Food is the new crack especially when it comes to life in Thailand. You can’t walk more than 10 steps without stumbling onto some sort of food stall. The Thais are ingenious when it comes to revolutionizing fast food. Before McDonald’s or KFC were dominating the world, Thais had their food on a stick and drinks in a bag to go. Before WWII the Thai traditional greeting used to be “Have you eaten yet?” It’s good to see they have their priorities straight.
Of course, the world has now embraced fast food full on and so has Thailand. 7-11s are literally everywhere and stocks such amazing items as prepackaged pork buns and coconut bread that is green for some reason.
Food stalls get more and more inventive combining items of international influence and giving them a Thai twist. One popular snack is ice cream served in a bun topped with peanuts, condensed milk and some sort of sweet, slimy green worm shaped gelatin.
Bugs are also all the rage. They used to be a source of protein for poor farmers, but now they are fried up by the thousands and consumed like chips. In fact, I recently read an article that says this trend is depleting the population of certain delicious bugs – a cause of concern for the ecosystem. Bug farmers are also popping up to meet this demand. I have tried crickets, grasshoppers, beetles and silk worms, and really don’t get the allure. I suppose they are nothing more than “shellfish of the earth” but the very thought of them still makes me queasy especially when a silk worm pops in my mouth exploding with earthy flavor. However, my host mom never looked so happy as the day she bought three bags of freshly cooked bugs from a vendor and dropped a handful into her mouth.
Thais are renowned for talking about food non-stop. There were many days on the farm when we would be preparing a meal while talking about what we would make for the next meal.
When eating, Thais fall into a pseudo-trance, eyes glaze over and everyone dives in. The food is all shared and the only topic of interest during this time is how good the food is or someone urging you to try another dish. In 2004, Shaun quickly noted this behavior and leaned over to comment to me about it until he noticed that I had fallen deep into the same trance.
It used to be that the food prepared was made in the traditional style in the village. Even though food was talked about nonstop – it took so long to prepare it and the ingredients were all pretty healthy and natural; thus the Thais maintained a slender physique. I couldn’t help by notice that this is changing in 2012 BIG TIME.
In 2000, walking down the street in Thailand, I was by far the biggest person. They didn’t make trousers big enough to get over my ankles let alone fit. However, it is noticeably that obesity is becoming a problem, and most notably a problem with the youth. It is a sad reality when chemicals and sugars lace our foods to addictive proportions. Food addiction is arguably the most prevalent of all addictions in today’s society and the most socially acceptable.
But all seriousness aside, we partook in 10 days of an eating adventure. These photos document some of the delights we consumed. Now the difficulty lies in getting back on track- no more deep fried pork balls on a stick for me (at least not until our next visit).
As well as personal observation, many facts in this blog entry are taken from the essays in Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture written by Philip Cornwel-Smith and published by River Books – Bangkok. *