Introduction to My Experience of Food & Eating

In autumn 2014, I was talking to my close friend Awais (from Frankfurt, Germany with Pakistani-Indian roots). As per usual, we would find ourselves talking about food because we are always hungry and we loved eating. One day I asked him, ‘what is your all-time favourite dish?’ He replied, ‘probably nihari (نهاری‎),’ which is a spicy slow-cooked lamb/beef Pakistani curry. I have never tried the dish, but I must admit that it sounds and looks amazing!

Since I was young, food has always been a big part of my life. I am from a mixed Thai-Chinese background, born in Bangkok, Thailand; where food plays a significant part in our culture. Whenever I ate something that tasted exquisite, I would always utter ‘อร่อยมาก (Aroi-mak)’ (Thai expression for ‘very delicious’) out loud with a massive smile on my face. As I grew older, I developed this habit of wanting to eat anything and everything (even food that most people would deem as strange). My tolerance level towards food became high and I will want to try new food with minimal hesitation. Whether I enjoyed the food or not, I will judge it purely on the taste and not the way it looks or is presented. Due to this personal development, whenever I go travelling, I would always seek out the best tasting and affordable local foods to enjoy. One person who has become a huge inspiration to me is ‘Mark Wiens,’ an outstanding blogger.

Mark Wiens – the Delicious Travel and Food Blogger

Due to my limited exposure to travelling, my current top food preferences will probably be South, South-East, and East Asian food. Nonetheless, my taste preferences might change in the future due to wider exposures of world cuisines. Me and my close friend Calvin (half Thai-English and from Exeter, England) would regularly exchange Mark Wiens’ YouTube videos because we find the food rather appetizing and he presents it in a highly enjoyable manner.

Mark Wiens is a travel and food blogger who is responsible for two websites (migrationology.com & eatingthaifood.com) and owns his own successful YouTube channel. He is half-Chinese and from Arizona, USA; when he was growing up he lived in France, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya. Mark Wiens’ blogs and videos are about his food and travelling experiences (with his Thai wife ‘Ying’) around the world but mostly in Asia. From his blogs, they contain recommendations to the best places to travel for excellent food. Similarly, his videos compromise of breath-taking locations to eat and travel.

Mark Wiens’ videos are very engaging; he presents food in a comprehensive way while being very descriptive of its taste, appearance and smell. Furthermore, Mark Wiens tends to be quite humble and seems to enjoy most things he eats or drinks. He will usually eat food from very local, tasty and affordable restaurants and shops. He is not picky at all and will eat absolutely anything ranging from insects, vegetarian food, raw beef and blood, etc.

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Mark Wiens eating Thai-Isan Food

Food Theories – Food Media and Culture

According to Jackson & the CONANX group (2013) there are several academic critiques to food media and culture. Devereux (2006) argues that media and food are inseparable in today’s world. Media is everywhere and it is watched and followed by numerous human audiences, as a result, they do affect people’s everyday experiences. Similarly, Dickinson (2005) asserts that our food and cooking experiences have become highly moderated through the available media. He uses the example of television and how cookery and food programmes have grew in recent years while being able to draw many audiences in the process. Due to advanced technology, the internet has increased its popularity in being an interactive media channel. Jackson & the CONANX group (2013) contend that many foodies can now obtain their information through online food and cooking platforms. Through this medium, they are able to exchange personal food experiences with one another.

Devereux (2006) further asserts that food media can manufacture socio-cultural relations and meanings. They produce the social norms, values, beliefs, discourses, and ideologies while guide the audiences to understand the meanings in the world. Jackson & the CONANX group (2013) further argue that when media is mixed with food, it is expected to discover how food media can notably contribute to the enhancement of audiences’ cultural and social life. Food media can provide not only the meanings of food itself, but it can provide an expanded dimension to broad socio-cultural values (e.g. morality and thrift) and meanings (e.g. lifestyle and identity) around that of food.

Linking Mark Wiens’ Media to Food Theories

From watching and reading many of Mark Wiens’ media, his food media can be analysed through academic theories and debates of food media and culture. Mark Wiens’ media uses internet as a mode of interaction between his audiences and his work. By observing his blogs (1 & 2) and YouTube videos, there are interactions going on between foodies and the producer himself. This can be seen through the comment section in the blogs and videos that are posted, hence, conversations are created between individuals.

Aside from recommending tasty places to eat, Mark Wiens also has suggestions of travel guides/resources, food recipes, and social media blogging.  Noticing with all the blogs and videos he has done, he is highly descriptive and informative in his work. Being able not to only narrate the experiences of the food but also being able to describe and explain the surroundings associated with the food as well (e.g. people, place, and culture). Consequently, it could be argued that his media enhances the audiences’ social and cultural life by providing the socio-cultural meanings and values around food.

Contrary to traditional food media personalities, Mark Wiens is a freelance and an independent blogger. He is self-funded and uses the money he makes from his media to pay for the travel and food expenses. As a result, he is not being tied to a certain organization or company and has full freedom in creating his work the way he desires.