Mat Meals - Getting Down to Eating

Family Meal. A family meal in fine weather - a piece of carpet to the right offers added comfort New mats and food laid out.
New mats and a meal laid out ready to go
In cities and in the restaurants of Vietnam most people eat, in the western manner, at tables sitting on chairs. However, given the choice, many prefer the conviviality of the traditional way, sitting on mats on the ground. This arrangement is felt to be at the heart of the social order to such an extent that very upmarket establishments offer the possibility. Some westerners find their legs are not as accommodating as they may wish. Children eating first.

A golden rule everywhere - children and animals eat first if you want peace!
Birthday party with cake and candles. A birthday party where the word 'food' may not be appropriate Birthday party on cafe floor. Here chairs and tables of the cafe are spurned in favour of a birthday party on the ground The dishes of the meal are laid out along the centre line of the mats, and those eating sit on either side. No shoes on the mats; so they are left to the side if the eating area is in a place where otherwise shoes might be worn. Pouring the drinks for a meal. Now those new mats are in use, drinks poured as a prelude to eating, and people assemble Larger family meal. To see more of this particular meal go to the page
Visiting Lợi
Smaller family meal. If the temperature is low - under 25 - spirits are taken, if its warmer, as here, then beer is enjoyed. Beer is more expensive than spirits which are distilled in the home Somehow Vietnamese meals always seem to involve large numbers, 10 is normal for a meal and 25 not un-common. Often meals are prepared when guests turn up out of the blue. All the younger people help: some go to the market, some prepare food, while others entertain the infants. Typically an unannounced meal like the one to the right will reach the stage of sitting down (and photographs being taken) within an hour of the visitors materialising out of nowhere. Food laid out. The meal. Vietnamese cooking is naturally the best in the world, despite the peccadillo for chips Hot pot ready. The cooker and ingredients for a 'hot pot' Four generations sit down together. The picture shows four generations sitting down alongside one another. The guy in the hat is the great-grandfather of the boy to his right, the father of the woman to his left and grandfather-in-law to the man second left. Ninety years separates them in age, but all sit down and stand up with equal ease The sense of sitting together on the ground is central to social life and the food that is most desired by such groups is usually translated as 'hot pot'. A stock on a burner is provided and with it piles of meat, fish and vegetables which are cooked on demand. Hi there. Those fingers are not a victory sign. They mean two because the Vietnamese for the number two is pronounced 'hi'! Eating in the cold. Hot pot certainly comes into its own in the winter, here the coats and scarfs are not enough to combat the temperature of about 8 degrees in this room, and good spirits, of both sorts, and hot food are necessary! Men and women at different ends. Here a larger meal needs three cookers to make sure everyone is within reach. While Japanese women are expected to sit demurely with legs folded, Vietnamese sit in whatever way is most comfortable for themselves. Westerner on stool. Westerners may be offered low stools to bridge the physical (and social) gap that a chair otherwise opens up Eating at the Bac Ha market. The Bắc Hà Market has the common sight of tables and stools that look as though they have been prepared for Snow-white and friends, but are actually perfectly comfortable, and avoid the problem that diners would have in a market place, if they had to remove their shoes to sit on mats By convention women and children sit at one end and the men at the other. The men may sit drinking for an hour or two before getting around to eating, whereas the women will have a drink, eat and move on. For the men food is only taken after drinking is finished; and somewhat distressingly for cooks (men and women), if too much drink is taken, the food may never be consumed. Restaurant with low tables. This large restaurant offers a compromise solution, tables which are low enough to be comfortable for sitting on the ground, but high enough to accommodate non-folding legs under them Low table in a Thai house. Here in a Thai stilt house, an inflexible table Next week the page cannot resist taking up the hint in that last photograph to show something of the famous market at Bắc Hà, before returning to the palace in Đồng Văn on which the cafe of the last page was modelled. Five women and a girl. line
Saturday 5th November 2016 Murphy on duty

Go to the Picture Posting contents page Return to the top