People have asked me why I bother to have a blog if I can’t be bothered to update it on a regular basis. My answer is that there are few other places where I can rant to my heart’s content without being interrupted by someone who has their own things to rant about. I don’t care about what is bothering them. I only want to focus on me.
My first rant today has to do with how people commonly mischaracterize George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series — *look, you can scroll to the bottom and figure out where to get the soup in the photo above, serious nerd stuff is going on right now zzzzzz* — as “nihilistic” and “dark”, a “real world” version of a high fantasy world, replete with the grit and grime of our own terrible reality. These people are idiots.
These people are idiots because, um, maybe you haven’t heard, but the story isn’t finished yet. This would be akin to getting bummed out by “Cinderella” because her sisters ripped up her mother’s dress and now she’s crying and oh how sad is Cinderella, she never catches a break. How bleak this story is! How unnecessarily violent! I am disturbed by the unrelenting darkness! Also, I am outraged at the objectification of Cinderella in a tattered dress. Where is her sense of agency?
There’s a whole other half to this story that George R.R. Martin has yet to tell (some day). A whole bunch of other people are going to die, and secondary/tertiary characters have to come and go, the butterfly effects from their actions somehow resulting in some crazy and important repercussions that will end up getting edited out of the television series or ascribed to Bronn because he’s just so entertaining you guys. Can I go off on a sub-rant from the main rant? I am shocked at how many people don’t bother to read the books, and think that the television series is what really happens. “Oh, every one you care about dies unnecessarily and for shock value,” people invariably say. That really drives me up a wall. It’s a cascade of dumb opinions that are stoopid because they aren’t mine.
These pat responses to complicated things, these conclusions reached wholesale by committee, this is what is killing us. I get it: we are barraged with information every day, and we have to curate what stays in our brain. Vikings is on at 8? OK, stay. Pick up toilet paper because we have none left? Oops, you’re out. Examining things ourselves — even when we can’t even figure out what to have for dinner tonight, much less what to believe — is never easy. But by reflection and analysis, by thinking things through, we would be less likely to come up with stupid stuff. Like creamy tom yum soup.
Someone did it first, probably by doctoring their indifferent spicy lemongrass broth by adding condensed milk to the pot and calling it a day. The result was not only creamy and sweet, it also hid any problems with the soup itself. Score! Soon people were using regular milk, or splashes of coconut milk, or cream, or anything else that would ease the natural bite of the chili and lime and completely blanket over the flavor of the natural herbs. This is a soup that a lot of people like, but it is not tom yum soup. It’s something else, with a completely different flavor profile.
Tom yum soup is, to me, one of the most genuinely Thai dishes in the entire repertoire. You use a Thai cooking method — boiling — and infuse your water with herbs which not only smell great, but are supposed to have medicinal properties too. Later, when your “broth” is made, you throw in your protein and wait for it to cook. It sounds easy to do, but it’s not easy to pull off, because the result can be a bland, unappealing mess (trust me). It’s really hard to make a good tom yum. It’s even harder to make a great one.
Siriporn Pochana (152 Soi Mahannop, 02-224-1287) is known for its barbecued and crispy pork, but that’s only part of the reason why people stand in line for a table at lunchtime. Their tom yum soup (with nam sai, or clear broth) draws enough fans that it’s a matter of course that, when we sit down at our table, our server automatically assumes we will order a bowl. When it comes — obviously doctored with some roasted chili paste (nam prik pao) and based on a fish broth — it’s thick with chunks of sea bass and fish eggs, smelling of lemongrass and makrut lime leaves and seafood, steaming and welcome with a heaping plate of rice. Yeah, there are probably other things to think about after lunch. But it makes everything better at that moment, and that is what food is supposed to do.