The Decade in Thanks

gangjued

Homemade gang jued

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:

giphy-1

Me greeting television executives

(via GIPHY)

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:

pru

Amuse-bouches at Pru in Phuket

Also this one:

frontroom

Squid that dissolves into noodle strands in broth at the Front Room

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:

taan

Delicious fish curry and pork belly with stink bean at Taan

blackitch

Crab with housemate Sriracha and beets at Blackitch Artisan Kitchen

thaan

Asian-style steak tartare at Thaan Charcoal Cooking

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

2 responses to “The Decade in Thanks

  1. Congrats on a decade of cutting to the heart of so many interesting ideas on food, fame and world changes. Although I do not live in Bangkok anymore, my missing it is more acute when I read your blog, which is a good thing as it spurs me to come back often. I admit I have seen you on TV at least twice and am embarrassed to say I jumped up and exclaimed,”I know her!” to the mildly interested family members watching. Because reading your blog does that weird thing where you do think you know someone- Here’s to (hopefully) ten more years!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s