Culture

Perpetual stew

Do you like to eat leftovers? At Wattana Panich bistro in Bangkok, you can have a bowl of soup that's been in the pot for almost 50 years. Known as neua tune, it follows the "perpetual stew" method of preparation: the leftovers at the end of each day are kept overnight to become the base for the next day's soup. 

Cultures all across the world have versions of perpetual stew. In France, it's called pot-au-feu, or "pot in the fire", for the way it was traditionally cooked—in a pot that hung over the hearth fire all day. Other cultures' versions of perpetual stew include Chinese master stock, Mongolian Firepot, and Olla Podrida (literally, "rotten pot") in Spain. In the U.S., we have "hunter's stew", and the wonderfully named "Skilligalee" of pioneer times.

New Year's traditions

The 1st of January is an important day in many countries, and people have different ways of welcoming the day. For some, it may be as simple as having a family dinner, while others perform specific rituals to start the new year off well.

In Denmark, they save all of their unused dishes and plates until the 31st of December, when they affectionately shatter them against the doors of all their friends and family to banish bad spirits.

In the Philippines, it’s all about the cash. They believe that everything should be round to represent coins and bring wealth. Round food, round clothes—as long as it’s round.

In Bolivia, coins are baked into sweets, and whoever finds the coins has good luck for the next year.

Video: Cultural gaps crash planes

Watch this short video where Malcolm Gladwell answers the question, "What is the one thing people need to know about how cultural differences cause planes to crash?"  Then discuss it with your teacher, or write about it using the discussion questions below.

 

Moral sacrifice is subjective

Perhaps you've heard of the so-called trolley problem, also known as the train problem. The old philosophical question goes like this:

There is a trolley barreling down the tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks, therefore saving the five people. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options:

  1. Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

What is the right thing to do?

The origin of the English pub

Atlas Obscura, a publication about travel and culture, notes that a pub has always been more than just a place that sells beer for the British. The pub has brought communities together for centuries, and the tavern tradition of spending the evening with your peers continues to this day. Few know, however, that pubs became popular following the plague known as the Black Death of the 14th century.

The Black Death killed nearly half of England's population after it reached the British Isles in 1348. By the 1370s, it had caused a critical labor shortage. Eventually, this proved a boon for the peasantry of England, who could demand higher wages for their work and achieve higher standards of living. As a result, households selling or giving away leftover ale were replaced by more commercialized, permanent establishments set up by the best brewers and offering better food.

Forest bathing stress away

National Geographic answers the question: what is forest bathing? The term emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku. It can mean “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”. The purpose was to offer an ecological antidote to tech-boom burnout and to inspire residents to reconnect with the country’s forests.

The Japanese quickly embraced this form of ecotherapy. In the 1990s, researchers began studying the physiological benefits of forest bathing, providing the science to support the idea that time spent surrounded by nature is good for us. The concept at the heart of shinrin-yoku is not new. Many cultures around the world have long recognized the importance of the natural world to human health.

Visuals: Fruit & Veggie consumption

People’s diets have varied considerably around the world, and have often been dictated by geography, the types of crops that the land can sustain and animals that dominate the ecosystem. However, with advances in technology and globalization, billions of people can now eat all sorts of fruits and vegetables out of season, as well as exotic, imported meats.

Take a look at the two maps below and discuss what you see with your teacher.

The Decade of Indigenous Languages

The United Nation declared a “Decade of Indigenous Languages”, beginning on January 1, 2022. There are currently over 7000 languages in the world, but roughly 40% of those languages are endangered, as adults no longer speak the language to their children. According to the U.N., one language is lost every two weeks. 

Languages become extinct due to colonization, urbanization and globalization. Colonists may purposely try to eradicate the language and culture of the indigenous people. When indigenous people leave their homelands to find work in cities, they need to speak the dominant language to survive. And young people need to use it to participate in today's global world.

Men artists: Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) was part of the French Impressionist art movement, the first school of art to break away from classical painting. Impressionism focuses on the light and colors of a particular moment in time. Because artists wanted to capture a brief moment and didn't have cameras yet, they needed to paint quickly. So they used quick, flat strokes without precise detail.

They also used colors in new ways. The best example is that shadows aren't just the object's color with gray or brown mixed in. Instead, the painters added strokes of the complementary color of the object (e.g., strokes of red in the shadow of something green). This makes the shadows come alive. 

Men artists: Naoki Onogawa

Tokyo-based artist Naoki Onogawa folds hundreds of tiny cranes (no bigger than a centimeter each) by hand, then attaches them to branching wire forms. The results look like bonsai trees—bonsai trees with birds for leaves. 

Onogawa started making the sculptures after visiting the site of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. At first he felt terrified by our powerlessness over nature. But then he saw 1,000 paper cranes at the site of a ruined school building. He was "empowered by the power of life ... that shined so brightly in the aftermath" of the disaster. It inspired him to create his own art with origami cranes.