My grandfather passed away a couple of days ago, but I don’t want to make this a sad post about loss. Instead, I want to talk about all the stuff that I remember about him. Most of it has to do with food. Not because that is the only way I can relate to people (although that may be part of it), but because that was the way he related to people, too.
My grandfather, Sawake Phromburi, was a policeman. He served in Northern Thailand for many years, and then he moved to Bangkok, where my mom and her siblings were raised. But even though he worked in law enforcement, he appeared to save his best thinking and planning for his food. He would spend days planning menus for family gatherings, making sure the durian was in the perfect condition for serving on that certain day, that the sea pomfret was fresh, that everyone’s favorites were represented on the dinner table. There was never a paucity of anything, no matter how he might have loathed it. I remember I went through a durian guan (preserved durian) phase, and then, as a weight-conscious teen who could never quite get her body under control, a period of eating only yum (Thai-style spicy salads). Not to mention the times I openly despised Thai food, happy only when a plate of spaghetti was set in front of me. He made sure I got that, too, although I doubt he understood it. While he wasn’t the most demonstrative or touchy-feely of guys (his lengthy diatribes and “lectures” terrified all of my mom’s friends), he felt comfortable showing his love through making sure we were all happy with what we ate, that there was a lot of it, and that it was the best that he could find. From him, I inherit my deep love of coconut milk-rich curries, distaste for noodles at dinnertime, rugby ball physique, and apparent fondness for home entertaining.
He didn’t go out often, but when he did, he had his favorites: one, the Chinese-Thai standby Pong Lee (10/1 Ratchawithi Soi 9), and for special occasions, Methavalai Sorndaeng (78/2 Ratchadamnoen Klang Road), which enjoyed its heyday while Elvis was still popular, and still features singers that may have been popular during that time, too. When I get back to Bangkok, I’m going to stop off there, and have a yum or two (or, let’s face it, three) in memory of him.