Tales from Thai Kitchens: The Use of Food Discourse in English Classrooms to Create Spaces for Local Values and Critical Literacy

Adcharawan Buripakdi 


English Department, Walailak University



This paper explores the role of food narratives used in English classrooms of southern Thailand. In the context of this pilot study, students enrolled in a Contemporary English Language and Communication course were asked to participate in a group discussion entitled International Food Symposium. The goals of this activity were not only to encourage the students to employ food discourse to negotiate meanings but also to respond to the Mcdonaldization phenomenon. In doing so, ten English major students were asked to revisit their roots by drawing on foods meaningful to their academic and personal selves to tell a story related to the foods. These foods included those that were dying or attempting to survive from within the competitive global market. To create an autonomous learning atmosphere, one student with advanced English skills was chosen to be a chair of the symposium. Ultimately the students raised various issues pertaining to food discourse. These included history, production, consumption, beliefs, myths, taboos and current challenges. In the end, the students self-critiqued their performance and reflected upon their experiences from the symposium and the food research. This classroom-based research demonstrated how pivotal food narratives were for enhancing students’ critical thinking skills, empowering students’ identities and nurturing local cultures. In particular, the discourse of food could cast light on what it meant to learn English meaningfully and critically. The recognition of food power and the inclusion of sociopolitical contexts in English classrooms proved significant for teaching and learning English in the 21st century.



(Presented in the International Conference – Thai Food Heritage: Local to Global, 4-6 August 2009, Tawana Bangkok Hotel, Bangkok, organized by The Project of Empowering Network for International Thai Studies (ENITS), Institute of Thai Studies, Chulalongkorn University with support from the Thailand Research Fund (TRF))