Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m trying to lose weight.
Being a Glutton isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There are the constant, relentless, unremitting questions like “When are you going to lose weight?” or “How did you get so big?” or “When are you due?” (my personal favorite). The “helpful” people who never fail to point out that “You’ve gained weight!” (for the record, thank you. I had no idea I was fat until you pointed that out to me.) And best of all, the nagging from my Debbie Downer doctor (what’s Lipitor for?).
It’s tempting to see being fat as a blow on the side of the underdog, an “f you” to a society that sees women’s bodies as a sort of public domain that can constantly be critiqued and controlled. I especially love how the people most ready to point out your flaws are not, shall we say, paragons of conventional beauty themselves (the Law of Inverse Self-Awareness). But where does the “I” fit into this equation? Does life become a constant string of humiliations as you balloon your way to the realm of the Morbidly Obese? Or, possibly worse, does it turn into an endless parade of renunciation, making your life a joyless void of all that is fun and worth living? Should I stop, well, being Gluttonous? What would my fan think?
There are people who say that they “love food”, and then end up eating half a plate of something and a bite of dessert. Those people are annoying. Food is not a hobby for me, or even a career. It is an almost constant preoccupation. When we are eating dinner with people who don’t know me very well, my husband will occasionally try to take advantage of the situation by pretending I cannot finish something like an entire lamb shank and about half a box of polenta by myself (of course, we all know that I can finish this, and your dinner too). Because I am a “girl”, I have to fork some food over or look like a complete pig, but all the while my brain is thinking “OHMYGODWHATAREYOUDOING?” That is what food means to me. It’s like a security blanket for my mouth.
This brings me to the title of this post: “Losin’ it” — much like the cheesy ’80s movie of the same name, complete with super-classy “‘n” (because to spell out “losing” is so, like, whack). Right before going into labor with my son four months ago, I weighed 78 kg (yes, that’s right). After giving birth, I lost…3 kg. So now I weigh…well, I can’t really do the math. Whatever. I need to lose weight, okay?
The perfect diet food? Green papaya salad (som tum), a dish once etched out of the hard soil and uncompromising heat of the northeastern Isaan region, today the culinary darling among society mavens of a certain age. Tart, salty, spicy and a little sweet (although some versions are so sweet it’s like eating fishy candy — yuck), it’s no wonder that som tum is one of the most popular street foods in Thailand.
Som tum can be found just about anywhere there is a mortar and pestle (an integral tool for “bruising” the papaya strands with the yummy juices), but one of the better vendors in terms of variety is Hai Somtum Convent (2/4-5 Convent Rd. off of Silom Rd.). It offers the standard, most popular “Thai” version with dried shrimp and peanuts, but also a good version with pickled crabs (plucked from the rice fields and “cooked” via pickling); a horseshoe crab one; one with preserved, salted egg; a version made entirely of carrots; and one with pla rah, or Thai anchovy (kind of an acquired taste, but unrivalled for depth of flavor. If you like gapi, or shrimp paste, chances are you will like this).
Hai also offers an interesting range of minced meat salads (larb) as well — pork, duck, chicken, catfish, glass vermicelli noodle and squid – but these dishes are fried and, so, not great for someone trying to lose weight. When in doubt, stick to the som tum, skip the fried chicken and sticky rice accompaniments (which make you sleepy anyway), and revel in your newfound righteousness.