You may not realize it until you are away of your own culture, but food is such a HUGE part of culture- what you eat, how you prepare it, how you eat it, who you eat it with, when you eat it, where you eat it, and so much more! I could probably write a new blog about food culture in Laos each week... but here's something that continuously stands out to me.
In Laos, whenever you have food and are eating, you must invite everyone who sees you and your food to eat with you. Just about every morning at our school, I am offered some sticky rice, fish, noodles, corn, you name it! I've realized how selfish I am even in this very little thing, usually purchasing food or bringing some kind of snack only planning to enjoy it myself. And then when you remember that this nation often goes without and definitely does not have plenty, it is quite impressively unselfish indeed. To share one's food when you're not sure where your next meal may come from- wow. And yet perhaps it's only in that mindset that one realizes the true necessity of sharing with others who may be in the same boat. Even in this simple act, I'm often really touched by it and am so blessed to be learning from my Lao friends what my momma always said when I was a little girl, "J taught us all to share, spreading gladness everywhere!"
In language class I also learned that giving thanks before a meal in Lao often includes a sentence asking the Father to provide for those who don't have rice to eat, those who are "poor" (literal translation of that word in Lao= everything + difficult). I'm humbled to admit that often my thanks before meals doesn't go beyond remembering His blessing to me.
I've been trying to remember to offer my food whenever I have any- including my instant oatmeal I often have at school in the mornings before teaching (thanks to amazing packages from y'all back home)... and while several have tried it- most of my Lao friends think it's a strange baby-like food for breakfast- ha, ha. :) Anyway, on the topic of food, let me share some photos of my most common meals here in Laos with YOU!
Fried Rice- a lunch time favorite for about $1.00.
Some typical dinner stuff purchased just around the corner from my house (clockwise from bottom left: sticky rice, chicken, fish, and papaya salad- eaten by hand).
Pho- a different taste that rivals Pho in Vietnam- with different add-ins... like green beans and peanut sauce!