Today’s guest, Michael Victor, has spent the past 16 years living in Laos and getting to know its farming systems and its food. To some extent, that’s become a personal interest. But it is also a professional interest that grew out of his work with farmers and development agencies in Laos. Most recently, he’s been working with The Agro-biodiversity Initiative, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The idea is to make use of agricultural biodiversity in a sustainable way to reduce poverty and improve the livelihoods of people in upland regions. One thing the project has done is to collect all the information it can about agricultural biodiversity and make it available online. When Michael visited Rome recently, I grabbed the chance to find out more about Lao food and diversity.
- The Pha Khao Lao website is available in English and Lao.
- I think that the restaurant Michael mentioned is Thip Khao in Washington DC. Duly noted for next time. Any reports gladly received.
- I seem to be way behind the times on riverweed. A couple of years ago even BBC Good Food had tried it. (Scroll down.)
- Banner photograph by Periodismo Itinerante from Flickr
Some interesting tidbits here, particularly about a society seemingly on the cusp of coming and greater industrialization. I can’t help but thinking about Lynne Kelly’s thesis about indigenous peoples and cultural memory. I suspect that Laotians aren’t practicing memory techniques, but because of technological and cultural changes they are loosing a lot of collective memories about their lifeways, food, and surrounding culture that have built up over thousands (or more) generations.