Observation: Social interaction In today 21st century Family dinner are seen as an everyday ritual, nothing exciting or important about this simple task because of the fast lifestyle and demand in society today people tend to take many thing for granted, for instance a family dinner is seen as an everyday routine within every families to satisfied the hunger, carving and gathering of the family during the day. ‘Dinner experience is one that not only brings the families together for sharing and togetherness, but one that also fullfills the needs of the soul’. Munhall,2001:p98) However after carefully observing this simple task through a sociological imagination and an anthropological perspective, I have realised that this simple task hold many value and purpose and why it is important to maintain this everyday ritual. I will demonstrate that this so call simple task can lead to many sociological issues such as Gender role and Social order within a cultural and family background. Observation: My family dinner
My observation is about my family dinner that is usually held every few months; this occasion was not only to keep the bond between family members but also a tradition that was kept throughout generation. My background is Vietnamese therefore family is an important part of your life that why we have kept this tradition going throughout our generation. My house is a four bed home that has two separate kitchens located inside and outside. The kitchen inside the house is more modern decorated and only contain a few utensil like knives, fork, spoon, chopstick, bowl and etc.
This kitchen is only manly used for washing up the dishes and storing fried food, the main cooking and preparation of the food is taken place in the second kitchen that is bigger but simpler in design and is located at the back of the house where all our kitchen utensil and ingredients for the cooking is stored and hang. My family preferred to do our cooking separate from the house because of the strong smell from the ingredients can leaves a bad after smell sticking to the furniture, that why it better to cook utside so the smell of the food can escape from the kitchen. Surrounding this kitchen is fresh herbs and spices that had been planted there by my parents so it can be pick and used whenever it’s needed in a certain dish. These fresh ingredient are: grow and propagate, basil, wild betal leaf, watercress, Vietnamese perilla, Vietnamese coriander, spearmint, sawtooth, rice patty, lemongrass, fish mint, elephant ear stalk, cilantro, Chinese chives, chillies and etc. These ingredients are usually used in all our cooking so it can bring out the traditional taste of the dish.
The food that will be serve today is ‘Lau’, this is a steam pot that contain many variety of food and vegies like seafood, meat, mushroom, tofu and etc. This serve will please all our relatives because it contain so many choice, therefore each individual will be able to choose what they like to eat. The atmosphere surround the house inside or outside was amazing because inside the house my father is rushing about organising the table and entertaining the other relatives, while my mother and sister in law are busy inside the kitchen chopping, preparing, slicing and frying the food.
The sizzling sound and stomach of the oil frying inside the pan, while the bang noise of the pot and pan, and the sensational aroma made my eyes blurry and stomach grumble. By observing the interaction that is taken place in the kitchen and inside the house with the delicious smell in the atmosphere, I thought for a sec that I was at a special function where chefs a busy cooking inside the kitchen, while the waiter and waitress busy organising and entertaining the guest arriving.
As I move my observation further into the house away from my mother and sisters in law, I realise that although we all come from the same background but our choice of fashion is different to each other. My unties dress in their traditional two piece home clothes ‘ao ba ba’ and my uncles wear short and t-shirt attending our dinner party because they reckon that its only family member that will be attending, therefore what the point of getting dressing up for. Despite that fact the younger generation like myself, put more effects in looking nicer for the occasion for instance the makeup, pretty dresses and fancy hairstyle.
An incident that court my attention while I was observing was when I over heard my young cousin who can speak Vietnamese very fluent spoke in English to her mother instead of Vietnamese asking ‘when will the food be served’ and automatically my aunty responded in Vietnamese telling her to be patience and behave ‘it won’t be any longer’. This made me realise that although we all are participating in a traditional family dinner, however the cultural value is different from generation to generation. For example my generation way of dressing and behaviour is different to my parent generation.
I move my observation to the first sociological issue. Gender role within the family Gender role play an important part in the observation task that was taken place within the family dinner party. Gender role had always been considered as an important structure in many societies because societies construct itself around gender, therefore men are always acknowledges as the dominance figure of the families. That why it perceived that men are responsibility with the finance, support and maintaining the order within the family.
This point was supported by Janice Lee statement: ‘Gender is one of the primary organising components of the self concepts because of its importance and centrality in our society. ’(Lee,2005:p6) It observed in my observation that gender role play an important part in the preparation of our family dinner, this is demonstrated in simple task like my mother and sister is constantly inside the kitchen cooking, while my father and brothers are inside the house entertaining the other relatives and organising when the food will be served.
This organisation of the party is done this way because cooking is always perceive as a female job, that why my father will not interfered into the progress and my mother and sisters always offered to take this role. My father and brothers will only be called upon when needed assistant for heavy lifting of pot and pan, gather rice bag and etc, this organisation highlights power role such like masculinity and feminine within the household.
Cooking has always been perceived in society as a feminine job, therefore female automatically think it normal and it their responsibility to do it, that why without any doubt or hesitation they get the job done. The only moment that a female might feel she is the dominance power in the household would be around the kitchen, where she is in control with the organising and deciding where things should be place and kept because this is her usual environment and responsibilities, therefore male won’t intervene with the progress. Within the household they may influence their male patriarch informally but this is their only access to power. ’(Mann,1994:p178) Another demonstration of power play within the family household would be the shopping budget of the grocery. Although the female keeps the money and is in charge with the responsible for the cooking and preparation of the food, however they must always consult their male partner before planning for the meal that would be served for that occasion.
The male of the family gives suggestion on what type of food is suitable and also the budget that he thinks is suitable for that occasion before the female start to decide what she is going to serve and how many dishes can be prepared with that budget. According to sociologist this simple decision making within the household is generally decided and disgust by the male, this is common to any culture. This is evident in sociologist Ken Browne statement: ‘men take responsibility for bring in money, major decision making and doing the heavier and technical job around the home. (Browne,2005:p236) The statement of Browne is true as I observe my family dinner party I see the play of power between my parents. Power also influence another sociological issue within the family, this is social order within the family. Social Order within the family Through my observation I realise that the social order within the family during a party is very important because not having the proper social order every member of the family would not be able to co-operate and know what is their job and requirement within the occasion, this mean that the party can go out of control and disaster can accrued spoiling the whole night.
In this particular occasion my father is not only the dominance but also the most important member within the social order because he is the host and also the main organiser of the night. During this party he carried many responsibilities and duty such as food and catering, invitation, number of guests, time, entertainment for children and adults. This is supported in the statement of anthropologist Walter Stole: ‘The man, as father officiates at family worship rites. As long as he lives, his wife and hild must obey. ’(Slote,1998:p146) This order in my family does not only happen when there is a special occasion or event going on but it happen on a day to day base because in my culture and norm that we must always respect and obey the elder within the family, in this case my father. For instance if there are know male member presence, than we are required to obey the eldest female member in the family because it is consider as rude and bad manner if we show any disrespect against the elder.
This was supported by Joyce Newman Giger in a statement: ‘respect and hormones are two most important values in the Vietnamese culture. ’(Giger,2004:p266) The next person in the family with the highest status would be my mother. Despite my mum is a women but her status in the family is higher then my brothers because of her age and responsibility she hold make her the more dominance figure within the family when my father is not presence. In this occasion she is the next important member even though my father is still at presence because her responsibility is higher then the rest of us.
Without her perfect timing and organising of food, the party would not be as successful because everyone would be hungry and grumpy, therefore no one would be in the mood to chat. ‘The age respecting dominance allowed the older member of the family-particular the older women-remarkable power within the family. ’(Newman,2009:p373) After my mother the next person would be my brothers, despite the fact that they have the less responsibility within the family, however they are the male figure therefore they automatically hold are higher status and role then myself.
During the party my brother has the easies duty in the house; they are only required to assist when being ask. As for myself I have the least power and status in the family however carry the most responsibility because I am seen as the feminine figure and as the person who will take over my mother role and value within the family. That why it’s my responsibility to do all the assisting within the party. These duties are not only expected of me during special occasion but throughout my life as mother and daughter I am responsible for my family welfare and pride.
As for my brothers their responsibility begin only when they a married. This perfect organisation within my family has been taught through generation to generation, that why we do not feel discriminated when we participate in these duties. Despite the meaning of family dinner has change dramatically throughout the decade however the concepts that involved had always been the same. As it is highlight in my observation that although it seem like an everyday ritual for many family but this simple occasion bring upon sociological issue like gender role and social order within the family.
Anthropologist Van Den Berghe stated: ‘Food not only reinforce ethnic ties but bring the families together. ’(Bui,2003,p:213) I believed that this statement is true because everyone in today society is too busy during the weekday organising and struggling to go to work, study, shopping, clean and etc, therefore the only time everyone get to stop and relax is during dinner or family gathering, where everyone get to discuses what had been happening throughout their week.
This is the only closes interaction a family get with one another. After doing this observation task I realise I won’t be able to look at things in just one perspective because as sociologist we must question what ever we see or experience in our everyday life activity. Reference • Browne,K. (2005) ‘An introduction to sociology’,United Koingdom:Polity Press. • Bui,P. (2003) ‘Envisioning Vietnamese migrant in Germany:ethnics stigma,immigrant orgin narratives and partial masking’,USA:Transaction Publisher. • Giger,J & Davidhizar.
R. (2004) ‘Transcultural nursing:assessment and interview’,Missouri:Mosby. • Lee,J. (2005) ‘Gender roles’,New York:Neva. • Mann,M. (1994) ‘The polity in gender studies’,United Kingdrom:Polity Press. • Munhall,P & Fitzsimon,S. (2001) ‘The emergence of family into the 21st century’,London:Jones & Bartlett publisher. • Newman,B & Newman,P. (2009) ‘Development through life:A psychosocial approach’,USA:Wadworth Cengage Learning. • Slote,W & Vos,G. (1998) ‘Confucianism and the family’,USA:State University of New York Press.