly less than Bt 500,000. There is the likely possibility that the manager was misinformed about the cost of the long-term lease and/or exaggerated the number of customers per day along with the value of their average purchase. 227 Table 6.3 PROFESSORS PUB Estimated Monthly Expenses Expens