The Perfect Break

The perfect “taking a break” street food: rolled-up roti stuffed with sugar floss

I went away last weekend to Koh Phi Phi, and although it was a wonderful trip surrounded by good friends and family in beautiful surroundings, I felt so stressed that I broke out in hives. I decided that I needed to spend the next week recuperating from my island vacation, holed up in my house and obsessively reading a romance fantasy book series that my friend Nat had gifted me for my birthday (it’s this series, in case you are curious. Don’t judge me! Actually, you can go ahead, I probably deserve it).

This is, to paraphrase probably every magazine writer ever, self-care at its finest. For me, of course. It’s true that my time would probably be better spent elsewhere, with more “nutritious” occupations, like taking care of my family, or taking a shower, or work. But would it be as all-encompassingly engrossing? No. Responsibilities suck. Nutrition is necessary, but taking a break is as much of a necessity. How many of us rush around, feeling exhausted all the time, never having fun except for the fleeting moments when we are gobbling up a handful of chocolate chips from the fridge in the middle of the night? (Too specific?) This is what the break does for us; it makes the nutritious parts of the day less of a slog. “Real Housewives of (insert here)” is a break. Doing yoga in the middle of the morning is a break. And reading something that will not help me in any way in my life might be the best break of all.

Well, except for eating roti sai mai, of course. This snack, which you can find sold by vendors next to the highway as you head down South, is basically a flatbread wrapped around spun sugar (aka cotton candy aka fairy floss), sometimes colored pink from roselle or purple from butterfly pea flower or green from pandan leaves. But even when the sugar is left to its OG beige, it remains a delight, especially when the roti comes fresh from the griddle like in Khlong Toey market. With the roti warm enough to risk melting the sugar inside, the appeal is undeniable, an unmitigated joy.

When I see it, I buy it. So in the middle of what is undoubtedly a “nutritious” task: finding appropriate bathroom tiles for an aggro 11-year-old on the cusp of full-on teendom, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to this vendor outside of Boonthavorn, bringing bags of the stuff on the way home after a morning spent doing emotional wrestling with our son.

Dare I say it: even now, in this time when my son’s one response to seeing my face is “What?!” and my husband makes me stressed enough to sprout hives, this one treat brings us all together again, for a minute, as we take a break from the day.

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