Monday, April 5, 2010

Risky Behaviour

I understand why Hongers love to jet off to Thailand every chance they get. It is the only place I've been to so far that boosts both cheap eats and clean toilets pretty much everywhere. There were many memorable meals in the land of smiles. My friends and I ate our way through Koh Samui (nothing to write home about), cooked at a farm in Chiangmai, and treated ourselves in Bangkok :)

However, one of the most memorable nights was when we went through the Sunday market in Chiangmai, and ate horror of horrors: street food!!!

I am adventurous, and LOVE the amusing selection of street vendors everywhere in Asia. But I have also gotten food poisoning before, and vowed to do anything I can to avoid it, especially when I am a flight away from home. I try to avoid eating things off the street whenever I can, but I am weak. I am easily tempted and somewhat of a glutton, so I end up breaking this rule pretty much every trip I go on, except maybe when I was in India...

Anyhow you weigh your risks and figure whether it is worth it to you to indulge in this incredible looking seafood pancake that everyone seems to be buying. Of course they were Thai, and seafood is probably the most popular breeding ground for nasty microbes. But it smells so good, and looks so fresh...Wait, the people cooking don't seem to ever clean their hands, and what is that puddle the vegetables seemed to be resting on?

There are those of us who figure: heck, you only live once, and being able to taste one of the most glorious pancakes at a food fair in some temple in Chiangmai is worth getting sick after. Of course, we forget that it is the most gut retchingly terrible kind of sickness...

Then, there are those who, even tempted, will remain steadfast and resist. They care about consequences, and would rather risk not getting ill, thank you very much...

Guess what kind of person I am?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Thai Cooking!

I think for each of us, there are always hidden agendas when going on vacations. Architectural buffs like to visit monumental buildings, fashionistas love to visit shopping areas, and of course, a foodie like myself is all about the restaurants and food markets. As my travel companion noted, "C. likes to talk to cute boys, and J.(me) likes to talk to farmers :)" Yes, I am curious to know the difference between white vs. purple vs. miniscule Thai eggplants.

As an inquisitive glutton, I go one step further, and look for educational cookery opportunities whenever I explore a new country. On my recent trip to Chiangmai, I convinced my travel companions to join me for a class at the Thai Farm Cookery School. Excellent choice, it was!

The farm is run by a Dutch lady Nathalie and her Thai husband Sawat. Nathalie is the one to chase us for payment while Sawat tells us jokes while teaching us how to cook. Their farm is beautiful, and their hospitality is exceptional. We made a four course meal that was enjoyed for an outdoor lunch overlooking the picturesque papaya and banana trees.

But what I enjoy most when I take these classes is the people you meet and the stories you hear. I met a boyfriend/girlfriend couple from France who are in their fifties. His English was sparse, but we chatted about Thai and French food and really, you don't need to speak the same language to communicate. I learned about this "sacred" water from the spa she works in French that dispels your hunger and makes you look years younger. So maybe she is actually in her sixties?? I also met people from Brit, the usual Aussies, but the most intriguing story is from Sawat about how he, a boy from rice farming family grew up to become a trekking guide, and how that path eventually led him to his wife and his life now.

His story makes me think about the choices we make and the destiny we are given. How every step and every gesture contributes to this moment where we meet. I think about the tears that propelled me to a trip in Peru where I had a 3 hour conversation during a layover with a missionary worker and a Peruvian man who hasn't seen his family for three years since he began working in the States as a laborer. That conversation probably contributed partly to my perspectives now, and led me to travel around, taking cooking classes and meeting more people whose words have the power to enlighten me to do more interesting things in the future...