Sunday, February 10, 2013

'Tis a Gift to be Simple

Early morning traffic on my way to the market
Wherever you are from, you probably consider that home to be normal and anywhere else a bit odd.  My one time I went to London, I thought it strange that they drove on the other side of the road than the US.  I didn't care much for their food, either.  I love Thai food.  Thailand drives on the same side as England and that is where the comparison ends.  Supermarkets in London looked no different than what I had in California, though some products were a bit more expensive in one country and cheaper in the other.  A Thai supermarket such as Big C or Tesco Lotus can make a foreigner frustrated at first sight.  Leaving the supermarkets is the first step to finding Thailand.

Simple things like chips in Thailand are either potato chips or fish-based crackers that feel like meringue in my mouth.  Flavors range from shrimp to basil and squid.  I tried some and wasn't pleased thus I learned to make some of my own at home.  Strangely, as I found how easy it was to make a cracker, I found my need to run home to the US started to lessen.

Now I have lived in this town so far from any big city for 7 months and I am starting to feel at home.  Living alone for the time being since my wife is working south of here, I have had to make my way through markets, barbers and restaurants.  I have learned enough Thai to get what I want and decided some things I don't want any more.  Finding a real napkin at my plate at a restaurant is more of a shock than a treat as it is more typical to have a roll of toilet paper for such purposes.  Oddly, toilet paper is an option at the bathrooms.  Tupperware is replaced by cellophane bags closed with a tightly wound rubber band holding it closed.  A restaurant next door sells noodle soup called gwitdeo, and I usually get take out.  "Gwitdeo muu nung toong, krap," or one bag of pork soup please.

Being a foreigner, I have tended to buy my meat at the supermarket instead of the open markets because I worried about getting sick.  Over time, though, I have come to see that a fellow chopping up pork he slaughtered the night before is far more careful than a handful of underpaid staff at a megamart.

Meat at the stores is kept out in the open just as much as this is, so I prefer to go to someone who knows what he is doing.  I point out what I want, using my hands to measure how much, and I get it.

This market has become my favorite as it is cleaner than the other one in town and is always filled with things I want.  I started taking pictures of the market, and this the lady at the end insisted on having her picture taken with her friend resisting.

If you want food even fresher, make friends with a local farmer and he might dig up a few yams for you as this fellow did for me yesterday.

My lovely boss from school

Her cousin digging out yams bare-handed

The yams

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