Beliefs has always been interwoven with various aspects of Thai culture since the very beginning. From worshipping ancestors, spirits, deities and gods, to the rich history of Buddhism. In the ritual of offering food, much emphasis is placed on specific ingredients and dishes appropriate for each occasion, following tradition from previous generations. Food has always played a vital role alongside these beliefs, usually in the form of making a sacred offering. Food transforms itself from merely a a fuel for the body, into the realm of nourishing the soul.
As Theravada buddhism prohibits monks to cook, it is up to lay people to offer food to the monks. Only two meals are eaten per day, breakfast and lunch, just enough to sustain life. In the morning, monks go out on alms carrying their alms bowl into the surrounding neighborhood. People would place their offering of food inside the bowls, monks would in turn chant a short blessing, be on their way to the next house and return to have breakfast at the temple.
Monks are trained not to eat for the purpose of savoring deliciousness, but instead eating as a means to simply sustain life. It is not uncommon for a monk to mix rice, soup, curry, salad and even desserts together in the alms bowl, enabling all of the flavours to muddle together into a homogeneous whole. Monks eat all their meals in silence without any cutlery, instead using their fingers, a homage to simplicity and modesty. After a short blessing, everyone at the temple is invited to enjoy the meal together. There is a wonderful sense of compassion within the community as everyone joins in and the food is shared around, distinctions of class, wealth and status is put aside as everyone enjoys eating together.
OFFERINGS TO A SPIRIT HOUSE
A whole snakehead fish, with scales, fins and tail left on, washed, steamed until well cooked and placed on a plate
A piece of boiled pork (ideally boiled chicken as well, but not essential)
For a large offering also include a boiled pigs head
A young coconut
A buch of bananas
Any kind of fruits at hand can be offered also
'Kanom dtom' dessert, red and white each on its own plate
'Kanom leb muer nang' ' Kanom huu Chang' 'Kanom bua loy'
Flowers, incense, candles. Light the incense and candles and offer it at the front of the spirit house. Pay your respect by chanting three times;
'Dearest spirits, are you present?, Sonkatulogavitu'
The offerings are left at the spirit house until the incense is completely burned out
Before bringing the food items back, ask permission by saying;
'Please spare a little bit of this and a little bit of that for us'
KANOM JEEN NOODLES / ขนมจีน
Kanom jeen noodles are often served at auspicious occasions, in which case they are specially made to be extra long. The noodles are never cut, as they symbolize prosperity and long life.
KANOM CHUN / ขนมชั้น
A dessert made from arrowroot flour poured in layers and steamed, it symbolizes aspiration, moving up to a higher level. For special occasions, it is made with nine layers, as the number nine is considered a lucky number for thai people.
FOI THONG / ฝอยทอง
Several desserts fall into this category, made primarily from egg yolks and sugar. Their vibrant golden colour is highly prized by Thais, symbolizing wealth and prosperity.