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July 30, 2005 -
From Thailand to France to Atlanta to Seattle to Atlanta to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Oh dear. What have I done between April 4th and July 30th? I can hardly remember. I do know that Thailand got so hot, oven hot, steam bath hot, sweat-dripping hard-to-breathe hot, that one day Jill and I actually sat down with the miniature atlas that I stole from Jan and tried to find a cooler place to fly to. Anything, anywhere.
But practicality got the better of us and we went to the beach village that I wrote about in the book, Ban Krud (for those of you who want to look it up, it is between Bang Saphan and Thap Sakai…..actually I am down here in Mexico writing this and I’m not sure of the spelling, but it’s close.) Miraculously, there was a constant ocean breeze that came across the Gulf of Thailand, and an outdoor, shaded place to sit where we could sit in the breeze….just across from our air conditioned bungalow.
There was the beach too, but neither of us did any swimming. Jill did a lot of walking. And we had bikes that we used pretty often; mostly to go to the market where we ate lots of ho mok and curries and fish soups and more.
I reconnected with the family I wrote about in the book……….Fon, her mother and father (the power plant never was built), her brothers, and a mostly new staff. The place (Rim Haad) has added a lot of new bungalows (we took an air-conditioned one for $12) and a swimming pool. Jill and I went swimming a lot at night when we first arrived. We saw a sign by the pool that was in Thai and we figured it probably said no swimming after 8 P.M. or something like that; so we never asked anyone to translate it for us. For as long as we didn’t know, we couldn’t be blamed for breaking the rules. (We found out later that it said they charged for swimming, even if you were a guest. It was a friend who told us. We never owned up to knowing what the sign said and the family never bothered or charged us.)
The last time I was there, I only saw one European couple. The ones that I wrote about in the book…..the ones I cooked for. This time, there were more Europeans, but not that many. It’s still basically a Thai resort. Lots of groups, businesses, families, organizations, schools who come down from Bangkok for one day and night. They eat a fabulous Thai banquet and partake in their favorite activity…….which wasn’t a part of my last visit……..outdoor Karaoke. Loud, blasting background music and terrible singers from the crowd. The only way to tolerate it was to join. So we did. Jill even served tables one night.
One of Fon’s brothers took us on a couple of outings………one to a great market near the Myanmar border, and the other to visit his uncle who is a retired, successful t-shirt manufacturer and an incredible artist. He has poured his creativity into an amazing house that uses trees and roots and stones and branches as building materials. It was pretty amazing. Uncle is helping Fon’s brother design his own resort about a mile away from Rim Haad. We ate….and sang private Karaoke while we admired the natural architecture.
Fon and her Mom took us out a couple of times too. And we met lots of interesting people. Dickie and Vim, a couple from the Netherlands; and Su and Sa, a couple from Germany, two women, one of whom (Susa-the-Magic-Voice) is a professional singer who sang one night during one of the Karaoke events. She blew us away with her amazing Louis Armstrong imitation. There were two Dutch brothers, one of whom, John, was married to Thom, a Malaysian woman who was brought up in Thailand. John took us to an all day ceremony which marked the beginning of training for two young men who were entering Buddhist monkhood; it included a meal, dancing in the street, a procession, and finally chanting in a temple. Thom cooked us some fantastic multi-course Thai meals, on one burner! We met one Thai woman, Ponthip, who had been living in Germany for many years with her German husband. She invited us to her home in Bangkok and we moved in for a few days before we flew back to France.
Yes, France. Nantes, where Lars and Nirin live. When we left them to go to Thailand in February, we said we’d be back to cook Lars a birthday dinner. Somewhere online I had said that he was celebrating his 45th. He was not happy to read that because he was actually turning 44 and I added a year and announced it to the world. World, listen please. Lars is just 44. And he looks great…..for his age!
Jill and I plotted the menu while we were in Thailand and we brought into France (they don’t have the restrictions we have in the US): lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, hard mangoes, hoi sin sauce (I only like the Lee Kum Kee brand), fish sauce, mint, cilantro, Vietnamese spring roll wraps, rice noodles, limes, Thai basil, green curry paste, peanuts, and banana leaves to make into little serving baskets ………probably more but that’s all I can remember at the moment.
Jill and Lars went to the Saturday morning outdoor market for things like shrimp and bean sprouts and chicken. I stayed home and started the prepping. We arrived on Friday afternoon and the party was Saturday night.
The four of us had decided that we, us and eight gourmet, English-speaking discriminating friends of theirs, would not sit at a table. We would serve lots of small courses while sitting in the living room.
The menu: 1. Vietnamese spring rolls, 2. mu shu vegetables wrapped in softened cabbage leaves with hoisin brushed on the cabbage before putting the stir-fried vegetables in, 3. larb gai (Thai chicken salad), 4. Mo mo (Tibetan dim sum) which Lars had made and frozen, 5. pork sate, 6. Phad Thai, 7. Green curry, 8. Papaya salad.
Nope, I’m not giving recipes, but you can Google them all and recipes will magically appear. Thousands of them.
Nirin made a fabulous dessert of chocolate cupcakes, crisp on the outside and melted chocolate on the inside. Everybody had fun. Lars too, even though he was so very old.
OK. So now we’re back in the US and Jill and I said goodbye in Newark (we’d had a great time together) and I went straight to Atlanta to visit Cristofer, that gorgeous and brilliant grandson of mine. He’s a wonderfully happy baby whose shrieks of glee and fantastic giggles are fabulous. While I was there he mastered walking. He’s not talking yet.
I went from Atlanta to Seattle to visit Jan and Bill. They have a puppy, Roxy, who is nearly as cute and cuddly as Cristofer. She doesn’t talk either. I dog sat while they were away for the 4th of July weekend and had a party in their house for 19 people in the area who had e-mailed me after reading the book. It was great meeting them all. Part of the reason for doing get togethers like that is for the guests to meet each other; but I missed not having the intimacy of one-on-one with each guest. I planned a menu similar to the one in France so that a few guests could help me in the kitchen with each course. I loved putting faces to the stories and e-mails, but I wish I’d had more time with each of them.
OK. I’m tired of writing. I will try to get to the next entry in a month or two. I’m going to Nova Scotia on the 23rd of August. I plan to be something of a hermit for two months in Margaret Jeddry’s home. Margaret is another of the many wonderful readers whose lives I am lucky enough to have touched via the book. I feel so fortunate to have opened my world to so much joy and so many wonderful people.