Urban Brokers of Rural Cuisine: Assembling National Cuisine at Cambodian Soup-Pot Restaurants
Keywords:Cambodia, Food, National Cuisine, Nutrition, Urbanization
Pre-prepared food venues (or soup-pot restaurants) in Cambodia and other Asian countries make their decisions about what to cook in a complex food–society nexus, factoring in their culinary skill, seasonality of ingredients, and diners’ expectations for variety. As such, soup-pot restaurants exist as tenuous brokers between rural food customs and the prevailing expectations of city dwellers. In urban areas, they are a transparent window into seasonality and market cycles, as well as an opportunity to encounter culinary diversity and participate in the consolidation of an everyday ‘national cuisine’. Soup-pot restaurants, in contrast to other restaurant formats, craft an experience that balances the agricultural and social dynamics of rural eating customs with city comforts. Typically, soup-pot restaurants can accomplish this while also serving as a space of dietary learning, providing meals that are culturally understood to be balanced and nutritious, and garnering support for local cuisine from across the socio-economic spectrum. As a site of research, these restaurants can be seen as potential innovators for managing the consequences of industrialization on food and agriculture, facilitating democratic daily practices of food sovereignty.
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