It’s hard to believe, but despite (occasionally) some of my best efforts, this blog will soon be a decade old. Since then, I have published two street food guides and occasionally been on TV — though efforts to make that a regular thing have been met this way:
All the same, it’s not bad for a blog that was originally meant to last for a year. I sometimes enjoy going back and reading the posts that I wrote when I was 5 kg lighter. They seem hopeful, funny even, unmarred by middle age. However, my favorite post ever remains this one.
So, even though I had stopped doing Thanksgiving posts, I’m doing one today, to not only recap nearly a decade of this blog but to force myself to give thanks for nearly a decade of the friends and experiences that Bangkok Glutton made possible. I still meet interesting people because of it every year, and I am still surprised by it.
Also, I have a lot of unused photos on my phone:
Also this one:
Thinking about this post on one of my interminable walks in Auckland (yes, I am still here), I could think of something food-related that I could be genuinely thankful for. And that is the food in Thailand. Not just the food that we’ve always had — like the gang jued that your parents who have been driving you crazy during their two-week visit make for you to make you forget that they drove you crazy — but exciting new food made by chefs who clearly love their Thai cuisine and Thai ingredients and want to champion Thai growers and Thai knowledge. That this comes at a time when a wave of extreme right views seems to be taking root in other parts of the world, and when people who have been in power for centuries can act the aggrieved party when the historically disenfranchised and dismissed ask for their voices to be heard … well, this is moving to me.
There was a time, in a climate like this, that chefs in Thailand would want to dress up their food in Western trappings and Western techniques in a bid to “improve” that food. Chefs are still using those techniques, but not for the colonialist fantasy of fusion cuisine, meant to address a local cuisine’s deficiencies from a Western point of view. Chefs are now using cooking techniques that are now accepted in every part of the fine dining world, but in the service of old cooking traditions, like incorporating scent or smoking or using charcoal. The focus is now on the Thai-ness of it, the farmers and breeders, the local “wisdom”, the soil that nurtures the animals and produce that we eat — even in restaurants where the food or the chefs are not necessarily Thai, it (and they) are still Thai-informed. Even with the influence of Michelin on the dining scene, and how that influence inevitably shapes the dining experience in ambitious restaurants seeking accolades, the instinct, now, is still to be proud of this Thai-ness (or in the case of restaurants like Haoma, in triumphant expressions of their own identities).
This, to me, is liberating in a very personal way that many will probably not understand. We are taking refuge in things that we could never have changed in the first place. There is no denial or wishing that everything was different. There is also no retreat into the faux superiority gained by culinary orthodoxy. We are what we are, hovering in that in-between place that is still being built with every dish we make. What a relief that feels like.
TL;DR. Here are some more photos: